Food security

First General Assembly of the Ecowas Rice Observatory (ERO)

Abuja, la Capitale fédérale du Nigeria, abrite la première Assemblée générale de l'Observatoire du riz de la CEDEAO

The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Rice Observatory is holding its first Annual General Meeting from 21 May to 23 May 2024, in Abuja, Nigeria, under the theme "Aligning goals and charting a roadmap to accelerate the growth of a competitive rice sector in West Africa".

In his speech at the opening of the meeting, Mr. Alain SY Traoré, Director of Agriculture and Rural Development of ECOWAS, Chairman of the Board of Directors of the ECOWAS Rice Observatory (ERO), representing the Commissioner for Economic Affairs and Agriculture of the ECOWAS Commission, Mrs Massandje TOURE-LITSE commended the strong participation of ECOWAS Member States and partners including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, AfricaRice, the German Cooperation - GIZ, the African Development Bank (AfDB), the Islamic Development Bank, the FCDO, AGRA, Japan through the ICA/CARD Agency, the World Bank and other strategic partners.

Commissioner Massandje TOURE-LITSE, recalled the challenges facing the rice sector, which constitute obstacles to its growth and competitiveness, such as low productivity, limited access to markets, ineffective coordination/harmonisation of the sector, inadequate infrastructure, and vulnerability to climate change.

"To address these issues, it is necessary to bring together ERO partners who are stakeholders in the rice sector in West Africa, align goals and chart a roadmap to accelerate the growth of the sector. This includes improving policy frameworks, promoting sustainable agricultural practices, highlighting the intervention of different governments, donors and development partners, improving market access, promoting research and development, and strengthening value chain integration through the recommendations that will be presented as part of the commitments," said the ECOWAS Commissioner for Economic Affairs and Agriculture.

Delivering the opening address at the 1st General Assembly, Mr Abdullahi Abubakar, Director in charge of Agriculture, on behalf of H.E. Mr Abubakar KYARI, Federal Minister of Nigeria in charge of Agriculture and Rural Development, praised the ECOWAS initiative in setting up the ERO, the aim of which is to create a competitive rice sector in West Africa in order to meet local demand, improve livelihoods and contribute to the region's economic development.

This important body, created by ECOWAS, was born out of the fact that although national rice production has improved in West African countries since the 2008 food crisis, it only meets 60% of the region's growing demand and preferences. To remedy this, in 2015 ECOWAS adopted the ECOWAS Rice Offensive, a strategic framework for ECOWAS Regional Agricultural Policy (ECOWAP) in line with the Comprehensive African Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP). The aim is to bring about a sustainable and sustained revival of rice farming in West Africa and to support the national rice development strategies (NRDS) of the Member States.

Based on the regional action plan, consultative workshops, field research and recommendations from public and private sector partners across ECOWAS Member States, an "ECOWAS Rice Observatory" (ERO) was established in December 2021, jointly by the ECOWAS Commission and its partners.

The ERO General Assembly represents an important milestone in efforts to improve rice production, distribution, and food security in West Africa. It brings together key stakeholders in the rice value chain, including farmers' organisations, processors and millers, traders and distributors, agricultural input suppliers, research institutes, government agencies and ministries, development organisations and NGOs, financial institutions, ERO national chapters and members of the ECOWAS Member States' rice working groups.