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Seeds of friendship grow into towering trees

By YANG RAN in Beijing and MA JINGNA in Lanzhou | China Daily | Updated: 2024-02-01 10:10

Kiprotich Wesly Cheruiyot shows Kenyan farmers how to use the ridge-furrow plastic film mulch technology. CHINA DAILY

In recent years, a growing number of international students have been coming to China for technical courses and professional degrees. They aim to master and take practical technologies back to their home countries, fostering closer people-to-people ties among nations.

Kamran Malik, a Pakistani student at Lanzhou University in Gansu province, returned home in 2022 after completing his postdoctoral research in China.

Afterward, Malik worked as a teacher at the Abbottabad University of Science and Technology and then worked for the Department of Science and Technology and Information Technology in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province.

Malik said the experience of studying in China enabled him to bring back new knowledge to Pakistan.

"I am very proud to be able to serve as a bridge and contribute to the friendship between China and Pakistan," he said.

Similar stories have unfolded across the world, with students like Malik using the knowledge gained in China to facilitate development in their home countries.

Li Chunlin, dean of the School of International Cultural Exchange at Lanzhou University, said that in the past decade, there have been students from 97 countries coming to Lanzhou University to pursue their studies. Most of them came from countries involved in the Belt and Road Initiative.

International students play an important role in promoting communication and exchange between China and their home countries, while making contributions to local development, Li said.

Kiprotich Wesly Cheruiyot's China story coincided with the launch of the BRI, and it exemplifies the positive effect that educational exchanges can have on countries taking part in the BRI.

When China proposed the BRI in 2013, Kiprotich, then a senior college student at Kenya's Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology, participated in a training program of Xiong Youcai, a professor in the College of Ecology at Lanzhou University.

Deeply attracted by Xiong's demonstration of the ridge-furrow plastic film mulch technology, Kiprotich applied for the postgraduate program guided by Xiong to delve deeper into the technology and help Kenyan farmers.

The technology by Xiong's team can double the length of cornstalks and increase the yield by 240 percent. For more than a decade, the team has been shuttling back and forth between China and Kenya over 30 times, introducing the technology to Kenyan farmers.

"In the minds of Kenyans, there are two major 'Chinese projects'," Kiprotich said. "One is the Mombasa-Nairobi (Standard Gauge) Railway, the first modern railway constructed in Kenya since its independence, and the other is the ridge-furrow plastic film mulch technology."

The latter not only increases yields, but is also environmentally friendly. "I want to master this technology and bring it back to my hometown to better the lives of locals," he said.

Xiong said the technology does not cost much and can be easily applied. Most important of all, it can bring in high yields.

"These are the main reasons why our technology can be widely promoted in Kenya," Xiong said. "We have also adjusted the technology based on the actual situation in Kenya."

So far, the team has built eight technology demonstration sites across Kenya, with the technology's application expanding annually at a rate of 200 hectares. Cornfields utilizing the technology have witnessed a production increase of 99 to 214 percent.

Last year, Kiprotich finished his 10 years of study and obtained his master's and doctoral degrees. Looking ahead, he aspires to continue postdoctoral research at Lanzhou University, aiming to bring back more advanced Chinese technologies.

"I have conducted training in a village of West Pokot County in Kenya's northwestern region," he said. "In the village, most women had only completed high school education. A chance to learn new technologies can bring them job opportunities and change their lives."

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