July 01st, 2012 | Global Times Chinese agricultural tech travels to Africa
Agricultural technology that has proved effective in curbing desertification in northwest China’s Gansu province has been exported halfway around the globe to Africa to help locals tame desert sands.
A group of 10 agricultural scientists organized by the Desert Control Research Institute of Gansu arrived in Niger and Nigeria on June 20 to carry out a water resource preservation program sponsored by the Chinese government and the United Nations.
The scientists are conducting research and offering technical training in the provinces of Niamey, Dosso, Tahoua, Maradi and Zinder in south Niger and the state of Kano in Nigeria, said Ji Yongfu, a researcher with the institute and member of the team.
Scarce water resources are a significant problem for Niger and Nigeria, whose development of agriculture and animal husbandry have been hindered by constant droughts and the expansion of deserts.
In Gansu, where similar conditions have created problems in the past, effective measures have been taken to reverse desertification and improve
local agricultural production.
Using nylon nets to stabilize sliding sand dunes is just one creative technique that originated in Gansu and has been applied elsewhere. Scientists in Gansu have also come up with a special farming technique to help corn crops withstand sandstorms and droughts that involves digging tunnels to store rainwater.
The two techniques, as well as other methods that have proved successful in Gansu, can be used in Africa to help local residents improve their agricultural yields, Ji said.
Niamey, the capital of Niger, is constantly under the threat of sandstorms. The problem is worse in areas near the southern shore of the Niger River.
“We went to the south shore of the river to investigate the vegetation there, as well as look at the damage brought by sandstorms and the protective measures used by locals. We offered them advice on controlling quicksand and protecting vegetation through grazing bans,” Ji said.
After arriving in Zinder province, Ji and his colleagues laid down a 1,000-square-meter nylon net and taught Nigerian technicians and farmers how to build similar stabilizing nets.
“We used local materials to build pillars that were inserted into the sand dunes, and then attached the net to the pillars. This creates a ‘wall’ against moving sand,” Ji said.
Ji said local villages will be able to reap greater harvests this year with the help of the corn-planting technique that was invented in Gansu.
“This technique can help residents store more rainwater, which is quite precious here, as it keeps the evaporation at the lowest level,” Ji said.
The scientists have collected meteorological data for Niger, as well as samples of plants growing in the Sahara Desert, to facilitate their study of the region’s ecology.
In Nigeria, the scientists have established a climate observation station and a 10-hectare experimental zone for desertification control experiments, where they are working with their Nigerian counterparts.
Gansu began sharing agricultural tech with Africa in 2011 with the signing of a memorandum of cooperation with Kenya to expand rainwater recycling systems in the country’s drought-prone areas.
The scientists said African countries need to increase investment in agricultural technology and improve infrastructure to spur the development of agriculture and animal husbandry.