Mashabbei Sade is a beautiful and lively kibbutz near the city of Beer Sheva. It belongs to the Regional Council of Ramat HaNegev, which consists of five kibbutzim, two moshavim and six communal settlements. The Kibbutz is characterized by green lawns and park-like areas. A few weeks ago I had a chance to visit the Kibbutz.
The kibbutz uses both treated sewage water and saline groundwater for irrigation. It also has one interesting, and very unique characteristic: part of the income comes from the fish farming.
Photo: KKL-JNF Photo Archive
The fishes are been cultivated in a reservoir lake that was originally built and funded by the Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael – the Jewish National Fund (KKL-JNF). Currently, there are over two hundred water reservoirs in Israel.
However, this specific reservoir in Mashabbei Sade gets its water from a deep underground aquifer consisting slightly saline fossil water. Most of the reservoirs in Israel collect runoff water and also store treated sewage water.
The reservoirs’ main and primary purpose is to increase the balance of water available for use. The reservoirs produce 260 million cubic meters of water annually, which is about half of the water consumed by agriculture in Israel (2010).
The idea of fish farming is not a new industry in Israel. For instance, the study of the Mediterranean Dead Sea Hydroelectric Project in the 1983 (Mediterranean Dead Sea Company) listed fish farming and marine agriculture as one of the future developments in the Negev.
In addition to this, there also used to be fish farming in Eilat near the Gulf of Aqaba. It seems that the dry desert area is highly suitable for marine agriculture due to the favourable climate and its distance and isolation from the major seas. This is because in the desert you can more easily control the conditions of the fish farming industry. Other benefits of marine agriculture are that it doesn’t require much land and it doesn’t consume much water.
I believe that in the future there is going to be more fish farming in the Negev as it provides a unique chance to develop the business opportunities. As the fish farming industry develops it will provide an opportunity to develop additional sources of income and new jobs.
Additionally, it has even been suggested the one should explore the feasibility of growing shrimps in the desert region for exports. Personally I find this quite interesting. Could anyone have believed a hundred years ago that one could grow fish or shrimps in the desert?
It is important to explore these alternative and prospective ways to sustainably develop the arid desert region, in order to provide more job opportunities. This is an excellent way to advance the economic structure in a land that has great potential.