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July 03, 2008

Chinese - supported agriculture research center in Senegal starts showing results

When you enter the truck garden of the Sangalkam agricultural Training Center which is located some 30 km from the Senegalese capital of Dakar, you are struck by an admirable landscape, where fruits are obvious as vegetables of all kinds dot the scenario.

Tomatoes and red peppers are already beginning to show signs of life as the rainy season is setting in while cabbage and cucumbers are waiting for their turn to be harvested.

There are many other varieties of vegetables that are growing here under the very watchful gaze of Chinese agronomists and their Senegalese "apprentices."

"It is well over a year and a half since we began working here within the framework of the agricultural cooperation between China and Senegal," said Yang Tingming, head of the team of Chinese experts in charge of providing both theoretical and practical training to local farmers.

According to the top-notch agronomist, the Chinese team has already established a hectare of garden using organic fertilizers and equipped with an irrigation system that allows it to operate unhindered in case of droughts or floods.

"We have ensured that 25 species of vegetables are grown and replanted in this little Eden all year long, for a utilization rate that is greater than 500 percent," said Yang whose heavily tanned face leaves no trace of fatigue despite the fact that he is 60 years old.

"Since 2007, the center has hosted, in 15 stages, 420 people who have acquired knowledge in diverse areas such as growing young shoots, the maintenance of fields, prevention and treatment of plant diseases," according to the Chinese expert.

"The local farmers have also learnt a variety of techniques dealing with saline and alkaline soil, all depending on the specific conditions of different regions of the country, " said the leading agronomist.

"Thus, this is how we have created a perfect harmony between this sample-sized training space and its extension in real production in truck farming among the local farmers," he said.

On the top of his 40 years, Liu Qingbao, another Chinese expert who heads a group of agronomists in the field, adds a different twist to the story: "Thanks to this experience, we have managed to get excellent harvests from several different types of vegetables."

Pointing a finger at Chinese cabbage, the expert said: "It must weigh about four pounds and production per hectare could exceed seven tons! In addition, Xinxiang peppers (literally: spicy and fragrant) No. 4 and 6, which are adapting very well to the climate here, are highly valued both by Chinese and Senegalese nationals. Cultivation on a large scale is in sight."

In fact, the Chinese experts working here have not hesitated to use methods which involve practice training sessions at the center coupled with verbal instructions on the ground and training courses in the classroom. Since last December, over 900 farmers from near and far have received their "diplomas" from the center.

Issa Sene, one of the best students at the center, found it difficult to hide his satisfaction. Indeed, armed with the "scientific" knowledge acquired from his Chinese trainers, the budding farmer sowed cucumber seeds on Feb. 22 and began to reap the first fruits of his labor on March 7.

On April 25, the farmer was asking clients "do you want this one, here!".

The young farmer has made more than 1.93 million FCFA (about 4,565 U.S. dollars), which is eight times higher than the revenues he used to collect during the time he planted this kind of vegetable in his own way.

Most recently, the Chinese agronomists took time to expound on the "cultivation techniques for vegetable with or without land adapted to the climate and soil of the Dakar region."

The training was conducted during a seminar organized by the Senegalese Agriculture Ministry under the theme of "Chinese techniques for truck and rice farming."

The Chinese trainers, according to reliable sources, managed to win the hearts of all 400 participants who took part in the workshop motivated by the hope of achieving food self-sufficiency of Senegal.


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