A new study says
Africa has great potential to become a world player in the commercial farming
industry. That potential lies in a vast savannah
that stretches through 25 countries.
The Guinea Savannah
zone is about 600 million hectares of land snaking its way from Senegal, across
the continent, and down to South Africa.
Most of that land is suitable for farming, but currently only about 10
percent of it is being used to grow crops.
The UN Food and
Agriculture Organization and the World Bank have released a study on the
prospects for farming there called: Awakening Africa's Sleeping Giant.
Guy Evers, Africa
Service Chief in the FAO Investment Center in Rome, says, "I would say the
title is a little bit provocative. It's a way to explain or illustrate the fact
that there is still a large amount of land available in Africa."
The study says Africa
is well placed to be a global player in bulk commodity production. That's due
to "rapid economic, population and urban growth providing diverse and ample
domestic markets." It also cites improved domestic and foreign investment in
agriculture and the use of new technologies.
"On that large
piece of land, which has fairly good rainfall, you have about 400 million
hectares, which have not yet been exploited and basically could be developed if
the right ingredients, I could say, are being put in place in terms of
infrastructure, taxation policy included," he says.
Size of farm not important
He says awakening
Africa's agriculture potential does not only mean operating large-scale
"When you talk
about the sleeping giant, I mean we are not talking only about large-scale
farming, but also medium and small-scale farming or a combination of the three,"
agricultural programs have been successful in the Cerrado region of Brazil and
northeast Thailand. The study says governments in those countries took large
areas of unused land and made them productive through favorable economic
policies, better infrastructure and political stability.
If successful on
the continent, the study says a number of African countries could become major
producers of cassava, cotton, maize, soya beans, sugar and rice. The crops
could be sold domestically or abroad.
however, that with such a proposed undertaking care must be given to the environment.
sustainable farming practices, which need sustainable land, soil and water management
and a number of techniques, which would minimize the use of pesticides and also
the development of so-called no-till farming, where basically there is no
plowing anymore," he says.
Some studies show
that repeated tilling can lower soil fertility and contribute to air and water
pollution. No-till farming does require special and sometimes expensive equipment
that can plant seeds without disturbing the ground very much. However,
precautions may need to be taken regarding drainage.
however, there is a wealth of experience from other countries to draw on
regarding environmental protection.