Some 400 million hectares in the Guinea Savannah zone – stretching from Senegal to South Africa – are ripe for commodity production, but at present, only 10 per cent of that area is actually being farmed, according to the book published by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Bank.It compares the African savannah with similar areas in north-east Thailand and the Cerrado region of Brazil, which share similar disadvantages. In the case of Thailand, there was abundant but unreliable rainfall, poor soils and a high population density, while in the Cerrado, remoteness, soils prone to acidity and low population were key problems.In both Thailand and Brazil, governments helped spur agricultural growth “characterized by favourable macroeconomic policies, adequate infrastructure, a strong human capital base, competent government administration, and political instability,” the study noted.Africa, it argued, is better placed to reach its targets due to its use of new technologies; economic, population and urban growth; improved business climates in many countries; and stepped up foreign and domestic investment in agriculture, among other factors.The smallholder-led agricultural transformation which took place in Thailand, rather than the large-scale farming led by wealthy farmers in Brazil, is a much better model for Africa to follow to ensure equitable development.“Large-scale mechanized production does not offer any obvious cost advantages, except under certain very specific circumstances and is far more likely to lead to social conflict,” said Michael Morris, the World Bank’s Lead Agricultural Economist.Commercializing agriculture will help to dampen the environmental effects of changing how the land is used in the Guinea Savannah, the study found.However, intensification could also lead to the destruction of vulnerable ecosystems and the overuse of fertilizers and pesticides, it warned, calling on governments to monitor environmental impacts and take action to minimize damage. 22 June 2009Unlocking the potential of a massive stretch of savannah spanning 25 African nations could boost commercial farming on the continent, according to a new United Nations study.
The president told AFP in an interview Sunday he would give land to civilians displaced by war by the middle of this year.He admitted it was an “ambitious target” but said it was necessary to end what he called an “unacceptable situation”.The land will be in addition to the property being handed back by the military in line with an earlier election pledge by Sirisena. “This is the first time he is giving a timeframe,” TNA spokesman M. A. Sumanthiran told AFP a day after Sirisena made the offer. Sri Lanka’s main opposition today welcomed President Maithripala Sirisena’s promise of land for 100,000 people who were forced from their homes during the long civil war, most of them Tamils, the AFP news agency reported.The Tamil National Alliance (TNA) said Sirisena’s pledge to give displaced civilians new plots within six months was a “positive development”, but demanded that the military vacate the private land it occupied. Sirisena, who was elected last January, has won praise for starting to hand back land after the end in May 2009 of one of South Asia’s longest and bloodiest ethnic wars.But he is also under international pressure to do more to ensure reconciliation. “We welcome this as a very positive development but our stand is that the military must vacate all private lands they are occupying.” The civil war pitted troops against guerrillas fighting for independence for the Tamil minority in the north and east of the island.The fighting claimed over 100,000 lives between 1972 and 2009. More than 100,000 people are still living away from their homes more than six years after the end of the war, Sumanthiran said, while another 168,000 live as refugees in neighbouring India.