Home NEWS Features Kenyan scholar says Africa can learn from China’s anti-desertification success story

Kenyan scholar says Africa can learn from China’s anti-desertification success story

Professor Robert Gituru

A Kenyan scholar has applauded the great progress made by China in conservation especially desert control through the planting of trees and the deployment and use of the latest technologies.

Professor Robert Gituru, a lecturer at the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT) and co-director of the Sino-Africa Joint Research Centre (SAJOREC) notes that the East Asian nation has registered great success in strategies put in place to combat desertification.

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Prof Gituru made the remarks amid ongoing initiatives to raise awareness among governments and organizations about the responsibility of everyone to embrace sustainable water and land use to reduce the spread of desertification and drought.

The scholar says the partnership between Kenya and China in this regard will see farmlands that have turned deserts reclaimed and used to produce the food needed by millions of people.

He gave the example of the reclamation of large parts of the Taklamakan Desert in Northwest China that are now being used for agricultural activities as a testament to the great work China is doing in ecological conservation.

“The challenge of desertification that is facing Africa and most parts of the world is one that China has also experienced within its borders for many years. It is neither a new thing nor something strange to China. They understand it very well,” he said

Speaking during a recent TV interview, Prof Gituru indicated that scientists in Kenya and Africa are keenly following what their Chinese counterparts are doing with a view to implementing the same for the benefit of the people and environment.

He further acknowledged the support China has extended to Kenya and African countries to promote conservation and improve ecology. He gave special mention to researchers at Shapotou Desert Research and Experiment Station (SDRES) under the Chinese Academy of Sciences, who have been developing new techniques to combat desertification in China, which in the past 20 years has contributed to the world’s largest greening areas.

“The difference between China and the rest of the world is that their scientists have been researching about desertification and developing strategies to tackle them for a very long time. They have done it for 60 years and we are lucky that we can work with them,” he said

“Every scientist who is active day is standing on the shoulders of a giant. As SAJOREC, we are happy to work with China and indeed we can borrow their expertise and infuse some of our own and be able to find a solution to Africa and the world. I am sure if we use these strategies from China we will succeed in our desert control mechanisms,” he adds.

According to Prof Gituru, joint efforts have aided China’s successful fight against desertification which was threatening to spread to large parts of the country hence posing an even bigger threat to China’s food security agenda. He says the lands that have been reclaimed now form part of China’s food basket regions.

“Water in the desert is a very scarce resource. And there are irrigation techniques that only target crops or plants. When you see what has been done in China, you start to believe that it is truly possible to convert a desert into productive land,” noted Prof. Gituru.

He disclosed that Sino-Africa Joint Research Center is working closely with China’s Xinjiang Institute of Geography to find solutions to desertification. The center he says is currently researching solutions to desertification in North African countries which are being faced with the phenomenon and noted that already the studies are bearing fruits.

In recent years, China has pushed ahead with its greening efforts across the country. In 2020 alone, the country improved the ecology of 2.83 million hectares of grassland and carried out desertification prevention-and-control work on over 2.09 million hectares of land.

Indeed, China has been sharing its knowledge of sand control with other countries. It will be remembered that back in 1977, it shared the anti-desertification technique used in Shapotou at the UN Conference on Desertification in Nairobi, Kenya.

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