30 April 2003,
-- At first glance the villagers of the
southern Chinese province of Sichuan have little in common with
the inhabitants of the State of Kano, situated in the north of
Despite the miles that separate
these two communities, both share many of the same environmental
and climatic challenges and their farmers face similar problems.
A first group of 23 Chinese experts has
just arrived in Nigeria to share experience and expertise with
their Nigerian colleagues under the South-South Cooperation
initiative, within the framework of the country's National
Special Programme for Food Security (NSPFS).
Our friends from the South
Just over a month ago China, Nigeria and
FAO signed a $22.7 million four-year agreement, with funding
provided entirely by the Government of Nigeria, to develop the
South-South Cooperation (SSC) component of the Special Programme
for Food Security.
Under the SSC
tripartite agreement, the Chinese Government has provided some
20 experts and more than 500 field technicians with expertise in
various fields of agriculture who will spend three years in
They will work alongside the
country's own experts in 109 sites in all 36 states of the
country, covering a variety of agro-climatic zones. They will
live in the farming communities to which they are assigned.
Nigeria's SPFS, which began in January
2002 with the aim of safeguarding and improving food security
and alleviating rural poverty, has a national budget of $45.2
The programme's many
projects include activities on:
household food security, through water control, such as on-farm
irrigation and earth dam construction, crop intensification and
diversification into small animal production, soil fertility
improvement, acquaculture and inland
- animal disease and transboundary
- marketing of agricultural
- food stock
South-South Cooperation is
about allowing countries to benefit from the experience and
expertise of other more advanced developing countries.
China has already successfully implemented
a number of such cooperation programmes as part of the FAO
Special Programme under agreements with Ethiopia, Mauritania,
Bangladesh, Mali and Ghana. The SPFS in these countries has
enabled farmers who took part in the programme to considerably
increase their production, incomes and overall food security.
To listen and learn
"The language problem? I'm
sure it won't be an issue. The Chinese experts coming to
Nigeria mostly speak English and they will also have local
interpreters. In addition, upon arrival, the experts and field
technicians will undergo language training and attend a briefing
on cultural aspects of Nigeria. The most important thing will be
the desire to listen and learn," said Nigeria SPFS
Field Coordinator Oyebanji.
"We've already experienced this - a few
months ago 12 Chinese experts came here to do some
groundwork and organize their plan of work. The rural people we
spoke to were only too keen to express their problems and their
hopes and these were taken into account by both the Chinese and
Nigerian experts," he added.
Giving a voice to all the groups involved in the
project and establishing the mechanisms for effective
participation was one of the key priorities for the SPFS in
"Thanks to this
participative approach, we realized that there were marked
differences between the men and women in the selected
communities. Whilst the men were more concerned with grain
production, the Nigerian farming women we spoke to wanted to
know about poultry and livestock raising and how to improve food
processing," said Oyebanji.
"The opinion of our Chinese colleagues was
very important," said Chude, soil fertility and plant
nutrition expert with the SPFS programme. "Thanks to
their input we decided to broaden the programme - which
originally centred on managing water resources - to add elements
about raising small ruminants and grain storage."
Gender and water
Learning and gender
focus are fundamental principles of the SPFS. Okoli and Muazu,
two of the engineers from the SPFS in Nigeria, travelled to
South Africa in March 2003 to take part in a regional workshop
for Africa on gender issues and water management organized by
FAO on the occasion of International Women's Day.
"The workshop could not have come
at a better moment for our programme," said the
Nigerian engineers. One of the direct results of the course was
that capacity-building in gender and water management will be
incorporated into the national SPFS programmes of all the
The workshop, attended by 27
agricultural extension workers and water engineers from nine
countries in Africa, where they work in national SPFS projects,
analysed the different problems that men and women face in water
management and the means of promoting the integration of women
in all the activities covered by the Special Programme.
The workshop also addressed ways to improve
people's access to economic resources and appropriate
technologies that could make farming more profitable and
sustainable. The participants also learned how to improved
activity planning, monitoring and evaluation.
Nuria Felipe Soria,
(+39) 06 570 55899