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How Tanzanian Maize Growers Benefited From Chinese Expertise

Earlier this year, Kurwa Abdalah, a maize grower in Tanzania’s eastern region of Morogoro, finally bid farewell to his dark and fuggy thatch-roofed mud house inherited from his family and moved to a newly-built brick house that has windows.

Maize plantation

Over the last three years, the yield of his corn field increased by 3.5 times due to his hard labor and the advanced cultivation expertise imparted by Chinese experts.

His family no longer bears the “poverty household” tag but has instead become the “pride and joy” of a successful transformation.

Abdalah, 34, lives in a rural village with his wife and three daughters. Their livelihood is dependent on their 2.5-acre maize field.

When experts from the China Agricultural University brought advanced technology to the village and selected 12 households as experimental households to test the scientific and normative cultivation method in 2014, Abdalah shrugged off the idea. He did not believe that these foreign experts could make any change to the laterite soil. He was also unwilling to place the fate of the whole year’s yield on a group of new-comers.

Taking into consideration of Tanzania’s hot weather and poor irrigation condition, the Chinese experts proposed using less-to-no-fertilizers, increasing labor input, weeding more often, thinning out seeds, plowing deeper and loosening the soil to raise yields.

Shortly after that, the villagers began to discuss these new cultivation methods.

“Did you see (how) they used a rope to measure the distance while sowing seeds?”

“I heard that the Rajabus had weeded three times so far this year.”

“The seeds they sowed were quite different from ours.”

Abdalah never imagined that there were so many cultivation methods. He only knew how to sow seeds during the rainy season and expected the crops to grow after that.

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When the harvest season arrived, the 12 experimental households reaped double the yield as compared with their previous harvest.

The Rajabus family were able to buy a new motorcycle with the profits from their high yield due to this cooperation project.

Abdalah could hardly sit still. He rushed to find the village chief to enrol in next year’s test.

He went to the downtown to purchase some genetically-modified maize seeds and started to grow his crops under the Chinese experts’ guidance.

From proper land use planning to scheduled weeding, Abdalah meticulously and carefully tended his crops.

Abdalah’s maize yield doubled despite the fact that the village was hit by a severe drought that year.

By 2017, Abdalah had saved enough savings and decided to build a brick house near his ancestral mud house. He had made many plans for the future and wished for them to materialize one after another.

China Agriculture University began cooperating with the Morogoro local authorities and Soko University of Agriculture in 2011.

Over the past seven years, the ongoing cooperation has generated positive results for local peasants. More than 500 rural households in the two project villages — Mtego Wa Simba and Peapea village — raised their yield by 2-3 times, immediately grabbing the attention of the Tanzanian government and other relevant international organizations.

The project was described by the then Chinese ambassador to Tanzania as “a star project acclaimed by both the president and the rural people, thus becoming a good example of China-Africa cooperation.”

To extend the impact of the previous phases of the cooperation and the sharing of China’s experience in poverty alleviation, the China Agricultural University, the Morogoro regional government and Sokoine University of Agriculture are dedicated to continue their cooperation, aiming to increase the yield of about 1,647 acres of maize field for 1,000 households in 10 villages of Morogoro Region.

It is called the Tanzania-China Joint Program of Scaling Up Maize Labor Intensification System in Morogoro Region, or also known as the “Double One Project”.

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Written by PH

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