Is there something Israeli agriculture can learn from Africa?

by Maskil on June 3, 2008

As a somewhat reluctant African, it never occurred to me that there might be something Israeli agriculture could learn from its African (in this case Kenyan) counterpart.

A news item on a local radio station caught my attention, however, and I followed up on the story later. According to what appears to be the source:

With the stringent EUREGAP conditions imposed by the European Union, an increasing number of smallholder farmers are turning to organic farming to secure markets for their fresh produce.

The push for organic farming is also being made locally by the growing number of Kenyans who are adopting healthy eating habits and demanding food with low chemical content.

That means demand for food with no additives and those grown with little or no inorganic farm inputs such a fertilisers, herbicides and insecticides is on the rise.

The term EUREGAP in the above quote should actually be EurepGAP. According to the EurepGAP website, the function and goals of the body are as follows (the GAP in EurepGAP refers to Good Agricultural Practices).

What is EurepGAP?

EurepGAP is a private sector body that sets voluntary standards for the certification of agricultural products around the globe.
EurepGAP is an equal partnership of agricultural producers and retailers which want to establish certification standards and procedures for Good Agricultural Practices (GAP).
EurepGAP is a pre-farm-gate-standard that means the certificate covers the process of the certified product from before the seed is planted until it leaves the farm. EurepGAP is a business-to-business label and is therefore not directly visible for the consumers.
EurepGAP is a set of normative documents. These documents cover the EurepGAP General Regulations, the EurepGAP Control Points and Compliance Criteria and the EurepGAP Checklist.

The Goals of EurepGAP

The EurepGAP standard is primarily designed to maintain consumer confidence in food quality and food safety. Other important goals are to minimize detrimental environmental impacts of farming operations, optimize the use of inputs and to ensure a responsible approach to worker health and safety.

While agriculture is still one of Israel’s greatest success stories, the agricultural sector has had to fend off criticism regarding its share of Israel’s appetite for fresh water, which contrasts with its diminishing share in the Israeli GDP. In a number of previous posts, I have suggested that a gradual conversion to an organic agricultural philosophy and practices may be part of the way forward for Israeli agriculture.

The water crisis is not the only challenge to the showpiece of Zionism. Climate change, the premium commanded by organic produce and the health of the Israeli public and workers in the farm sector also point to the wisdom of such a migration. Let’s hope that the nation’s pantry will seize the opportunity to redefine itself before it’s too late.

MASHAV, Israel’s international development cooperation program has been assisting in the development of agriculture in Africa since the late 1950s. This glimpse into a possible future may well be Africa’s way of repaying some of that debt.

(Coincidentally, MASHAV – celebrating its 50th anniversary – has just hosted an International Conference on Israel and the African Green Revolution “to present various approaches to agricultural development on the African continent and discuss how to effectively implement them in order to alleviate the present food and water crisis”.)

Links/Reading/Resources

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