Global perspective Human stories

UN-backed initiative seeks to eradicate hunger in West Africa

L to R: Lapodini Atouga (ECOWAS), Ilse Aigner (Germany), Djibo Banga (ROPPA), and José Graziano da Silva.
FAO/Giulio Napolitano
L to R: Lapodini Atouga (ECOWAS), Ilse Aigner (Germany), Djibo Banga (ROPPA), and José Graziano da Silva.

UN-backed initiative seeks to eradicate hunger in West Africa

A new project launched today by the United Nations, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the German Government will seek to eradicate hunger in West Africa by increasing engagement and political commitment in the region.

The Hunger-free Initiative for West Africa will support the 15 ECOWAS members to increase commitment and collaboration among key decision-makers of all sectors. This is expected to translate into increased budgets allocations to food and nutrition security as well as private investment to combat poverty, the UN Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) said in a news release.

The three-year initiative will also help ECOWAS in the implementation of the so-called Regional Partnership Compact for the Implementation of the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP), which aims to increase public investment in agriculture and raise agricultural productivity.

“The project will be crucial for hunger eradication as it will integrate the right to food into national CAADP initiatives,” said the FAO Director-General, José Graziano da Silva, noting that the project has the potential to become a model for other regions of Africa and Asia.

“We need more cooperation among governments and the active involvement of political leaders, civil society, academia, development partners and others throughout the region,” he added in an FAO news release.

While hunger has declined at a global level over the last 20 years, it has risen in sub-Saharan Africa from 170 million people experiencing it to 234 million. According to FAO, several ECOWAS countries saw a steady reduction in hunger numbers until 2006-2008, but progress has slowed since.

In addition, the food price crisis in 2008 and a drought-triggered emergency in the Sahel earlier this year, placing up to 19 million people at risk of food insecurity, showed that countries struggle to maintain lower figures of undernourishment and malnutrition in times of stress and external shocks.

“We need to reverse this situation. But it's not only about more funds, it's about working together and focusing better our efforts in areas where we can really make a difference,” said Mr. Graziano da Silva. “When we stand together we can make a difference.”

Germany will provide $2.4 million for the project, and ECOWAS has announced its commitment to co-fund the initiative and to ensure adequate participation of all member countries through awareness-raising, advocacy, and the establishment and strengthening of multi-stakeholder partnerships that promote accountability. 

FAO added that the Hunger-free Initiative for West Africa was launched in the framework of the existing CAAPD, and builds on the Hunger Free for Latin America and the Caribbean Initiative, which created the conditions for eradicating hunger permanently in the region by 2025.