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Agriculture of Israel

The agriculture advanced like an instrument against the desertification

The desertification affects the arid regions along the whole world, causing the misery to populations of vast areas and threatening them with the famine. Revertir the process for which the desert invades the cultivable grounds turning them in desolated barren is one of the most important challenges that there confront the communities and nations of the arid regions. 
The clash with the problems caused by the desertification needs enormous efforts. An essential previous requisite for the success is a leadership that devotes itself and that is conscious of the problems and ready to assign the financial resources necessary for the introduction of methods agrotecnológicos effective - and provided with big perseverance. 

From the beginning themselves of the modern Israel, the establishment of the desert and his transformation in agricultural land has been considered to be a matter of national priority. First across the effort and then by means of the investigation and the development, the obtained agricultural skill was incorporated into the practice and it happened to be a very useful instrument in the conversion of the desert in productive and habitable ground. 

The principal transition of a traditional agriculture to one of advanced post was based, from a beginning, on the change of the attitudes with regard to the supplying of the water to the arid regions, combined with a suitable adaptation and implementation of advanced agricultural methods and of the piled up experience. 

The crucial function of the supplying of the water for agricultural ends in the arid and semiarid regions of Israel will be studied in detail. 


Although the state of Israel borders on the Mediterranean Sea, his climate turns out to be affected deeply for the proximity of vast extensions of desert in the south area and the East. The rain precipitation limits itself to the winter, which spreads essentially from November until March. The annual average of rain precipitations changes from 800 to 400 mm. in the north and west of the country and it descends in abrupt form towards the south and the East, becoming almost nonexistent. That's why, most of the surface of Israel is characterized for belonging to the semiarid and arid conditions. About 0 % of the country is classified as arid and needs irrigation during the whole year to preserve his agriculture, and even when the precipitation is relatively high - in the parts a north and west - the summer harvests need of irrigation between April and October. The most arid areas are characterized by a strong solar radiation and of a high level of evaporation of the water in the surface of the ground. 

In the whole country, but especially in the regions south and this, the annual precipitations change greatly from one year to other. Under climatic conditions of this type, the picture of the supplying of the water is of a fragile balance between the supplying and the demand. 

The agriculture under arid conditions, A historical perspective

The Néguev before 1948

Until 1948, year of the establishment of the State of Israel, the south part of the country, called the Néguev, nómades was inhabited principally by Bedouin tribes. The Bedouins, who in that epoch were approximately 65.000 souls, were spread along an area of about 10.000 km 2, were surviving principally of the baby of sheep, goats and camels. The Bedouin tribes were moving in periodic form in search of grasslands and water. Depending absolutely on the rains and floods of period, generally they were lacking food for them and for his herds. 

In some areas - principally the north Néguev and the western one - Bedouins semi nómades susbsistían of an agriculture based completely on the erratic rains. The cultivation was principally the barley and the wheat, and the agriculture was limiting itself to the winter sports resort and the spring beginning. The drought and the defeat of the harvests were made frequent. 

An additional type of agriculture practised by the Bedouins in very small scale was based on the stones dams constructed by the ancient nabateos and the Byzantine empire. The above mentioned dams complemented by simple barriers of mud, were used to join the water of the floods and to support the humid soil. Down these conditions could plant some types of fruit-bearing, such trees as the vine, the pomegranate tree and the almond tree, and cultivate vegetables during the summer.

The first modern agricultural establishments in the Néguev

The officials of the Ottoman empire, which applied on Palestine until 1917, and later the authorities of the British Order, considered the Néguev to be as an inhospitable territory which principal importance was strategic and political. Therefore, little efforts were invested in the development of the region and the progress of the living conditions of his inhabitants. 

The Jewish community, on the other hand, demonstrated particular interest in the vast uninhabited extensions of the Néguev from the beginning itself of the company of agricultural establishments at the end of the XIXth century. In the 20s there was carried out small number of studies that were aiming towards a pessimistic conclusion - at the rains scarcity, the absence of water sources in the place and the unfertile soil they were preventing a successful agriculture. Even more, the existing agricultural technologies in this epoch were not offering ways of overcoming the local environmental limitations. There is not doubt that the first investigators were influenced by the limited agriculture that the Bedouins were practising, based on the rain. 

Later it stayed in clear that the establishment of small communities for the study of the local conditions was essential for the planning of a future establishment in the Néguev. In 1943 three experimental establishments were established there, to only 30 kilometers of distance one of other. The principal target was to study the conditions of the soil, the disposition of the water (including information on the annual precipitation) and the type of harvests that might be cultivated in the existing conditions. Eleven additional establishments were established in the Néguev in 1946, equipped and financed by the Jewish national institutions and other five, were founded in 1947. 

From the beginning itself of this pioneering company, it stayed in clear that from the agricultural point of view the principal factor limitante was the scarcity of the water. The recognition of which the establishment of an agriculture modern and economically viable, based on the irrigation, it was demanding a sure water supplying, what in turn was demanding a series of studies. These included meteorological, geologic investigations and hidrológicas. One began to perforate wells and pump groundwaters; nevertheless, the obtained quantities were enough kidlings and the salinity of the water was in general too high for the agricultural use. The attempts of constructing dams and deposits to join the water of the rises of station failed due to the big fluctuations of year in year in the quantity and intensity of the rises, and for technical difficulties. Possibly it went over to the conclusion that the only way of assuring a sure and sufficiently big water supply for the agriculture was the transport of the water by means of tubes of the sources of the north. 

The first tubes, installed in 1947, he made sure a reliable water quantity, but limited to most of the establishments in the Néguev - although some of them had still to base on local wells. These tubes were transporting wells water in the north area of the Néguev. The first stage, installed and working in 1947, was consisting of 190 km of pipes 6 inches in diameter that were supplying a million cubic meters a year. Later these tubes were changed into diameter of pipes of 20 inches that were providing 30 million cubic meters a year. This pioneering company was continued by two projects in big scale that will be described further on. The importance of these pioneering tubes was the firm establishment of the concept of transporting water of the north to make bloom the arid south section of the country.

Agricultural establishments in the Néguev after 1949

Shortly after the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948 an immigrants' big influence came. A relatively big proportion of the newly arrived persons was directed to the new establishments, many of them in the south area of the country. The suitable supplying of the water was a previous condition to populate a region that was lacking enough water resources for the agricultural and domestic use. There was need, therefore, of a comprehensivo system for the supplying of the water. 

The first project in big scale constructed to provide the new settlers of a suitable system of supplying of the water was tubes 66 inches in diameter that was transporting water of the river Yarkón al Néguev along 130 km. The annual exit of these tubes was of approximately 100 millions of cubic meters. 

The second project in big scale was the National Aqueduct, the most ambitious project of supplying of the water up to the date, designed principally to transport water to the south region of the country from the Kinéret (Mar de Galilea) in the north. The plans were approved in 1956 and the aqueduct was completed and began to work in 1964. The aqueduct is a combination of underground tubes, open channels, intermediate deposits and tunnels that provide about 400 million cubic meters a year. The water of the Sea of Galilee, which is to approximately 200 meters under the sea level, is pumped to be raised to 02 m. on the sea level. From this height the water flows for gravity to the coastal region, where from it is pumped to the Néguev. Does the National Aqueduct work not only like the principal purveyor of the water, but also as desag? and for the surpluses of the water of the north in winter and at the beginning of spring, and like source for the spare of the underground aquifers in the coastal region. 

Resources and supplying of the water of Israel, Politics and handling

Since we have seen, the problem of a water supply adapted for the agriculture began to worry the leaders of the Jewish community long before the establishment of the State of Israel. Immediately after his establishment, the problem of the water received the highest priority. It was considered of urgency not only to plan and to carry out projects, and to assure the pertinent funds, but also to consolidate a legal frame that was regulating all the pertinent elements to the supplying of the water. In accordance with this, in 1959 the Knéset approved a comprehensiva water Law. The above mentioned law establishes that all the water resources in the state are of public ownership, subject to the control of the state, destined for the needs of his inhabitants and for the development of the country. Every person has right to obtain water and to use it, in accordance with the dispositions of the Law. Three central institutions were created by the Law - the council of the water, the commission of the water and the court for matters of the water. They are responsible for to carry out a politics comprehensiva and balanced for the production and the supplying of the water at national level. 

Handling of the water resources of Israel

The whole of the available water in Israel reaches an average of 2.000 million cubic meters a year. The principal consumers are the sectors farmer, the servant and the industrialist, constituting the agriculture between 0 and 72 % of the entire consumption of the water. 

About 90 % of the resources of the fresh water of the State of Israel has been incorporated into the only system that allows the implementation of a uniform national politics of production of the water and of regular supplying the consumers' different sectors (agriculture, servant and the industrialist). To preserve and to protect the water resources of Israel, exploited at present up to the limit, the authorities have adopted different measurements: 

Allocation of quotas of the water. Every sector receives an annual quota of the water. The allocation politics depends on the balance of the water, which can change from one year to other. 
Institution of variable price ranges in accordance with the sector. The individual consumer, is rural or urban, he pays a higher price for the emaciated water that is over the quota that has been assigned to him. 

Recycling of the served waters. Every time major quantities of the served waters have become an ecological threat making be in danger the underground aquifers and other sources of the fresh water. The pressing need to find alternative sources of supplying of the water, together with the critical condition of the ambience, they led the authorities to establishing the plant Shafdan, a project in big scale for the process of the served waters and producing purified water. The treated water is transferred to an aquifer in the outskirts. Two benefits result from this: a) the percolación of the water across the layers of the soil provides an additional purification phase and b) the aquifer serves like an underground deposit for the transferred water, preventing his loss for evaporation. The water is pumped when it is needed, in general in the summer. About 100 million cubic meters of this purified water are transported annually to Négue