Learning from the China-Africa Oasis Project
This post was written by Lovemore Zulu, a Zambian Ph.D. Candidate at China Agricultural University, College of Plant Protection.
In the heart of the scorching Gansu Province in China, a remarkable journey unfolded on July 19. I had the privilege of joining a diverse group of 11 African international students, hailing from Ghana, Tanzania, Cameroon, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Burundi, Uganda, Zambia, Malawi and Sierra Leone, and our hosts, Chinese students from the China Agricultural University. Our destination: the “China-Africa Oasis” Shiyang River Basin Survey, where I discovered lessons that could resharp Zambia’s and Africa’s futures in sustainable agriculture.
As we embarked on this adventure, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of awe at the confluence of cutting-edge technology, the Chinese government’s visionary rural revitalization policies and the unwavering dedication of the local community to modernize agriculture. It dawned on me that Zambia, as a developing nation, could benefit immensely from the experiences we encountered. It was as if we had stepped into a living laboratory of sustainability, where lessons learned here could reshape the fate of farmlands across the continent.
The journey continued on July 20 when we set foot in the Laohukou Desertification Prevention and Control Demonstration Area, where an epic battle against desertification was being waged. It was a sight to behold, and it held valuable lessons for countries worldwide grappling with desertification.
Prominently displayed were the words that resonated with our minds: “We will not let Mingqin become another desert.” Before the desert expansion control project, this region was losing ground at an alarming rate of approximately 1.2 meters per year. But through the ingenious use of biodegradable materials, they had succeeded in halting the desert’s relentless march, transforming arid land into a vibrant green oasis. It was a transformation that defied nature’s odds. Africa, too, can adapt similar strategies to protect its precious land, ensuring food security and safeguarding communities from displacement.
Innovation, when combined with a resolute commitment to addressing environmental challenges, can reverse even the most daunting ecological crises. It reinforced the idea that sustainable practices must be at the forefront of global efforts to combat desertification.
Wuwei city, despite its arid surroundings, stood as a testament to human ingenuity. It had become an agricultural oasis, supplying abundant produce to major Chinese cities like Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Hong Kong. The farmers here had mastered a blend of simple, yet modern, agricultural technologies that yielded astonishing productivity. It was the perfect synergy between tradition and innovation.
The success of Wuwei city demonstrated that sustainable agricultural practices, combined with effective knowledge transfer, can turn even the most challenging environments into thriving hubs of food production. It highlighted the importance of preserving and incorporating traditional wisdom alongside technological advancements.
One pivotal moment during our field trip occurred at the National Field Scientific Observation Research Station of Gansu Wuwei Oasis Agricultural Efficient Water Use. We were honored to have China Agricultural University’s vice president, Du Taisheng, and Tang Ying, the director of the International Cooperation and Exchange Office join us. Their presence underlined the significance of our mission.
Vice President Du listened intently as each of us shared our experiences and insights on topics ranging from water conservation and drought resistance to poverty alleviation through agriculture and rural revitalization, both in Western China and our African homelands. It was a global dialogue on tackling shared challenges, and Vice President Du’s genuine interest in our perspectives was heartening.
Our exchange with Vice President Du highlighted the importance of international cooperation and knowledge sharing. It underscored that solutions to global challenges, like water scarcity and poverty alleviation, can be found through crosscultural dialogue and collaboration.
I took the opportunity to emphasize six major technologies that could be applied to my home country, Zambia. These technologies held the promise of transforming our agricultural landscape and improving food security. Smart irrigation systems would ensure efficient water use, water-saving technologies would make the most of every drop, desertification control methods would help us combat encroaching aridness, crop breeding and genetic modification would enhance yields and resilience, climate data analysis would provide critical insights for decision-making and e-commerce and agricultural marketing would connect our farmers to broader markets.
The collaboration between institutions and nations can be a powerful catalyst for progress. Our project exemplified how universities and governments can work together to create platforms for international students to learn, share and implement innovative solutions to global challenges.
Zambia and Africa at large have the opportunity to enhance agricultural practices and engage in fruitful international collaborations. By embracing these lessons, the continent can pave its own path to prosperity, ensuring a sustainable future for its citizens and contributing to the global effort to combat shared challenges.
Our journey through the Shiyang River Basin was nothing short of enlightening. It was a testament to the power of collaboration, innovation and a shared commitment to combatting challenges that transcend borders. As we bid farewell to this oasis of knowledge and inspiration, we carried with us the hope that our countries could follow the path from arid deserts to flourishing agricultural oases. It was a journey that symbolized not only transformation, but also the bonds that unite our global community in the pursuit of a sustainable future.