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Chinese technology helping African farmers boost production

Scientist from China have been utilising agricultural technology in two African countries in order to reverse desertification and improve local agricultural production

A group of 10 Chinese agricultural scientists from the Desert Control Research Institute (DCRI) of Gansu have been carrying out a water resource preservation programme in Niger and Nigeria.

"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 DCRI research team member Ji Yongfu.

According to the Chinese team, the techniques of using nylon nets to stabilise sliding sand dunes and planting corns by digging tunnels to store rainwater are being applied in Africa.

They exuded confidence that the tested farming methods could help corn crops withstand sandstorms and droughts, in turn improving the agricultural yields of local residents.

"This corn-planting technique can help residents store more rainwater, which is quite precious here, as it keeps the evaporation at the lowest level," Yongfu added.

Niamey, the capital of Niger, has been facing constant sandstorms, with the areas near the southern shore of Niger River being severely affected.

Yongfu explained, "We investigated the vegetation on the southern shore, checked the damage brought by sandstorms and the protective measures used by locals. We offered farmers advice on controlling quicksand and protecting vegetation through grazing bans."

The agricultural scientists have constructed a 1,000-square meter stabilising nylon net and taught Nigerian farmers in the Zinder province to build them.

"We used local materials to build pillars that were inserted into the sand dunes, and then attached the net to the pillars. This created a wall against moving sand," Yongfu revealed.

The Chinese team have collected meteorological data and samples of plants growing in the Sahara Desert to facilitate their study of the region's ecology.

The agricultural scientists, along with their Nigerian counterparts have established a climate observation station and a 10-hectare experimental zone for desertification control experiments in the country.

"The methods implemented in the African continent have proved successful in China's Gansu province, and could help local villages reap greater harvests this year, Yongfu stressed.

The scientists said Africa needed to increase investment in agricultural technology and improve infrastructure in order to boost the development of agriculture and animal husbandry.

China had started sharing agricultural technology with Africa from 2011, when it signed a memorandum of cooperation with Kenya, to expand rainwater recycling systems in the country's drought-prone areas.