West Africa Unites to Improve Agricultural Competitiveness and Productivity

May 27, 2011

  • In West Africa, the World Bank supports a program that seeks to strengthen sub-regional cooperation in agriculture
  • The program emphasizes the harmonization of agricultural policies and the adoption of new technologies in high-priority areas
  • The long-term objective is to achieve food sovereignty by increasing agricultural yield, a key factor in poverty reduction

DAKAR, May 27, 2011 -- Farming, livestock production, and fishing provide 35 percent of the Gross Regional Product for the 15 member countries of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), which have a total of 219 million inhabitants.

These sectors provide a living for 65 percent of the working population and cover 80 percent of food needs.

Despite their importance to the region’s economies, agricultural productivity remains low and local produce is uncompetitive in both domestic and foreign markets.

Facing these challenges, ECOWAS requested support from the World Bank. In March 2007, the Bank approved funding for the first phase of the West Africa Agricultural Productivity Program (WAAPP).

The program’s primary purpose is to provide farmers with the technologies to increase productivity and improve the competitiveness of the dominant crops in each beneficiary country.

African countries have much to gain by investing in increasing agricultural productivity, recent studies have found.  

In 2009, the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) published a study that indicated that the potential return on investment from the production and dissemination of agricultural technologies is 46 percent in West Africa. The World Bank’s 2008 World Development Report, titled “Agriculture for Development,” underscored the role of productivity in agricultural and economic growth in general, and rural poverty reduction and food security in particular. The report also notes that growth originating in agriculture is four times more effective in poverty reduction than growth outside the agricultural sector.

A regional investment program

WAAPP includes three programs that together form a framework to position the agricultural sector as an engine of growth over the next five years. The first program focuses on promoting strategic products for food sovereignty; the second aims at promoting an overall environment favorable to regional agricultural development; the third focuses on reducing food vulnerability and promoting sustainable access to food.

WAAPP’s financial arrangement reflects its regional scope: One-third of the program’s resources come from the World Bank envelope allocated to each beneficiary country, while the other two-thirds are derived from the Bank’s funds for the financing of regional programs.

Another noteworthy fact is the program’s focus on strengthening research and sharing resources across the region. In order to establish regional centers of research and development, the program will strengthen research institutions based on the country’s dominant sector.

Presented to the development partners community by ECOWAS, WAAPP focuses primarily on agricultural research and the dissemination and adoption of new technologies. In March 2007, the first phase of this program started with a total of $45 million (approximately CFAF 22.5 billion). This phase, known as WAAPP-1A, included three countries: Ghana, Senegal, and Mali. These countries are working on the high-priority value chains identified in ECOWAS’ mobilizing programs, namely roots and tubers in Ghana, dry land cereals in Senegal, and rice in Mali.

The second phase, known as WAAPP-1B, brought in Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, and Nigeria. It was approved in September 2010, for a total cost of $119 million (approximately CFAF 60 billion). Of this, the World Bank provided $90 million (approximately CFAF 45 billion), the Global Food Crisis Response Program (GFRP) provided $19 million (CFAF 9.5 billion), and beneficiary countries provided $10 million (approximately CFAF 5 billion).

Finally, the third set, WAAPP-1C, was approved in March 2011, and is composed of seven countries: Benin, the Gambia, Guinea, Liberia, Niger, Sierra Leone, and Togo. They will receive $135 million (approximately CFAF 68 billion): $80 million from the World Bank, $35 million from a Japanese grant, and $5 million from the GFRP, while the beneficiary states’ counterpart amounts to $15 million.

The preliminary results of WAAPP-1A are so encouraging that the program has been extended to   all ECOWAS member countries. These results relate in particular to improved product development (yam, cassava, rice, millet, maize, sorghum) through the large-scale dissemination of processing technologies and the dissemination of new high-yield varieties of these crops, which would encourage at least a 15 percent increase in productivity.

Millet and maize-based bread produced in Senegal

In Senegal, actors in the millet and maize value chain have come together since 2010 under the Senegalese Association for the Promotion of Small Development Projects [l'Association Sénégalaise pour la Promotion du Développement à la Base ASPRODEB] for the better development of the millet and maize sectors. Some of these actors are l’Institut de Technologie Alimentaire (ITA), and stakeholders in the agro-business sector, such as l’Union Nationale des Coopératives Agricoles du Sénégal (UNCAS), la Fédération des ONG du Sénégal (FONGS), and local cereal processors such as Free Work Services, La VIVRIERE, Maria Distribution, AGRIDEV, and la Fédération Nationale des Boulangers du Sénégal (FNBS). The producers’ organizations serve as intermediaries between cereal producers and private operators to supply quality products (millet and maize).

ITA provides technical assistance to operators along the entire production chain. The FNBS is responsible for business promotion at fairs and other national events.

These different activities, conducted on a small scale, have highlighted the interest shown by consumers and other sector actors in composite flour bread, which contains 15 percent of millet or maize flour. This new development should result in a CFAF 25 reduction in the price of baguettes, and it provides producers with a real market and more remunerative prices, with a price margin of over CFAF 15/kg.

Large-scale dissemination of technology

A WAAPP mid-term review in May 2010  recommended the dissemination of this technology on a larger scale.  In 2011, Senegal should therefore expect: the production of 270,000 composite flour baguettes in the Dakar region; the processing of millet and maize grains into simple baking flour, and the delivery to bakeries of two metric tons per day; and the collection by grassroots producer organizations of 700 metric tons of millet and 300 metric tons of maize, and their delivery to manufacturers.

Through this Senegalese approach, WAAPP hopes that the broader use of this composite flour bread technology will have positive repercussions, by encouraging the use of local resources, especially at the primary sector level, which brings together a large section of the country’s working population; creating new commercial outlets for family agricultural operations, processing units, and bakeries; and, finally reducing wheat imports, which will have a positive impact on the current account balance of payments.

(*) This article was extracted and adapted from the magazine L’Espoir, issue No. 004, a publication of the Regional Office of the World Bank, which covers Benin, Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, and Togo.