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Many countries view Israel as a professional authority on central ecological issues, of which the primary ones are combating desertification and forest development. One only has to listen to the experts who gathered in Israel for an international seminar on combating desertification and Afforestation in arid zones to comprehend the degree of success Israel has had in this field and the true needs of the numerous countries that are struggling with desertification.
A special seminar with forestry experts from all over the world aimed at sharing accumulated knowledge about the battle against desertification ended several days ago. The seminar was initiated by MASHAV - the Foreign Ministry's Department of International Cooperation, together with KKL-JNF and the Center for International Cooperation of the Ministry of Agriculture, SINDECO.
The course offered participants a broader outlook on the land-water-forest triangle in the Middle East for the first time, with emphasis placed upon arid and semi-arid zones.
The seminar was a continuation of a workshop conducted by KKL-JNF on biological control of the eucalyptus wasp, whose participants have already begun applying what they learned in their respective countries and publicizing the results in the local press. As the representative from India noted in his letter:
"I am grateful to you for organizing the training of DR Shylesha and also for sending the parasitoids of Leptocybe. They have emerged and are being cultured. About 62 Quadrastichus, 12 Megastigmus and only one Selitrichodes (male) have emerged. On the 8th of this month we had an awareness workshop. R.J.RABINDRA, DIRECTOR P.D.B.C.BANGALORE
David Brand, head of the Forestry and Development Department for KKL-JNF, explained, "The participants in the present seminar took part in three concentrated days of lectures about the practical aspects of managing open areas, ranging from methods of establishing forests, collecting and germinating seeds, and managing nurseries, to utilization of the forest for production of byproducts that are not wood products such as the honey industry or ecological tourism."
The participants, who all held central positions in the Ministry of Agriculture in their respective countries, were amazed. In countries such as Kenya, Ethiopia, Ghana, China, Nigeria and Burkina Faso the triangle of research, advising, and field work does not exist as it does in Israel. As a result, these countries have difficulty managing an overall environmental development system, and the efforts of one factor to deal with basic issues such as providing fuel for home use or modern agricultural development fail or yield only limited results.
"We never thought about the problems through basic aspects such as those that exist in Israel," admitted one of the Ethiopian representatives, Atu Fecado during his final presentation of the seminar from the Ethiopian standpoint. "We felt that an annual rainfall of 600 millimeters was the minimum that is required for afforestation and for expanding forested areas. We were therefore amazed at what we saw here in Israel, particularly in the Negev where there are forests growing under conditions of only 200 millimeters of annual rainfall."
Like his fellow participants, the Ethiopian representative talked about the main issues with which residents of Ethiopia are dealing with, including lack of interest in ecology and preservation on the part of the government and massive burning of forests for the purpose of preparing new agricultural land for growing food and the significant increase in the use of wood for producing energy. "In Ethiopia there is no connection between research and the government as there is in Israel. As a result there is a lack of organizational stability, a flawed planting policy. No technological alternatives are being developed and there is no reliable institutionalization of information. The main lesson we have learned in Israel is that we must create a common obligation on the part of all professionals in Ethiopia to implement change. Without common obligation we will not be able to pool our resources or essential information."
In Nigeria, for example, people have already asked for the help of KKL-JNF in undertaking an ambitious project for halting the advancement of desert sand that is threatening the country from the north by introducing a green belt of trees that will extend for 1500 kilometers along Nigeria's border. This will be done in an effort to halt the constant intrusion of sand dunes from the Sahara. Christopher Enaboifo, Vice President of the Desert Branch of the Ministry of Ecology in Nigeria, explained that the dunes are advancing into Nigerian territory at a rate of up to 15 meters a day. Residents in the north of the country have been forced to abandon their land and villages that have been "conquered" by the sand. "We will be happy to receive any knowledge and help from Israel in order to apply methods to halt the advancement of the dunes," said the Nigerian delegate.
The three representatives from China are all experts in the area of combating desertification in the Chinese Ministry of Forestry. They were particularly impressed with Israel's cooperation with the communities living in arid areas in all matters connected with combating desertification and in initiating regional projects for that purpose. 27% of the area of China is desert. The Chinese view community planning in the rural areas in western China as essential in fighting the desert. The Chinese do not see how the central government in China can offer an efficient solution to combating desertification without the cooperation of the residents themselves.
During the seminar, before the participants joined the international conference on combating desertification at Ben Gurion University at Sde Boker College, the participants listened to lectures given by KKL-JNF experts on afforestation and the combating desertification. Among the lecturers was Dr. Omri Boneh, head of the KKL-JNF Northern Region and the person responsible for the international contacts in science and research for KKL-JNF. Dr. Boneh also participated in the summary meeting of the seminar during which the delegates from each of the participating countries presented the main lessons that they had derived and were taking home with them. In answer to numerous requests to hold additional study conventions in Israel in the future and to expand the range of participants, Boneh replied that the most important result of the seminar is the push for adopting new methods of action in the various countries, while each country will need to apply these methods according to their particular conditions. "Because of this we should assess if it is not more appropriate and efficient to continue cooperation through suitable advising that will be given by Israeli experts in your countries after they learn the unique conditions of each country and area."
At the end of the convention at Sde Boker the participants were invited to plant trees in the area of the KKL-JNF HaRoah recreation area near Sde Boker. The trees planted were all two to three years old, which will make it easier for them to establish themselves in the desert.
During the festive conclusion events held by the Department of International Cooperation, SINDICO, and KKL-JNF in Tel Aviv, participants received a certificate of membership in the International club of graduates of professional courses held by the Foreign Ministry within the framework of International aid.
As did other participants, the Ghana representative, Paul Ntaanu wore traditional national attire, and expressed thanks on the part of the participants for the unique professional and human experience of the seminar. He asked that all the participants remain in contact professionally with each other in order to foster their activities.
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