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Agricultural integration in West Africa

Mali guardian seeds cooperative seeds

Syngenta Foundation is supporting Michigan State University (MSU) in a project to strengthen regional agricultural integration in West Africa.


In early 2015, we interviewed John Staatz from MSU about agriculture in West Africa. Here's what he says.

 

In May 2015, MSU published an overview of historical milestones in its many decades of work in the agricultural arena.

 

In July 2015, drawing strongly on his work with us, John Staatz published Agricultural Growth in West Africa. This book analyzes forces shaping the agrifood system there, and policy implications. It also examines food consumption patterns and the related investment needs. Here are the media release and book link in English and French.
 


Since the late 1980s, many West African countries have increased their reliance on regional specialization and trade. These form important parts of their strategies to assure food security and spur market-led agricultural growth. West Africa has a wide variety of crops and agricultural environments. These differences provide a strong basis for productive agricultural trade based on comparative advantage.
 
West African demand for food products and consumption patterns have been changing profoundly over the past 30 years. Reasons for these changes include population and income growth, rapid urbanization, globalization, and the attendant changes in lifestyles.  There has been a shift towards:
 

  1. faster-to-prepare staples, such as rice and wheat products
  2. growing consumption of cassava and maize in several countries
  3. increased demand for product quality, with greater differentiation and price premiums
  4. growing per capita consumption of fruits, vegetables, fats and oils, and animal protein products
  5. rapidly rising demand for processed food products and
  6. stronger consumer concerns about nutritional quality and food safety. 

 
Demand for livestock feedgrains is also increasing. All of these forces are creating increased opportunities and challenges for West African businesses, especially agro-processing.  
 
West African policy makers are concerned that the region’s agriculture and agrifood system cannot adapt quickly enough, leading to increased dependency on imports. Despite recent efforts to boost local rice production following the 2007/08 price spikes, imports of rice and wheat continue to surge. The very rapid expansion of poultry consumption in Benin, Togo and Ghana has been served almost entirely by imports from the Americas and Europe. Import increases have led farmer organizations and governments to call for increased protection of West African agriculture, often under the banner of promoting “food sovereignty.” 
 
The competitiveness of West African agriculture and agribusiness depends not only on what is happening there, but also on the rest of the world. For example, how the Asian rice market evolves over the next 20 years (e.g. changing consumption patterns in China, potential rise of Myanmar to become a major exporter, etc.) will profoundly affect how competitive West African rice systems become. 
 
In 2007-2008, food prices soared and some food exporters banned shipments abroad. In response, many countries in West Africa have attempted to increase self-sufficiency and reduce their reliance on agricultural trade. This “agricultural globalization in reverse” creates serious questions about how long-term food security can be achieved in the region and at what cost.
 
Our Foundation and MSU have been working together on these issues since 2009. For more information on the first three years, please consult "SRAI 1" in the right-hand navigation. "SRAI 2" looks ahead to the next phase of collaboration.