Israel Cultivates Desert Agriculture



There’s a prevailing thought that says that it’s hard to establish agriculture in the desert. But that’s not necessarily so as our Israeli correspondent discovers in a visit to Southern Israel.

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When mentioning the desert, one thinks of dryness, heat and desolation.

But it turns out that the desert can bloom, be full of life, and yield harvests of fine fruits and vegetables.

[ Raz Arbel, Director, Ramat Negev Tours]:
«Actually if you think about desert as desert, you probably think there is no water, but we find a huge aquifer under the desert which allowed us to use it and actually we can pump it out and make the desert bloom or green with a lot of agriculture.»

It turns out the desert climate is good for agriculture, thanks to the ground water under the sand dunes.

[Raz Arbel, Director, Ramat Negev Tours]:
«It’s possible to do a lot of agriculture in the desert, because few reasons. First, we have the perfect weather for agriculture. We can grow vegetables in the winter, which is really hard to do in the center or the north of Israel. Second, we have the experience and the brackish water that will allow us to that in easy way. So, agriculture in the desert it’s not opposite, it’s really combined together very well.»

Although the groundwater is somewhat salty, it turns out that this saltiness actually improves the fruit.

[Raz Arbel, Director, Ramat Negev Tours]:
«As much more the saltiness, the brackish water we’re digging from the aquifer are more as much as more salt, We can produce sweeter and better vegetables.»

Arbel explains the phenomenon in which a plant in stress gives a sweeter fruit.

[Raz Arbel, Director, Ramat Negev Tours]:
«What’s happen when you irrigate the fruits or the vegetables with brackish water, the plant is in a very stress, he’s suffering and he’s producing less leaves and more fruits, smaller fruits, with less water inside and a lot of meat, what we call, and actually that makes it three times sweeter than usual vegetables.»

The Negev area covers 13,000 square kilometers — about 60 percent of Israel. The question is, if there is water and agriculture, which means there is employment — why do only 600,000 people live in the Negev?

[Raz Arbel, Director, Ramat Negev Tours]:
«A lot of people think the desert is hot, which is not right, we are suffering from cold here more than hot. A lot of people don’t know the Negev and because they don’t know the Negev, they that it’s not really a place they will consider to live in, but I think this perception is changing in the last few years.»

And on this note we say goodbye to this blooming and beautiful area in southern Israel.

Reporter:Israela Yablonka Photographer:Anat Markram
NTD News, Israel

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