The African Savannah has been described as Africa’s ‘Sleeping Giant’ due to its huge but untapped potential for food production to help the continent stem a rising food deficit. A third of all calories consumed in Africa comes from outside. Rising food imports, estimated at US$ 35 billion in 2015 and expected to rise to US$ 110 billion by 2025 if nothing is done, worsens balance of trade of many countries and puts pressure on African currencies. Africa has 400 million hectares of Savannah, one and a half times the size of India, but only 10% of it is cropped. 54% of Ghana’s land mass accounts for 8 million hectares of Savannah, which has the potential to produce all the country’s maize, soybean, and livestock requirements. Unfortunately, Ghana imports 150,000 MT of broiler meat, 140,000 MT of maize, and 90,000 MT of soybean.
AfDB therefore launched the Technologies for African Agricultural Transformation in the Savannahs (TAAT-S) as part of the Feed Africa Strategy to transform the African savannahs into breadbasket of food production. Previously known as Transformation of African Savannahs Initiative (TASI), the project focuses on the commercial production of Maize, Soybean, poultry and Livestock in the Northern Savannah Ecological Zone (NSEZ). The pilot project seeks to demonstrate at scale, commercial production of these crops under Conservation Agriculture (CA). Ghana led the pilot in 2018 ahead of seven (7) other African countries.
It is worth noting that rapid agricultural transformation at scale has occurred in other countries and provide valuable lessons to achieve agricultural transformation in Africa. Through skillful development of production technologies adapted to the tropics – of new crop and livestock varieties and innovative soil and crop management packages, wide scale dissemination of these technologies, low interest loans, and ambitious rural development programs, Brazil and Argentina joined the top 5 food exporting countries of the world within two decades. AfDB therefore launched the initiative to bring 1.6 million hectares in eight African countries – Ghana, Guinea, DRC, CAR, Uganda, Kenya, Zambia, and Mozambique, under optimum maize, soybean, and livestock production.
TAAT-S will facilitate the introduction and adaptation of tropical crop and soil technologies, entry of commercial farmers and new private sector investments, and engagement of local farmers to achieve an environmentally, socially, and economically sustainable global food powerhouse in the African savannahs.
The task ahead for SAPIP is to solve some of the bottlenecks facing agricultural productivity (seeds, fertilizer), infrastructure deficits (irrigation, feeder roads) and policy gaps, which if unaddressed would deter private investment in large scale commercial agriculture.
TAAT-S is expected to increase crop and livestock productivity delivering commercial yields of 8MT/Ha for maize and 3.5MT/Ha of soybeans in tropical savannahs, compared to current yields of 2MT/Ha of maize and 1MT/Ha of soybean. An additional 100,000 Ha of land is expected to be brought under cultivation in the Savannah of Ghana.