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China-Africa agricultural cooperation yields fruits

Decades of agricultural cooperation between China and Africa has yielded fruitful results on the vast African continent full of untapped potentials. Here, Xinhua reporters present three such exemplary projects that have benefited farmers in Benin, Namibia and Mozambique

HI-TECH BRINGS NEW HOPE TO BENIN COTTON FARM

At Okpara Farm, over 400 km northeast of the Beninese capital Cotonou, arrays of green cotton plants covering more than 20 hectares of farmland are bearing egg-sized white blossoms, a lively example of how modern technology has brought into full play the potentials of less productive farmlands.

In Benin, cotton cultivation used to be a main bread-earner of the West African country. In recent years, however, falling cotton prices on international markets, low productivity, high cost and lack of training have become factors threatening the livelihoods of local farmers, many of whom were forced to abandon cotton cultivation.

In 2013, with the signing of an inter-governmental agreement, China started dispatching agricultural technicians to Benin and establish cotton cultivation demonstration stations with the aim to help support the development of Benin’s cotton industry.

Wu Enji, head of the China Mission to Support Cotton Production in Benin, still remembers the first time he set foot on the Okpara Farm.

It looked like a totally barren wasteland where weeds and shrubs grew abundantly, says Wu. Cotton cultivation was entirely dependent upon the weather while workers used only primitive farming tools.

“We want to transfer China’s highly productive cotton cultivation technologies to the locals without the least reservation, and help them live better lives,” says Wu.

Following intensive preparations and tests on the Okpara Farm, the Chinese technicians have cultivated two crossing varieties that are best suited to the conditions of local soil, climate and management styles.

As a result, cotton output is projected to reach three tons per hectare for the 2015 farming season, more than doubling the usual productivity.

At present, the Okpara Farm has become a virtual training base, where the Chinese mission has hosted lessons and on-the-spot training sessions for Beninese farmers and agricultural technicians.

The advanced technologies brought about by the Chinese experts are set to elevate Benin’s agricultural modernization status up to a new level, says Isidore Amonmide, a top official of the Beninese Academy of Agricultural Sciences, to Xinhua.

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WHEN TECH AND MARKET MEET IN NAMIBIA

In April, 2015, 15 Chinese agricultural experts and technicians arrived in Namibia to conduct a two-year program of technology transfer and guidance.

Tasked to help support the Southern African nation’s agricultural development, they were separated into four regions to work with their Namibian counterparts in the fields of rice, gardening and husbandry.

At Kalimbeza Rice Research and Production Station in northeastern Namibia, the only national rice production base, the Chinese technicians helped boost productivity and output per hectare.

Despite a high output, however, the marketing of Kalimbeza Rice was far from being ideal.

After having a taste of rice sample, Xiao Weibing, a vegetable expert on the Chinese team, finally found out the problem. The taste was good, but the problem lied in the stage of processing. Later, Chinese experts walked into rice processing factories and helped remove technology impediments that affected rice quality.

To help boost market sales, the experts also proposed ways to classify the rice, register for a trade mark and produce in small packages. Now, Kalimbeza Rice has became a highly popular product in markets across Namibia.

In August, Namibian President Hage Geingob visited the Kalimbeza base and highly commended the efforts of the Chinese experts and technicians. The president expressed an interest in the Kalimbeza Rice and purchased 150 kg for his own family consumption.

CHINESE PROJECTS HELP WITH FOOD SECURITY IN MOZAMBIQUE

Four years ago, Rudy Manuel, a Mozambican youth, could not imagine that his father’s farm, located in Xai-Xai district in the Mozambique’s southern province of Gaza, can reach a yield of up to 4.8 tons of grain per hectare.

Before cooperating with China WanBao Co., Ltd., in 2011, Manuel’s 42-hectare farm only had the capacity of producing averagely 1.5 tons of grain per hectare.

It is not an exception in Mozambique, which possesses a large alluvial plains as arable land, but is still plagued by a food deficit of nearly 300,000 tons of grain, constrained by its primitive farming techniques.

The arrival of Chinese help, with their advanced agricultural technologies and projects, has helped to make a change.

Agricultural cooperation between China and Mozambique started as early as 2007, when the first batch of agricultural technology demonstration centers in Africa was established in Maputo Province. It was also ranked as the first of its kind in Africa, having trained over 1,000 Mozambicans until October, 2015.

Since then, the Chinese have been providing high yielding seeds and equipment to the southern African country, as well as irrigation facilities and techniques, water harvesting and preservation to ensure an all-year round farming.

In 2011, Wanbao Grains and Oils, an agricultural product processing company based in Xiangyang, China’s Hubei Province, established a large-scale rice farm on 20,000 hectares in Gaza Province of Mozambique.

In three years, a total of nearly 200 million U.S. dollars have been invested in the project, mainly in infrastructure construction, machinery and equipment procurement, irrigation and electricity.

Sergio Chichava, a researcher at Mozambique’s Institute of Social and Economic Studies, told Xinhua that, if things went well, the Chinese projects could help solve the country’s food crisis.

Ernesto Paulino, the provincial director of Agriculture Department in Gaza Province, affirmed that WanBao project has helped to improve local farming productivity and increase employment, thus improving local people’s livelihood.

  • Xinhua correspondents
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