Roger Blein – What’s new about the project of regional food security reserve in the ECOWAS space?

Brief historical recap

ECOWAS adopted a regional stocking strategy prepared by a task force in 2012.  The food security objective of this strategy has two dimensions:

  • regulating regional markets  to achieve price stability;
  • being able to provide an emergency intervention bringing food aid to people facing a conjectural shock;

These two dimensions need different tools and management, even though,  more operational links should be established in the future.
This difference can be explained by:

  • the difficulty of managing and sustaining reserves with the double objective of market regulation and emergency intervention;
  • the disagreement between the region and the international community about the role of public reserves in market regulation;
  • the need to simplify the management of reserves, a very complex domain requiring major learning efforts.

ECOWAS prepared a feasibility study based on this stocking strategy to create a system of food security reserves for emergency interventions: the RFSR (Regional Food Security Reserve).

The Reserve combines a physical storage (for a third of the total) with a financial stock (of two thirds). It is designed as the third line of defense in case of food crisis, following the mobilization of the local and national food security reserves. The progressive establishment of the reserve was scheduled over 8 years and in three steps.


Year 1 to 4

Year 5 to 7

Year 8 and +

Physical stock

60 000

100 000

140 000

Financial stock (Eq. Tons)

116 000

194 000

271 000

Total stock (Eq. Tons)

176 000

294 000

411 000

This proposition was submitted and adopted by the ECOWAS Ministerial Comity in Agriculture, Environment and Water Resources (September 2012) and then by the ECOWAS statutory organs (Summit of the Heads of State and Government).

State of progress

ECOWAS has begun the construction of the reserve. The RFSR is managed by a technical unit set up inside the Regional Agency for Agriculture and Food (Lomé, Togo). It uses the administration and financial devices of the RAAF but is equipped with a specific management device (Management Comity) composed of the regional institutions ECOWAS, WAEMU,  CILSS/RESOGEST, the representatives of producer organizations, etc.

Several steps are preparing the reserve’s first operations:

  • the definition of the technical unit and its functioning;
  • the preparation of the contractual tools (conventions between ECOWAS and the States, provision of services convention between the RFSR and the national firms in charge of the technical management of the reserve for the Region, supply contracts with the producers organizations, etc.);
  • the definition of the “info-stock” unit, designed as the tool assisting the management Comity decisions.

At the same time ECOWAS mobilized the first financial resources (available in early 2014):

  • an initial own funding of 24 million US dollars;
  • a support from the 10th EDF (European Union) of 56 million euro.

The ECOWAS instances acted the principle of a contribution in kind from the member States during the establishment and the development of the regional reserve. However, the modalities are still to be defined.

The establishment of the Reserve will include targeted actions on the three defense lines (support to the local reserve networks, support to the national and regional reserves), and an important effort to strengthen the data systems on food security in order to operationalize the harmonized framework on which the trigger for the use of the regional reserve is based.

The European support project proceeds with the same logic supporting these different defense lines, and assigns an important part to data systems. It is developed through the French Development Agency (AFD), the Spanish Agency of International Cooperation for Development (AECID) and the Center AGRHYMET/CILSS for the data component. This indirect establishment is complex but should be able to exploit the ECOWAS mechanisms, especially the RAAF, strengthening the latter.