NAIROBI — The Plan for China Supporting Africa’s Agricultural Modernization, envisioned by Chinese President Xi Jinping, holds the key to advancing the continent’s inclusive growth, a Kenyan scholar has said.
Once fully implemented, the plan will bring vitality to Africa’s food systems through joint research, technology transfer, and the development of high-yielding crops, Richard Mulwa, deputy vice-chancellor of Egerton University, told Xinhua in a recent interview.
“For long, Africa has lagged behind in innovation, but with cooperation with China in research and development, value addition, and cooperation on agroecological parks, there are so many benefits to be realized,” Mulwa said.
During the BRICS Summit held in Johannesburg, South Africa on August 22-24, Xi unveiled the plan for modernizing agriculture in Africa, alongside an initiative to support industrialization on the continent and China-Africa cooperation on talent development.
Terming the agriculture modernization plan a game changer, Mulwa said it holds the key to securing a future free from hunger, malnutrition, and poverty for the rural population.
Mulwa said that by cooperating with China, African nations will enjoy enhanced access to technologies, innovations, and research required to develop new crop varieties that can withstand climate shocks, pests, and diseases.
He noted that the exchange of germplasm between China and African countries will thrive under the plan to ensure local smallholder farmers’ access to high-yielding crops.
China’s plan for modernizing Africa’s agriculture differs from the ones proposed by the West since it seeks tangible and mutually beneficial outcomes as opposed to abstract theories, Mulwa said.
“The benefits will trickle down to farmers,” Mulwa said, adding that he foresees a robust China-Africa cooperation.
African governments should rally behind China’s proposed plan for agriculture modernization in order to make it succeed and transform the livelihoods of rural smallholder farmers, Mulwa stressed, adding that the plan will also help realize sustainable development on the continent.
A trained horticulturalist, Mulwa singled out the decades-old partnership between China’s Nanjing Agricultural University and Egerton University as a model of China-Africa cooperation to revitalize farming at the smallholder level.
Through the research partnership forged between the two universities in the 1990s, new disease-, pest- and drought-resistant beans, cassava, and groundnuts have been bred and released to farmers, Mulwa said.
In addition, the China-Kenya Belt and Road Joint Laboratory for Crop Molecular Biology based at Egerton University is expected to act as a hub for research, training, and technology transfer to boost the selection, breeding, and release of new crop varieties across the East African region, according to Mulwa.
Describing China-Africa agricultural cooperation as solid and mutually beneficial, Mulwa said it has motivated local farmers to embrace crops that are commercially viable and resilient to climatic stresses.
“We know where we are going with the Chinese, and as we keep on cooperating with them, we also see ripple benefits to our farmers,” Mulwa said.
Photo Courtesy: Xinhua