China-Nigeria agricultural cooperation aims for greater food production

ABUJA, June 11 (Xinhua) — On a farm in the northwest suburb of Abuja, Nigeria’s capital, Wang Xuemin, sweating profusely under the hot sun in June, walked along a ridge between rice paddy fields where a big harvest is apparently expected.

He stopped from time to time and raised the loudspeaker in his hand, speaking to the crowd following him about the rice varieties, estimated yields and planting techniques used on the paddy fields, and answering questions from the crowd.

This is a field program on the promotion of Chinese rice planting and breeding techniques conducted by a Chinese company in Abuja recently, which attracted dozens of Nigerian agricultural officials, experts and farmers.

Wang is the assistant general manager and rice expert of Green Agriculture West Africa Limited (GAWAL), a Chinese firm that currently operates at least four demonstration rice farms in Nigeria. He is full of confidence in the prospect of China-Nigerian agricultural cooperation, and believes that Chinese rice technology, especially hybrid rice, will greatly help African countries including Nigeria to increase food production and ensure food security.

“This year, we introduced (Chinese) hybrid rice to be planted in four demonstration rice farms in Nigeria, and (the) harvest from two farms shows the yield of hybrid rice increases by 30 percent to 55 percent (compared with rice varieties mainly planted by local people),” said Wang.

June 2022 – rice paddy fields at a demonstration farm operated by a Chinese firm in Abuja, Nigeria. (Xinhua/Guo Jun)

According to Wang, a conventional rice variety bred by the GAWAL using Chinese rice technology can increase production by about 25 percent compared with the local main varieties. It has been approved by the Nigerian government in 2017, and is now sold to farmers all over Nigeria.

Speaking to Xinhua, Olusegun Ojo, director-general of the National Agricultural Seeds Council, said rice is one of the staple foods of Nigerians, and he was deeply impressed by China’s rice planting and breeding techniques. Nigeria is seeking to increase food production, reduce imports and ensure food security, and there is great room for cooperation between Nigeria and China in the field of agriculture.

“Seeing is believing. We have brought our people here to come and see what they are doing,” Ojo said.

“One farmer confirmed to us that the seeds that they are getting here are by far better than the ones they have been using before. He also mentioned that because of the added productivity that is seen here, they have been able to feed their families, they have been able to send their children to school, and so on,” he added.

Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country with a population of over 200 million, imports a large amount of food every year to meet its consumption needs. According to the data of Nigeria’s central bank, Nigeria’s food import expenditure in 2021 reached 2.71 billion U.S. dollars, an increase of nearly 45 percent compared with the previous year.

Bello Zaki, a director at the Agriculture Research Council of Nigeria (ARCN), said the result of the productivity of the hybrid rice variety introduced by GAWAL has been “very conspicuous.”

“By their own analysis, the R1 hybrid tends to be more promising in terms of yield and income rate. I am happy that the result is very conspicuous,” Zaki said, explaining that the ARCN had been trying to enhance productivity so that poverty can be reduced to the barest minimum and to ensure that there is self-sufficiency in food production for the country.

June 2022 – a rice paddy field at a demonstration farm operated by a Chinese firm in Abuja, Nigeria. (Xinhua/Guo Jun)

Testimonies abound on the success of the provision of rice seedlings by the GAWAL, and the potential to positively change the lives of local rice farmers.

“It has transformed my life because I have gotten more information on farming in this place,” Stephen Elisha, a local worker at the GAWAL demonstration farm in Abuja, told Xinhua, referring to the modern rice farming technique he has learned from the Chinese firm, among other experiences he has garnered from there over the past six years.

“Now, I am not afraid to start up my own farm because they have trained me on how to produce rice and how to farm other crops,” said the 33-year-old farmer.

Source: Belt & Road Portal, 12 June 2022.