The security crisis in West Africa, fueled by jihadist groups, has plagued the region for over a decade. While traditional military responses have yielded limited success, a novel approach is gaining traction: fostering agricultural cooperation.

A new report by the Institut Montaigne, a French think tank, argues that investing in agriculture can be a powerful tool for boosting security. “By addressing the root causes of vulnerability, such as poverty and food insecurity, we can create a more stable environment that weakens the appeal of extremist groups,” explains Nathalie Picard, co-author of the report.

The report highlights several key areas for collaboration:

  • Land tenure reform: Establishing clear land ownership rights is crucial for encouraging investment and boosting agricultural productivity.
  • Improved access to inputs: Providing farmers with affordable seeds, fertilizers, and equipment can significantly increase yields.
  • Knowledge sharing: Fostering collaboration between farmers, researchers, and extension services can accelerate the adoption of new technologies and best practices.

Public-private partnerships are seen as crucial to driving this transformation. “The private sector can bring much-needed capital and expertise to the table,” says Picard. “Governments, in turn, can create an enabling environment by providing incentives and removing unnecessary regulations.”

The call for a shift in strategy resonates with regional leaders. “We recognize that a purely military approach is not sustainable,” said a spokesperson for the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). “Investing in agriculture offers a long-term solution that can benefit both our economies and our security.”

While the path forward is not without challenges, the potential benefits are significant. By prioritizing agricultural development, West African nations can create a brighter future, not just for their economies, but for their citizens’ security as well.