Jewish State's commitment to blooming the desert and greening the earth does not restrict itself to the Negev Desert or the Valley of Jezreel, today it extends to the Thar Desert, Gangetic Plains and Wetlands of Bengal. With a new agreement, India and Israel have decided to strengthen and expand their existing agriculture cooperation – making it Israel's largest agriculture project abroad.
On September 24, 2015 the 3rd phase of Indo-Israel Agricultural Project (IIP) was launched, aimed at strengthening bilateral cooperation in the field of agriculture. The project was flagged off at a signing ceremony in New Delhi.
The first phase of the agriculture project (IIP) started in 2008 when both countries agreed to implement a 3-year Action Plan. Later, the agreement was extended up to 2015. Under this agreement Israel aims to set up several Centres of Excellence (CoEs) in the field of agriculture across India. These centres would act as platforms for transfer of technology to the local farmers aimed at increasing agriculture productivity and improving the quality of farm produce. Today, 26 such agriculture technology centres are operating in 9 different states across India.
The implementing agencies for the nation-wide project are; MIDH (Mission for Integrated Development of Horticulture) under the India’s Ministry of Agriculture, and MASHAV, Israel’s Agency for International Development Cooperation under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. India has federal structure of governance and individual states also play an important role in initiating and implementing such joint projects.
Making agriculture profitable to farmers is a matter of great importance to India. Farmers in India are yet to benefit from the technological advancements shaping country's services and manufacturing sector. Agriculture employs roughly 50 percent of country's labour force but contributes only up to 16 percent of the GDP. Introduction of betters crop varieties and advanced farming techniques have a potential of transforming the lives of rural communities across India.
Emphasizing the importance of bilateral cooperation in agriculture, Israel's envoy to India Ambassador Daniel Carmon said, "Agriculture is one of the main pillars of Israel-India relations and we are about to enter the 3rd phase of this agreement that will expand our cooperation even further. We are working with India in Agriculture since 2006 when both countries signed a cooperation agreement that today includes 26 centres in 9 states, with full partnership between MIDH and MASHAV, Israel's Agency for International Development Cooperation. The aim of Indo-Israel Centres of Excellence, spread all over India, is to ensure food security- increase productivity and improve the quality of produce."
Israel's expertise in water resource management and cultivation of arid land can be crucial in helping India ensure food security for more than 1.2 billion people. India has not only adopted Israeli technologies like drip-irrigation but successfully introduced new crops with the help of Israeli experts to the region, such as olive plantation in Rajasthan’s Thar Desert.
A promotional film ‘IIP Movie - A Growing Partnership’ was launched by the Embassy of Israel in New Delhi to mark the 3rd phase of bilateral agriculture project. The movie would be circulated to all Centres of Excellence (CoEs) and shown to farmers across India.
[The author is an Indian Journalist based in Germany]