Researchers outline the current state of climate-smart agriculture in West Africa.

Agriculture plays a key role in the economic development of West African countries. By directly providing employment and income to about 70% of the population, agriculture is the engine of West African economies. It is also the backbone of food security for rural and urban households in the region.

agriculture is the engine of West African economies

The current ambitions of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) are to promote a modern and sustainable agriculture based on productive and efficient family farms, and to encourage the creation of agribusinesses with private sector participation.Climate change and variability are therefore a threat not only to the economic stability of West African countries, but also to farmers in the region who would witness their production fall sharply as a result of rising temperatures, variability of rainfall and increased frequency of extreme weather events.

As a major stakeholder in climate-smart agriculture, the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS), which has developed a range of approaches, tools, technologies and practices that have been tested and validated in Climate-Smart Villages (CSV), wants to make its own contribution. ECOWAS also wants to include a new type of public policy instruments in the Regional Agricultural Investment Programme (RAIP). These instruments are to adapt West African agriculture to climate change, creating climate-smart agriculture (CSA) which focuses on adaptation, mitigation and the common goals of food security and nutrition.

CCAFS has therefore launched a working paper entitled 'Overview of the Scientific, Political and Financial Landscape of Climate-Smart Agriculture in West Africa'.

Under CCAFS coordination, many CGIAR experts and other colleagues from ECOWAS, Rural Hub, CORAF/WECARD and the University of Ibadan worked on the document.

The working paper summarizes and analyzes the specific characteristics of the scientific, institutional, strategic and financial landscape of climate-smart agriculture in West Africa. It covers five main agricultural sectors: plant production, animal production, fisheries, forestry/agroforestry and water resources.

It contains relevant information that can guide the preparation and implementation of the ECOWAS framework for action, financing, monitoring and evaluation of climate-smart agriculture.

In addition to focusing on the current situation, climate projections and socio-environmental impacts, obstacles and the way forward, each sector provides key messages and recommendations that can be translated into action by ECOWAS.

Main messages and recommendations of the document

Agricultural production sector: An increase in soil organic matter (SOM), which will increase the cation exchange capacity (CEC) of soils, as well as nutrient and water retention. This will also control carbon and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Animal production sector: The regional framework for adaptation of agriculture in West Africa to climate change and the policy, economic and social dynamics of the region are linked.

Fisheries sector: Research for CSA should be based on the IAR4D approach and a solid platform for innovation to ensure sustainability.

Water resources sector: Strengthen water storage capacity from the basin to the watershed and farm levels, and improve the management of existing water storage and distribution infrastructure.

Forestry and agroforestry sector: Pursue economic integration efforts, particularly the adoption of a common currency and harmonization of the numerous trade policies of member states so as to promote trade in agroforestry and arboricultural products in the region.

Read more

Download the working paper

Related blog: Alliance for climate-smart agriculture launched in West Africa

Sekou Toure is communication officer at CCAFS West Africa

Mathieu Ouedraogo is researcher at CCAFS West Africa

Maimouna Fane is communication intern at CCAFS West Africa.