Approximately 552 million people live in West and Central Africa. Agriculture and food are the main sources of livelihood, providing 30–50% of GDP, and income and livelihoods for 70–80% of the population. Rapid population growth, high unemployment, and the climate crisis challenge economic growth, food security, nutrition, and environmental health. Health issues are increasing due to pollution of water and soils, industrial and urban waste, as well as unhealthy and ultra-processed foods.
Rapid land degradation, disruptive forces of climate change, increasing invasive pest, changing disease patterns, ailing markets, poor infrastructure, non-supportive policies, limited access to quality seeds of resilient and nutritious varieties, and high post-harvest losses all exert negative impacts on food systems. Limited opportunities for youth and women restrict achievement of the agricultural transformation potential of the region. About 75% of the population is under the age of 35 and these young people are mostly landless, marginally employed, and suffering from poor working conditions and exploitation.
This Initiative aims to build more resilient, climate-smart, nutritious, gender equitable, and viable food production systems in three humid agro-ecologies of West and Central Africa.
This will be achieved through:
- Promotion and adoption of improved and climate-smart farming practices to increase sustained production of nutritious food crops and animal products.
- Increasing the skills of value chain actors in production of quality seed and crops, post-harvest handling, and consumption practices that support food and nutrition security.
- Supporting balanced food baskets by promoting increased diversity of household production systems.
- Using community action to implement practices that reduce vulnerability to climate change by ensuring that stakeholders have access to climate information and personalized agronomic practices.
- Improving youth engagement in agribusinesses and women and youth empowerment to ensure increased control of resources by women and other marginalized groups, and job creation, notably for youth.
- Development of food production landscapes with minimal impact on water, land and nature.
- Research on scaling readiness and processes, deploying experimental analyses, citizen science, and consultative monitoring platforms, to guide efforts and generate evidence that stimulates investment in the Initiative.
Proposed 3-year outcomes include:
- At least 80,000 smallholder households a) access, and 20% use, at least five improved crop varieties, and b) adopt at least six good agricultural practices, with at least a 20% increase in the women’s empowerment in agriculture index and a 30% increase in household dietary diversity scores.
- Five million farmers, 50 value chain actors and five governments use improved timely climate information and early warning systems for improved decision making.
- At least 100 rural communities develop land and water development plans to diversify income from agriculture sustainably; increase production from agriculture, livestock, and aquaculture; create rural jobs, stability, resilience and inclusivity; and hold dialogues to address gender inequalities.
- At least 20,000 youth and 15,000 women are engaged in activities related to agriculture. Of these, at least 50% have access to credit, and credit worthiness of youth-led businesses provides employment and technical services to communities, resulting in a 50% increase in income.
- At least 10 tools and methods are adopted for mapping and monitoring scaling domains for technologies to guide development of smart investments.
|NUTRITION, HEALTH & FOOD SECURITY
Enhanced diet quality, improved environmental safety, and sustained productivity on West and Central African smallholder farms through uptake of diverse crops and varieties, and integration of small livestock and fish into production systems.
|POVERTY REDUCTION, LIVELIHOODS & JOBS
Increasing demand for nutritious foods and locally sourced livestock and fish feed ingredients create a market pull for nutritious products, creating opportunities for value addition through viable businesses. Investment in youth skill development, and a better enabling environment contribute to long-term poverty reduction.
|GENDER EQUALITY, YOUTH & SOCIAL INCLUSION
Building of more equitable agrifood systems is achieved through 1) participatory planning of land and water resources to enable inclusive community access to resources; 2) gender-transformative community dialogues focused on empowering women and marginalized groups; and 3) capacitating youth and women with agribusiness/production skills.
|CLIMATE ADAPTATION & MITIGATION
Investment in the four “Rs” to ensure transformed food systems are climate-adapted due to: 1) re-routing by scaling climate-smart agriculture practices; 2) de-risking by providing timely digital climate, biorisk and agronomic information; 3) realigning by leveraging sustainable finance for smallholders; and 4) reducing rates of deforestation.
|ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH & BIODIVERSITY
Sustainable use of land and water resources and minimizing the impact of agriculture is achieved by planning resources for productive and non-productive uses, including nature and other non-monetized ecosystem services; avoiding unnecessary land clearing; and investigating the potential of underutilized forest products.
Header photo: Salt cured fish is sold at the Grand Marché in Lome, Togo. Photo by M. Cooperman/IFPRI.