Monday, December 19, 2016

ECOWAS Heads of State Summit: FAO and ECOWAS promote initiative toward achieving Zero Hunger Challenge

Agricultural growth and transformation must fully benefit and empower women

Bukar Tijani, FAO Assistant Director-General
16 December 2016, Accra - FAO and ECOWAS have demonstrated strong commitment towards meeting the Zero Hunger Challenge in the West Africa region by implementing a joint project on gender-responsive regional and National Agricultural Investment Plans (NAIPs) for meeting the Zero Hunger Challenge in the ECOWAS region. 

The project responds in concrete terms to women’s constraints, needs and priorities in agricultural production, value chain development, food security and nutrition.

Women are the driving forces for agricultural development, food security and nutrition in the region. They represent an important percentage of the agricultural labour force. They are the frontline nutrition caregivers in the family – producing, storing, cleaning and cooking the food. They are also labour providers in agro-industries. However, they still face major challenges in accessing resources, services and markets”, says Bukar Tijani, FAO Assistant Director-General and Regional Representative for Africa. 

“FAO welcomes ECOWAS renewed support to ending hunger in the region”, he added, as ECOWAS Heads of State Summit meet in Abuja, Nigeria, on 17 December 2016.

“Our Policy on Gender Equality adopted in 2012 aims at advancing equality of voice, agency and access to resources and services between women and men in sustainable agricultural production and rural development”.

In November 2015, the international conference on “ECOWAP+10 and Prospects for 2025” held in Dakar, Senegal, for the 10-year review of the ECOWAS Agricultural Policy (ECOWAP) highlighted weak consideration of gender in the  first generation of National and Regional Agricultural Investment Plans.

The Regional Partnership Pact for the Implementation of the ECOWAP/CAADP 2025 adopted during the conference made commitments to improve the governance of agricultural policy by strengthening compliance with the principles of gender equality and equity and accountability.

In concrete terms

According to Tacko Ndiaye, FAO Senior Expert on Gender, the cooperation aims to enhance capacities of the ECOWAS Commission and its member States for expanding women’s opportunities in inclusive agricultural growth and meeting the Zero Hunger Challenge in the ECOWAS region.

“When women have full access to resources, assets, services and opportunities, they become a key driving force against rural poverty, hunger and malnutrition”, she explained. 

“From our experience, women’s health, nutrition and education are key to achieving Zero Hunger in the region. Evidence shows that healthy, educated and well-nourished women are more productive; they save more, invest more and have healthier children who perform better at school”, she added.

Last March in New York, ministers of Gender and Women’s Affairs of the ECOWAS countries pledged to work to ensure that gender is adequately addressed in the implementation of the ECOWAS Zero Hunger Initiative.

The Ministers made the commitment in a communique adopted at the official launch of a Technical Cooperation Programme between ECOWAS and FAO on “Gender Responsive National and Regional Agricultural Investment Plans for Meeting the Zero Hunger Challenge in ECOWAS Member States”.

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