On several occasions, agricultural scientists have raised the questions on how food sustainability can be achieved globally by 2050 with an estimated population of nine billion people.
According to them, one of the approaches to this big challenge is collaboration among food scientists to organise global awareness campaign on the need to reduce impediments to food sustainability as targeted.
It is against this background that the African Union (AU) Assembly in 2003, established the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD) with a focus on improving food security and nutrition.
Further to this, the ECOWAS Heads of State and Government also adopted the ECOWAS Agricultural Policy (ECOWAP) in 2005.
They agreed that the ECOWAP would be an instrument for the coordination of the AU-NEPAD agricultural programme and Comprehensive Africa Agricultural Development Programme (CAADP), among other several initiatives aimed at food sustainability.
Assessing the steps so far taken on the initiatives, Mr Ousseini Salifou, former ECOWAS Commissioner for Agriculture, Environment and Water Resources, announced recently that a draft of the ECOWAS pilot project on food security in member countries would be concluded in 2013.
Salifou said the aim was to find out the major causes of food shortage within the sub-region and work out modalities to address the issue.
According to him, drafting of the pilot project involves Nigeria, Benin Republic, Burkina Faso, Niger and Mali.
To consolidate this effort, ECOWAS and the UN Development Fund in August, 2012, also launched an initiative to boost food production, job and income opportunities for farmers through advancing agriculture value chains in West Africa.
ECOWAS Commission's Vice President, Dr Toga McIntosh, said that the aim of the project was to promote food and self-sufficiency and to reduce the importation of food into the sub-region by 40 per cent within three years.
The Principal Programme Officer (Agriculture), of the Commission, Mr Ernest Aubee, alluded to this statement.
He said: ``To reduce food import into the West African by 40 per cent in this present administration, a number of projects and initiatives have been lined up which will contribute to achieving this objective.
``We have got the political commitment from the Heads of State and they have always given directives because food insecurity is a big political challenge.
Aubee said other projects included the implementation of the Regional Food Reserve Project, the ECOWAS Agriculture Regional Information System and the ECOWAS Livestock Plan.
He explained that the Regional Food Reserve Project would dwell on food and financial storage.
He also noted that the project would enable the commission to respond effectively to food crises caused by disasters in the sub-region.
``What this means is that we want to produce enough food and also be able to store some in cases of emergency caused by disasters.
``For example, if there is drought, flooding or locust invasion anywhere, we should be able to take part of the surplus we have stored and supply to areas that are affected, '' he explained.
According to Aubee, a food and agriculture agency that will be responsible for the effective coordination and monitoring of agricultural programmes carried out by the commission, will be established in 2013.
``It will also be responsible for coordinating the interventions of development partners interested in different aspects of the Regional Agricultural Development Plan.
``It will be doing resource mobilisation involving monitoring and evaluation which is an important aspect of our work.
``This is because we need to monitor the performance of all other stakeholders who are part of this drive to achieve food and nutrition security in West Africa," he said.
He said also that commitment of member states and consistent funding to these programmes by member states and donor agencies would facilitate actions aimed at food sustainability. To strengthen all initiatives on the target, Aubee announced that the ECOWAS Commission had committed 15 per cent its budget to agriculture for the next five years.
``This is because agriculture is the engine of growth; agriculture contributes a significant portion to the overall Gross Domestic Product of West Africa,'' he said.
Still giving assurance on attaining food sustainability at the specified period, Aubee said member states had been committed to the Maputo Declaration which required 10 per cent of their national budgets to agriculture.
He said the AU Maputo Declaration was signed in 2003 by the AU Heads of State and Government to boost agriculture, food security and increase investment in the agriculture sector.
The declaration directs that all AU member countries should allocate at least 10 per cent of their country's budgetary allocations to agriculture.
However, food scientists observe that only Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Ghana, Guinea, Malawi, Republic of Niger and Senegal have been able to fully implement the declaration.
They therefore urge the other member states to respond to the provisions of the declaration so that the sub-region can play its part in the target of achieving food sustainability in the world by 2050.
This is the only way the continent can be self-sufficient in food, and be able to cater for the nutrition of its citizens for a meaningful socio-economic development in the region.