Why the future of agriculture lies in Israel’s desert

Farmers in arid areas of India need no convincing that the climate is changing under their feet. Their income is drying up along with their groundwater wells, forcing many to give up farming.

An Israeli team from Tel Aviv University’s Nitsan Sustainable Development Lab, directed by Ram Fishman, an expert on smallholder farmers and climate change is looking to reverse this trend.

His team assesses agriculture, water and energy problems in rural Asia and Africa and finds Israeli technologies to solve them.

“Many farmers around the world look to Israel as a model of how to manage and flourish in conditions of water scarcity and a hotter, drier climate,” Fishman tells ISRAEL21c.

That’s true in both developed and developing economies. For example, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev’s Zuckerberg Institute for Water Research and Jacob Blaustein Institutes for Desert Research work with partners in several U.S. states on projects related to the changing conditions.

Fishman, however, sees the potential to make the greatest difference in developing countries. Millions of smallholder farmers in Africa and Asia serve enormous markets but don’t have the resources to buy and implement Israeli solutions as easily as do American and European farmers.

“In Africa and Asia, they see Israel as the source of solutions. Sometimes they have exaggerated notions of what Israel can do and how it manages without enough water. But even if blown a little out of proportion, there is a lot of truth in that notion,” Fishman says.
Since its founding in 1948, Israel has never stopped inventing agricultural technologies that greatly improve farming everywhere.

Continuing ag-tech innovation enables farmers to use water and fertilizer more efficiently, grow crops resistant to disease and drought, and harness data above and below ground to increase quality and quantity.

The article examines a number of initiatives brought about by Israel’s desert climate and now a major force for spreading efficient use of restricted water sources through the developing world.

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