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China to Continue Desert Control Efforts in Africa
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The Chinese government will continue to help African countries combat desertification, according to the Gansu Desert Control Research Institute (GDCRI), which trains technicians from developing countries in desert-control methods.


The institute, located in northwest China's Gansu Province, will organize two training sessions from August this year on how to set up windbreaks, choose plants for desert control and curb the advance of quicksand, GDCRI director Wang Jihe said on Thursday.


The training programs will last 45 to 60 days, and will be attended by officials and experts from about 18 African countries, Wang said, adding that most expenses, including tuition and accommodation, will be covered by the Chinese government.


Since the first program in 1993, more than 150 trainees from over 30 African countries including Egypt, the Republic of Congo, Ghana, Angola and Tanzania, have taken part in the training sessions, said Man Duoqing, head of the international affairs department at GDCRI.


Last year's course was held in Minqin, a central-north county in Gansu and one of the four areas in China from which sand storms originate.


The county saw 14 sand storms in 2006, down almost 50 percent on the previous year, after it brought 2,000 hectares of desert under control by encircling sand with nets made of wheat straw and planting drought-resistant plants.


Ahmed A. Ashomakhy, a Liberian agriculture researcher at the 2006 session, said China's desert-control techniques are highly practical.


2006 participant Peter Seeiso from Lesotho said he was impressed by China's efforts to fight desertification.


With deserts including the Sahara, Africa is the region of the world most affected by desertification.


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, according to statistics from the State Forestry Administration. But this leaves little room for optimism because rising temperatures, drought and dwindling forest areas will increase desertification in some areas.


The China Meteorological Administration announced Thursday it will set up facilities to monitor environmental and meteorological changes in sand storm-prone hinterland areas including Xinjiang, Inner Mongolia, Gansu, Qinghai and Tibet.


According to United Nations statistics, one third of the world's land faces the threat of desertification, causes average annual economic losses of US$42 billion.


(Xinhua News Agency February 2, 2007)

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