Driving east from Nouakchott, the capital of Mauritania, it is getting farther and closer to the sea and closer to the Sahara Desert, the world’s largest desert. Driving about 60 kilometers, on the edge of the desert, there is an “oasis”: nearly a thousand mu of green crops thrive, and rows of sprinkler rods are spraying. This is the demonstration center of animal husbandry technology in China’s assistance to Mauritania.
The 110-hectare demonstration center is distributed in the planting area, breeding area, forage processing workshop, training area, etc. Since the pilot operation of the demonstration center in 2016, planting, breeding, training and other work have been carried out in an orderly manner, which has helped Mauritania’s livestock and agricultural development.
With the support of Chinese technical experts, the once barren land has become green. Since 2017, the demonstration center has successively realized the large-scale production of forage crops and the first embryo transplantation cow breeding, and trained a large number of animal husbandry professionals for Maota. Buch Ahai Maidu, then Secretary-General of the Ministry of Rural Development of Mauta, commented: “Chinese experts have created miracles in the vast desert and helped more people of Mauta embark on the road to wealth.”
Forage introduction to achieve large-scale planting
Animal husbandry is one of the pillar industries of Maota, but because more than 80% of the country is covered by deserts, and the dry season lasts for up to nine months every year, often less than two months into the dry season, the turf is nibbed naked by livestock, grassland desertification is becoming more serious, and the feeding needs of livestock are difficult to meet. How to cultivate and scale up forage crops in the desert has become the key to the sustainable development of Maota livestock industry.
“Look, purple flowers are in bloom, and this alfalfa can be harvested immediately.” In the planting area, several local workers are weeding in the field. They introduced the alfalfa in front of the reporter. Alfalfa is a forage crop with high protein content and is known as the “King of Forage”. In April 2017, the Alfalfa Demonstration Center successfully premiered. The growth period of each stubble of alfalfa is 28 to 30 days, and 12 stubbles can be harvested throughout the year, with an average annual output of more than 3 tons of dry alfalfa per mu. Alfalfa has been grown on a large scale, which has found the key to solving the local grass-animal balance problem.
Natural conditions such as high temperature and heat, drought and little rain bring many difficulties to the introduction test.” Either it doesn’t rain, or rainstorms and duststorms come together. “Sometimes the alfalfa seedlings just grow up, the sun bakes and festers” “Also often squat on the ground to observe the situation of diseases and pests, and your face is dry and cracked.”… Recalling the process of introducing seeds in the demonstration center, Ren Xueshan, a retired researcher of Ningxia Grassland Workstation There are thousands of emotions.
“The wind and sand wash the sun and the moon, and the fire alchemy heart.” A pair of demonstration centers told the hardships and persistence of Chinese experts. After testing 21 kinds of forage and carrying out a comparison test of 6 varieties of alfalfa, Ren Xueshan finally found alfalfa varieties suitable for the local climate and soil conditions. Using a variety of water-saving irrigation methods such as fixed high-rod spray irrigation, fixed micro-spray and sprinkler irrigation belts, organic fertilizer such as cattle and sheep manure is used to improve the soil, and the fertilization plan is scientifically formulated… After the comprehensive application of a series of technologies, green forage has finally grown in the desert.
In March 2018, then-President Mauta Aziz inspected the demonstration center. When he saw pieces of alfalfa, he bent down and grabbed the sand under his feet with his hand, exclaimed, “This is still the original sand. How did you do it?”
At present, alfalfa cultivation has been extended to many areas such as Bennie Sharp Farm of the Ministry of Rural Development of Maota, National Wildlife Park and so on. An UAE agricultural company that invested in Maota was attracted by this achievement and also planted 50 hectares of alfalfa, which was planned to expand to 300 hectares.
In order to thank Chinese experts for their efforts to promote the standardization and large-scale cultivation of alfalfa over the years, the Maota government awarded Ren Xueshan the National Contribution Medal in December 2019. A number of pasture varieties such as silage corn, sweet sorghum, sultan grass, kodan grass, oats introduced by the demonstration center, as well as woody feed such as lime strips, cassava, spicy wood seeds, etc., are currently being promoted and applied.
Improved breeds improves dairy production
In the evening, workers sent dried bundles of alfalfa to the breeding area, and more than 400 cows scrambled to poke their heads out of the cows’ neck clip to prepare for a full meal.” We also need to add some weeds, mixed with high-protein alfalfa, ’emerine matching’, so that the cow can grow well. A local worker told reporters with great experience.
After the feed was sufficient, Chinese experts began to adjust the dietary formula of cattle to improve the nutritional level and lay the foundation for the demonstration center to carry out improved breeding. In November 2018, the first embryo transplant cow in Maota was born here. Zhang Hongen, the leader of the expert group of the demonstration center, said that the average daily milk production of locally raised cows is 2.5 litres, and the average milk production of newly cultivated dairy cow varieties is 5-10 times that of the local varieties, and it is fully adapted to the local natural environment. Localized breeding of such dairy cow varieties will change the situation that 70% of the local dairy market depends on imports. So far, the demonstration center has breeding more than 50 embryo transplanted calves and more than 270 hybridized modified calves.
The demonstration center has abundant grass and cattle fertilizer, and there is a continuous stream of local enterprises and farmers visiting it. The Maota Rural Development Department has sent a number of officials and key farmers to participate in the training. In the past three years, the demonstration center has trained more than 1,000 people, including forage cultivation and processing, forage field management, modern cattle house management, dairy cow breeding and other directions. Graduates were sent to all parts of the country to promote Chinese technology, benefiting more farmers.
Mohammed Ahmed, who trained at the demonstration center, is now the head of the cow improvement station of the Mauta Rural Development Department. Because of his skill, he is known as a “good helper” to increase production. He said: “I’m sincerely happy that the milk production of improved cows has increased a lot and the lives of farmers have improved.”
The demonstration center has also organized Maota trainees to go to China for training on many occasions. Ahmed went to Ningxia to participate in standardized management and practical technical training in aquaculture. He said: “The practical knowledge learned from Chinese technical experts is exactly what Maota people need. I will try to digest and absorb it, apply it in practice, so that farmers and herdsmen can learn technology, increase production and income.”
Mutually beneficial cooperation injects new impetus into development
The demonstration center has also become famous in the countries around Maota. Gambian President Barrow made a special visit, hoping that Chinese experts could extend these technologies to West and North Africa, benefiting more African pastoralists.
Workers from Mali, Sierra Leone, Ghana and other African countries also study at demonstration centers. Amadou Gara, a 25-year-old Malian worker, is currently responsible for managing cattle farms, cattle disease treatment, etc. at the demonstration center. His purpose is to learn embryo transplantation technology. He said: “Follow Chinese experts to learn real skills and return to Mali to start a business, and I can help more people.”
During the epidemic prevention and control period, at the request of the Ministry of Rural Development of Maota, the demonstration center held two training courses.” As the epidemic situation improves, we will gradually resume foreign training and continue to benefit more local people with Chinese technology and poverty reduction experience. Zhang Hongen said.
In the small vegetable garden of the demonstration center, the workers planted more than 50 kinds of fruits and vegetables, which grew happily. In the life management area, the grass is green and the flowers are like brocade. The garden-style park is loved by the local residents. Before the outbreak of the epidemic, the demonstration center was opened to the public every weekend, providing a leisure place for the residents of the desert area, where the Chinese and Mao people formed a friendship.
Mai Mai, a farmer, often tells the story of her family and China. In the 1970s, Mai Mai’s husband followed the Chinese construction aid engineering team to drill wells in the desert to find water. The 18 wells drilled that year are still an important source of drinking water in Nouakchott. Mai Mai said, “Chinese friends help us dig wells, build ports, build highways, and now help us develop animal husbandry. These are all household stories. Mao Zhong is an eternal friend.”
Open the map of Maota and you can see the “coordinates” of the achievements of Sino-Maoist cooperation: on the Atlantic Ocean, the Sino-Maoist Friendship Port is the second largest aid project in China in Africa; more than 60 kilometers from Nouakchott, the Tanit fishing port built by Chinese enterprises ended the history of Maota without a dedicated fishing wharf, which greatly improved the fishery population. Productivity; south in the Senegal River Basin, Chinese experts are helping local rice varieties to guide the control of diseases and pests; in the hinterland of the desert, the Maota government is planning to “reproduction” four animal husbandry technology demonstration centers throughout the country…
“Technology from China has opened the door for the people of Maota to get rid of poverty and become rich.” Ahai Maidu visited Ningxia in September 2019 and was deeply moved by the story of hundreds of millions of Chinese people emerging from poverty. He hoped that such experience could be introduced to Africa more: “We welcome more experts and technologies from China. The continuous expansion of Mao-China cooperation will inject new impetus into the development and prosperity of Maota.