Headliners: Feed the world

Both Israel’s vibrant democracy and her life-saving technological know-how will continue to flourish. In an unstable neighborhood, Israel’s future depends on it.

By MARCUS SHEFF
December 8, 2011 23:06
3 minute read.
AN ISRAELI aid worker speaks to a Somalian woman i

israid kenya 311. (photo credit: Mickey Alon)

So much attention in the past couple of weeks has been focused on Israeli legislative proposals (which Israel’s vibrant, unfettered and cacophonously vocal civil society is more than capable of grappling with) that many missed an event thousands of kilometers away from debates in Knesset.

Ron Prosor, Israel’s relatively new ambassador to the United Nations, achieved a rare victory in the General Assembly that momentarily deviated from that body’s traditional single- minded obsession with Israel as an international punch-bag.

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Clearly not dispirited from spending the previous four years as ambassador to the UK, a job that would send most of us reaching for the 12-year-old Scotch, he secured the backing of 133 of the UN’s 193 member nations in support of an Israel-drafted resolution that will make farming technology more accessible to developing nations in Africa.

With 75 percent of the world’s population living in poverty and more than two billion people facing water scarcity, you would have thought unanimous support for such a motion would be a no-brainer. But Arab nations – led, sadly, by the representative of the new government of Iraq – encouraged a 35-country coalition to abstain, despite the fact that many of the abstainers are precisely the countries that would benefit from the proposal that aims to empower women in rural areas, promote food security and farmer education, and slow down the effects of climate change.

In all likelihood, European and American international development and aid budgets will be put on the chopping block due to the deepening economic crisis. Global food prices have soared as all of us doing the weekly shop know too well, but imagine the ramifications for millions of the world’s poorest people who are now also facing the fallout of a worldwide recession that could not have come at a worse time. And a cruel famine affecting up to 12 million people once again threatens to destroy lives in the developing world – this time in the Horn of Africa.

Israeli technologies lead the world in agriculture, desalination, water management and waste-water purification.

Israel’s agro technological expertise has been deployed in some of the world’s harshest conditions, helping millions of people. Now the need is more urgent than ever.

For decades, Israeli agronomists have been sharing their expertise with some of the poorest regions on earth, aiming to create sustainable self-sufficiency in food and fresh water supplies. You’ll find these extraordinary Israeli men and women in more than 30 African nations, often through MASHAV, the superb international development program based at the Foreign Ministry. They are eradicating pests in Cameroon that destroy crops and leave people hungry, increasing milk yields in desperately poor Ethiopia and wrapping grain in special plastic containers in Kenya to preserve the harvest.

They are persuading young Africans to stay in rural areas rather than join the migration to the cities, and to become effective farmers and entrepreneurs. These young Africans will in turn be feeding their families and their communities.

Food security is an impending crisis in world diplomacy.

Israeli agricultural and water technology have already helped to feed millions of people. Indeed, Israeli experts are committed to standing at the forefront of helping the world’s developing nations meet this urgent new challenge.

It is Israel’s freedom of thought, expression and scholarship that helped create these technological breakthroughs and brought food and clean water to the poorest tables in the world. Innovation is as much part of Israel’s DNA as her civil freedoms.

Both Israel’s vibrant democracy and her life-saving technological know-how will continue to flourish. In an unstable neighborhood, Israel’s future depends on it.

The writer is the executive director of The Israel Project’s Israel office.


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