Israel has always prided itself on its remarkable ability to make the desert bloom with agricultural expertise, innovative techniques and lots of ingenuity. With dry regions in Asia and Africa lacking water and rich soil for farming, agriculture students from these regions see Israel as a role model, and are turning to Israel for help.
On desert terrain in the heart of the Negev in southern Israel, the Arava International Center for Agricultural Training (ICAT) receives over 1,000 students from developing countries every year and instructs them in advanced agricultural techniques. ICAT operates in cooperation with the Jewish National Fund and Mashav, Israel’s official foreign aid agency.
Masahv Manager Gil Haskel stated: “We try to bring Israeli expertise to 140 different countries in the developing world. These students will form the backbone of agricultural industry in their countries, and by bringing the Israeli spirit to the agricultural sectors of their countries, this can really cause a revolution in the agricultural sector, worldwide.”
Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, East Timor, Indonesia, Nepal, Myanmar and Kenya are reaping the benefits from this exchange.
Director of Career Services at Nairobi University Johnson Ireri Kinyua explained why Kenyans are showing interest in Israeli agriculture: “Considering that Israel has made great strides in modern irrigation, drip irrigation and water management, in Kenya we felt that we have something to learn.”
Kenyan Ambassador to Israel Samuel Thuita added: “They are being taught how to be entrepreneurs they are taught how to be innovative and more important they are taught how to be free thinkers, and that’s what we’re looking for.”
The ICAT program combines classroom studies with practical lessons in the field. Participants from each country focus on the techniques that are relevant for the type of agriculture that is put into practice back home.
Dyuen, a student from Vietnam, enthused: “Drip irrigation, it is very famous, even in Vietnam. We have a lot of water but we need to save the water, because water has limits. And so I am really happy I know about this technique, and I will bring it home to Vietnam.”
Tin, a student from Myanmar, expressed practical concerns and has an optimistic outlook: “We can get fruit for only one month. It will be in the green house. Under the green house we can get more fruit and we can get more income.”
ICAT students will return to their homes enriched by the Israeli agriculture experience.