|Remarks at the Handover Ceremony of the China-Aided Agricultural Technology Demonstration Center|
BY H.E. MR. ZHOU YUXIAO, CHINESE AMBASSADOR
July 22, 2010
Her Excellency President Ellen Johansson Sirleaf,
Honorable Minister Florence Chenoveth
Honorable members of the Legislature
Honorable traditional leaders
Friends from the Media,
Ladies and gentlemen,
As you may recall Madam President, you and me came here to do the launching of this project, the Agricultural Technology Demonstration Center on April 28, 2009 when this was just a barren hill. Today, a cluster of modern buildings is standing strikingly over it. This is Liberia's progress that is visible and touchable. This is the fruit of China-Liberia partnership. I am so happy and excited to see this amazing change, a change for the better. I wish to extend on behalf of the Chinese Government and people, my warmest congratulations to Madam President, the Liberian Government and people for your achievements.
The impressive center is also a reward to the joint efforts and hard work put up by both sides, particularly by CARI which generously made the land available and by the contractors, the Yuan Longping High-tech Agriculture Co. Ltd., the Hunan Construction Engineering Group Ltd. and the local labor force, which tried their best to overcome all difficulties to complete the project in time and with good quality. Madam President, the Minister of Agriculture Florence Chenoweth all inspected the construction site to give support and advises. I want to thank immensely all those who have contributed to the speedy implementation of the project. I also would like to propose a moment of silence over the tragic lost of Engineering Supervisor Mr. Jia Dayou who died of cerebral malaria last January.
Madam President, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Statistics show that Africa has to import 25% of it food consumption every year. Food has become increasingly a security issue for many of the countries on the continent. 265 million people suffered from hanger and malnutrition and about 5 million people died of hunger and hunger-related diseases in the Sub-Saharan region in 2009. It is predicted that by year 2050, the African population will have reached 2 billion, doubling the current figure. The dire fact is that agriculture in African countries including Liberia has to outgrow their population growth in the next couple of decades. If they failed to do so, the scenario could be dreadful and disastrous.
It is against this background that China, as traditional friend of Africa, has decided to step up its assistance to Africa in the agricultural area to help strengthen Africa's ability to ensure food security. At the Beijing FOCAC Summit in November 2006, Chinese President Hu Jintao announced to send 100 senior agro experts to and set up 10 Agricultural Technology Demonstration Centers in Africa. At the U. N. High-Level Meeting on the MDGs held in September 2008, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao promised to contribute 30 million U.S. dollars to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization to establish a trust fund for projects and activities designed to help developing countries, mainly African countries to enhance agricultural productivity. At the FOCAC 4th Ministerial Meeting held in November 2009, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao further promised to build another 10 Agricultural Technology Demonstration Centers in Africa, send 50 agricultural technology teams to and train 2,000 agricultural technology personnel for Africa.
Liberia has benefited from these schemes. 5 agro experts have been teaching in BWI. 2 experts have been training the unemployed youth on vegetable farming at the SKD stadium. 3 volunteers worked with the Ministry of Agriculture for one year. More than 200 Liberians have been trained in China on agricultural production in short-term courses. Some of the Chinese government scholarships have been given to Liberian students to study agricultural science in China. About 20 Chinese agro experts will come to work in Liberia very soon under a FAO program. This Agro Technology Demonstration Center we are dedicating today is the largest aid project undertaken by China in the agricultural area. The total investment was nearly US$6 million. It is a capacity-building project or a "fishing project" that teaches people how to fish. It is designed to do scientific research by agro scientists from both sides and to train large number of agro technicians locally to enable them to master the technologies and techniques for practical farming in Liberia.
The Center is made up of four elements, one, the functional buildings in front of you; two, about 10 Chinese scientists plus X number of Liberian scientists; three, necessary agricultural machine and farming tools as well as processing equipment; four, farmland provided by the Liberian government. The research and training will focus on rice, corn and vegetable growing at initial stage and may be extended into fishery and animal husbandry at a later period.
The project is divided into three phases, namely the construction phase which has been completed; the technical cooperation phase of 3 years when the Chinese government will be responsible for most of its operational costs for training and experimental farming and the sustainable development phase of 12 years when the contractor is required to generate its own revenue to cover its operational costs of training and production. The contractor is expected to turn the project into a viable commercial farm that can be emulated or modeled by local entrepreneurs.
We have limited experience in running such a program, as it is the first time we have set up training centers like this abroad. This is a history-making endeavor. It takes both sides to work diligently and cooperatively to make it a successful story in Liberia's agricultural research and development.
Liberia has more than 4 million hectors of arable land, more than 1 hector for each person, which is ten times more than the per capita figure in China. At the moment, Liberia only uses 10% of its arable land for agricultural purposes. Its rainfall is abundant, and its sunshine is plenty and its labor force is more than adequate. All this tells us that Liberia's agricultural potentials are enormous. I hope this center will play a positive role in tapping the potentials and making Liberia self-sufficient in food in the not too distant future. Let's look forward to a day when Liberia exports grain to China.
Thank you all.