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Cotonou, the economic capital of Benin, will, from 26 to 28 July 2017, host a regional forum of key stakeholders of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) involved in the processing of handicraft, agricultural and fishery products.

The meeting will be organised by the ECOWAS Commission in partnership with the Government of Benin and with the support of the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).
The meeting will afford the opportunity to review the results achieved since 2010 by the ECOWAS Gender Development Centre (EGDC), through its support programme to women involved in the processing of handicraft, agricultural and fishery products in West Africa.

The forum will also serve as a platform for the development of a joint sub-regional strategy for the implementation of the roadmap of the Supplementary Act on Equal Rights for Women and Men for Sustainable Development in the region.

This roadmap stems from the strategic orientations of the ECOWAS Vision 2020, the 2016-2030 United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals and the African Union’s Agenda 2063.
For three days, participants will share research findings on Gender and Agriculture-related issues in ECOWAS Member States.

They will also highlight successful initiatives, innovations and experiences of networks of women engaged in processing, and proffer concrete solutions to issues related to the development of value chains, funding of processing units, as well as transportation of products at national, regional and international levels.

In addition, the Cotonou meeting will make proposals for increased investment in regional value chains to decision-makers and the private sector with a view to create more growth and reduce poverty in the West African region.

It will equally provide the opportunity to award the four best organisations that had presented innovative projects and engines of development in West Africa, and to create synergies between the West African networks of women engaged in processing and those involved in the processing sector.

Over fifty participants from ECOWAS Member States, political and administrative dignitaries from Benin, the ECOWAS Commissioner for Social Affairs and Gender, Dr Fatimata Dia Sow, alongside her colleague Commissioner for Agriculture, Environment and Water Resources, Ayassor Tchambakou, and FAO Resident Representative in Benin, Tiémoko Yo, will attend the workshop.

Groups of beneficiaries or targeted women under EGDG support to women, women involved in the processing of handicraft, agricultural and fishery products, experts from sector ministries, microfinance institutions, research and training institutes working in the processing sector, representatives of the ECOWAS Parliament and Commission, as well as technical and financial partners will also participate in the forum.

Several outcomes are expected of the forum, including the presentation of the reference situation on gender and agriculture in West Africa; knowledge sharing on innovations and best practices, recommendations to policy-makers and the private sector for increased investments in handicraft, agricultural and fishery value chains for women, as well as the establishment of strategic alliances between women engaged in processing and other stakeholders involved in the processing sector in West Africa.

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