I. BACKGROUND AND RATIONALE
For over a decade, food and nutrition crises have been hitting many West African countries with increasing frequency and scope. These crises were both structural and cyclical and illustrate the significant deterioration in the living conditions and livelihoods of households, and often in the nutrition of populations.
This food crisis, which is particularly aggravated in the Sahel, has exploded in recent years under the combined effect of the physical insecurity of citizens caused by terrorism, banditry, inter-community conflicts as well as climate change and the Covid-19 pandemic. As a result, this situation has caused significant displacements with more than 5 million internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the region, including 1.8 million in Burkina, 300,000 in Niger, more than 2 million in Nigeria and 400,000 in Mali and Chad along with the closure of several markets, health centers and schools. The continuing crisis affects livelihoods and disrupts trade flows and the mobility of people – including pastoral transhumance and a significant portion of the population in the Sahel is no longer able to cultivate and abandon their fields and villages.
ECOWAS countries are faced with fragile economic situations, rapid demographic growth, accelerated urbanization and governance challenges. These ECOWAS countries are not very resilient to both endogenous and exogenous shocks. Climate change and pandemics, such as Ebola and Covid-19, have had disastrous consequences, the effects of which are still perceptible. Travel and trade restriction measures enforced by countries due to the coronavirus pandemic have severely affected economies and livelihoods in the countries. According to an ECOWAS study (Covid-19 impact, 2021), Covid-related restrictions have resulted in a sustained increase in the price of basic food combined with a reduction in the tax base of states. This reduction in the tax base has led to a large budget deficit of -6.4% in 2021. According to the same study, extreme poverty has increased by 3%, reaching 34% of the population.
It is therefore in this difficult context of increasing energy costs, costs of international transport logistics, and pandemic measures being put in place closing borders, all of which have led to generalized market price increases, that the Russo-Ukrainian conflict broke out in February 2022 continuing until the present day. A prolongation of the conflict could exacerbate the region’s problems even further, with disastrous economic, food systems and political consequences.
Within this context, a sub-regional working group was established to lead on an analysis of the effects of the crisis in Ukraine on the socioeconomic, food and nutritional situation in the ECOWAS region. The working group included representatives from FAO, WFP, ECOWAS, CILSS and UEMOA and supervise the work of technical experts of the concerned institutions.
The assessment aims to provide evidence on the risks associated with the Russo-Ukrainian conflict in each of the 15 ECOWAS countries but also at the sub-regional level. On this basis, the specific objectives of the assessment study are to:
Assess the risks associated with the Russian-Ukrainian conflict on agricultural production, trade and prices of agricultural products and the humanitarian risks that could arise in the 15 West African countries
Identify and propose measures to mitigate the emerging food crisis in the region in order to better strengthen the resilience of the sub-region's agri-food systems.
III. RAPID ASSESSMENT METHODOLOGY
The assessment covered the 15 ECOWAS countries, namely: Benin, Burkina Faso, Cabo Verde, Côte d'Ivoire, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Gambia, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, and Togo. It used a combination of approaches to meet the objectives, including an extensive literature review and secondary data analysis.
The study targeted stakeholders from the public and professional sectors as well as the private sector and the community. In each country, WFP and FAO focal points collected both quantitative and qualitative data from April 25 to May 10, 2022, through direct semi-structured interviews. Data was collected using specific tools, including interview guides and data collection forms, from the ministries in charge of agriculture, trade, and finance for the public sector. The qualitative component of the questionnaire targeted private sector actors and civil society organizations to gather their experiences with the difficulties experienced in their respective sectors because of the crisis and their recommendations for addressing the situation. A triangulation was made between these different sources of data to better understand the potential risks of the Russian-Ukrainian crisis on the region.