China shares agricultural technology, poverty alleviation experiences

30Nov 2021
By Guardian Reporter
Dar es Salaam
The Guardian
China shares agricultural technology, poverty alleviation experiences

WHEN Chinese agricultural experts visited Mozambique a couple of years ago, they found a lot of rich but mismanaged soil.

Highly dependent on weather, the rice yield per mu was only 100-200 kilograms there without scientific planting techniques.

Now with the effort of many experienced Chinese experts and China-invested agriculture enterprises, "the rice yields in most areas of Mozambique have reached 600 kilograms per mu," said rice cultivating expert Li Ganghua, who has been to various African countries with his Chinese coworkers to teach local farmers rice planting skills. "It's common that the rice yield triples [its previous harvest]," Li said.

Li recalls the African villages he has been to, and the lively scenes of locals singing and dancing with drums at harvest time. "They are warm and passionate, and they appreciate the help that Chinese people gave them," said Li, a professor at College of Agriculture under Nanjing Agricultural University (NAU).

"We are thinking about... whether we can design some [poverty reduction] methods, which have been proven effective in China, for the reference of African countries," Wu Peng, Director of the Department of African Affairs in the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said in a speech he delivered in late October.

At the eighth Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) in Senegal this week, China and several African countries are expected to jointly plan out cooperation for the next three years, Wu said. The poverty-reduction [experience sharing] will be a part of the discussions, he said.

For decades, China, while exploring its way of rural poverty alleviation and development, has been sharing its experiences with many African countries, such as knowledge and skills in crop cultivation, irrigation, road and network construction, and the development of e-commerce.

China's poverty alleviation is a great project that has attracted global attention.

Now, following the project, China's new rural revitalization strategy can also provide a reference for poverty reduction to its African friends in this new era, observers said.

Sharing with African countries crop cultivation techniques is one main aspect of China's efforts to help local African villages fight poverty. Many outstanding Chinese rice cultivating experts, including the team of "the Father of Hybrid Rice" Yuan Longping, have been on the ground in Africa, teaching locals rice planting skills.

Li has visited villages in African countries including Kenya, Tanzania, and Mozambique since 2006 to fully understand rice-growing practice in each respective country. He found that the natural conditions in many local areas are even better than those found in China. "Such as the natural wetland near Lake Victoria which is very suitable for growing rice," Li recalled.

By contrast, the lack of water infrastructure and outmoded planting techniques by locals at that time meant swathes of rich arable land went to waste for much of the year.

Having been to almost all the rice-planting areas across China, Li believed that much of the experience of Chinese rice growers could be shared with their African peers. During his visits to African villages, he suggested that people there build water conservancy and irrigation systems, like those built by Chinese villages designed to provide adequate water for the rice growth.

Li himself also brought various types of rice seeds to Africa to know which one grows best there. "We introduced the seeds used in Chinese areas with the similar latitudes in Africa, which can better suit the soils there," Li said. "In terms of latitude, Tanzania is similar to China's Guangdong, Guangxi, and Fujian provinces, and Kenya is similar to our Hainan island," he said.

The university Li works at has long been cooperating with African countries in cultivating agricultural talents from Africa. Li mentioned that his student Elidio David Cambula from Mozambique, who had studied [crop] cultivating techniques at NAU, went back home after graduation, and now works as an engineer at China-invested Wanbao Agriculture Park Project in Mozambique.

Started in July 2011, the Wanbao Agriculture Park Project is one of China's largest rice-growing projects in Mozambique. The project reportedly planted 2,400 hectares of rice in collaboration with 500 local households during the 2018-19 planting season, increasing the rice production from 1.5 tons per hectare to seven tons.

Li cares deeply about rice cultivation in Africa although he is not there. Amid the pandemic, he keeps in touch with some African villages online. "They come and ask me for help when they encounter problems [in rice cultivation]."

Since 2012, through projects such as sending Chinese agricultural experts to Africa, more than 50,000 Africans have been trained and 23 agricultural demonstration centers have been built, according to a white paper on China-Africa cooperation that the Chinese government released recently.