During 22nd to 26th July 2019, a delegation from Ghana, Mali, Benin, Burkina Faso, and Germany carried out a one-week study trip on rice value chains in China. Delegation members came from governments, universities, farmer associations, and private sectors and represented partner institutions of the Green Innovation Centres’ Rice Working Group. They visited Beijing, Hangzhou, and Changsha, the capital cities of two major rice producing provinces in China. The trip was organized by the Sino-German Center for Sustainable Development and the Green Innovation Centres. It received tremendous support from Yuan Long Ping High-Tech Agriculture Co., Ltd (Long Ping High-Tech), and the China National Rice Research Institute (CNRRI).
Rice is a staple food in many countries of Africa and constitutes a major part of the diet in many others. Africa is witnessing an increasing demand for rice, and many countries on the continent continue to rely heavily on imports for meeting their growing rice consumption needs. This situation continues to pose serious food security challenges since rice is now recognized as a priority and strategic food security crop for the region.
The aim of this study trip was to learn about innovative rice technologies, machinery, processing, good cultivating practices, innovative business models, as well as to explore potential cooperation areas between China, Germany and Africa on rice value chains.
The study trip started with a workshop in Beijing on Chinese agricultural cooperation with Africa. Representatives from the Foreign Economic Cooperation Center under the Chinese Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs, CGCOC Agriculture Development Co. Ltd, and from the first Chinese agricultural technical team to Burkina Faso presented an overview to the delegates about what Chinese government, businesses and technical experts are doing in African countries in the agricultural sector.
China-Africa agriculture cooperation dates back to 1959. The cooperation covers foreign assistance, research and technical expert training, trade and investment, and engagement through multilateral cooperation. So far, China has established 25 Agricultural Technology Demonstration Centers in Africa, provided to FAO a total of USD 80 million worth of trust funds for South-South Cooperation in agriculture, and established research partnerships with 10 agricultural research institutions in 10 African countries.
Having just come back from his first year as rice expert in Burkina Faso, Mr. Xu Jinze used his concrete examples to illustrate what and how the 37 Chinese technical cooperation teams are working in Africa. His small team of 9 people worked together with the Rice Center under Burkina Faso’s Ministry of Agriculture and Hydro-Agricultural Development on six projects, including irrigation, rice, agricultural machinery, training, material aid, and exchange promotion. “In one of our protospecies seed production project in Bama site, the yield increased to 5.6 tons per hectare from 3.3 tons/ha, through doubling the area of seedling bed, sowing in low density, adjusting the times of fertilization and days before transplanting, and implementing scientific field management,” introduced Mr. Xu. “Our team members were awarded with special prices by the Ministry”.
As one of the largest Chinese private companies in the agricultural sector in Africa, CGCOC has developed a business network in West and Central Africa, with a headquarter in Nigeria. It was pointed out that a long-term and sustainable development strategy is especially important to agricultural businesses. Engaging in Corporate Social Responsibility and public services activities helps to create a better social environment for Chinese overseas businesses, as the company representative highlighted.
The second stop of the study trip was Changsha, the capital city of Hunan Province. As one of the largest agricultural provinces in China, and a major rice production area, Hunan is also home to the China National Hybrid Rice Research and Development Center, and the Longping High-Tech Group, both founded by Academician Yuan Longping, known as “Father of Hybrid Rice” in China. Mr. Huang Dahui, chief trainer of the international training center under Long Ping High-Tech, showed the delegation around in the China Hybrid Rice exhibition center, Long Ping Rice Museum, and the experimental rice fields in its hybrid rice research base. Mr. Huang explained throughout the tour to the delegation about the history of hybrid rice and rice machinery and technologies and provided suggestions to each of the country on cultivating practices in the wrap-up workshop at the end of the day. Long Ping is not only one of the biggest brands in the world in hybrid rice, it also implements Chinese technical training projects on hybrid rice technology commissioned by the Chinese Ministry of Commerce. So far, more than 6,000 agriculture officials and experts from over 100 countries have been trained in its international training center.
As the capital city of Zhejiang Province located in Southeast China, Hangzhou has a humid subtropical climate with rich rainfalls throughout the year. The China National Rice Research Institute (CNRRI), China’s top institution on rice scientific research sits in the southwestern suburb of the city, less than 5 kilometres away from Fuchun River. As the final stop of the study trip, the delegation paid a visit to CNRRI, including its Rice Production Quality Inspection and Supervision Testing Center, National Key Laboratory for Rice Biology, and pilot rice fields. Prof. Dr. Luo Ju, deputy division chief of the Program Management and International Cooperation Division of CNRRI, presented to the group the scientific efforts the institute has made to improve rice yield, grain quality, pest resistance and stress tolerance, as well as the conservation and utilization of rice germplasm resources and developing environmental-friendly and cost-efficient rice cultivation technologies. Representatives from each of the four African countries also showed Dr. Luo how Green Innovation Centres try to support the local agricultural development and small-householders on each step of the rice value chain, especially small mechanization services for farmers, and trainings on System of Rice Intensification (SRI).
During the week, the delegation also called on Xiang Liang Mechanical, a grain machinery company based in Changsha, Yunshang Farm, an agricultural science demonstration park in Hangzhou, and Fuyang Jiqing Farm, an agro-tourism farm attracting thousands of tourists a year ran by a fresh college graduate in Hangzhou. Interesting cooperation ideas were generated from the discussions between visitors and the Chinese partners.
Mr. Djiuguiba Kouyate, project coordinator from GIZ Mali extended his invitation to CNRRI, Longping High Tech, and Xiang Liang Mechanical to an agricultural open-day event from 15th to 17th October 2019 in Mali. Prof. Valentin Traore from the Institut de l’Environnement et de Recherches Agricoles (INERA) in Burkina Faso expressed his interests in conducting post production research cooperation with CNRRI. Some of the business delegates from Ghana and Mali were put in touch with Xiang Liang Mechanical to discuss capabilities and specifications of machines as well as after sale services and training of operators of rice processing machines.
China is the world’s leading paddy rice producer and has the highest rice consumption in the world. The country produces almost 30% of world rice production and provides the largest area of agricultural land for especially for rice cultivation. It supports rice productivity increases in African countries for many years through different mechanisms.
German agricultural technical cooperation through Green Innovation Centres facilitates the development of value chains through introduction of innovations. Locally adapted methods, technologies or organisational structures which have been tested elsewhere, yet are not known in the region, are being disseminated. The Centres utilise know-how from various partners, facilitates self-organisation and supports agricultural finance.
The Rice Working Group’s study trip to China can be a starting point for trilateral cooperation on sustainable rice production in Africa under the framework of Sino-German Center for Sustainable Development.