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30.11.2004 General News

Workshop on ECOWAS agricultural policy opens

By GNA

Accra, Nov. 30, GNA - Although agriculture remains the backbone of the economies of African countries, its performance has nothing to write home about.

The little that is produced is either left to rot on the field or in the markets because there are no resources and facilities to add value to the produce, Mr Kweku Owusu-Baah, Chief Director of the Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MOFA), said at the start of a two-day Stakeholders' Consultative Workshop on ECOWAS Agricultural Policy (ECOWAP) in Accra on Monday.

He said the resultant effect was that most of these countries continued to depend on imported food to meet domestic demand and this negative trend should not be allowed to continue.

The workshop is being organised by MOFA in collaboration with the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Secretariat to advance a common goal of the agricultural policy for the Sub-Region.

ECOWAS Agricultural Policy has its roots in Article 25 of the revised ECOWAS Treaty adopted in 1993, which stipulates that the "Member States shall agree to cooperate by adopting a common agricultural policy".

The goal was also driven by the need to promote economic development and eliminate poverty and food insecurity, as well as to overcome the forces that tended to marginalize the Region relative to the rest of the global economy.

Mr Owusu-Baah said in Ghana, agriculture was the dominant sector of the economy and directly employed about 65 per cent of the workforce, accounted for 35 per cent of the total export earnings yet 36 per cent of the population was classified as living in extreme poverty. He said 50 per cent of those identified as poor were in the agricultural sector and attributed the situation to erratic rainfall pattern and rudimentary technology used in most production processes, which led to fluctuations in food production from year to year, leading to food insecurity.

Mr Owusu-Baah said regional integration was one of the few ways to avoid growing marginalisation in the face of rising globalisation, and this integration must be carried out within specific sectors such as agriculture.

"This requires that producers be able to increase their sales of food to regional, as well as overseas, markets at prices that West African consumers can afford if food security is to be enhanced." Dr Joe Q. Subah, Principal Programme Officer, Food Security and Policy at ECOWAS Secretariat, said the process to develop a regional agricultural policy for the entire ECOWAS Sub-Region was a complex one. He said to ensure that both the process and its anticipated results were acceptable to the generality of the Community citizens; they had embarked on participatory approach of in-depth consultations and negotiations between all stakeholders in the Sector.

This includes national administrations, private sector actors, the civil society and the major organisations involved in regional integration and trade as well as institutions and organisations in the agricultural, rural development, environment and the Food Sub-Sector. He urged the participants to actively contribute to the discussions to open the door to new practices, capable of bringing dynamism in the Agricultural Sector, thereby restoring to the Sector its rightful place as the engines of the economies of member states.

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