In one thematic seminar of CAETE, agriculture again became the focal point. The Seminar on China-Africa Agricultural Cooperation and Development, taking place on June 27, 2019, welcomed over 500 government officials, agricultural scientists, representatives from enterprises and international organizations for discussions on potential models of cooperation between China and Africa in the field of agriculture and food.
In the exchange and discussion section of the seminar, government officials from the Gambia, Ghana and Nigeria presented development needs of their countries’ agricultural sectors and called for cooperation leveraging on the mutually complementary aspects of agriculture in China and in their home country. In the end, eight projects of cooperation were signed in the seminar, with their amounts of investment totaling $2.75 billion.
The Gambia’s Minister of Agriculture Mrs. Amie Fabureh introduced the Gambia’s advantages on land resources and labor. However, 70% of agricultural workers in Gambia are small-holders not yet achieving self-sufficiency and especially vulnerable to extreme weathers. The Gambia needs to improve its agricultural products and value-chains, and she expressed her hope that the Chinese government be involved in solving this problem.
The Minister of Food and Agriculture of Ghana, Owusu Afriyie Akoto said in turn that Ghana is planning to invest in food processing industry, so that Ghana, with over a hundred years of history of planting cocoa, can turn them into chocolate. Ghana is also hoping to explore the field of e-commerce to extend the value-chain, and it hopes that China can also join this venture.
Gambo Ibrahim Aliyu, permanent secretary of Ministry of Agriculture and Natural Resources in Jigawa State, Nigeria, introduced that the Jigawa State is one of the major states for agricultural production in Nigeria, and Chinese enterprises have already been creating sugar factories and shoes factories in the state. He stated that Chinese agricultural enterprises have many promising investment opportunities in Jigawa, and their presence could bring direct benefits to local farmers.
Focal point: hybrid rice
Hybrid rice, with its superior yields and China’s long-time experience in its development and promotion, added upon rice’s important status in Africans’ diet, has always been under the highlight in the field of China-Africa agricultural cooperation. In fact, on the day immediately after the conference, June 28, news came out that hybrid rice has reached a new yield record in Madagascar – over 10 tons per hectare, more than two times higher than the yield of 3 tons per hectare usually observed in this locale. Since 2010, agricultural experts and enterprises have been developing and promoting hybrid rice breeds adaptable to local conditions in the country, and cultivation area of hybrid rice in Madagascar has reached 20,000 hectares with an average yield of 7 tons per hectare, which has ameliorated the food situation for over 25 million people. During the seminar, Yuan Longping, the father of hybrid rice, sent a video call to speak to participants, declaring that average yield of the super hybrid rice on which his team is currently working is aimed toward 18 tons per hectare.
Because of the dire needs of food in Africa and the encouraging prospects of hybrid rice plantation, it is in the interest of various parties – including African countries, their development partners and international organizations to see rice production and associated value-chains expand and grow in Africa. In this very seminar, the project to promote hybrid rice thus welcomed new participants and innovative forms of cooperation. Institutions including China International Center for Economic and Technical Exchanges under the Ministry of Commerce, China National Hybrid Rice R&D Center, African Union, UN Office for South-South Cooperation, World Food Program, the Gates Foundation and Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa agreed upon a joint initiative to strengthen South-South and three-party cooperation in rice production. The initiative called upon a systemic sorting of China’s experience and techniques in rice production and local needs of African countries to advice policy making of African governments, encouraged professional expositions and investment for techniques, products and equipment associated with rice, and looked forward to market and value-chain development.
To learn more: event context
Agriculture has had a crucial role in both China and Africa. Food security has always occupied the center of Africa-related issues, and generally in sub-Saharan Africa, rural population makes a large share of total population, with small-holder agriculture being the predominant form of employment. On the other hand, in China, agriculture and the rural area have been keys to China’s economic success in recent years, as drastic increase in agricultural productivity freed up labor force in rural households so that they could set up non-agricultural ventures or move into cities seeking employment in other sectors. Agriculture has also consistently manifested itself as an important aspect in the relationship between China and Africa since its earliest days, as Chinese established state-owned farms, privately owned agricultural enterprises and sent experts for agricultural training and technological transfers over the past several decades. Within this background, CAETE became another occasion where new hopes are formed in the field of agriculture.
Ruoyu Chen, NYU Business and Political Economy
China-Africa Stories Contributor
Written from sources: