Program to improve Africa's agriculture

Updated: 2012-11-13 16:06

By Jin Zhu (

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A four-year program jointly launched by the UK and China will start this year to help African countries to improve their agricultural production capacity in a major effort to eliminate hunger.

With a UK investment of 10 million ($15.9 million) and the Chinese contribution of expertise, the program will facilitate the transfer of agricultural technology to low-income countries in Africa and Asia. Pilot projects will be first established in Malawi and Uganda.

Thanks to the input of advanced technology and supportive policies, China's grain output realized a ninth consecutive year of growth since 2004, Niu Dun, vice-minister of agriculture said at the second Africa-Britain-China Conference on Agriculture and Fisheries in Beijing on Monday.

"In addition to realizing self-sufficiency in grain, China has helped other developing countries, especially in Africa, to improve agricultural productivity and food security in recent decades," he said.

Since the 1950s, China has dispatched nearly 10,000 agricultural technicians to Africa and built more than 240 agricultural projects in African countries, according to the Ministry of Agriculture.

"Further cooperation with African countries, such as in the freshwater fishery and deep processing of agricultural product industries, will be strengthened in future," Niu said.

African participants also called for more technology and knowledge transfers to help the countries in term of the sustainable development of agriculture.

For instance, annual fish production in Malawi now is estimated at 90,000 metric tonnes mainly from natural sources while annual aquaculture production is only 3,600 tonnes, according to the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security of Malawi.

"Great challenges, including the lack of appropriate improved technology in aquaculture and poor fish feed formulations, may hinder the country from increasing fish production from aquaculture," said Bright Kumwembe, director of finance and administration with the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security in Malawi.

"Food security is a global challenge, requiring innovation and efforts across the international community. The UK will certainly play its part in this global effort," the British Ambassador to China Sebastian Wood said at the conference.

The program will provide a platform to extend technology tailored to the needs and conditions of African countries and support joint research to find solutions to food security issues, he said.

"China has a lot of advanced technology in the agricultural sector, which may offer much support to African countries. But how to choose those appropriate technologies and seed varieties, which are adaptable to the actual situation in Africa, are the key to success," said Zhang Feng, a researcher from CABI, a research group in Britain that focuses on agriculture and the environment.