West African Food Systems Resilience


West Africa keeps on surprising the world with reports and forecasts on food security and climate change resilience ranging from alarming to positive.

The region actually supplies most of the food for its growing population, which now exceeds 400 million, and West African countries meet most of the region’s needs for coarse grains, tuber and root crops, vegetables, fruits, and meat.

Generic data and their interpretation obscure the region’s food systems, which have evolved over hundreds of years. 

A new study from KIT, Wageningen University & Research, and ECDPM, focuses on five important regional food systems in West Africa to understand how they contribute to food system outcomes, experience a variety of vulnerabilities, and develop diverse and inherent forms of resilience over time.

Food Value Chains

As food systems entail more than farming systems, the study includes food value chains that supply urban consumers across the West African region, identifies drivers of food systems changes, and presents interactions between food systems. This yielded the following five food systems for description and analysis: (agro)pastoralism-based, grains-and-legumes-based, rice-and-horticulture-based, coastal maritime fisheries and tropical mixed-tree and food crops systems.

Food system outcomes refer not only to the food and nutrition security of households but also to sustainability, economic value, and contribution to economic development and employment, as well as to what degree these outcomes are equally accessible to or distributed over different segments in society. Food systems are also understood as socioeconomic and political constructions that are reflected in the livelihoods and behaviour of people. In this study, the authors pay special attention to the role of regional institutions in enhancing food systems resilience.

Enhancing Resilience

Each food system was matched with a highly seasoned expert with long-standing experience and networks in the respective system. Besides contributing to the chapters on regional drivers and resilience, KIT expert Bertus Wennink authored the studies on the grains-and-legumes-based food system, and Froukje Kruijssen the coastal maritime fisheries food system.

For each of the food systems, the authors identified the definition, demography, and geography of the food system; regional consumption and production trends; livelihoods of producer communities;  production system, including food system outcomes; institutional drivers; risks and resilience (climate variability, economic, socio-political and food access); food system impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic; agency and development interventions; and leverage points for future interventions that enhance food system resilience.