Investing in family farming to end hunger crises in West Africa

Tuesday 10 May 2022
Inoussa Sawadogo is a farmer in the district of Kaya in Burkina Faso. Photo credit: Samuel Turpin/ Oxfam

Oxfam is urging West African states to double their investment in the agricultural sector to meet their 2014 target and to better support family farms and rural communities in order to break the cycle of hunger. The call comes amid the worst food and nutrition crisis in West Africa in a decade and ahead of the 54th session of the Economic Commission for Africa.

In most countries in the region, poverty is concentrated in rural areas where public services are inadequate and governments invest very little. Cereal production in some parts of the Sahel has fallen by about one-third from last year, while commodity prices have risen by 20-30 percent over the past five years. Yet West African governments invested an average of 5.3 percent of their budgets in the agricultural sector (which accounts for more than one-third of the workforce) in 2020, well below the 10 percent target they committed to in 2014 under the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Program (CAADP).

"Governments in West Africa must live up to their commitment to invest in rural communities. They must now redouble their efforts to ensure that these people are not left at the mercy of conflict, drought, floods, and price hikes.  People are hungry, and once again they are turning to humanitarian aid to survive. It's simple: to free West Africans from poverty and hunger, we must start by the rural areas" said Assalama Dawalack Sidi, Oxfam's regional director for West Africa.

14 of the 16 West African countries did not meet the CAADP target by 2020. These countries include the three most affected by hunger and among the least committed to reducing inequality according to the most recent Oxfam and Development Finance International index:

  • Nigeria invests only 1.7% of its budget in the agricultural sector and is the second worst performer in Africa in terms of addressing inequality. The country's health budget (as a percentage of its overall budget) is the third lowest in the world (3.6%) and 40% of its population has no access to health services. Nigeria's population accounts for more than half (14.5 million) of those affected by the food crisis in the region.
  • Niger spends 5.4% of its budget on the agricultural sector, while 65% of the poor live in rural areas. Niger is the second most affected country by the hunger crisis (3.3 million people).
  • Burkina Faso spends 5.1% of its budget on the agricultural sector while 47.5% of the rural population lives in poverty. Burkina Faso is the third most hungry country in the region with 2.4 million people in a food and nutrition crisis.

In the face of conflict in the Sahel, the share of security spending often increases at the expense of social and development spending. In 2018, health sector spending in Mali, Niger, and Burkina Faso represented 0.8 percent, 1.8 percent, and 1 percent of national GDPs, respectively-two to five times less than security sector spending. Faced with idleness in rural areas, young people are more likely to join armed groups, fueling insecurity which in turn increases poverty and food insecurity by displacing populations.

Oxfam is calling on West African states to invest heavily in rural communities, empowering small-scale farmers to produce and sell locally to strengthen their livelihoods, and reduce the chronic food production deficit.

Investments in basic social services, such as health, education, and social protection for rural communities, are also needed to build community resilience to shocks and give them hope for a better life.

"West African states have a moral duty to break this devastating cycle of hunger once and for all. They must invest in small family farms and provide public services in rural communities to foster food sovereignty, well-being and peace among the people," said Sidi.

Notes to editors: 
Contact information: 

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