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Desert agriculture can be the answer to food security

As climate change continues to impact agriculture worldwide, a conference aimed at advancing technological cooperation in agriculture and water was held in Tel Aviv with senior government representatives from Israel and Africa along with investors from the UAE and Israeli agricultural technology companies

AdobeStock 20848725About 30% of the world’s arable land is in Africa. (Image source: Adobe Stock)

IMPROVATE Agriculture and Water discussed the challenges facing the UAE and African nations in ensuring food security in the face of adverse climate conditions, and the opportunities for Israeli companies in these countries.

IMPROVATE founder and chair Irina Nevzlin said the Abraham Accords, as well as bringing big changes in the Middle East and strengthening relationships, had brought about an opportunity for countries to cooperate and exchange knowledge and expertise. “As Israel’s landscape is very similar to that of the UAE, including the desert areas, the innovative methods developed for agricultural technology in Israel can be a valuable asset and focal point for partnering with the UAE and other Middle East countries.”

Alon Schuster, minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, said Israel’s desert climate and limited natural resources had led it to develop advanced agricultural technologies that today are at the forefront of global development. “The Israeli agricultural sector offers agricultural technologies to increase efficiency and yields, while generating maximum returns in all fields of agriculture, in challenging climate and soil conditions... The fruitful collaboration will enable us to share our experiences with our partners to a desert climate and a reality of increasing desertification, and to learn together and share our knowledge and experience to create more efficient and sustainable agriculture that will ensure global food security.”

MK Yair Lapid, Yesh Atid chairman and leader of the opposition, addressed the global coronavirus crisis. “When the pandemic is finally over, we will be left with the global economic crisis. The solution to that crisis will be twofold: Technology and cooperation. The countries that innovate, that upgrade, that look forward, and that work together, will surge ahead. Israel is one of those countries, and so is the UAE.”

MK Ram Ben Barak, former Mossad deputy director, said the world needs to look ahead and understand that in some 35 years’ time its current population will double and there is an urgent need to make plans to feed those people. “We need to support agriculture, we need to develop new technologies to get more out of one acre than we do today, and we need to develop the use of water because in the future there could be a day when there is not enough food in the world.”

Senior UAE officials, bankers and investors who participated in the conference said Israeli technologies had much to offer Gulf nations as they seek to increase local food production and ensure food security.

Rahul Kale, founder and CEO, Sunpower Renewables, said urban and vertical farming would play a huge role in making sustainable communities a reality. “With solar storage becoming commercially viable, you can have vertical farming 24/7. I think the advent of solar storage will see a huge uptake in vertical greenery. Our products can add a lot of value to this industry.”

Ronit Hasin-Hochman, IMPROVATE CEO, stated, “Israeli water management and agricultural technologies can provide outstanding solutions for countries around the world. We are very pleased that recent peace agreements enable us to facilitate collaborations across countries and continents.”

Attending the conference from Africa were Joseph Antoine Kasonga Mukuta, Minister of Agriculture from The Democratic Republic of Congo; Dr Deo-Guide Rurema, Minister of Agriculture, Livestock and Environment of Burundi; Hadija Jabiri, the Founder and managing director of GBRI business solutions, EATFRESH from Tanzania; Tom Sillayo, General Manager of Faida Market Link Company, also from Tanzania; Lazare Ossende-Essanga, Director of Partnerships Promotion and Rural Entrepreneurship at the Gabon National Agricultural Development Agency.

Speaking from the studio in Tel Aviv, Job Masima, ambassador of Tanzania to Israel, called on Israeli companies to come to Africa, noting that the continent has a rapidly growing population, is more stable politically than in the past, and that its economy is on the rise, with five out of 10 of the world’s fastest-growing economies located in Africa. “Once you come to Africa, you are coming to a vast land that is like all of China, all of the US and all of Europe, so this is where you should be looking. About 30% of the world’s arable land is in Africa. With this arable land, we are capable of feeding nine billion people. Africa is the future global powerhouse, come to Africa.”

Among the companies presenting at the conference was Netafim, which for more than 50 years has been a global leader in the advanced agriculture sector, and provides innovative agriculture solutions to millions of farmers, focusing on maximising yields while saving on water and resources.

Agricultural technology and research companies presenting at the conference:

SupPlant is an Israeli Ag-Tech company that translates plants into actionable insights to assist farmers around the world in making the best use of resources, increasing yields and saving water in an unpredictable climate reality.

GES is a veteran player in the water and wastewater treatment market. In its 31 years of activity, GES has completed more than 300 projects in Israel and abroad.

NRGene is a software company, using artificial intelligence to analyse genomic big data, to optimise and accelerate the natural breeding of plants and animals used for agricultural uses.

AlgaHealth is an Israeli biotech company pioneering the development of smart, cost-effective applications of microalgae.

WFI Group transforms water challenges into opportunities, via fresh thinking, breakthrough technologies, profound know-how and a dedicated caring team of water experts. Promoting the circular economy and creating financial and environmental value from water, and shifting from savings to growth.

Ramat Negev Desert Agro Research Center is an Agricultural research and development centre, specialising in agriculture under desert conditions for more than 60 years, in the Ramat Hanegev Regional Council.