The worst drought in the Horn of Africa in 60 years has sparked a severe food crisis in the past few months. Close to 13 million people are threatened by the famine and many died of hunger. In Kenya, the number of the people facing starvation has reached 3.5 million people. The worsening condition facing famine victims in the region in general and particularly in Kenya has caused great concern among the international community, the Chinese Government and people included.Such are times when a friend in need must become a friend indeed.
The Chinese people and the African people have formed traditional friendship of reaching out to each other and pulling together in times of trouble. Much as China has had a share of natural disasters, in particular drought and floods this year, the Chinese Government donated 90 million RMB (about 1.36 billion Kenyan Shillings) worth of emergency food aid to the affected countries in the Horn of Africa last month. To ensure that as many lives as can be saved are rescued from starvation, the Chinese Government has announced an additional 353.2 million RMB (about 4.94 billion Kenyan Shillings) of emergency food and cash assistance to the countries affected by famine in the region.
So far, the assistance from the Chinese Government to the region amounts to 443.2 million RMB (about 6.2 billion Kenyan Shillings). Meanwhile, the aid to Kenya has increased from 30 million RMB to 130 million RMB (about 1.82 billion Kenyan Shillings).China’s Ministry of Commerce has started the delivery of the food aid destined for the Horn of Africa region last month. Most of the food aid will be shipped to the affected countries through bilateral channels, while the aid in cash to Somalia will be delivered through the United Nations World Food Program. The onus to purchase and distribute food to Somalia will be WFP’s. We hope to deliver the food aid to disaster areas by the end of next month.
The Chinese Government is keen and has put appropriate measures to ensure that all food aid reach the affected people the soonest possible. China is also ready to provide drinking water, medicine, medical equipment and tents at the demand of the affected countries.The people of China and NGOs from China are participating actively in offering humanitarian support to the Horn of Africa. The Red Cross Society of China, for instance, has allocated 8 million RMB (about 112 million Kenyan Shillings) of humanitarian aid to drought-affected areas in East Africa. Of that aid, 2 million RMB (about 28 million Kenyan Shillings) will be donated to the Kenyan Red Cross. This particular aid was donated by charitable organisations, NGOs, companies as well as ordinary people in China. This is their way of expressing their friendship with their African brothers and sisters.
Disaster may be merciless but human beings are intrinsically attuned to affection. Nothing proclaims this better than the initiative dubbed ‘Kenyans for Kenya’ supported by the media, corporate organisations and individuals to feed the people of the hunger-striken northern Kenya. The Chinese companies, small business owners and expatriates in Kenya, who regard this great nation as home, have also made their donations to the victims in order to fulfill their social responsibility by reaching their Kenyan brothers and sisters. So far, the donations from the Chinese fraternity amount to over 22.5 million Kenyan Shillings.One old Chinese saying goes, ‘Food is the base of people’s lives’. Food being key to survival, the Chinese Government has always attached great importance to the grain production and done its best to promote the all-round development of the rural areas. That’s why China can feed 22 percent of the world population with only 7 percent of the planet’s arable land and achieved basic self-sufficiency in grain.
To solve the food crisis sustainably, the key lies in boosting the development of rural areas. African countries have superior natural conditions for agricultural development, with abundant fertile arable land and plentiful rainwater in most parts of the continent. Besides, Africa is not short of labour force. On the other hand, Africa also faces many challenges in the area of agriculture. To find the solutions to food shortages, African countries can borrow a leaf through enhanced international cooperation.
In my view, there are broad prospects for agricultural cooperation between Africa and China. As the largest developing country in the world, China has been traditionally dependent on agriculture. In the course of time running into thousands of years, China has gathered critical experience and forged technologies to boost agriculture development.Africa, a continent with the largest number of developing countries in the world, is now in need of ways of raising its grain yield. Indeed, with regard to agriculture, there are many avenues for knowledge and technology transfer, an area of cooperation that begs development.
To start with, China and Kenya can strengthen exchanges and collaboration in the fields of agricultural policies, water conservancy and irrigation, agricultural technologies as well as processing. Another key area is marketing of agricultural products, itself a suitable suitable road towards agricultural development. Innovation in agricultural production and marketing will, no doubt, benefit the African farmer and make major contributions to human development on the whole.
Chinese Ambassador to Kenya Amb. Liu Guangyuan