Past, present and future perspectives


Total land area under crop cultivation in the sub-region has grown from 51 million ha in 1970 to 66 million ha in 2000 (FAOSTAT 2001). Absolute crop production has also increased, whereas per capita production was the same in 2000 as it was in 1970, having declined until 1985, and then recovered, as shown in Figure 2f.16. Livestock production has also increased in absolute terms, although per capita production increased between 1975 and 1985, and then declined to below 1970 levels (see Figure 2f.17).

Whilst there has been an overall increase in the daily per capita calorie supply in western Africa (from an average of 2 252 calories/capita/day in 1970 to 2 612 calories/capita/day in 1999), Liberia and Sierra Leone have seen declines (FAOSTAT 2001). This is probably due to supply and distribution disruptions, as a result of the civil wars in these countries. Conflicts and climatic variability have also been the cause of western African countries being food-deficit countries, and among the most food insecure in the world (Staatz, Diskin and Estes 1999). These countries have been dependent on food imports and aid, and are likely to continue to be so for the foreseeable future. For example, Sierra Leone was a net exporter of rice in the 1960s but, by 2001, was importing it at an approximate cost of US$22 million a year (Verheye 2001). The food situation in 2001 was also particularly severe in Burkina Faso, Liberia and Niger, where the FAO was warning of the need for food aid (FAO 2001d).

Efforts to improve food security have been instigated at the sub-regional and national levels. For example, the US Agency for International Development (USAID) is currently developing a Western Africa Strategy, in order to determine priority needs and areas of assistance (Staatz and others 1999). A further subregional response has come from the CILSS and the Club du Sahel. The Club du Sahel is a donor group of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), which interfaces with CILSS. It was established after the 1972-73 drought, in order to ensure that the disaster was not repeated. Together, these institutions developed a Charter for Food Aid to the Sahel in 1990. The charter, the first of its kind, provided guidelines for improving food aid practices, and integrating foreign assistance into long-term food security objectives. The three main focus areas are: enhancing understanding of the food situation; coordination of donations; and provision of food aid (OECD/ Club du Sahel 2001). Mali and Niger have established wellfunctioning early warning systems (EWS), whereas other countries are experiencing start-up problems. Lack of coordination between donors, and confusion over requests for aid, have also been experienced in some countries (OECD/ Club du Sahel 2001).

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Figure 2f.16: Crop production indices for Western Africa 1970-2000

Source: FAOSTAT 2001

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Figure 2f.17: Livestock production indices for western Africa 1970-2000

0Source: FAOSTAT 2001