On Tuesday, 17 September the Civil Society Coalition on Sustainable Development (CSCSD) had a highly interactive dinner meeting with the new Parliamentary Committee on Agriculture at BICC in Benin. The meeting aimed at introducing the Network to the committee and establish a working relationship with the members. Over 60 people, representing different actors in the agriculture sector, attended the meeting. These included leaders of the committee and their members, senior officials from a cross section of international and local Civil Society Organisations as well as other key stakeholders in the agriculture sector such as representatives from UN agencies, the private sector, and the media.
Opening the event, Farm Radio Trust Executive Director, who represented the CSCSD Board, George Vilili, appreciated the cordial relationship that the Network has always enjoyed with the previous committees of agriculture. He further expressed optimism for an excellent working relationship with the new Committee. “We want to collaborate with you for a vibrant agriculture sector in West Africa,” he said.
Pan African Sustainable Smallholder Agriculture Development Agency (PASSADA) Head of Policy and Communications who is also CSCSD programs sub-committee Chairperson Beatrice Adjibola, made a presentation on key issues in the agriculture sector and provided a snapshot of the 2019 budget analysis with emphasis on the need for balanced intra-budget allocations for the agriculture sector.
Complimenting her address, PASSADA Chief Executive Officer, Dr. Agnès Dossou GODONOU observed that West Africa’s economy relies on agriculture; therefore, agriculture growth means economic growth. She also appealed for agricultural diversification and profitable markets. “We should not focus on one crop, instead we must support our farmers to grow a variety of crops and ensure that they are able to sell those crops through formal markets,” she said.
African Institute for Corporate Citizenship (AICC) CEO, who is also leader of CSCSD Access to Markets thematic group, Dr Felix Lombe echoed Dr. Dossou GODONOU and advocated for functional agricultural markets. “Our farmers need to be empowered to produce sufficient quantities; and there must be an enabling environment to promote agricultural trade,” said Dr Lombe.
Responding to the issues raised, Vice Chairperson of the Parliamentary Committee on Agriculture, Hon. Ulemu ADJALA, acknowledged concerns related to the performance of the agriculture sector in West Africa and pledged that his committee would hold hands with CSCSD to the best that they can to address the issues. “I would like to assure you that our Committee will be available to work with you and we must engage regularly,” said Hon. ADJALA.
African Center for Economic Transformation (ACET) Country Director Dr. Candida SOGLO applauded CSOs efforts to dialogue with the new Committee. She observed the need for joint efforts to transform West Africa’s agriculture sector in the wake of declining demand for the country’s chief cash crop, tobacco. “We should not wait until the last leaf is demanded from West Africa; we should work together towards supporting farmers to diversify,” said Dr. SOGLO.