Feature: Chinese farmers build green path on Belt and Road

Source: Xinhua| 2017-05-08 10:31:49|Editor: Mengjie
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BEIJING, May 8 (Xinhua) -- Sun Jiansheng came to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) 10 years ago. Yet his business started to take off only several years ago when he decided to grow vegetable in the desert.

He started his business from a small supermarket. After years of hard work, the business of the supermarket has been extended into e-commerce, food imports and exports. Although getting a foothold in the local business sector, Sun still felt unsatisfied.

Later, he found an opportunity in vegetable growing.

The local cuisine of the UAE mainly consists of barbecued and fried dishes, with a very limited choice of vegetables. The food is hardly palatable to people from China. The imported vegetables are very expensive and not very fresh. Preservatives are often added for the transportation and storage of such vegetables, which make them unhealthy.

To provide local Chinese with authentic and environment-friendly Chinese fruits and vegetables, Sun decided in 2012 to invest heavily to build a organic vegetable farm in the Nazwa Desert.

The climate in Dubai is hot and dry, with the annual precipitation of only 100 mm. Growing vegetables in the desert requires large investment and is very difficult. A friend of Sun's once persuaded him out of the business.

"I will try my best once I have decided no matter how hard it is," he answered.

While Sun attends his farm in desert heat, thousands of kilometers away in the city of Osh in southern Kyrgyzstan, Nurdinov Nizomidin, a farmer, is also busy working under the scorching sun in the cotton field.

Different from Dubai's terrible natural conditions, Osh enjoys good climate and abundant water resources, making it an important area of cotton production.

As a man of wealth with some fame in the local area, Nurdinov earns 40,000 U.S. dollars every year, which is not a small figure compared with the average monthly wage of 200 U.S. dollars there.

Despite the favorable natural conditions, Nurdinov said it was China's green technology that brings fortune.

In the past, the cotton planting technology came from the Soviet Union, with the output of 3 tons per hectare. Later, Chinese technicians of the Institute of Cotton Research of the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences came to Kyrgyzstan to promote cotton-planting technology. They managed to find the most suited breeds for planting, based on the local natural conditions. They brought in weeding mulch to reduce labor intensity, and more advanced seeding machines to save seeds. They also measured and analyzed soil to provide more accurate and effective fertilizers.

At first, local residents were skeptical that Chinese cotton-planting technology would be superior to those of the Soviet Union. But Nurdinov chose to try them out and received technical guidance of Chinese agronomists. To his surprise, the output of his cotton fields increased from 3 tons to 5 tons. Nowadays, China's cotton-planting technology has been applied to cotton fields of around 10,000 hectares in local areas.

"We now trust Chinese technology and would very much like to cooperate with Chinese agronomists," said Nurdinov.

Likewise, the family of Rajaratnam in Sri Lanka has also found a green development path by using Chinese technology.

Living in Puttalam, a small town in southwest Sri Lanka, the Rajaratnam family lives on planting onions. The family used to use diesel generators to irrigate, which was a heavy financial burden. They also had to bear the large noise and frequent breakdown of diesel generators.

"The generator always smoked so heavily that made my head ache," recalled Rajaratnam, shaking his head.

The Puttalam coal-fired power plant, which was constructed by Chinese companies and became operational last September, has brought tremendous changes to the Rajaratnam family.

Like many local residents, Rajaratnam's wife found a job in the power plant with a monthly pay of 18,000 rupees (133 U.S. dollars). More importantly, the power plant has provided stable electricity, which reduced the cost of electricity from 20,000 rupees (148 U.S. dollars) per acre every month to 3,000 rupees (22 U.S. dollars). Encouraged by the cost saving, Rajaratnam is considering planting more crops such as tobacco, papaya and watermelon. At present, he is expanding his house. "Our life has been better," he said.

Local residents used to be worried about the potential effects of the plant's construction on the environment. One of the key problems was how to deal with fly ash, a byproduct of burning coal.

"We made full use of such waste as fly ash to create benefits," said Lakmar, who is in charge of the fly ash laboratory of Tokyo Cement Company (Lanka) PLC, a main procurer that purchases 43 percent of the produced fly ash.

Before the power plant was established, the fly ash needed in Sri Lanka had to be imported from India. Now the purchasing price is just one third of what it used to be.

Rajaratnam said the power station not only left the environment unaffected, but also promoted the development of ecological agriculture thanks to its ample supply of electricity and lowered power costs.

Actually, when Sun Jiansheng began building his farm, he upheld the green concept of environment-friendliness, fine cultivation and sustainable development.

In order to grow fruits and vegetables not suitable for hot climate, Sun got a special license from the Dubai government to dig six deep wells with an average depth of over 100 meters, to draw underground water for irrigation. The drip irrigation technology has guaranteed every drop of water would be used to its maximum effect.

He also set up transformers to draw electricity to construct water-cooling greenhouses with carefully controlled temperature, which is economical and energy saving. The dung of cows and camels in local livestock farms was also utilized as fertilizers.

After years of hard work, Sun's farm has a total area of 87,000 square meters, with 20 water-cooling greenhouses, and more than 100 square meters of storehouses that keep the produce fresh. Every day, the green farm produces several tons of more than 30 kinds of vegetables and fruits, which are sold to supermarkets as well as canteens of Chinese companies in the UAE.

The Emirates Airlines, which is known for its strict food guidelines, recently chose Sun's green farm as its designated vegetable supplier for its in-flight meals, a sign that Sun's vegetables have really taken off in the local market.

Recalling his arduous work of building the green farm in recent years, Sun said that as the Belt and Road Initiative has gradually been carrying forward, the concept of environment-friendliness and sustainable development has been recognized by more and more people. "I see more hope in developing green agriculture," Sun said.