Tuesday, December 30, 2008

China's new export: farmers

from the UK Independent

....The villages, ranging in size from 400 to 2,000 Chinese, have been set up across the continent, from Nigeria to Kenya, from Sudan to Zambia.

Mr Liu started the Baoding villages when he was head of Hebei province's foreign trade bureau in 1998 and was seeking ways to boost the local economy, which had been dampened by the Asian financial crisis. He discovered Africa.

"We found Africa was not affected by the crisis, and we went there, and found that local people were short of food, even though there was lots of land not in use for farming and plenty of animals," he says. "So I decided to switch from exporting goods to exporting agricultural expertise."

It is a winning formula for China, which has more than 20 per cent of the world's population but only 7 per cent of its arable land. "China has too many people and too little land," Mr Liu ponts out. "In Africa, they have plenty of land and too few farmers. Places such as Ivory Coast are short of 400,000 tonnes of food a year, and the local people cannot farm enough to feed the population. Local farming skills are not developed."...

Mr Liu largely skirts these broader geo-political concerns, focusing more on the positive impact of Sino-African relations. He notes that the cultural exchange can even extend to marriage. "Some Chinese men marry African women; they like African girls because they are very slim."

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