Dr Marc Lapodini Atouga, ECOWAS Commissioner in Charge of Agriculture, Science and Water Resources on Monday said it was imperative for West African countries to maintain the role and importance of agriculture to ensure food security for the population.
He said in West Africa, the problem of the long-term viability of extensive agriculture depended predominantly on rain-fed agriculture which was unsustainable, especially with the challenge of availability of water resources, which was gradually getting worse with the challenge of climate variability in the region.
“In that context, we need to ask ourselves questions about the types of agriculture and livestock, types of surface impoundments , habitat type and consumer mode to consider the practical ways of meeting the food needs of today’s estimated population of about 290 million, which is estimated to reach 400 million by 2020 and 500 million in 2030,” he said.
Dr Atouga who was speaking at a two-day workshop on Agricultural Systems and Climate Change Adaptation in Accra said among the six priority areas established in the Agriculture Policy adopted by the Heads of States of ECOWAS in 2005 was the prevention and management of food crises and other natural disaster s, including climate change.
The workshop attracted experts from Africa and Europe to brainstorm key areas to cope with and minimized risks related to agriculture systems.
He said the policy involved developing strategies to cope with climate change and ensuring resilience in key development sectors and commended the Swedish Development Cooperation (SIDA), which he said had since 2000 committed to supporting the implementation of ECOWAS Strategic Programme for the Reduction of Vulnerability and Adaptation of Climate Change in West Africa.
“ECOWAS Commission would like to thank again the Swedish Development Cooperation who is about to finance a large part of this strategy and hopes that the conclusion of the agreement will be reached shortly,” he added.
Ms Maria Helena Semedo, Assistant Director-General of Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) said political will and the ownership of countries in the development processes were indeed crucial for the success and the sustainability of all interventions.
She said agriculture was among the most vulnerable sectors to the effect of climate change having mostly negative consequences on productivity, production stability and income generation in areas that already had high levels of food insecurity.
“Yet, the projected increase in world population during the next 40 years, which should reach 9.1 billion in 2050, calls for agriculture to significantly step up its productivity and production levels,” she added.
Ms Semedo said more productive and resilient agriculture needed better management of natural resources, such as land, water, soil and genetic resources and that the task in an environment of climate change was becoming more and more complex, requiring the involvement of different stakeholders with complementary knowledge and perspectives.
“Adaptation to climate change is a multi-dimensional, ecological and socio-economic process that requires broad-based commitment by the global community, more substantial financial support to developing countries and concerted policy action,” she said.
She therefore called for appropriate financing mechanism and additional investments in the agricultural sector to be the fundamental and key component of the collaborative endeavour.
Mr Delali Nutsukpo, Deputy Director in charge of Crop Services, Ministry of Food and Agriculture said efforts were being made to address climate change and its effects on the vulnerable in Ghana.
He said climate change could affect individual countries differently, depending on their geographical locations and stressed on the need to pool resources to address the issue.