Chinese rice farm trains talent to solve Nigeria’s food problem Source: Xinhua
In the northwestern Nigerian state of Kebbi, rice farmers are preparing seeds and fertilizers to usher in a new growing season with abundant rain.
Rice is an important food crop in Nigeria, the most populous country in Africa. However, rice production in the country remains inadequate due to technological and financial constraints, and the food system and markets are constantly disrupted by the spread of violence and COVID-19 restrictions. Many Nigerians are still starving.
Ibrahim Argungu is one of the many farmers in the country who found it difficult to make a living growing rice despite owning many acres of farmland.
He had learned farm management from his father, who before his retirement was the head of the State Department for Agriculture and Rural Development in Kebbi. But after five years, harvests remain sparse in his 200-acre family business.
In 2012, Ibrahim began working with Wara Agricultural Park in Kebbi, a local farm operated by China’s Green Agricultural Development Company since 2006, to learn rice growing techniques. He also learned various cultivation technologies from Chinese experts and technicians who work in Nigeria.
China has been sending agricultural experts and technicians to the African continent for decades.
“From there we knew why, despite all our efforts, we had only a low harvest production before. We need to change the way we think. We have to irrigate properly and make good use of the agricultural machinery, ”Ibrahim told Xinhua and spoke about his experience with Wara.
However, the Chinese know-how that has helped locals boost rice production is not simply “imported” from China, but is adapted to local natural conditions and agricultural traditions, according to Chinese experts.
“The agriculture, climate and rice-growing methods in Nigeria are very different from those in China,” said Wang Xuemin, 53-year-old agricultural expert, who has worked in Nigeria for 18 years.
After years of research, Chinese experts in Nigeria have managed to solve problems related to land preparation, sowing, weed control and fertilizer management. More and more local rice growers in the area have started adopting the technologies used in the Wara Agricultural Park.
Wang said Nigeria has favorable natural conditions for growing rice. “With abundant rain and sunshine, flat and fertile land, the natural conditions in Nigeria are much better than in China,” he said.
On the other hand, China can learn from Nigerian rice production, Wang said, adding that Nigerians prefer to simply sow seeds in fields while Chinese farmers traditionally transplant rice seedlings into rice fields, and that Nigerians use less fertilizer and therefore one less serious pest have problem.
In addition to improving cultivation techniques, Chinese agricultural experts also succeeded in 2017 in selecting and breeding a new rice variety based on local resources that exceeded the yield of the native variety by 30 percent.
LIFE CHANGING EXPERIENCE
New farming techniques developed by Chinese experts have not only helped local Nigerians achieve higher production and incomes, but also changed their lives.
The Wara Agricultural Park has built a community of successful farmers and agricultural technicians. “More than 1,000 local farmers and agricultural machinery managers have studied in our training programs, and many of them have left Wara to grow their own rice or get jobs on large farms in their hometowns,” said Wang.
In 2015 Ibrahim flew to Changsha, the capital of central China’s Hunan Province, to take part in a three-month hybrid rice training program.
“It has been an amazing and knowledge-based trip to China,” said Ibrahim. “During my three-month stay in China, I saw so much, especially the advanced ideas and technologies in agriculture.”
Ibrahim said Nigeria has vast arable land and a farming-friendly climate, but in recent years the country has been heavily dependent on food imports.
“Nigeria can be self-sufficient in its food supply and even export food to other countries as long as we find the right agricultural technology,” he said.
At the beginning of 2020, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari promised to lift 100 million Nigerians out of poverty over the next 10 years. Agriculture is a key area of development to ensure food security and economic development.
President’s spokesman Garba Shehu recently told Xinhua that the Nigerian government welcomes Chinese companies to invest in Nigeria’s agricultural sector and adopt advanced technologies and methods.
In Wang’s view, help alone cannot solve the continent’s food security problem. “If you want to feed a hungry man, you don’t give him fish, but you have to teach him to fish,” he said, quoting a Chinese proverb.
“We need to focus on capacity building to fundamentally overcome food shortages,” he said.