China-Africa rice cooperation project: Joining hands to eliminate hunger

By Zhang Liying
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail, July 19, 2019
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A seminar themed "Tapping into the Potential of China-Africa Rice Cooperation" being held in Beijing on July 17, 2019. [Photo by Zhang Liying/]

China and Africa are strengthening agricultural exchanges and cooperation to jointly achieve 'zero hunger', which is one of the 17 global goals that make up the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

The latest effort was an initiative launched at the end of last month, which recognizes the potential of China-Africa cooperation in the rice value chain. It also offers proposals for promoting cooperation by leveraging the comparative advantages of the different parties.

Rice is either a staple or an alternative food crop in much of Africa, but many African countries face serious gaps between rice production and consumption and rely heavily on imports. These were the findings of the initiative, which was released at the first China-Africa Economic and Trade Expo on June 27 in Changsha, the capital city of central China's Hunan province.

With a large amount of suitable land for rice cultivation, these countries have the resources to expand rice production. However, according to the initiative, they need to introduce high-yield varieties, improve production and processing technologies, and boost investment in their own rice industries including their related supply chains.

For example, Mozambique in Southeast Africa has about 36 million hectares of arable land and a long history of rice cultivation, but faces challenges in various areas, including technology, financing, infrastructure and market access, according to Dr. Pedro Dzucula, director of the country's National Directorate of Agriculture and Silviculture of the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security.

Speaking at a seminar held in Beijing on Wednesday, Dr. Dzucula said Mozambique needs to enhance the genetic diversity of its rice, increase the quality of agricultural services, and invest in the operationalization and rational use of irrigation schemes based on public-private partnerships.

Over the past decades, China has made remarkable progress in its rice industry, and accrued valuable experience in terms of improved seed varieties, technology and machinery, demonstration and promotion, as well as industrial investment and marketing, the initiative noted.

It proposed solving key bottlenecks in Africa's rice industry to promote value chain upgrading and agricultural transformation by combining China's experience and the local demands of African countries.

This initiative aims to develop broader and deeper South-South and triangular cooperation arrangements in the rice value chain. It was signed by seven organizations, namely the China International Center for Economic and Technical Exchange (CICETE), China National Hybrid Rice Research and Development Center, African Union, United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation, United Nations for Food Program, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa.

Zhang Ning, director of the South-South Fund Program at the CICETE under the Ministry of Commerce, said the initiative, which has wide participation, has charted the overall course and introduced specific mechanisms for China-Africa cooperation to improve the rice value chain.

"In particular, we need to make good use of China-aided agricultural technology demonstration centers in Africa to facilitate technology transfers and broader agricultural cooperation among different parties," Zhang said.

"I believe that with the help of effective mechanisms, we can push forward our cooperation and achieve our common goal of benefiting small farmers in Africa," he added.

A report released by the Food and Agriculture Organization on July 15 showed that a little over 820 million people, which corresponds to about one in every nine people in the world, suffer from hunger. 

The situation is most alarming in Africa, where since 2015 the prevalence of undernourishment (PoU), the main indicator for monitoring progress on the eradication of hunger in the world, shows slight but steady increases in almost all subregions, according to The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2019 report.

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