The increase in economic growth experienced by West Africa in recent years has not significantly reduced the nearly 60 percent poverty rate of 250 million rural West Africans. And since a majority of rural residents earn their living through agriculture, this sector’s development must be the focus of efforts aimed at significantly reducing poverty in these countries. This effort can be accomplished through an increase in opportunities for economic participation by smallholder farmers – significantly increasing their productivity and access to markets and basic services.
The escalation of agricultural production and subsequent economic growth in West Africa depends on many factors – most notably the existence of supply systems that ensure smallholders fair and full access to quality agro-inputs at affordable prices. This is the fundamental premise of the Marketing Inputs Regionally (MIR Plus) program and its predecessor MIR (2003-2008). The MIR Plus project is a joint effort by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) – a coalition of 15 countries – and the West African Economic and Monetary Union (UEMOA). Both share an ongoing mission to create a common market based on free movement of persons, goods, services and the establishment of common tariffs and trade policies. The Netherlands Directorate-General for International Cooperation (DGIS) funds IFDC in the implementation of the program, while the operational costs are borne by the two regional economic communities (RECs) with an additional contribution from DGIS. The project activities are derived from the RECs’ annual work plans.
In their agricultural policies, ECOWAS and UEMOA clearly recognize that national agro-inputs markets in West Africa are too small to foster an environment that is dynamic and competitive. The promotion of a broader regional market that permits free movement of agro-inputs within the region, without endangering public health or the environment, is likely to increase farmers’ access to a more diverse and more competitive range of products.
With an investment of €400 million from April 2009 through December 2013, MIR Plus is linking 2.23 million farmers to agro-input dealers who in turn will educate, train and support the smallholders. To facilitate best practices in the trade, supply and purchase of these quality agro-inputs, a voucher program will be implemented, mirroring other successful voucher programs in the region. This focused effort is projected to increase yields of maize and rain-fed rice by 20 percent for targeted farmers in Ghana and Nigeria, and increase yields of irrigated rice in Burkina Faso, Ghana, Nigeria, Senegal and Sierra Leone by 20 percent as well.
Improving Policy and Regulatory Environments for Agro-Input Production and Trade
This effort facilitates the creation of a favorable policy and regulatory environment for the development of a regional agro-input market in West Africa. To achieve this goal, ECOWAS and UEMOA seek to strengthen regulatory services to protect farmers against unscrupulous vendors and facilitate fair competition, thus stimulating private investments. Efforts are also made to ensure effective compliance with the regional tariffs related to agro-inputs while synchronizing VAT rates across countries. Specific activities for creating this enabling environment include the following:
- Adoption and implementation of regional regulatory guidelines for seeds, fertilizers and crop protection products (CPPs).
- Monitoring of effective implementation by all ECOWAS member states of the common external tariff for seeds, fertilizers, CPPs and veterinary products.
- Harmonization of national VAT rates across ECOWAS member states for seeds, fertilizers, CPPs and veterinary products.
- Sensitizing and informing stakeholders on challenges and opportunities for domestic production and trade of fertilizer, seeds, veterinary products and animal feed.
- Sensitizing and informing policymakers on the market-friendly alternative of administering subsidies for agro-input procurement.
Supporting Innovative Approaches that Increase Agro-Input Use and Efficiency
This effort focuses on increasing the ability of producers’ organizations to access agro-inputs by linking them with agro-dealers – primarily dealers trained by the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) in Ghana and Nigeria. This AGRA model works to professionalize agro-dealers and ensure that they will better serve the smallholders in their areas.
Crop capacity is also a focus – strengthened by improving product knowledge and safe use among smallholders. Other related efforts include training farmers in pooling their demand for agro-inputs, linking farmer organizations and individuals with agro-dealers and improving procurement skills by strengthening institutional producer organizations involved in purchasing large quantities of agro-inputs. This training is expected to reduce the cost of agro-inputs by 15 percent for buyer organizations that are trained in procurement.
Improving the Availability of Technical and Market Information to Farmers and Agro-Dealers Through Stakeholder Participation
This effort focuses on stakeholder promotion of modern technologies and improved marketing practices that further stimulate agro-inputs trade and use. In recognition of the critical role of innovations in improving agricultural productivity in the region, ECOWAS and UEMOA seek to encourage and involve stakeholders in the development of innovative ideas for promoting the production, marketing and use of agro-inputs. Promotion is carried out through activities involving demonstration plots, technical training and coaching on new technologies and practices. Examples of these efforts include:
- Testing and eventual promotion of urea deep placement (UDP) technology for irrigated rice in Burkina Faso, Ghana, Mali, Nigeria, Senegal and Sierra Leone.
- Updating of fertilizer recommendations in all ECOWAS Member States for a select set of crop species.
- Implementation of a competitive regional promotional fund for innovations in agro-input production, trade and use.
Using Technology to Link Producers’ Organizations with Agro-Dealers for Improved Access to Market Information
This effort focuses on improving the availability of technical and market information on agro-inputs and its accessibility through technology. Timely access to such information is critical, empowering farmers to make informed decisions on which inputs to buy and where to buy them. Technical information about agro-inputs is also critical in empowering agro-dealers to provide better advice to their customers – thereby limiting associated economic, public health and environmental risks. The MIR Plus project improves access to technical and market information through:
- Support in the setup of a functional regional agro-input market and technical information system within the ECOBIZ information system network including components such as Trade Opportunities (TRADEOPS), Investments (ECOINVEST), Prices (INFOPRIX) and Tenders (ECOTENDER).
- Sensitizing and informing regional and national policymakers on the opportunities for West Africa in the African Fertilizer Financing Program.
For more information, see the MIR Plus 2010 Progress Report.
MIR Plus Brochure - English and French
MIR Plus Articles
Deux Manuels d'Inspection et d'Analyse en Cours de Validation a Lomé (Published by Agence Togolaise de Presse)
IFDC Develops Sustainable Value Chains and Increases Profitable Agriculture in West AfricaTaken from IFDC Report Volume 36, No. 4
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