A West Bank agricultural development team is hoping to form a partnership with
Central and Northern Arava Research and Development by sending Palestinian
agricultural students to learn desert farming techniques from Israeli
Arava Research and Development, based at the arid Yair Research
Station near Hatzeva, which The Jerusalem Post toured on Tuesday, is an
agricultural hub for scientists and farming experts who experiment with
techniques to grow crops in extreme desert conditions.
Funded jointly by
the Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael-Jewish National Fund and the government, the
research unit explores methods to grow products in sandy and saline water
conditions, and contains a variety of produce in its greenhouses, including
sweet peppers, strawberries and ornamental fish.
The station also hosts
several hundred Asian agricultural university students for 10 months each year,
coming from Vietnam, Laos, Thailand and Myanmar, to partake in a work-study
program called Arava International Center for Agricultural Training.
the first time, a Palestinian group – which visited the facility on the same day
as the Post
– is requesting to give students this same type of learning
experience, according to Hanni Arnon, the program’s director.
trying to see how we can create a joint venture with these guys, in order to
send Palestinian students – in university or just finishing high school – to get
training here in the same way as Asian students,” said Ibrahim Barakat, member
of the board of directors of the Ramallah and Gaza based firm Harvest Export,
which provides Palestinian agricultural cooperatives and individual farmers with
the opportunities to export their produce.
Harvest Export is working in
conjunction with The Portland Trust, a British nonprofit for promoting peace
between Israelis and Palestinians, to seek out investors for such a program and
then attract and guide interested students, Barakat said.
introducing a new way of looking at agriculture – shying away from the normal
stuff that we produce,” said Hani Dajani, managing director of the al-Birehbased
By learning to employ some of the same techniques that
the Arava farmers use, Palestinian agriculturists in the Jordan Valley can learn
to expand their variety of produce and export their wares overseas, according to
The program would aim to give skills to smaller, individual
Palestinian farmers and then eventually open a facility parallel to that of Yair
in the Jordan Valley so that when students return from their Arava training,
they have a place to continue their research closer to home, Barakat
added. “I want to invest in young people,” he said.
and Development director Eilon Gadiel said he hoped that the partnership would
succeed, noting that while the climates of the Arava and the Jordan Valley are
not quite the same, many of the same farming skills apply to both
Not only would a joint program between Arava Research and
Development and a Palestinian cohort bring new agricultural expertise to the
West Bank, it could also foster a wave of better relations between two peoples,
both Barakat and Dajani stressed. An exchange of knowledge and communication
could only serve to benefit both populations, Gadiel agreed.
information between the two parties is healthy and can bring peace,” Barakat
Dajani added: “It’s trying to entice peace through economic
Arava Research and Development will be hosting an “Open
Day” agricultural exhibition for the general public at its Yair Station site
next Wednesday and Thursday, February 1-2.