Organic agriculture offers a sustainable solution to many environmental and food security problems in West Africa and at the same time can improve livelihoods. The overall objective of this project is to increase the level of awareness of the potential benefits of organic agriculture in West Africa and to increase expertise in all aspects of organic agricultural production in the West African sub-region.
The West African region spans 733 million ha with about 300 million people in 16 countries. The region is socially and culturally diverse; but these nations share a high degree of food insecurity, due to demographic increases, climate change and the multiple effects of intensive agriculture. Food insecurity results from the ripple effect of the adoption of environmentally non-sustainable intensive agriculture systems such as application of high doses of agrochemicals and large scale mechanized land clearing in a fragile ecology. These have led to deforestation, loss of biodiversity, desertification, soil erosion and salinization, impoverished soils and other forms of environmental degradation, culminating in decreased agricultural productivity. Since most of the countries in West Africa are primarily agrarian, this has led to widespread poverty and the perpetual dependence on foreign aid. The agricultural sector throughout West Africa requires further development and is constrained by insufficient investment and reliant on the vagaries of the weather.
Organic agriculture practised according to international principles is a cost effective and environmentally sustainable method of primary production, minimising the use of expensive external inputs, and reducing the impact of agriculture on the environment. Thus, producing food organically in West Africa would be beneficial to the farmer by reducing costs, improving yields and income; beneficial to the local population by improving food security; and to the environment by reducing the use of agro-chemicals. Currently, the level of organic production in West Africa is very low when compared with production in the agricultural sector as a whole, and crucially the region lags behind other African regions in this respect. In order then to take full advantage of these benefits the region needs to increase capacity, the overall aim of this project. This will be achieved through four actions; firstly, by training skilled personnel, who will then become the trainers of the future. Secondly, by creating a unified organic curriculum for higher education which will become a framework for future training. Thirdly, by developing a set of organic standards for West Africa and lastly, by creating a network for co-operation. These four actions will each increase expertise, but will also raise awareness in the region.
Institutional Capacity Building for Organic Agriculture in West Africa
Coventry University, United Kingdom
University of Agriculture , Abeokuta, Nigeria.
Universite d'Abomey-Calavi, Cotonou, Benin.
University of Cape Coast, Cape Coast, Ghana.
Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Kumasi, Ghana.
Njala University, Freetown, Sierra Leone.