22 January 2016

Africa: Chinese Agricultural Technology Helps Improve Tanzanian Farmers' Lives

analysis

Dar es Salaam — Tanzanian farmer Zulfikar Mituro now can "comfortably support his family, and managed a somewhat luxury life" thanks to the rice farming technology he gained from a China-aided center.

"Production has dramatically shot up here. It's a miracle," said Mituro, a paddy rice farmer based at Ikwiriri in Rufiji district of Tanzania's Coast region.

"Before getting Chinese technology and training support, I used to get between 15 and 20 bags of rice per hectare, but now I can get up 44 bags using hybrid Chinese rice variety," he said, adding that his life has improved for the better as the production has increased both in quality and quantity.

Mituro's five children are now all at school, which is not so easy a feat in a country where the majority live below two dollars per day. And the farmer is also thinking about running a rice mill of his own.

Mituro is just one of thousands farmers in the east Africa nation who have benefited from the Demonstration Center of China Agriculture Technology, located at Dakawa in Morogoro region.

Prof. Chen Hualin, the center's director, said his center has trained over 2,000 farmers mainly from Coast and Morogoro regions since its creation in 2012.

He said the center has 11 Chinese experts who work closely with their local peers in assisting farmers to follow best crop husbandry practices.

"Most of the farmers don't follow proper farming practices some of which are very simple," he noted.

"We train them in groups, provide them with hybrids seeds and also conduct follow-up inspections using our extension officers at their farms," Chen said.

Unlike the local variety, which takes over three months to mature and yields 3.4 tonnes per hectare, the hybrid Chinese rice matures in less than three months, and yields up to 4.4 tonnes per hectare.

Besides rice farming, the center also provides vegetables and fruits hybrid seeds to farmers, he added.

The center is proving to be a success in Tanzania as the government has embarked on modernizing the country's agriculture dominated by smallholder farmers.

"We would like to thank the Chinese government for their continued support to our country's economy and especially the agriculture sector," Tanzania's former President Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete said during a visit at center last year.

Kikwete said with Chinese technology and training, smallholder farmers have increased their productivity, acquired best crop husbandry practices and improved their lives due to increased incomes.

Tanzania is estimated to have over four million smallholder farmers who are crucial in producing food and cash crops. Because of ignorance and poor technology, most of the farmers own small plots of land averaging 2 to 4 hectares, just enough to feed their families with very little surplus.

"We must change our farming practice from subsistence to commercial production," Kikwete affirmed, saying the Chinese are good partners to help the country's farmers become commercial.

The center is one of the 10 demonstration centers funded by Chinese government in Africa.

China has since 2009 sent more than 1,000 agricultural experts to 13 African countries and invested over 6 billion U.S. dollars into agricultural projects on the continent.

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