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China Helps Africa on Desert Control
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Officials and technicians from African countries will come to northwest China's Gansu Province in August for an annual training program on combating desertification.


The African trainees will learn Chinese experiences on desert control through lectures and field practice, said Man Duoqing, head of the international affairs department of Gansu Desert Control Research Institute (GDCRI).


"They will spend some 25 days in the field across Gansu and neighboring provinces and regions to learn how to choose plants for desert control and how to set up windbreaks, among others," according to Man.


The two-month China International Training Course on Desert Control Science and Technology is run by the GDCRI, a leading anti-desertification agency. It has more than 20 trainees this year, among whom a dozen come from Africa.


One third of the world's land faces threat of desertification which causes US$42 billion in economic losses every year, UN statistics show.


With deserts including the Sahara, Africa is the worst desertificated region in the world. The poverty-stricken continent is in urgent need of international economic and technical assistance.


China will cover all the expenses of the trainees, including tuition and accommodation, as well as air tickets to and from China if needed, GDCRI director Wang Jihe said.


Wang said China aims to boost international cooperation in desert control and help developing countries especially those from Africa in this regard.


Since the first session of the program in 1993, about 150 African officials and technicians from more than 30 countries including Egypt, the Republic of Congo, Ghana, Angola and Tanzania have been trained, Wang added.


This year's trainees will stay in Minqin, a central-north county in Gansu labeled as one of the four sandstorm sources in China, to see how China painstakingly fight against desertification.


Minqin brought 2,000 hectares of desert under control last year with a simple but practical method, which first prevents sand from moving by placing nets made of wheat straw on it and then grows drought-enduring plants.


China's deserts are shrinking by 7,585 sq km annually, compared with an annual expansion of 10,400 sq km at the end of last century, said Zhu Lieke, deputy director of the State Forestry Administration, in late May.


The decrease showed the desertification that started in China in the late 1990s had been "primarily brought under control", Zhu said. However, some experts argued that the situation is still very severe.


Dr. Osama M. A. Nofal, an Egyptian at the 2005 session, told Man during his visit to Egypt last month "many of my colleagues have taken the training in China, and we have found that the techniques are very practical in our local desert control efforts."


Wilson Owusu Asare, a forestry official from Ghana and an trainee at the 2005 session, said in a recent email to GDCRI that he is very grateful for the training.


"The training laid emphasis on practical skills, and the experiences I learned in China has proved very helpful," he said.


(Xinhua News Agency June 18, 2006)



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