Teaching people how to fish, instead of just handing out fish, is the principle followed by the Chinese Government when providing foreign aid, especially agricultural assistance to African countries. Since the Beijing Summit of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) in 2006, the Chinese Government has been sending agricultural experts to African countries annually. China has also set up agricultural technology demonstration centers in African countries where these experts can transfer their skills to the locals.
Yang Huade, a senior agriculture technician from Weiyuan County Agriculture Bureau in Sichuan Province, went to Mozambique in October 2013 with three other experts for a one-year agricultural-aid project. In September this year, he will head for Burundi to work on a two-year project. Before his departure, the 51-year-old spoke to ChinAfrica, sharing his views on agricultural development in Africa.
ChinAfrica: What was the Mozambique aid project?
Yang Huade: On October 30, 2013, four of us Chinese technicians arrived in Mozambique, officially launching the one-year project. We were from different sectors such as agricultural product processing and animal husbandry. Started under the FOCAC framework, the project is the result of China’s commitment to send agriculture technicians to African countries. After we arrived, we came up with new ideas to develop agriculture. We also installed and tested machines and equipment donated by the Chinese Government and trained staff to use the machines.
After a year in Mozambique, what’s your suggestion for developing agriculture there?
I think it is a realistic option to grow rice to resolve the problem of food insecurity in Mozambique. The country has many rivers. Technically, their drainage areas are suitable for growing rice. But owing to the lack of advanced technologies, Mozambique’s rice output is just a little more than 1 ton per hectare. With improved technologies and sufficient equipment, this can be increased from 6 tons to 7 tons.
I am very proud to have worked in Mozambique. I could personally sense the long and profound friendship between our two countries. My way of working influenced my colleagues there and when my suggestions were adopted, I felt very proud. My only regret is that one year is too short. There’s still much work that needs to be done.
How do you see agricultural cooperation between China and Mozambique?
Mozambique occupies an excellent geographic position and has abundant agricultural resources. It has more than 1,000 km of coastline. Its capital Maputo, and [major cities] Beira and Nacala have deep-water ports and are gateways to inland countries. Mozambique has 38 million hectares of arable land, and a population of 24 million, 80 percent of whom are farmers. More importantly, it has abundant rainfall, which is a very important natural condition for agriculture development.
Mozambique was colonized by Portugal and after independence, suffered nearly two decades of civil war. It began focusing on development only in the past 20 years or so. Because of this, the agricultural infrastructure is backward and production methods are primitive. The investment in the agriculture sector is seriously insufficient. The grain production accounts for only 15-20 percent of the output from the experimental plots cultivated by Chinese agriculture technicians.
On the other hand, China has successful experience in agriculture development accumulated in the more than 30 years of reform and opening up. China has a large number of agricultural experts and engineers, a strong economy, and entrepreneurs with management skills. If we combine Mozambique’s resource advantages with China’s advantages in technology, capital and expertise, it can give a strong impetus to Mozambique’s agricultural and rural development. Our bilateral agricultural cooperation has a promising future.
What will you do in Burundi?
Eight of us - six senior Chinese agriculture experts and two interpreters - will go to Burundi in late September. The project is similar to the one in Mozambique but longer - for two years.
In Burundi, we will focus on distinctive and advantageous local sectors and establish appropriate and replicable experiment and demonstration stations. Based on this, I will suggest the related departments to launch large-scale training of local farmers so as to improve the productivity of the land. Burundi is like China in the 1980s.
So, if Burundi spares no effort to develop agriculture, just like China did, it is very likely that it can address the food insecurity.
How will your project help Burundi develop its agriculture?
This project can help increase grain production, at least in parts of the country. We have experts with advanced technologies who can train local farmers. More importantly, we will work with our Burundi counterparts to raise their technology levels. To support our work, the Chinese Government is donating machines and other equipment, which will further help develop local farm production.
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