Agricultural policy and food security are major priorities for all countries in the ECOWAS sub-region and also of equal priorities in regional and national policies. The West Africa region, which has major potentials in terms of agriculture, livestock and fisheries, nevertheless faces food security problems because it is dependent on and vulnerable to very differing climate conditions, sub-regional disparities and local production deficits, a lack of market fluidity and little competition within production sectors.
The link between food security and the availability of foodstuffs requires that different sectorial policies have to work together to enhance the competitiveness of the agriculture sector and develop the regional food markets. Stepping up food security requires improving the competitiveness of the sector to improve production.
The loss of market share in regional and international agriculture export markets thus imposes substantial costs on African economies in terms of missed growth. African countries cannot meet the growth and poverty-reduction objectives under the NEPAD Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Program (CAADP) as well as the objectives of the ECOWAS Agriculture Policy (ECOWAP) unless they improve their trade performance and reverse their decline in market shares in the agriculture sector. They must adopt strategies targeting not only international, but also domestic and regional markets. They should be able to facilitate enhanced market access regimes through effective negotiations not only to Europe but also within the sub-region.
These calls for effective and robust trade negotiation capabilities in the region to negotiate fair-terms for enhance access of the regions agro-exports to Europe and the Americas, but also to facilitate unhindered regional trade in agriculture products.
In view of the above, there was a two-day Workshop organised by some Agricultural Universities across the sub-region to discuss the contribution of the Academic Community’s input to research on agriculture trade negotiations and policy making impacting on the development and growth of the agriculture sector.
The Universities include the College of Agriculture Education of the University of Education, Winneba, Ghana; University of Liberia, Monrovia, Liberia; Njala University, Sierra Leone, the Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta, Nigeria, and University of Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso.
In a keynote address, Prof. Harrison Dapaah, Principal of the College of Agriculture Education, University of Education, Winneba, noted that the Workshop is necessary because it will strengthen the capacity of Agriculture Colleges in the ECOWAS sub-region to support governments in their efforts to propose and implement Agriculture Policies which would enable the region to achieve Food Security and also promote the growth and development of commercial agriculture.
This would take the form of the development of new academic curriculum and training courses to support government officials, private sector and civil society in the development of skills to enhance trade policy and negotiation skills which supports the growth of the agriculture sector within the ECOWAS sub-region. In doing so best practises and experience would be shared amongst Academic Community in the region to facilitate increased inter-institutional networking amongst Agriculture Colleges in the region.
By Anita Frimpong, @ModernGhana