The World Food Program is teaming up with Israeli innovators to put an end to hunger in Africa.
World Food Program Executive Director Ertharin Cousin recently consulted with Israeli experts to address the challenges of world hunger.
Cousin approached Israel looking for state-of-the-art technologies and hoping to collaborate with the Jewish state in her mission: fighting hunger in Africa where droughts have further reduced the already meager food supply.
Cousin found an Israel that, through the work of Mashav, (the governmental agency supporting international development) is already an active partner with the World Food Program. The WFP is an international network dedicated to three basic projects: alleviating hunger in the horn of Africa, developing food production in the South Sudan, and promoting nutrition in Armenian schools.
While in Israel, Cousin attended the Presidential Conference, in addition to conferring with experts around the pressing issues of food security and development. Among those she met with were Israeli President Shimon Peres, Agriculture Minister Yair Shamir, and the head of Mashav, Ambassador Daniel Carmon. Cousin also toured the Volcani Institute, where she witnessed pioneering work on dry lands farming, and also addressed a group of activists and experts at Tel Aviv University.
Among the key topics on the table were helping small farmers in developing countries increase their yields and waste reduction since, according to Cousin, “one-third of food produced for human consumption is lost or wasted globally, so we are also interested in exploring the possibility of developing new ways to minimize post-harvest losses.”
One of Israel’s best known advances in the war against hunger is the revolutionary drip irrigation. The brain child of Israeli water engineer Simcha Blass, drip irrigation enables farmers to plant crops while using only a fraction of the water otherwise needed. Indeed, the Israeli water company Netafim won a prestigious Swedish award for innovations related to drip irrigation. And, say the experts, given that 60 percent of those struggling with hunger live in arid climates, technologies that reduce agricultural water consumption literally save lives.
An agricultural technique that helps developing countries is Techno-Agriculture Innovation for Poverty Alleviation, or TIPA. This technique invites some 100 farmers to unite as part of a cooperative, easing the challenges each farmer faces in managing his/her plot. After Israel introduced this technique in South Africa, the system enabled farmers who were otherwise dependent upon sporadic rainfall to plant crops four times per year. The results were dramatic: agricultural productivity increased 400 percent.
Gaining Israeli expertise on these and other challenges qualified Cousin’s visit as a great success, World Food Program officials report, adding that particularly Rwanda and South Sudan stand to benefit from such innovation, as well as Israel’s neighbors. Such Israeli help already has a history as South Sudan has received assistance from Israel on combating gender-based violence and Rwanda has gotten help from Israel related to solar energy.
These types of Israeli innovations are what brought Cousin to Israel in the first place. But the World Food Program isn’t the only international body asking for Israel’s expertise, innovation and help. The UN Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) is also looking to work together. Said its Director-General Jose Graziano da Silva: “This collaboration could contribute to the ongoing efforts to sustainably improve productivity of small-scale producers.”
By Rachel Avraham, staff writer for United with Israel