Ghana is hosting a four-day ECOWAS Regional Workshop to examine the role of women in the search for food security in West Africa.
It is being attended by representatives of ECOWAS Member States from Ghana, Benin, Togo, Burkina Faso, Niger, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Cote I’dvoire and Mali; with the aim of achieving a better understanding of the contribution of women to the strategic food chain, as identified in the ECOWAS Regional Agricultural Investment Programme.
The participants are also expected to help ensure better integration of gender concerns into the Regional Agricultural Investment Plan (RAIP).
RAIP indicates that, achieving food sovereignty in the Region requires priority work on products which enjoy a high production potential, correspond to the changing habit of the populations and demonstrate a high level of extra-regional imports which could be replaced by enhancing the complementarities of the production basins and promoting regional trade.
Dr Sintiki Ugbe, Director of Gender in the ECOWAS Commission, addressing the opening session of the forum in Accra on Tuesday, said the outcome of the workshop would determine what intervention ECOWAS would put in place to address the challenges regarding gender disparities in the agricultural sector and ensure food security.
She explained that, RAIP aims at implementing the programmes identified in the ECOWAS Agricultural Policy (ECOWAP) which was adopted by regional leaders in January 2005.
Dr. Ugbe said the policy was intended to help achieve the dream of “modernising agriculture in favour of food sovereignty” with a view to speeding up economic growth in order to reduce poverty, contribute to better distribution of wealth and ensure preservation of natural resources and the environment.
The ECOWAP, she said, was built around three specific objectives of promoting strategic products conducive to food sovereignty, promoting global environment conducive to regional agricultural development as well as the reduction of vulnerability and the promotion of the population’s sustainable access to food.
Dr Ugbe said the workshop would examine the nature and pattern of participation of men and women in the cultivation of rice, maize and cassava, which were identified in the regional agricultural investment programme.
“Similarly, they will examine the nature and pattern of the participation of both sexes in the livestock-meat and fish products, and their food value chain,” she added.
She said participants were expected to identify other possible investment entry points in agriculture for women farmers in the region, examine the ease and availability of credit, agricultural inputs, extension and small scale equipment to men and women farmers in West Africa, as well as examine ways in which the various challenges facing women could be addressed.
Dr Bola Adetoum, Principal Programme Officer, (Gender), ECOWAS Commission, Abuja, noted that the significance of placing gender at its proper place in agricultural investment and at the national levels could not be overemphasised.
She urged participants to brainstorm on strategies to make women more visible in the agricultural sector, and address issues such as gender inequalities, financial support and mainstreaming gender into agriculture.**