Israel hosted a group of African agricultural experts, some of whom have no diplomatic relations with Israel, to help combat desertification and drought in the Sahara region.
The delegation, through Israel’s DeserTech program, was in the country last week and aimed to gain tools to assist in developing what is known as the “Great Green Wall,” a pan-African initiative designed by the UN. The 8,000-km. “wall” is meant to span 11 countries and include planting new trees to restore more than 100 million hectares of degraded land.
"DeserTech promotes the development, adaptation and commercialization of technologies that enable sustainable living in arid climates while simultaneously turning Beersheva and the Negev region into a global entrepreneurial hub for these technologies," its website describes.
It is a joint initiative of the Merage Foundation Israel, the Israel Innovation Institute, the Environmental Protection Ministry and Ben-Gurion University of the Negev. The Foreign Ministry made the connection between DeserTech and the UN initiative.
“Desertification and climate change pose a danger to many countries. Israel is fighting this threat at home and is providing its experience and capabilities to benefit Africa,” Foreign Minister Eli Cohen said. “We will continue to deepen and strengthen our ties with countries that want to do so for prosperity and to build stability in the region.”
Agricultural challenges in Israel met with creative solutions
The delegation was invited to Israel to receive assistance in identifying and mapping the challenges in their region, as well as in finding solutions that combine Israeli knowledge and technologies, which have proven successful in the past in the fight against desertification in Israel.
“The emissaries of the Foreign Ministry work tirelessly to identify opportunities and create connections,” added Yael Ravia-Zadok, deputy director-general and head of the Economic Diplomacy Division at the ministry. She said Israel “makes a significant contribution to dealing with the climate crisis on the continent, promotes Israeli companies and is highly regarded both in African countries and the international arena.”
A release explained that among the prominent participants was the niece of Chad’s foreign minister. Last year, Israel restored full diplomatic relations with Chad. Other representatives came from Djibouti, Niger, Burkina Faso, Mali, Mauritania, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Senegal and more.
Israel has diplomatic relations with more than 40 sub-Saharan African states. In 2021, the African Union granted Israel observer status. But in recent months, some members have called its position into question.
The Great Green Wall initiative was launched at COP27 in Egypt last year. COP28 will be held in the UAE in 2023.