Israel, U.S. Pledge to Expand Agricultural Cooperation in Africa

While most headlines about Israel within the international media are conflict-related, Ambassador Daniel Carmon, Head of MASHAV, argues that Israel is becoming a serious player in the field of development and sustainability.

MASHAV, Israel’s Agency for International Development Cooperation, and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) signed a “Memorandum of Understanding” in Washington on Wednesday, to enhance bilateral cooperation on food security - known as the "Feed the future" project - which at this point, is focusing on Ethiopia, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Uganda.

Dr. Rajiv Shah, USAID Administrator, said the US recognizes Israel's achievements "in specific areas that are of increasing value to some of our top priorities", especially Israel's expertise in water conservation, dry-land management, and the "ability to turn arid lands into highly productive farms".

The two agencies plan to work together on improving agricultural production and productivity; reducing pre- and post-harvest losses; irrigation and water technology; and cross-cutting issues, including implementation of applied research and development results, gender, capacity building, nutrition, and climate change.

Ambassador Carmon told "Haaretz" that development plays more and more important role in the foreign policy. "It's our obligation as an OECD [Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development] member, to assist with development of other countries, it's our humanitarian call - and it's also our interest to develop closer relations with countries at the Horn of Africa,” said Carmon.

Carmon also commented on Israel’s specific contributions. “MASHAV has been working for 54 years in developing countries - Israel used to be developing country that found ways to successfully deal with challenges the developing world faces today. We don't have a budget like our big European partners or the US, but we have unique technology and specialists that can help to prolong the shelf-life of vegetables, help to improve production and post-production, and with empowering women through agriculture. We can even call Israel an agricultural superpower," explained Carmon.

In his previous role, Carmon used to be Israel's Deputy Ambassador to the UN, and he is very familiar with the frustration of trying to promote positive projects initiated by Israel - when time and again the discussion is hijacked by various crises facing the country.

"I think that despite the regular vote against us at the UN general Assembly, there is a lot of respect for Israel in spheres like development. We had resolutions on this that even the Arab countries couldn't reject. Poverty, water scarcity, hunger - these are a-political challenges, and sometimes we succeed to get them de-politicized even at the UN," said Carmon.