Peter Anaadumba South-South Cooperation Coordinator at FAO Regional Office for Africa said the Chinese project was expected to help the four beneficiary countries address the gaps earlier projects could not address.
“China continues to be a strong partner when it comes to South-South Cooperation. But specifically with FAO and China two months ago we went on a project formulation mission to Senegal, Guinea Conakry, Guinea Bissau and Cote d’Ivoire,” he disclosed.
Anaadumba added: “This will be a sub-regional umbrella project to help countries again to develop the rice value chain.”
Africa’s continued cooperation with China on agriculture development he explained was because the continent saw the experience of China which had become the world’s largest rice producer within 30 years as a worthy model to emulate.
In addition to the four West African countries, Madagascar, Cape Verde , Uganda and Namibia were also expected to commence the second phase of the Rice Project implementation in 2019.
Within the context of the program, the beneficiary countries will be receiving capacity building and experience sharing in irrigation, water control management, adaptation of small equipment for rice production among others.
Since there are common challenges within the sub-region of West Africa and to some extent the African region China believes the program will be much more efficient when implemented as a sub-regional umbrella project.
“It is not going to be an individual project at country level, but a sub-regional umbrella project where you would be addressing critical sub-regional issues within the sector,” the official averred.
With China’s involvement in Africa through South-South Cooperation, Anaadumba observed for example that Uganda has started producing apples, while the youth also use local materials to produce mushrooms, thus creating jobs for them.
“The Chinese home-grown model seems to work and in Africa they have been able to share these experiences. You look at the Aqua-culture sector. China produces a lot of tilapia. Today in Africa, through the Chinese exchange of expertise Africa has also increased the production of tilapia,” he pointed out.
One critical area the official found so imperative for African countries to tap expertise on from China is post-harvest management.
He noted: “China virtually processes everything. From rice, they produce rice wine, rice oil and others, so China does a lot of value addition and I think it is what African countries have to learn from the Chinese. “
“When it comes to Agro-processing they are quite advanced.. And we have the opportunity, not with only rice but also with other commodities to add value. If you do not add value you actually do not get the worth of what you are producing. But if you add value you generate much more income,” he argued.
Since the project was going to build upon experiences of earlier ones under the South-South Cooperation the official expressed the hope that once FAO and Chine met to determine the cost and it commences, greater dividends will be coming to the beneficiary countries and the sub-region as a whole.
Waly Diouf Special Advisor to the government of Senegal on agriculture described the South-South Cooperation project as very beneficial to his country.
Rice is very important to Senegal, he stated, adding that the government had therefore put high efforts into developing rice production.
With support under the South-South Cooperation Senegal has over the last 10 years doubled its paddy rice production to one million metric tons.
“We are working with experts from China and FAO and our expectation now is to have support on irrigation schemes, and also involvement of private sector as well as how to improve capacity in the sector.
“This support is key because we live in a Sahelian country and we need to develop irrigation and develop capacity, with private sector involvement,” he stressed.