RIO DE JANEIRO--Despite shrinking budgets for official development assistance, Japan has started a new form of foreign aid that includes teaming up with a country it once helped, which it dubs "triangular cooperation."
Japan once helped Brazil grow into a major agricultural power. It now is drawing on that heritage in linking up with the South American nation to assist Mozambique, one of the poorest countries in the world.
Development aid is a major subject of the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, or Rio+20, being held here through June 22.
"Brazil has tropical farming technologies, but lacks experience in assisting developing nations," said Marco Farani, the director of the Brazilian Agency for Cooperation. "Experience is what counts if you are to be welcomed by the recipient country. And the world recognizes Japan's achievements in development aid."
Japan's ODA budgets have declined to about half the peak level in fiscal 1997. Despite those financial constraints, Tokyo has sought ways to regain its former status in the international community in the domain of development aid.
A project where Japan takes an initiative but enlists the cooperation of a country that it assisted in the past would help Japan show its presence to the rest of the world--or so goes the idea.
"Japan has assisted various countries," said Masahiro Tawa, a senior adviser to the Japan International Cooperation Agency's Operations Strategy Department. "Japan has plenty of assets across the world to draw on for triangular cooperation."
Brazil welcomes that prospect. Japan and Brazil have decided to submit about 1.1 billion yen ($13.6 million) and 500 million yen, respectively, in ODA to Mozambique through 2016. While Brazilians will take it upon themselves to teach farming technologies--both Brazil and Mozambique are Portuguese-speaking countries--Japan will lead the planning work by sending Japanese officials who have experience in development aid.
"I want to do my best to create a win-win-win relationship between the three countries," Mozambican Prime Minister Aires Bonifacio Ali told Japanese and Brazilian officials in April.
JICA plans to present both its experience in development of "cerrados"--tropical savannas that stretch over vast areas in central Brazil--and the project in Mozambique during a Rio+20 seminar to be held on June 22.
In Mozambique, 60 percent of the population lives in "absolute poverty," or on less than $1.25 a day.
The farming development program, which started in 2011 under a triangular cooperation framework, targets an area in the north of the country called the Nacala Corridor. The JICA projects there will be 7 million hectares of farmland, capable of producing 30 million tons of soybeans, corn and other crops in 2030.
That project was modeled after a similar agricultural development program in the Brazilian cerrados.
Over 22 years from 1979, Japan spent 27.9 billion yen in ODA in the cerrados to develop a total of 345,000 hectares of farmland. Brazil used that to blossom into one of the world's largest farming powers.
Today, the Embrapa Cerrados institute of the Brazilian Agricultural Research Corp. grows a variety of farm products--soybeans, rice, tomatoes and lettuce to name a few--on an experimental basis on its vast campus outside Brasilia.
The vast cerrados in central Brazil are located at about the same latitudes as Mozambique, where tropical savannas account for about 70 percent of the landmass.
"The climate and soil of Mozambique is very similar to those in the cerrados," said Jose Roberto Rodrigues Peres, the director-general of Embrapa Cerrados. "We have soil amendment technologies, so we could take any of our farm products to Mozambique."
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