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Strengthening Regional Agricultural Integration in West Africa: Key Findings & Policy Implications

Edited by: John M. Staatz, Boubacar Diallo and Nathalie M. Me-Nsope
A joint e-publication by the Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture and Michigan State University, June 2017

Strengthening Regional Agricultural Integration in West Africa: Key Findings & Policy Implications consists of 14 chapters, written by key participants in the program. It summarizes many of the findings from the SRAI program (Phase 1 and Phase 2) and their policy implications and is an essential reference for anyone interested improving food policies in West Africa.

Key findings and policy implications include:

  • West African governments were able to reduce the transmission of global price shocks to their markets, but at high cost.
  • West African agrifood system actors are responding to new opportunities, but face high transaction costs.
  • Food consumption patterns in West Africa are changing profoundly, affecting where future food polices should focus their attention.
  • West African agriculture can be competitive, but only if the entire value chain is addressed.
  • Greater regional integration is crucial to addressing many of the challenges facing West African agriculture.
  • The regional trade policy agenda needs to go hand-in-hand with a social-protection and risk-mitigation policy agenda.
  • Policy implementation is a greater challenge than policy design.
  • In addition to these findings, the Strengthening Regional Agricultural Integration program also revealed some broader lessons about the agricultural policy process itself.

Context

In the wake of the 2007–2008 crisis, West African governments increasingly called for greater national food self-sufficiency, moving away from efforts to expand regional agricultural integration that had been underway since the 1990's. In the traditional grain-exporting countries of West Africa, these calls led to periodic export bans, aimed at tempering upsurges in domestic food prices. The message that seemed to be sent to farmers in these countries was that they were free to sell into regional food markets, but only so long as prices were low. Such a message, and the resulting market risks that it implied, depressed farmers’ and traders’ incentives to invest in new technologies, equipment, and practices that could boost productivity.

It was in this context that the Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture approached Michigan State University about jointly designing a research and outreach program to provide West African policy makers with empirical information concerning the costs of moving away from regional agricultural integration and about the alternatives available for dealing with food crises like those of 2007–2008. An equally important goal was to carry out such work collaboratively with West African partners, thereby strengthening local capacity to carry out such analyses in the future.

The resulting Strengthening Regional Agricultural Integration (SRAI) program analyzed the forces driving agricultural growth, food demand, and regional trade in West Africa. It identified approaches that could foster greater regional cooperation and agricultural trade in West Africa while at the same time address national leaders’ legitimate concerns about the risks of relying on regional and international markets.

These findings and analyses fed into national and regional policy discussions that gained strong momentum following the crisis. Chief among these was the African Union’s Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP), which in West Africa was integrally linked to the ECOWAS Regional Agricultural Policy (ECOWAP). In part because of such outreach, many of the shortcomings of national and regional policies noted in the findings below are beginning to be addressed in the new 2016–2025 phase of the ECOWAP/CAADP program.