ActionAid: Sensitising journalists on adoption of agroecology in West Africa

Food poisoning through the use of highly hazardous pesticides is a major challenge in Africa. ActionAid International, through the Strategic Partnerships for Agroecology and Climate Justice in West Africa (SPAC-West Africa), speaks to about 70 Journalists across West Africa on the need to commence promotion of agroecology in the region. JOHN OBA reports..

Food poisoning

Food security in Africa, and in the West Africa especially is under threat by the importers and users of Highly Hazardous pesticides that according to experts has impacted negatively on the continent’s food sector and the health of its citizenry. According to statistics, pesticides is responsible for around 200,000 deaths every year in West Africa.

Over the last five years, pesticide imports into Africa have increased significantly. In West Africa the imports have doubled in five years from 218,948 tons in 2015 to 437,930 tons in 2020. In 2020, Nigeria’s imports alone (147,446 tons) exceeded the total imports of Southern Africa (87,403 tons) and North Africa (109,561 tons). Despite increasing imports in these regions, the informal nature of agricultural production has made it difficult to record how pesticides are used hence the big differences between the imported quantities and use data.


In the light of the challenges and in an effort to rally Africans to adopt agroecology, ActionAid International through its Transformative Impact Fund (TIF) with a budget of GBP 2,418,000 has commissioned a three year Strategic Partnerships for Agroecology and Climate Justice in West Africa (SPAC-West Africa) Project across Liberia, Nigeria, and Senegal, with regional engagement of stakeholders in collaboration with ECOWAS Commission to promote agroecology.

Ecological agroforestry or regenerative agriculture as it is also called – is widely considered to be the major activity to solve the problems of poverty, climate change, unemployment, migration, and food security in rural areas.

The Call

While speaking on the topic “The Challenges of Highly Hazardous Pesticides (HPPs) in West Africa and Agroecology as an Alternative, the Heinrich Boell Foundation Nigeria, Program Coordinator, Mr Donald Ikenna, said the burden of the negative effects of pesticides is felt by poor and vulnerable communities in countries that have less stringent enforcement mechanisms.

According to him, WHO estimated that 1–5 million cases of pesticide poisoning occur every year among agricultural workers and result in 20,000 fatalities, most of these in developing countries.

“WHO self-assessment reports, shows that a number of Member States including Burundi, Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Kenya, Nigeria, Uganda and Zambia reported poisoning incidents from the use of hazardous pesticides.

“For example, pesticide-related poisoning events continue to occur countrywide in Kenya, with a total of 1,479 cases and 579 fatalities reported in 2012. In Uganda, pesticide poisoning incidents that occurred in 2012 in Wakiso and in 2013 in Pallisa caused a total of 87 fatalities, etc Data on the causality of pesticide-related deaths and cases are not systematically captured by the governments in the regions.”

Donald said further that over 2000 farmers in West Africa and Sahel have adopted agroecology for healthy and environmentally friendly production. 41 alternatives to chemical pesticides have been popularized and promoted in West Africa and Sahel, within the framework of the regional project on Elimination of Obsolete Pesticides including Persistent Organic Pollutants and Strengthening Pesticide Management coordinated by FAO with the financial support of the Global Environment Facility (GEF).

Media regional engagement

ActionAid Nigeria Deputy Country Director and Food and Agriculture Programme Manager, Mr Azubike Nwokoye, addressing the participating journalists on the objectives of the Online Regional Media Engagement on Agroecology and Climate Justice, said this will enhance climate change and agriculture reporters’ knowledge on agroecology and climate justice.

He said the knowledge will promote in-depth reportage and promotion of agroecology and climate justice to contribute towards the scaling up of agroecology as a sustainable and resilient nature-based solution towards food and nutrition security in the face of climate change in West Africa.

“The media will additionally through increased reportage and promotion of agroecology contribute to the integration of agroecology into government extension services at local, national, and regional level which is an innovation that will lead to scale and sustainability, promote equitable adaptation and transition measures that benefit frontline communities.”


On the SPAC West Africa programme, Azubike explained that the 3-year programme will deliver tangible improvements in the lives of rights holders through direct engagement and empowerment of 250,800 SHWFs and young people with an extended impact on 1,504,800 household members in communities of 3 ActionAid countries.

“This will transform agriculture practices, build the resilience of communities to climate shocks and create sustainable livelihoods.

“Funded by ActionAid International through its Transformative Impact Fund (TIF) with a budget of GBP 2,418,000. ActionAid Nigeria is implementing in Nigeria and coordinating the ECOWAS region engagements and continental engagements.

“The Ultimate Outcome is that Women and young people will enjoy food and nutrition security and climate resilient livelihoods while intermediate outcomes are efficient agroecology practices among 250,800 Smallholder Women Farmers (SHWFs) and Young People

“There would increase quantity and quality of public financing for agroecology and diversified livelihoods from sustainable agricultural practices,” he explained.

The result according to him shows that 16 extension agents trained on agroecology and climate justice in Liberia and 60 women alliance and movement with 90 young persons trained on agroecology and climate justice and land right issues.

Senegal has seen 10,000 people trained on agroecology and climate Justice across three regions. While 35, 319 people have been trained in Nigeria, 107 model farms set up across four states and FCT with over 5million have been reached by radio in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) 1,460 in Ebony and 1,020,000 in Delta

Azubike explained further that these systems are focusing on bringing the small holder farmers out of dependency from seed, fertilizer and pesticide producers and reduce input costs to the minimum. Every input is produced on farm. Invest once and harvest throughout the year and lifelong. To be able to do this, Farmers must have their own seeds, the knowledge (through training) and the practical experiences to do.

He stated further that the project will serve as a model to push agroecology as the nature-based solution to achieving the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP) Commitment to Enhancing Resilience of Livelihoods and Production Systems to Climate Variability and Other Shocks. Working with the Ministries of Agriculture in Liberia, Senegal and Nigeria and the ECOWAS Commission.

The project he explained “will facilitate policy and programmes influencing on the African Union Biennial Review (BR) Reporting to count the numbers of our direct and indirect beneficiaries as ActionAid’s contributions to achieving this Commitment while pushing for governments scale up of agroecology in this area of Commitment. 

ECOWAS efforts

Speaking on the topic, “Agroecology as a nature-based solution for sustainable agriculture in West Africa,” Mr. Ndione J. A, with the Regional Agency for Agriculture and Food (ARAA/ECOWAS), Lomé, TOGO, urged Africans to rethink agriculture by building stronger resilience, based on innovations and technologies, and move to scale.

He said the region is considered one of the global climatic hotspots which results in a strong alternation of wet and dry years since the 1990s. this according to him, experts observed is warming faster than the global average leading to more frequent episodes of heatwaves, heavy precipitation and floods during the years 2000, 2010, 2020;

“Experts are also warming that this would reach +2°C in 2050 (+2.3°C in 2060), a drying of the western part of the Sahel and a wetter eastern Sahel according to climate projections.

“At the agricultural level: between 2001 and 2018, climatic conditions explain around 40% of the variation in cultivated land in West Africa.

“While estimates predict a reduction in GDP of 3.7% and 11.7% in 2050, with economic losses due to impacts on the agriculture and infrastructure sectors such as transport, energy, buildings,” he said.

He also revealed that ECOWAS has supported 15 field projects through research via: participatory experiments, impact studies, studies and development of references in agroecology, conducted by research centers associated with the implementation of these projects.

“These climate changes as well as the expected impacts on natural and human ecosystems indicate the urgency of taking immediate and ambitious measures,” he urged

Mr. Samuel Kwasari, with the ‘Be The Help Foundation’, speaking on the practice of Regenerate Agriculture, said ecological agroforestry or regenerative agriculture is widely considered to be the major activity to solve the problems of poverty, climate change, unemployment, migration, and food security in rural areas.

He emphasised that this style of agricultural practice contributes immensely to both food and environmental sustainability. “This plays vital role in improving the growing and the health of the food we eat. This represents a holistic approach to how our foods are grown with the aims of enhancing healthier diets that in turn addresses food related health challenges through balanced nutrition,” he said.