Abdul Ghaffar Shar, a Pakistani doctoral student in China’s Northwest Agriculture and Forestry University (NWAFU), was busy helping his teachers harvest the wheat in the university’s experimental fields over the past few days.
Wearing a straw hat and gloves, Shar, 29, did farm work under the hot sun like local farmers in Yangling, northwest China’s Shaanxi province.
Yangling, an agricultural hi-tech industrial demonstration zone in China, is located about 80 km from the starting point of the ancient Silk Road in Xi’an, the provincial capital.
More than 2,000 years ago, Zhang Qian, an imperial envoy, set off from Xi’an and traveled westward on a mission of peace that opened the Silk Road, an overland route linking the East and West.
Although he knew little about Zhang, Shar said he also wants to be an “envoy” between China and Pakistan as the two countries deepen cooperation under the Belt and Road Initiative.
“I am studying plant nutrition science in China. I hope I can play a role in strengthening the agricultural technology exchange between the two countries under the initiative,” said Shar.
FIGHT AGAINST COVID-19
After receiving his bachelor’s degree in agriculture from Sindh Agriculture University in Pakistan in 2014, Shar decided to continue studies in China’s NWAFU.
A new journey started.
Shar learned to speak mandarin and use chopsticks. He also adapted to Chinese food. In order to make more friends, Shar let his teacher give him a Chinese name “Jin Letian”, which means “golden, happiness and sky.”
This winter vacation, Shar did not return to his hometown and spent most of the time on his research. However, the COVID-19 epidemic disrupted his plans.
According to local regulations on the prevention and control of COVID-19, Shar was required to stay in his dormitory in February. During the stay, teachers regularly delivered face masks, food, and other daily necessities to him.
“I think the restriction is necessary. Wearing facial masks, washing hands frequently, not panicking, and no gatherings are the experiences I cherished,” he said.
“I also shared my experiences with my family in Pakistan. In fact, the Chinese people’s sense of solidarity during the epidemic impressed me a lot,” Shar said.
EMBRACE BETTER LIFE
Shar is researching plant nutrition for his doctoral degree.
In Shar’s opinion, Pakistan is a traditional agricultural country and farmers use many chemical fertilizers in the fields, which has a negative impact on soil fertility and the environment.
“I study to improve soil fertility by adjusting trace elements of farmlands, which will help increase grain yields in my hometown,” he said.
In the past six years, Shar collected research samples extensively from all around the experiment stations in Shaanxi, which also gave him an opportunity to experience the development of China’s rural areas.
“A village that we frequented in Sanyuan County had new changes almost every year, like newly renovated houses and wider roads,” he said.
Besides the daily lessons, he also participated in local poverty alleviation programs.
Of the 253 foreign students in the university at present, 85 percent are from countries and regions along the Belt and Road, including 79 from Pakistan.
In December, Shar and other international students at the university became volunteer teachers in a primary school in Fang Town. He got the opportunity to teach online classes to his students during the epidemic.
The Belt and Road Initiative has brought the people of China and Pakistan closer, said Shar. He said after graduation, he would engage in trade in agricultural products between China and Pakistan.