On a sunny morning in a reclamation area in Divo Department in southern Cote d 'Ivoire, a young African man skillfully drives a Chinese-made combine harvester back and forth across the paddy fields, and a dozen women walk along the narrow ridge with bundles of rice on their heads.
Rice farmers harvest rice at the reclamation area in Divo Department in southern Cote d 'Ivoire, Jan 8, 2024. [Xinhua]
"We started sowing this batch of experimental rice in September 2023 in an area of about 10 hectares, which includes several certified varieties and some new varieties that are in the process of certification. They are very popular here," said Guo Changyou, head of the Chinese agricultural technical cooperation team in Cote d 'Ivoire.
In 1997, the reclamation area welcomed China's first agricultural technical cooperation team. As the first comprehensive agricultural cooperation project since the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and Cote d 'Ivoire, the reclamation area has now become not only a demonstration base for agricultural cooperation between the two countries, but also a renowned rice planting base in Cote d 'Ivoire, thanks to unremitting efforts by 11 batches of agricultural experts over nearly 30 years.
Benjamin, a young man who has grown up in the reclamation area, has been learning rice planting techniques from the Chinese expert team. Now, having witnessed the changes in the reclamation area for over 20 years, he can not only communicate proficiently with experts in Chinese but has also become a technical instructor for local farmers, imparting the techniques of transplanting, irrigation, fertilization, and agricultural machinery that he has learned to locals.
A rice farmer drives a harvester in the reclamation area in Divo Department in southern Cote d 'Ivoire, Jan 8, 2024. [Xinhua]
“Before, the rice we grew could only yield about 3 tons per hectare. Now, with the rice varieties and planting techniques from China, the yield has doubled. And the rice is fragrant and delicious. We all love it," Benjamin said happily.
According to Zhang Jing, a member of the Chinese expert team, the cooperation team has certified four rice varieties in Cote d 'Ivoire, which have seen significant improvement in yield, quality, and taste compared with local traditional varieties. Among them, the C26 variety can yield about seven tons per hectare and has been promoted nationwide, Zhang said.
"At every key stage of rice growing, we will gather local farmers on the experimental fields for onsite training, providing hands-on guidance from seedling cultivation, transplanting, fertilizer and water management, pest and weed control to harvesting and drying. Many farmers from other departments also come to learn from us," Zhang said.
Experts from the Chinese agricultural technical cooperation team conduct training for local rice farmers in the reclamation area in Divo Department in southern Cote d 'Ivoire, Apr 29, 2023. [Xinhua]
In 2023, with help from the local rice agriculture association, the cooperation team organized five onsite sessions of production training for 187 local farmers, and one session for 35 farmers from outside the reclamation area. The team also conducted a 3-day onsite training event in other departments, with a total of 35 participants.
Many African trainees have used the rice cultivation technology learned from China to increase rice yields, boost household income, and motivate neighboring farmers to join them in the rice growing, significantly boosting the rice industry in Côte d'Ivoire.
Chinese expert Guo Guangyu (second from the left) marks the crop bags with a local farmer. [Xinhua]
"We are here to do some practical work to bring tangible benefits to the local people. When we see their joy at harvest time, we feel very gratified," said Guo.
The arrival of the Chinese agricultural experts have brought premium quality and high-yield rice varieties and advanced modern agricultural technologies to Côte d'Ivoire, liberating local farmers from manual labor and providing them with safe food, said Alan, head of the local rice agriculture association. “We look forward to further cooperation with the Chinese agricultural experts in the future, and to introducing more premium rice varieties, agricultural technologies and machinery.”