"We cannot perform miracles like they do in Israel, so we will have to limit our focus to describing our problems." This was the response of one of the speakers at the recent Desertification Conference in Bahia Blanca, Argentina, to the presentations of Mr. Yossi Schreiber of KKL-JNF's Northern Region and Mr. Itzhak Moshe of KKL-JNF's Southern Region, keynote speakers at the conference. The conference, the first of its kind in Argentina, was attended by 400 participants from Argentina and abroad. Mr. Moshe is a geologist and expert in land conservation, while Mr. Schreiber is a hydrologist. The two KKL-JNF experts were invited by Argentina's Provisional Agency for Sustainable Development to share their knowledge on innovative water projects and combating desertification.
Israel has been dealing with desertification and water scarcity for the past few decades, and KKL-JNF has acquired a great amount of experience with these issues. These problems are universal and are faced by other countries around the world, including Argentina. As Mr. Schreiber said, "the water problem requires urgent solutions. We must change consumption patterns and generate new sources of water for the near future.This is KKL-JNF's focus in Israel." In relation to desertification, Mr. Moshe said that it was caused by human beings and their interaction with the environment: "We have no problem with the desert, which is beautiful and majestic. Our struggle is against desertification. KKL-JNF has carried out many initiatives in Israel, which have led to positive change on the ground. We have transformed desert habitats into cultivated fields and forests, thereby improving the quality of people's lives."
As a result of the conference, a number of joint projects with various Argentinean provinces in the fields of water, land and desertification are being looked into, with the help of Mr. Ariel Krengel, the Executive Director of KKL-JNF Argentina. Both professional and political offices expressed their desire to benefit from KKL-JNF's knowledge and expertise in order to promote initiatives in their regions, and agreements were signed for cooperation in these fields between KKL-JNF a number of provinces.
In addition to lecturing at the conference, the two KKL-JNF experts visited three provinces: Tucuman, Cordoba and San Juan. In Tucuman, where they discussed the environmental situation in the province, they were the guests of the Ministry of Agriculture. In Cordoba, they were received by Mr. Carlos Guiterrez, the Minister of Agriculture, who will soon be reciprocating by a visit to Israel. A Letter of Intent regarding future joint activities of KKL-JNF and the Cordoba Province was signed by the KKL-JNF representatives and Governor Schiaretti of Cordoba, along with the Minister of Agriculture.
Two weeks before the visit to San Juan, Mr. José Gioja, the governor of
the province, signed an agreement for joint environmental projects with
KKL-JNF Argentina in Buenos Aires. In San Juan, the KKL-JNF experts
visited various regions, where they looked into problems of irrigation,
water loss and soil erosion, in order to diagnose the situation and
plan a feasibility study. They were accompanied by Mr. Adolfo Filarent,
the President of KKL Argentina, and Mr. Ariel Krengel.
Summing up the visit, Yossi Schreiber and Itzik Moshe said that this
was a "win-win" situation as to the needs of the Argentinean provinces
regarding water projects and land conservation, and KKL-JNF's proven
abilities to provide solutions for these problems. In the first stage,
focus will be on planning and promoting the projects, which will be
carried out by the provinces themselves, in order to provide sources of
employment for local workers. The very successful trip and the
agreements were widely publicized and are a source of pride for the
local Jewish community.