- As part of its efforts to contain the alarming food crisis, the Ecowas Bank for Investment and Development (EBIB) has agreed to offer US $1 billion annually to boost agricultural productivity in West Africa, a region where over 44 million live below the poverty line.
The decision was announced after a day's extraordinary meeting was convened at the ECOWAS commission in Abuja. Among others, the meeting allow regional Ministers of Finance, Trade and Agriculture to brainstorm with ECOWAS officials on how to resolve the soaring cost of basic food items in West Africa.
Nigeria's Minister of Finance, Dr. Shamsudeen Usman, has raised serious concerns over the increase in food price, blaming it on several factors, including the use of agricultural products as inputs for bio-fuel.
"The high prices have led to malnutrition and also set back the poverty reduction effort of many of our member countries by up to 10 years," Dr. Usman told the opening ceremony.
"The unprecedented rise in food price compounded by the declining value of the dollar and turbulent financial system pose a threat to the economic growth and poverty reduction gains that has been achieved by many of our member states in recent years."
While the bank's contribution forms part of the short-term measures, ministers tasked the ECOWAS Commission to help mobilise international support to raise the US $2 billion required to arrest the emergency food crisis hitting the region's poor communities.
The meeting also endorsed the urgent need to invest US $4 billion between 2008 and 1010 principally to increase agricultural productivity. In that, input support would be provided to farmers, especially small family farmers.
ECOWAS member states renewed their commitment to improve budgetary allocation to agriculture, invest in local fertiliser production and seed multiplication as well as subsidise agricultural production.
Ministers urged the implementation of the ECOWAS Common Agriculture Policy, which provides for the establishment of a regional information market systems, the creation of an efficient processing storage and marketing value of agricultural products.
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