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Nurturing Africa's Expertise on Biodiversity Conservation


For more than 20 years, Wang Qingfeng and his colleagues have traveled frequently between China and Africa.

In 1996, Wang, now deputy director of Wuhan Botanical Garden under the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), went to Chad to help build a biology laboratory, establishing his link with the vast continent.

On that occasion, it took him three or four flights and more than 30 hours to arrive in Africa.

It was the start of an even longer journey, that of building cooperation with African partners, with a view to sharing experience on biodiversity conservation and nurturing the local talents within the field.

An important step came in 2009, when the Wuhan Botanical Garden signed agreements with Kenyan universities to promote China-Africa cooperation on the cultivation of biodiversity talents.

From this point on, a number of research institutes under the CAS started cooperating with Kenyan universities, not only on botany but also on other disciplines within the natural sciences.

Four years later, official approval was granted for the establishment of the Sino-Africa Joint Research Center, to be jointly managed by the CAS and the Ministry Of Higher Education, Science and Technology of Kenya.

The center has enrolled 254 African graduate students in various fields, such as biodiversity conservation and utilization, and has helped build scientific research teams for many African countries, said Yan Xue from the center.

It has also trained more than 600 managers and professional technicians for 13 African countries, Yan added.

The center and the National Museum of Kenya are now jointly compiling "The Flora of Kenya," said Wang, who is also the director of the center, noting that for African countries, the first step in ecological conservation is investigating the current situation.

Many international counterparts have participated in the project, he said.

Chinese researchers have also introduced dozens of Chinese crop varieties, including hybrid rice, sweet sorghum and kiwi fruit, that are adapted to local climates and suitable for large-scale planting and harvesting, with a view to relieving the food crises faced by some African countries.

"I hope that African countries will find a new way to balance ecological conservation and social development by promoting modern agricultural techniques," Wang said. (From Xinhua)

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