The Guinea Savanna region is a vast expanse of land, estimated at 600 million hectares, twice as large as that planted to wheat worldwide, that runs from the coast of Guinea – Senegal eastwards to the Ethiopia border , then veers southeast to cover parts of Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, the Democratic Republic of Congo before spreading across much of Central Southern Africa over large areas Angola, Zambia, Malawi, Mozambique and western Madagascar.
Although, this an area of nutrient poor soils fed by erratic rain, a study by the World Bank and FAO, in the mid 2000’s centred mainly on Zambia, Mozambique and Nigeria concluded that the area could, with adequate investment and proper management become a major global producer of cassava, cotton, maize, soya beans, rice, sugar, and livestock.
Agricultural Transformation of the Guinea Savanna Region
To use some of vast land to feed Africa and indeed the world, will require well intentioned national and international assistance and massive private and public investment and collaboration. As Brazil and Thailand have demonstrated in the last couple of decades , agricultural transformation is achievable.
Long characterised as economically “backward”, the Brazilian Cerrado and northeast Thailand both started out with limited agricultural potential and poor infrastructure. Yet beginning in the 1960’s, both regions showed remarkable, sustained growth over a 40-year period, allowing them to become highly competitive in world markets.
In the Brazilian Cerrado, the transformation was led by soyabeans, production of which jumped from 250,000 metric tons in 1961 to over 30 million metric tons in 2000. In northeast Thailand, cassava led the export takeoff, with the country’s production rising from 1.7 million metric tons in 1961 to 20.7 million metric tons in 1996.
The initial successes achieved in low-value bulk commodities were subsequently extended to high-value commodities, including processed products( e.g., sugar, soybean oil, cotton lint, cassava starch, poultry, and cattle ).
The pathway to growth was similar in both countries: Brazilian and Thai farmers initially were able to expand production by focusing on specific markets in which they enjoyed preferential access. After capturing economies of scale in production and processing, they were able to establish themselves as low-cost global producers who could compete virtually anywhere.
Brazilian farmers achieved success by relaying on large-scale mechanized production methods, whereas in the northeast region of Thailand was and remains essentially the domain of smallholders who have mechanized some tasks, such as land preparation.
Several supply-side factors contributed to the successful commercialization experience in both countries:
1.Agriculture research organizations
2.Public and private financing for infrastructure
3.Rural credit and business development services
4.Stable policy environments that improved the investment climate and permitted the direct transmission of international-market signals to farmers.
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