The first 10 Chinese agricultural experts were dispatched to Ethiopia in April 2001 after a cooperation agreement was signed by the two countries' agricultural ministries in the same year. Their mission was to help the country develop its vocational technical education in the agriculture sector.
It was the start of a 16-year relay marathon - since then, 16 missions with a total of 425 Chinese agricultural experts have succeeded one another, passing their expertise and knowledge on to their counterparts and students in every corner of the Horn of Africa's country.
ChinAfrica asked five of the Chinese experts currently based in Ethiopia to introduce their experience and achievements and discuss future directions for their work in the country.
Agricultural machinery expert, three years in Ethiopia
In order to develop a modern agriculture, Ethiopia needs to upgrade its agricultural machinery and train agricultural professionals in both technology and management. Agricultural vocational education in Ethiopia, however, still lags behind global standards. The three years I have spent in Ethiopia let me realize how important this project is to the country.
Ethiopia's farming culture has a history of hundreds of years. Today, modern agricultural machinery and traditional farming methods exist side by side. The farmers, no matter how hard they may work, cannot afford to update their farming machinery. To help tackle this issue, we have designed several new agricultural machines based on local needs over the past years. We are now planning to establish a small factory to build more of these agricultural machines and promote them around the country. The factory will also be used as a base for our teaching and research activities.
Soil agro-chemistry expert, four years in Ethiopia
The agricultural environment in Ethiopia - rich in light and heat, moderate annual rainfall and much higher arable land per capita than in China - seems fine at first. But the reality is that the dry season lasts for more than six months and the rainy season for crops to grow is sometimes as short as three months; soil erosion and degradation are very serious problems. Those factors make the country vulnerable to natural disasters, since even a slight change in climate can result in severe famine. In view of this, our team came to the conclusion that the country urgently needed measures for water conservancy.
We introduced the bio-fermentation planting technique, which is used to revitalize degraded farmland that cannot be irrigated. In the future, we will also launch a research on organic soil-free cultivation and introduce high yield forages from China to feed animals and better conserve soil.
Aquaculture science expert, four years in Ethiopia
I first arrived in Ethiopia in December 2013. I quickly realized that Alage Agriculture Technical Vocational Education and Training College, the biggest one of its kind in the country with more than 3,000 students, had no aquaculture facilities. So I immediately drafted a project proposal. Thanks to the support from the college, now we have established over 10 aquaculture facilities in the campus for practical teaching and academic research. They also became popular among local professionals and students from other colleges to practice the knowledge they learn from books.
We could have continued to teach in the classroom, which would have been easier for the teachers, but then students would never have learned the skills. We hope our students can acquire both theoretical knowledge and practical skills at the same time, because they are the future of Ethiopia's aquaculture industry, a country boasting abundant water and fishery resources.
Fruit and vegetable production expert, six years in Ethiopia
Before I was given this opportunity, I never thought about going to Ethiopia in my life. But the more time I spend here, the more I found my work gives me a feeling of accomplishment. Ethiopia reminds me of my hometown in the old times. I'm glad that I can contribute my expertise to its agricultural development.
Ethiopia is witnessing a strong growth in infrastructure construction in many fields such as transport, real estate and telecommunications technology. In agriculture, however, we are still facing issues of outdated infrastructure and unstable production.
Our task is to help the country develop a long-term plan to introduce technology and improve infrastructure. So far we have built a 7,000-square-meter practice site for the School of Plant Biology and two storage ponds to maintain water supply during the drought seasons. We also introduced a weed-control technology which has proven quite effective.
In the next few years, we hope to further improve local teaching facilities and develop a fully functional demonstration site of modern agricultural experiment.
Clinical veterinary science expert, two years in Ethiopia
My task in Ethiopia is to equip local students with the expertise and techniques necessary to become skilled veterinarians, as well as with practical problem-solving abilities.
After arriving in Ethiopia, I proposed a research project to the Ministry of Agriculture to introduce modern information management technology in the country, which hopefully will contribute to veterinary development in Ethiopia in a brand new way.
In the next few years, I hope to help our students master modern medical instruments, because after graduating they will become the driving force of veterinary development in the country.
I'm also working on increasing cooperation between local agricultural schools and veterinary pharmaceutical manufacturers in China on a win-win basis - the companies will develop a new market in Ethiopia and the local livestock industry will find solutions for many of its problems.