Trends in Per Capita Food Availability in West Africa, 1980-2009

February 1, 2013 - Nathalie M. Me-Nsope and <>

IDWP 130. Nathalie M. Me-Nsope and John M. Staatz. 2013. Trends in Per Capita Food Availability in West Africa, 1980-2009.

The goal of this paper is to provide evidence of shifts in food consumption patterns in the
ECOWAS countries of West Africa from 1980 through 2009.
In particular, the analysis is intended to identify major contributors to diets, changes in the levels as well as in the
composition of food supply at the country-level, and to enhance understanding of the food
supply situation within the ECOWAS zone using national-level FAOSTAT food balance
sheet data from 1980-2009. The paper provides detailed displays of per capita food
availability for each of the 15 countries, which will serve as the basis for more detailed
quantitative and qualitative analysis in subsequent reports.

The analysis reveals a trend towards greater per capita calorie supplies for most ECOWAS
countries. While the growth in daily energy availability has been much more pronounced and
consistent for countries experiencing rapid economic growth (e.g., Ghana and Cape Verde),
the growth pattern has been disrupted in countries that have been through civil disruptions
like Cote d’Ivoire, Liberia and Sierra Leone. The analysis provides evidence of a
diversification in the composition of food supply and reveals that national-level starchy
staples consumption patterns have been complex and diverse. The importance of starchy
roots and tubers in the diets, particularly in the Sahel region, has grown over time. The
analysis reveals a big cassava revolution that has taken place in some of the Coastal NonSahelian
countries such as Nigeria, Ghana, and Sierra Leone. The growth in the apparent per
capita consumption of cassava (e.g., Senegal) and sweet potatoes (e.g., Mali), most likely
reflects the lower-income population shifting towards cheaper calorie sources. There has also
been positive growth in the supply of Irish potatoes in some countries (e.g., Cape Verde and
Senegal), supporting evidence of increasing income (due to the high income elasticity of Irish
potatoes), and a westernization of diets (increased consumption of potato chips–French fries).
Apparent per capita consumption of yams also showed huge increases in some Coastal NonSahelian
countries (e.g., Ghana and Nigeria). The analysis also provides evidence of a
striking growth in apparent per capita consumption of maize in the Sahel (Burkina Faso, Mali
and Senegal). Apparent per capita rice consumption increased for most countries in the study
period. In Cape Verde, for instance, rice is replacing maize as the dominant cereal.

With respect to the quality of the diet, the supply of daily protein per capita has been
increasing for most countries since the early 2000s. Proteins from plant sources are the
dominant source of protein in the entire region. Although plant proteins dominate as the
major source of protein for most of these countries, some of these countries (e.g., Niger,
Sierra Leone, and Cape Verde) derive an important share of vegetable protein from pulses,
which are a source of high-quality protein. Some countries have shown a positive trend in the
supply of animal protein. The countries that have shown evidence of diet upgrading through
increased consumption of animal protein have been mostly those that have also shown
evidence of rapid and strong economic growth over time (e.g., Ghana and Cape Verde).
Countries with modest economic growth (e.g., Mali) also show modest growth in the
consumption of animal protein over time. Apparent per capita daily fat supply increased for
most countries in the study period. Based on FAO’s recommended daily allowances of
various nutrients for a balanced diet, the share of different macronutrient groups in daily
energy supply did not change much over time. While most countries meet and/or exceed the
recommended daily allowance for carbohydrates, the share of protein in daily energy continues
to remain close to the lower bound of the recommended daily value. However, this
has not always meant that the diets have not improved over time, as some countries have
experienced not only a positive growth in the supply of total per capita protein availability,
but also have been improving in terms of the consumption of animal protein (generally of
better nutritional value than most plant proteins) as well as of pulses (of higher quality
protein than most other sources of plant protein). Noticeable for almost all countries in the
region is the growth in the supply of poultry meat over time, primarily from imports. 


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