Food Security through Commercialization of Agriculture (FSCA)

Weak connections with national and international markets, insufficient water supplies and lack of access to technology generate severe difficulties in food production in West-African regions, causing heavy post-harvest losses. As a result, family incomes are negatively affected and food insecurity rises dramatically. Strengthening the agricultural sector not only leads to improved access to nutritious food, it also facilitates the creation of a sustainable environment, which enhances food security and economic development.

In the framework of activities implemented through the Italian Contribution to FAO’s Trust Fund for Food Security and Food Safety, the programme “Food Security through the Commercialization of Agriculture (FSCA)” was implemented in seven countries of West-Africa:  Gambia, Guinea Bissau, Guinea, Senegal, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Mali. The main aim of the programme was to support the development of agriculture in West-Africa by facilitating the integration of smallholders in the value chain, developing the market demand approach to improve the food security of people in rural areas and adopting a regional dimension to respond to local needs. The main strategy of the programme was to bring environmental, social and economic benefits to the livelihood of farmers and their communities.

The programme started in 2006 and was jointly implemented by the FAO’s Rural Infrastructure and Agro-Industries Division (AGS) and FAO’s Technical Cooperation Department (TC). The communication support to the FSCA Programme was provided by the Office of Knowledge Exchange, Research and Extension (OEKR) and was based on the Communication for Development (ComDev) approach, a process which uses participatory methodologies, tools and techniques to foster people's participation in development activities. A ComDev approach enables groups and communities to diagnose the problems they face, make well-informed decisions, mobilize for action, and assume responsibility for their own development. People’s participation was an essential component of the FSCA development initiative. The intended beneficiaries were actively involved throughout the whole process, from problem identification to research and implementation of sustainable solutions.

In each country of the programme an Information and Communication baseline study and a ComDev strategy were performed. At a regional level, a ComDev training workshop took place in April 2011: project teams from all 7 countries participated

For each country, FAO ComDev has prioritized and implemented for the following activities:

Senegal: Dissemination of market information, awareness raising and information campaigns on health, strengthening of farmers’ cooperation and information sharing skills.

Mali: Participatory approaches related to gender issues, strengthening of farmers’ participatory approaches and consultation strategies. Dissemination of market information and development of communication channels between farmer-based organizations and other rural development actors.

Guinea Bissau: Awareness raising and information campaigns on education, health, rural development issues. Dissemination of price information in collaboration with SISA (Information System for Food Security) and SIM (Information System Markets) leading to the promotion of local products.

Sierra Leone, Liberia and The Gambia: Improving access by farmer-based organizations (FBOs) to market information to assist in decision-making regarding crops, value-added products, and appropriate marketing times and places. Capacity strengthening at the district level to collect data and interpret market information through training activities and information dissemination through rural radio, mobile telephones, internet, printed material and exchange visits.

Guinea: Awareness raising and information campaigns on improved garden production. Capacity strengthening in participatory information and communication techniques, particularly in addressing the most vulnerable groups such as smallholder farmers and women who are actively involved in production, processing and commercialization activities.

Overall, the FSCA programme benefited from a wide range of stakeholders in the food chain, such as local and national traders, agribusinesses, buyers and consumers. This resulted in a greater availability of high quality food for communities and their markets.