With China taking a leading role in preparing for the UN Food Systems Summit scheduled for the last quarter of this year, an African agricultural expert has suggested an intricate study of the agricultural operations of the Asian powerhouse and a symbiotic partnership as an avenue to seriously review and improve upon the workings of Africa’s food systems.
According to Andrew Cox, Chief of Staff and Strategy at the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA),there are many lessons Africa can draw from China in its bid to transform the agricultural sector and change the lives of its people.
Cox stressed that a shared experience and partnership with China, including, through AGRA, means Chinese support will be extremely helpful in preparing African governments to think about the kinds of food systems, the kinds of resilience that the continent needs to see, especially in the face of climate change.
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Africa needs to take full advantage of its close-ties and cooperation with China, in terms of technology transfer, skills and policy development, to fully revolutionise its agricultural sector. Because of China’s experience in transforming the entire country around agriculture, we want to see China’s experience, its knowledge, its investment, its technical expertise to come through everywhere,” he reiterated.
Cox further explained that the ability of China to eliminate absolute poverty while encouraging industrialization and urbanization and still transforming its rural and agricultural sector is a crucial example worth emulating in Africa.
“If China can do it for a billion-plus people, then, certainly, there are many lessons, practices, experiences which can apply to the African continent,” he said, noting that China and Africa had walked the same pathway in the same century.
AGRA, Cox said, is interested in escalating the partnership between China and Africa to make it relevant to millions of farmers rather than focusing on individual and small projects.
Citing a situation in which an agricultural based project employing China’s knowledge and technology and applying it to a situation in Africa, he noted that rice production in Mozambique became a highly successful venture as the optimisation of ‘Chinese know-how’ combined with African partners made it possible to double the rice yields of the country.
He added that the project enabled Mozambique to overcome a rice shortfall it usually experiences of between an estimated 400,000 and 600,000 tonnes. His claim was also supported in a United Nations report which disclosed that China’s agricultural foreign assistance projects have resulted in increased food production and income for smallholder farmers in Mozambique, as well as Guinea.
The AGRA chief of staff and strategy further stated that for African farmers to see themselves transformed from subsistence agriculture to small and medium-sized farms, at the very least, and to see large-scale commercial initiatives starting to work better, African farmers need to be given access to the same opportunities and choices that farmers in China, the U.S. or Europe have.
“AGRA’s involvement in China-Africa partnerships has been a very deep partnership with excellent results. We want to see it go big. We want to see Chinese knowledge and expertise applied on a wide scale across the continent,” he added.
Despite Africa’s food security coming under threat recently, particularly in the last year, Cox said the future of the continent’s agricultural sector, with China’s assistance, was not one doomed to repeated failures and crises.
“At AGRA, we are extremely optimistic that Africa’s agriculture can transform. It will not, probably, transform by itself and that is where these partnerships come in. The tremendous scale of the achievement of the Chinese experience shows that hundreds of millions of people can be taken out of poverty by getting the right kind of investments, policies and enabling environment for agriculture,” he explained.
He, however, cautioned that such a transformation will take time and not happen in the space of a couple of years.