Accra, Ghana – In a region where the movement of goods across borders is key to achieving food security and broad-based economic growth, USAID West Africa hosted a conference April 23 – 25, 2014, whose theme “Transforming Agriculture and Food Security through Regional and National Cooperation and Integration” resounds across the region.
The conference was conducted as an element of President Obama’s Feed the Future Initiative (FTF) which provides over USD 139 million per year in funds agricultural development in West Africa. USAID/ West Africa Regional Mission Director Alex Deprez welcomed participants from throughout West Africa and noted “Our regional programs are instrumental in helping to unleash the potential of West African farmers.”
Building off of United States President Obama’s visit to the region in 2013 that reinforced the U.S. commitment to expanding economic growth, investment and trade, this conference sought to maximize the impact of U.S. assistance to the agricultural sector which comprises over 60% of the regional population. Core conference themes included: building synergies that address regional challenges in agriculture, trade and economic growth; advancing the FTF priority of achieving and scaling results; providing an opportunity for ECOWAS and the West Africa Regional Organizations to share progress and discuss regional priorities in the agriculture sector; and increasing awareness and understanding of the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Program after ten years.
In his keynote address, ECOWAS Commissioner for Agriculture, Environment and Water Resources, Dr. Marc Atouga, emphasized, “We must be bold and make sure free movement of agricultural commodities is effective. It’s up to us to learn lessons from others’ failures and successes and implement them in West Africa.” Dr. Ahmed Hamid, ECOWAS Commissioner for Trade, underscored the importance of regional integration and private sector participation.
Several key regional organizations, including the Permanent Interstate Committee for Drought Control in the Sahel (CILSS), the West and Central African Council on Agriculture Research and Development(CORAF/WECARD), Hub Rural, and the West African Economic and Monetary Union (WAEMU), together with USAID implementing partners, discussed ways to effectively scale up successes in policy, agricultural productivity, reducing barriers to trade and promoting resilience. Dr. Candace Buzzard, Director of Agriculture for USAID/West Africa, noted planns for increased consultation and collaboration and invited participants to celebrate the launch of several new USAID West Africa projects: the West Africa Trade Hub & Partners Network, which will work to increase both regional and export trade in West Africa and Africa Lead II, a project that builds capacity of African institutions.
During the evening closure event, U.S. Ambassador to Ghana, Gene A. Cretz, welcomed President Mahama’s stated priority of increasing cross-border trade in West Africa during his ECOWAS Chairmanship.
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