"Nichts mehr davon, ich bitt euch. Zu essen gebt ihm, zu wohnen.
Habt ihr die Blöße bedeckt, gibt sich die Würde von selbst."
Friedrich Schiller
  July 2008 FOOD

Vietnamese Farmers Show the Way

Led by Prof. Vo Tong Xuan, Vietnamese farming experts, who went to Sierra Leone one year ago to try out 50 high-productivity Mekong Delta rice breeds in a town called Mange Bureh, in order to determine which breeds will grow best on a 100-hectare project sponsored by the Sierra Leone government, have met with a huge success. The experts have successfully grown two paddy crops a year, with a yield of four tons per hectare for each crop, he said. Local farmers in Sierra Leone usually only grow one crop each year, with a productivity of one ton per hectare.

The biggest achievement gained in the project is to help local farmers overcome the shortage of machinery and a poor irrigation system, as well as to reserve three tons of rice seeds for a large-scale farming in the upcoming crop. It is a dream that has never come true to international experts, despite their huge investments. With three tons of seed rice, harvested from the most recent crops, and in store for the next crop, Dr. Vo Tong Xuan expects a significant improvement in productivity of the next crop.

In a recent interview with Vietnam's {Lao Dong} (The Labor) newspaper, Professor Vo said that during his visit to Japan in 2006, he met with the Sierra Leone agriculture minister, who asked him to cooperate with his country's agriculture sector. "I saw that Sierra Leone's climatic conditions were the same as Vietnam's, and accepted the proposal because I believed that the cultivation techniques of Vietnamese farmers in the Cuu Long Delta region could be applied in Sierra Leone."

When asked why he undertook this challenge, the Los Banos based IRRI-trained Professor said: "First of all, I want to improve the hard lives of farmers." He also pointed out that in the past, European countries and the U.S. sent experts to Africa to help eradicate hunger and poverty. "Many projects costing billions of U.S. dollars failed. The reasons were many. But I think the major reason was that the transfer of technology was mismanaged."

Prof. Vo Tong Xuan told the interviewer that Vietnam will send more farmers to Sierra Leone and other parts of Africa where the conditions are similar to that of Vietnam to raise rice productivity.