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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. GDP grew by an average of only 1.6 per cent in the region in 2015. On average, agriculture accounts for 30 per cent of economic activity and employs 60 per cent of the workforce.

Rural poverty is widespread and concentrated among women and young people. Three quarters of the region’s population is under the age of 35. 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 2016, we were running 41 ongoing programmes in partnership with 23 governments in the region, and had invested a total of US$1.2 million.

Our current priorities are to strengthen the value chains that link producers and their organizations to markets and consumers, and to create a virtuous upward spiral by helping farmers to sell more and earn more.

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 500 million people live in West and Central Africa, with the majority living in rural areas as smallholder 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.

In Burkina Faso, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Mali and Niger, 80 to 90 per cent of the working-age population lives and works on family farms, where yields and returns are significantly below their potential.



Spotlight

Empowering rural youth in West and Central Africa

Projections indicate that Africa will remain predominantly rural until about 2035. Rural poverty remains deep and widespread, concentrated among young people and women in the region.

Projects and programmes

Project

Benin

The Market Gardening Development Support Project
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Project

Niger

Food Security and Development Support Project in the Maradi Region
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Project

Cameroon

Youth Agropastoral Entrepreneurship Promotion Programme
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Related news

IFAD-supported programme for the rural poor in Cameroon shows promising results with room for improvement

February 2018 - NEWS
The development projects supported by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) in Cameroon aim at increasing opportunities for the rural poor to engage in sustainable and remunerative activities both on the farm and off.

Investment in Africa’s rural areas will curb economic migration, IFAD President tells ministers

July 2016 - NEWS
Investing more in Africa’s rural areas will stem the flow of economic migrants and minimize the acts of desperation that make newspaper headlines, Kanayo F. Nwanze, President of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), will tell African and European agricultural ministers meeting in The Netherlands today.

UN agency examines approach to decentralized operations in Africa

June 2016 - NEWS
Government representatives and agricultural development specialists will gather in Nairobi 13-14 June to discuss the International Fund for Agricultural Development’s (IFAD) approach to decentralizing its operations in Africa.

Related publications

Investing in rural people in Nigeria

January 2017
IFAD’s support to the Nigerian Government’s poverty reduction programme in rural areas targets large numbers of smallholder farmers and is essentially people-centred. IFAD supports programmes and projects that work with communities, and with smallholder farmers as the key players.
LANGUAGES: English

Investir dans les populations rurales en République de Côte d’Ivoire

November 2016
La Côte d’Ivoire est un pays à faible revenu qui a enregistré une augmentation significative de l’incidence de la pauvreté pendant la deuxième moitié des années 1980 et ce jusqu’au début des années 1990, lorsque l’écart entre les revenus s’est creusé et la concentration de la pauvreté dans les zones rurales est devenue flagrante. 
LANGUAGES: French

Investing in rural people in Liberia

July 2016
Despite gains made in socio-economic development since the end of the civil war in 2003, Liberia remains a low-income food-deficit country and is ranked 175th out of 187 countries in the 2013 UNDP Human Development Index. 
LANGUAGES: English

Contact us

For more information about IFAD's work in West and Central Africa,

please contact Sylvie Marzin, Lead Portfolio Adviser, s.marzin@ifad.org