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West and Central Africa

Overview

The West and Central Africa region has made impressive gains in recent decades, but still has a long way to go in terms of rural transformation.

Economic growth has been slow over the past few years. Economic activity in 2020 is projected to contract by 3.2 per cent, due to a weaker external environment and measures to contain the COVID-19 outbreak.

Rural poverty is widespread and concentrated among women and young people. Three quarters of the region’s population is under the age of 35. With 12 per cent of its population under the age of 15 and around 64 per cent under the age of 24, Western and Central Africa has one of the youngest populations in the world. In rural areas, young people are mostly landless, marginally employed, and suffer from poor working conditions and exploitation.

So far, the region’s economies have been unable to absorb this potential windfall of energetic and creative young workers. As a result, young people are abandoning agriculture and rural areas in search of better lives in cities or abroad.

Connecting farmers and markets

The main brakes on rural transformation include insecure land tenure, a lack of basic infrastructure, inadequate credit and insurance, and ethnic and gender disparities.

What many countries in the region really need are more well-organized markets, and reliable connections among them. Different types of investments are necessary to accelerate the shift from subsistence agriculture to market-based production.

This shift has the potential to increase incomes while improving food security for both farmers and people living in growing towns and cities.

Experience wins

IFAD has been working for almost four decades to enhance rural output in the region. By the end of 2019, we were running 38 ongoing projects in 20 countries in the region, and had invested a total of US$1,639.3 million.

Our current priorities are to strengthen the value chains that link producers and their organizations to markets and consumers, create a virtuous upward spiral by helping farmers to sell more and earn more, and to address the immediate challenges faced by small scale farmers  to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In response to the enormous challenges facing young women and men living in rural areas in the region, IFAD is supporting numerous initiatives to provide training, encourage entrepreneurship, and boost the creation of decent jobs both on and off the farm.

IFAD also supports efforts towards greater financial inclusion and making cashless credit more readily available to smallholders. We are also investing in projects that enable smallholder farmers to adapt to climate change.

Our breadth of experience, in terms of climatic and soil conditions, social organization and market development, makes us the partner of choice for governments, NGOs and local groups keen to achieve long-lasting rural transformation.

Learn more

Approximately 552 million people live in West and Central Africa, the majority living in rural areas as smallholders farmers.

Finding work for the growing numbers of young people in rural areas is a priority in West and Central Africa. In Senegal, for example, 47 per cent of the population is under 15 years of age.

Agriculture is important to the West and Central African economy, providing 30-50 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP) in most countries and income and livelihoods for 70-80 per cent of the population.

Asset Publisher

Regional Director

Sana Jatta Regional Director, ad interim, West and Central Africa

Spotlight

Where we work

The Sahel

The Sahel

Facing the challenges of sustainable development in the Sahel

The Sahel, meaning “the shore” in Arabic, is a vast area crossing 6,000 kilometres from East to West Africa. It covers many geographic and agro-ecological systems, 12 countries and is home to 400 million people.

Projects and programmes

Projects and programmes

Nigeria

Value Chain Development Programme

Guinea

Family Farming, Resilience and Markets Project in Upper and Middle Guinea (AgriFARM)

Côte d'Ivoire

Agricultural Value Chain Development Support Programme (PADFA)

Related news

Related news

African small-scale farmers use radio and mobile phones to send a message of optimism and caution to world leaders attending Food Systems Summit

September 2021 - NEWS
Small-scale farmers in sub-Saharan Africa are impacted disproportionately by climate change, poverty and undernutrition, yet a report released today shows many remain optimistic about the future of farming.

The Government of Mali and Rome-based agencies launch a joint programme to build resilience among rural people

August 2021 - NEWS
The Ministry of Rural Development of Mali, the three United Nations Rome-based agencies (FAO, IFAD and WFP) and G5 Sahel officially launched a joint programme to help rural people in Mali build their resilience to climate change, conflict and COVID-19 on 26 August in Bamako.

African Development Bank, IFAD and partners redouble efforts to stop hunger in Africa and strengthen food security

April 2021 - NEWS
The African Development Bank and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), in partnership with the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA) and the CGIAR System Organization, today pledged to work closely with African leaders to address rising hunger on the continent and shore up adequate financing to transform and modernize Africa’s food production.

Related videos

Related videos

Tackling climate change: Saving Senegal's mangrove forests

September 2021 - VIDEO
Marianne Ndong and her colleagues make a living from raising and selling oysters in the village of Dassilamé Sérère, in Senegal’s Saloum Delta. Mangroves don’t just support marine life, like the oysters Marianne raises. They also form a protective barrier between land and sea.

Niger: No safety without water

February 2020 - VIDEO
Increasing violence in the Sahel region is causing a rise in the number of internally displaced persons. Fleeing Boko Haram through the desert, there is an urgent need for shelter and basic resources, like water.

Zero hunger, climate resilient: Transforming agriculture in Guinea-Bissau

January 2020 - VIDEO
Innovative and forward-looking, the IFAD-funded project in Guinea-Bissau will transform rural economic networks for a sustainable agriculture of the future.

Related publications

Related publications

Stocktaking of Farmer Field Schools: Collective action, self-organization, and the role of farmers’ organizations in scaling up and institutionalizing FFS

February 2022
The Farmer Field School (FFS) approach is adopted in the vast majority of projects funded by IFAD in sub-Saharan Africa. Through this stocktaking, we analyse the extent to which the FFS approach helped peasant farmers engage in collective action, band together, and become more autonomous in responding to the problems they face.

Partnerships between producer organizations and enterprises - Lessons learned from recent experiences in West and East Africa

November 2021
Partnerships between producer organizations (POs) and enterprises are promoted as a model for structuring value chains to integrate small producers more equitably and sustainably.

Lessons learned from IFAD’S inclusive rural and agricultural finance experiments in West and Central Africa during the last decade (2009-2020)

November 2021
Lessons from a quick review of the diverse and varied financial schemes designed for, accessed by and used by poor smallholders and other rural stakeholders in IFAD’s project portfolio in West and Central Africa over the decade leading up to 2020.