ECOWAS Commissioner for Agriculture, Environment and Water Resources, Sékou Sangaré, has called for concerted efforts to address the challenges of transhumance and pastoralism in the West Africa sub-region.
Transhumance is the action or practise of moving livestock from one grazing ground to another in a seasonal cycle, typically to lowlands in winter and highlands in summer.
He said with regard to pastoralism and transhumance, there is the need for member states to work together to create in rural areas the conditions for a sustainable valorization of this mode of livestock farming.
This, he said, excludes all violence and all man-made deaths, with decentralized regulatory mechanisms co-managed by local populations and actors, and benefiting from adequate investments.
Mr Sangaré said this at the ongoing official week-long Regional High Level Meeting for a Peaceful Cross Border Transhumance between Sahelian and Coastal countries in West Africa.
The Sahelian countries participating in the conference include Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger whilst the coastal is also made up of Ghana, the Ivory Coast, Togo, Benin and Nigeria.
The meeting, which is the Sixth High Level Policy Dialogue, is to contribute to improving the management of cross border and intra-national transhumance flows by providing policy-makers with information enabling them to take strategic and operational decisions relating to the movement of animals in West Africa and the Sahel.
Mr Sangaré said ECOWAS is aware of the complexity of the issue, which is why it favours a multidimensional approach to addressing issues related to pastoralism and transhumance.
He said as part of its programme of cooperation during the period 2020-2025 with the African Development Bank, ECOWAS has agreed to prepare a Regional Integrated Water Resources Management programme, the expected results of which would include the development of pastoral areas and water infrastructure in areas where transhumance depart and in cross-border arrival areas.
He said by accepting to host the sixth edition of the High Level Consultation for a Peaceful Transhumance across the central corridor between Sahelian countries and coastal countries of West Africa, Ghana reaffirms once again its firm commitment to implement the Regional Agricultural Policy (ECOWAP/ PDDAA) adopted here in Accra in January 2005, and to make its major contribution to strengthening the regional integration process in the ECOWAS area.
The Commissioner said the importance of the subject of transhumance was no longer to be demonstrated in the current context characterized by a worsening of the security crisis, terrorism and banditry in West Africa but also by the consequences of climate change and the expansion of areas devoted to agriculture.
He said in the face of this global environment, pastoralism and transhumance across borders had become highly sensitive strategic issues.
"First of all, it must be recognized that, after oil, economic exchanges between our countries in the West African space are largely dominated by the livestock sub-sector," he said.
"In fact, livestock production generates annually more than half a billion dollars of revenue distributed over all segments of the value chain, from production to consumption via transport and distribution".
This, he said, creates and maintains several thousand jobs; unfortunately, many of these jobs thrive in the informal sector, even though they benefit many young people and women.
He said Sangaré said livestock farming is also a source of under-exploited agro-industrial development in sub-region which continues to import large quantities of dairy products, meat and fish, while we have the whole basis for further developing our dairy products and other local resources.
He said the exploitation of the vast potential of livestock production would require gradual changes in the way in which livestock are raised, which is still dominated by the mobility of herds in order to adapt to the seasonal nature of pastures and waters in its zone of preference in the Sahel.
Dr Gyiele Nurah, a Minister of State at the Ministry of Food and Agriculture, called on West African countries to fully operationalise the ECOWAS Protocol of Transhumance, which is geared towards developing a more efficient pastoral industry to increase livestock productivity.