Israel has not been the only country to benefit from its advanced agriculture. From the jungles of South America to the deserts of Africa, Israel has shared its experience and expertise in farming, water management, climate change mitigation and more.
With the adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the global community has set out to end hunger and eradicate poverty in all its forms and dimensions. Agricultural development, food security and nutrition lie at the heart of this ambitious quest. Yet, as we sit here, 842 million people, one out of every eight people around the globe, don’t know where their next meal will come from.
Climate change, drought, and desertification are among the formidable challenges to the productivity of our farms and the maintenance of our food sources. It is particularly important to improve the productivity levels and the adaptability and resilience of smallholder farmers because smallholder farmers are responsible for most of the global agricultural production.
Yet, most smallholder farmers never increase their agricultural output beyond subsistence level. This is largely due to the fact that smallholder farmers typically lack access to credit and receive little technical support. They must instead rely on traditional labor-intensive, low productivity agricultural methods to produce food. Add to this a lack of access to training and education, and most smallholder farmer simply lack the knowledge and techniques needed to maximize their yields and raise incomes.
The development of sustainable agricultural food systems and the empowerment of smallholder farmers are a few of the crucial steps we must take towards ending hunger and ensuring food and nutritional security.
Israel is no stranger to this struggle. During its early years, the primary challenge Israel faced was the development of a strong and sustainable agricultural infrastructure. Over the last 6 decades, Israel has transformed its food system from a small-scale, subsistence agriculture system characterized by food insecurity and scarcity, into a global powerhouse of agriculture technology and innovation. Israel knows very well how to maximise its agricultural productivity in a sustainable manner.
Over the past 25 years, Israel’s agricultural output has increased sevenfold with very little increase in water consumption, despite its dry climate and arid lands. In fact, Israel now grows more than 40% of the country’s vegetables and field crops in the desert.
Israel has not been the only country to benefit from its advanced agricultural infrastructure. From the jungles of South America to the deserts of Africa, Israel has shared its experience and expertise in farming, water management and desalination, climate change mitigation and more.
MASHAV – Israel’s Agency for International Development Cooperation – has sent scientists, engineers, and teachers all over the world to impart their knowhow. Much of this knowledge-sharing has been done with the use of a ‘Train the Trainers’ capacity building approach, helping local participants to become agents of change in their own countries. One example is the agribusiness training program, which starts from childhood and runs through to adulthood, with a special focus on developing support systems for women entrepreneurs.
The focus on the young is key because the earlier and more widespread the exposure to innovation and capacity building, the more likely people are to develop the key competencies – creativity, initiative, inventiveness and strategic thinking – necessary to adapt and thrive in our changing world.
I have seen with my own eyes the benefits such programs can yield. From 2007 to 2012, I had the honor and privilege to serve as Israel’s Ambassador to the Republic of Ecuador; a beautiful country with hardworking people, famous for its exotic fruits and vegetables. During my five years in Quito, I helped to facilitate the cross-fertilization of Israeli innovation with Ecuadorian cultivation. Israeli desalination technology is changing the landscape of the country by generating fresh water to be channeled to the arid regions of the country.
Local farmers on the coast of Ecuador have adapted a new variety of banana, developed in Kibbutz Rosh Hanikra in northern Israel. This modified banana is free of Sigatoka, a disease which damages crop production, and the banana’s optimized size allows for increased crop yields. These remarkable achievements are being replicated in countries across Latin America, Africa and Asia.
Our resolve to overcome poverty and hunger must be met by a joint effort. Only a robust and resolute response can prevent a future of famine and scarcity. We must seek enhanced coordination and effective cooperation between all stakeholders in order to ensure that no child remains hungry and that no mother has to struggle to feed her family.
We look forward to the promise of a future in which every person has reliable access to safe and nutritious food, each country has a sustainable means of agriculture, and in which the plight of hunger is a distant memory.