Like other West African countries, Nigeria has disturbing hunger and undernutrition statistics. Hunger and food insecurity are particularly prevalent in rural areas and among the urban poor, while children and women are affected even more severely.
Accordingly, trade unions at all levels work in the pursuit of food security. At the regional level, the Organization of Trade Unions of West Africa (OTUWA) seeks to consolidate the efforts of trade unions in the fight against food insecurity. It does so by ensuring that sustained advocacy incorporates the positions of trade unions into national, regional, continental and international policies for socially inclusive and ecologically sustainable agriculture.
Towards this end, a two-day workshop held to develop a collective understanding of the food and undernutrition situation in West Africa and agree on the scope of trade union work in the fight against hunger.
Discussions at the two-day meeting highlighted the disturbing realities of hunger and undernourishment in the West Africa sub-region and agreed with findings of the 2018 Global Hunger Index. According to the report, except for Ghana and Senegal, all the other 14 countries are rated as ‘serious’, ‘alarming’ or ‘extremely alarming’ rates of severity.
The participants - from Sierra Leone, Senegal, Ghana, Nigeria, Togo, Benin, Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea-Conakry and Niger - raised concerns that the figures are increasingly compounded by violent conflicts, political instability, pastoralist crisis, extreme poverty, climatic changes and variability. Migration within and across national borders have also increased for all these reasons, both as a cause and a consequence of hunger and under-nutrition in the sub-region.
The former General Secretary of Ghana Agricultural Workers Union (GAWU), Comrade Kingsley Ofei-Nkansah delivered the keynote paper on ‘The state of food security and malnutrition in West Africa’. He highlighted the responses and efforts to reduce and eradicate hunger and undertook a critical analysis of how trade unions are contributing to the fight against hunger.
The hunger situation in the sub-region is similar and the trade unions agreed they must do more advocacy and campaigns to reduce incidents of hunger in their respective countries. At the end of the workshop, the participants developed a prioritized list of trade union demands, seek to strengthen systematic engagement with the ECOWAS and pledge to intensify its work on the SDGs.