Researchers find bountiful harvest in the Congo

Updated: 2013-04-18 05:32

By Han Bingbin in Brazzaville, Congo (China Daily)

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Tasked with helping people in the Republic of Congo to deal with what is still one of their potential crises - inadequate food production capacity, Chinese experts at the Brazzaville-based China-Congo Agricultural Demonstration Center have made rapid progress in their efforts to meet demand.

Having started from an empty office at the end of 2011, the expert team's chief Wang Yongzhuang says the center has already developed into a research complex - home to 10 Chinese agriculture experts and 50 local workers. He says the center has been active in improving local people's farming technologies and increasing the yield and diversity of their agricultural products.

One of the biggest challenges is to maintain the affordability and sustainability of the farming process. Rather than relying on imported technologies and resources, Wang says experts have been trying to explore methods in accordance with the limited local conditions.

Wang says they have taught people to dig out fast-growing grasses and to use fire clay as organic fertilizer because imported fertilizers are unaffordable for most local people. While local people worry about the malnutrition of their chickens as they usually only feed them corn, experts have been pleased to discover that one good nutritional supplement is cassava leaves, a major food staple for local people.

One of their latest achievements is the increased yield of cassava. The center has now selected three virus-resistant types of cassava after experimenting with 17 types. These types of cassava are expected to be introduced to the market after one or two harvests.

Researchers find bountiful harvest in the Congo

Positive results from experiments have also included discovering five types of sweet corn and 53 types of vegetables, most of which are new to local residents, and have proved suitable to local conditions. Wang says they have also kept 5,000 chickens and their eggs have already become a popular product because of their high quality and low price.

All the technology and discoveries produced from these successful experiments are to be passed on to local people. Since September last year, according to the center's office chief Zhou Quanfa, the center has held three training sessions, each lasting 15 days, that have trained 58 local farmers mainly on corn and cassava growing and chicken feeding methods, while providing them with free board and food. More training sessions are expected to start regularly from April.

Zhou says even though it's not part of their three-year cooperation contract, they are ready to pay return visits to people in the countryside who have received their training to see if they have appropriately applied the new farming methods.

This will also be a good opportunity for experts to communicate with more farmers, says Ongovala Paul Raphael, director of the center.

Raphael studied at China's Guangxi Agricultural University for almost 10 years in the 1990s and now works with the Republic of Congo's ministry of agriculture.

Raphael says the center is well-known among farmers nationwide thanks to frequent media coverage and visits from various organizations such as schools.

"Where this center is located used to be called Kombe Farm. We already had Chinese experts here while I was still at school. Congo people admire and trust Chinese experts' technologies. Why? When they were here, the prices of our agricultural products dropped. They thought they could learn a lot within a short time when Chinese people were here," he says.