By Julius Businge
On the eve of two major agriculture summits in Mauritania and Senegal, the World Bank is urging African countries and communities in the Sahel and the international development community to help protect and expand pastoralism on behalf of the more than 80 million people living in The Sahel who rely on it as a major source of food and livelihoods.
In a media release dated Oct. 28, the Bank is calling for more large-scale irrigation to help the region to move towards embracing climate smart agriculture that can manage competing demands for land, water, and other natural resources, in a region that has long suffered from drought, hunger, and low economic growth.
The Bank says that more than 50 percent of the meat and the milk which people consume in West African coastal countries come originally from the Sahel.
The two summits on improving pastoralism and boosting irrigation in the Sahel, which are being organized by the World Bank and its development partners, will be held in Nouakchott and Dakar respectively on Oct. 29 and Oct. 31.
High-level participants will include President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz of Mauritania, President Idriss Déby of Chad, as well as regional Ministers of Agriculture, Rural and Community Development, senior business leaders, and representatives of producer organizations and civil society.
African agriculture employs a massive 65-70 percent of the continent’s labor force and typically accounts for 30-40 percent of GDP.
The sector represents the single most important industry in the region, and therefore its transformation and growth is vital to reduce poverty in a region like The Sahel and avoid humanitarian crises that have all too frequently plague the region, says Makhtar Diop, World Bank’s Vice President for Africa Region.
Diop will open the Pastoralism Forum in Nouakchott, the Mauritanian capital on Oct. 29. Diop says boosting investment in the Sahel will help to significantly improve living standards for people and reduce the frequency and severity of food crises.
According to the Bank, Africa is home to some 50 million pastoralists with some 16 million of them living in The Sahel and in extreme poverty.
The vulnerability of pastoral communities to drought, flooding, and other disasters remains unduly high in Sahelian countries and is made worse by their historic social exclusion and increasing competition for access to water and grazing lands for their herds and crops.