By Olimatou Coker
The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and partners on Tuesday opened a three-day high level convergence on the 15th meeting of the multidisciplinary team of West Africa (MDT) and Sahel.
The meeting brought together approximately 100 participants from 15 ECOWAS countries to discuss and devise ways to accelerate the transformation of agri food systems.
The meeting focuses on “accelerating investments towards agri food systems transformation in West Africa and the Sahel.”
It seeks to provide a unique opportunity to engage with the media and shed light on its importance and the wide-ranging impact it holds.
Moshibudi Rampedi, FAO Representative in The Gambia, said the agri-food sector, contributing 36 percent to the regional Gross Domestic Product, is a means to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals and associated targets.
“We must acknowledge the pressing and negative impacts of climate change, extreme weather events, conflict and warfare, trade barriers, land tenure, cost of agricultural inputs, pests and diseases, all of which demand our collective attention. We need more innovative long-term focused investment in food systems. Our collaborative efforts must create meaningful opportunities for youth and women.”
She added that the meeting reflects a shared commitment to the transformation of agri-food systems in West Africa and the Sahel, a region endowed with fertile land and diverse climates. “As we enter into the critical discussions over the next three days, let us reflect on the challenges and opportunities on how to provide livelihoods, food and nutrition security, employment and inclusive prosperity to realize the theme of “Accelerating investments for the transformation of agrifood systems in West Africa and the Sahel”
Robert Guei, the FAO sub-regional coordinator for West Africa, emphasized the importance of such events, adding that the needs and priorities discussed over these three days’ meetings will be taken into consideration.
Dr. Abebe Haile Gabriel, the FAO Assistant Director General Regional Representatives for Africa, assured partners of FAO’s continuous efforts to achieve tangible progress on the ground to reduce hunger and make agri food systems more efficient and more inclusive. “According to some estimates, and Robert has mentioned in his remarks, about 76 billion dollars will be needed per annum for Africa to achieve SDG two by 2030.”
Speaking on behalf of the minister of agriculture, Baboucarr Joof, the Minister of Trade, Regional, Integration and for employment, said the 15th MDT is coming at a time when West Africa and the Sahel are resolute to accelerate investment towards agrifood systems transformation and to meet the SDG targets. Despite the challenges faced by our agrifood systems, we must learn to work together as nations, to share knowledge and to build better societies, he said.
“Africa has the youngest population in the world, with 70% of sub-Saharan Africa under the age of 30. Such a high number of young people is an opportunity for growth and development in West Africa and the Sahel. But we must empower these new generations, include them in decision making processes and create opportunities for work and innovation. These are opportunities, I believe, the agrifood systems can offer with adequate planning and execution,” he added.