Japan at the forefront of assistance to Africa

Japan at the forefront of assistance to Africa
By Euronews
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Japanese technology and teaching is paving the way towards self-sufficiency in Africa's agricultural sector

It is important that we verify the infrastructure to ensure it meets international standards

Taro Kono Minister for Foreign Affairs, Japan

For this edition of Global Japan we visit Senegal. Japanese assistance to Africa dates back to the 1950s, and has intensified since the establishment of TICAD, 24 years ago. The Tokyo International Conference on African Development is aimed at improving development on the continent.

The model of Japanese cooperation in Africa is very important. It is almost unique in the world, focusing on shared technology, teaching, and support – the goal is to deliver not just performance but also autonomy in the long term.

A good example is the plan to improve productivity of rice. The project is being implemented under the guidance of JICA – the Japan International Cooperation Agency.

In the Podor district 600 farmers work on 700 hectares. With the help of Japanese experts, they have completely rehabilitated the irrigation works, and refined their techniques of cultivation to make it more efficient.

“We have been trained and we’re now able to do the repairs on the canals ourselves,” explains Mamadou Oumar Dia, President of Diatar 2 Farmers’ Organisation. “We produce much more rice, we can do two crops a year, which was very complicated before the intervention of the Japanese. “

Amadou Tidiane Mbaye, an agricultural engineer, is also impressed with the progress:

“Irrigation used to take 15 days for the 77 plots; now it takes seven days. Diesel consumption has been reduced by 30 percent, which has lowered irrigation costs and improved the income for producers. “

According to Takashi Hotta, an agricultural expert for JICA, yields have risen from four to seven tonnes of rice per hectare, and producers’ incomes have increased by an average of 20 percent. But JICA says the gains also have to be sustainable:

“The idea is to be able to transmit techniques for the long term. We’re not talking about very complicated techniques, but something more simple, adapted to their skills, and that can last.”

The philosophy of Japanese cooperation in Africa is to share with the local population, and to meet the specific needs of each region.

“It’s a two-way process that always involves dialogue,” says JICA Senegal Field Operations Manager Kaori Tanaka. “We don’t introduce our technology with a view to asserting our presence; we gather a lot of advice from the field to adapt the technology we use.”

Agricultural engineer Alassane Ba is impressed with the Japanese teaching methods:

“The Japanese share by practice and that’s extraordinary; and the Senegalese applied this Japanese know-how, which has made it possible to improve yields, improve incomes and stabilise populations in their territory.”

Improved productivity is one thing, but the potential to increase the attractiveness of Senegalese rice and rely less on imports, is also enormous. For this, the Japanese have provided new equipment for sorting rice, which has greatly enhanced the different varieties.

“There is complete homogeneity with the three varieties that we produce: We no longer need to sort the rice two or three times, it’s all done in one process,” says Amadou Basse, the Delta 2000 Factory Manager.

The TICAD Ministerial Meeting in the Mozambique capital Maputo was co-organized by the Government of Japan, the United Nations, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the World Bank, and the African Union Commission (AUC). As well as African countries nations from all over the world attended along with international organisations and the private sector.

Co-chairing the meeting was Taro Kono, the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Japan. He told euronews that since the last TICAD conference over five billion dollars have been invested in Africa. Mr Kono would like to see more investment in infrastructure to improve connections between African nations, but he says there must be oversight:

“It is important that we verify the infrastructure to ensure it meets international standards and that projects are managed in an open and transparent manner.”

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