LOOKING AHEAD

Through the support of our donors and partners, The Negev Foundation is proud of the work we have facilitated over the past 20 years. However, this is just the beginning.  We must remain focused on the future development of the region if we are to ensure its full potential and Israel’s independence and prosperity. We count on the support of past and future donors to help the foundation develop the projects detailed below.
Future Projects:

Context

Introduction

                The Negev Foundation has partnered with the Ramat Negev Desert AgroResearch and Business Center (RNDARC) since the Foundation’s inception 20 years ago.  During that partnership, the Foundation and RNDARC have established a strategic vision to transform the agricultural industry in Ramat Negev over the next 15 years, and the projects described in this chapter are all designed to support plan.  The vision has been divided into two phases.  In Phase I, The Negev Foundation and RNDARC completed the 2.1 million dollar construction of a new, state of the art facility to house the research center and the new Senator George and Janet Voinovich Business Center.  Phase I also included the accomplishment of historic research projects in the areas of brackish water agriculture, orchard crops, greenhouse technologies, and adaption of new crops to the Negev’s arid climate.

 

                The Foundation and RNDARC are now beginning to implement the projects for Phase II, which are described below.  The activities in Phase II are designed to be completed over the next 3 years.  Although all of the initiatives are necessary to fulfill the transformative goals of the campaign, the International Agricultural Training Center building has been deemed the highest priority project, followed closely by the additions and improvements to experimental greenhouse infrastructure.

 

Partnership History

                RNDARC was established over 50 years ago by the late Yoel Demalach.  In the past half-century, it has been a pioneer in the field of desert agriculture, and has made important discoveries that have helped to shape the agricultural community of the Negev and by extension the region’s entire economy.  All of the research completed at RNDARC is immediately applied, and topics are chosen to respond directly to feedback from local farmers.  The results of RNDARC’s experiments are disseminated free of charge to farmers throughout the jurisdiction of the Ramat Negev Regional Council, which spans 22% of the land area of Israel, thus giving them an advantage over their counterparts throughout the country.  The topics of research at RNDARC are diverse, and include research in brackish water tolerant crops, altering the growing seasons of popular exports (to obtain maximum economic by selling them when supply is low), and adapting foreign crops to make them suitable for growth in the Negev.  Staff and researchers at RNDARC also collaborate with universities and other research centers throughout the world, thereby blending an international knowledge base with local needs.

                The Negev Foundation is a Cleveland-based non-profit organization that is dedicated to developing the Negev Desert through economic and agricultural development initiatives.  The organization was originally founded by Richard Bogomolny, Sam Hoenig, and Jack Mandel, and today has grown to an organization with over 500 annual donors including individual donors, private foundations, and government sources.   Sam Hoenig, President of The Negev Foundation, was inspired by Yoel Demalach early in his career, and thus the foundation has helped support RNDARC’s activities since its beginning in 1992.

 

International Agricultural Training Center Building

                RNDARC currently hosts an agricultural training program for international students.  The program focuses on technologically sophisticated agricultural practices, and educates approximately 300 international students each year.  Currently, the program operates in rented facilities that prohibit expansion of enrollment and increase the logistical difficulties of programmatic operation.  To remedy these obstacles, The Negev Foundation is partnering with RNDARC to construct a modern building in the community of Nitzana that will house the training program and allow for an increase of 66% in student enrollment.

                The program caters to students from East Asia, and is currently comprised of students from Vietnam and Myanmar.  Over 11 months, the students are instructed in both theoretical and practical methods, combining classroom lessons with hands-on field training.  There are a surprising number of beneficiaries in addition to the obvious benefits to the students, including local farmers, RNDARC, and governments from both countries.  Students benefit from an excellent education, and receive stipends for their in-field work from farmers that are equal to competitive market wages in the area.  This money enables them to support a pleasant quality of life during their studies, while sending money to relatives in their home countries or saving money for completion of the program.  Farmers also benefit immensely, as they are able to utilize labor that is motivated, educated, and enthusiastic in the farms’ operations.  As the students initially pay tuition to attend the program, RNDARC is able to use excess revenue to fund ongoing research after covering the costs of running the program.  Finally, government officials and society at large benefits from strengthened cultural and political ties between Israel and the participatory countries.

                Please note that the students’ tuition, which is funded by the students or sources in their home countries, enables the training to be self-sustaining.  As a result, no other philanthropic funds will be required to support this program after the completion of the new facilities. 

 

Visitors Center

                In 2008, The Negev Foundation supported the construction of a state-of-the-art building to house RNDARC’s facilities.  The research center is the focal point of agricultural innovation in the area, and conducts applied research that supports farmers throughout the regional council’s jurisdiction.  The staff of RNDARC pioneered brackish (salty) water agriculture research, and through the years they have made discoveries that have truly allowed the Negev Desert to blossom. 

                This history behind this research and the unique development of the agricultural industry in the Ramat Negev Regional Council is fascinating, and is unparalleled in its innovation and true Zionist spirit.  To honor this, the Ramat Negev Regional Council has decided to construct a visitors’ center in lobby of the recently constructed building.  This center will be designed to celebrate achievements of research and farmers, educate visitors about the remarkable work that’s conducted by the research center, and ultimately inspire future generations of pioneers to continue developing the Negev.  The center will have a significant focus on the life and work of the late Yoel Demalach, the founder of RNDARC, who inspired the researchers to achieve their amazing results.  To memorialize Yoel, the Ramat Negev Regional Council Department of Tourism is creating a documentary about his life and work, which will be shown in the visitors’ center to complement the displays.

                Physical displays in the visitors’ center will be varied, technologically-advanced, and interactive.  They will include information on the history of the research center and key staff members, history of the area, a thorough explanation on the principles and importance of brackish water agriculture, and more.  Upon completing a tour of the display and viewing the accompanying documentary, guests will be given a tour of the fields, where they can see, smell, and taste the amazing produce that results from RNDARC’s innovation. 

 

Angus Heifer Breeding Program

                The goal of this activity is to develop a pure-bred Black Angus industry in the State of Israel.  Israelis are developing their economy at a fast pace, and are increasingly desirous of high-quality meats.  Currently 150,000 heads of cattle are imported annually from Australia and New Zealand to meet this demand, and it would be substantially preferable if a larger portion of the cattle were grown within Israel.  Raising the cattle in Israel would have a triple benefit, offering fresher meat to consumers, increased revenue to Israeli cattle ranchers, and a herd whose quality can be better monitored by internal controls. 

 

                This program initially involves importing approximately 60 Black Angus heifers from Ohio and raising them at Tene Farm in the jurisdiction of the Ramat Negev Regional Council.  As the program demonstrates success, it is anticipated that two more shipments of 60 cattle will be imported to the farm, producing a critical breeding mass to ensure maximum efficiency.  The heifers will be inseminated with sex-specific semen, thus allowing for controlled growth of the herd while maintaining desirable genetic traits.  In addition, the work with sex-specific semen will produce valuable scientific data that will in turn be analyzed by researchers at RNDARC.  This project has important implications for both economic development and scientific advance, and this dynamic approach is the initiative’s greatest strength.  As the heifers reproduce, there will also be opportunities for other cattle ranchers in the Negev and throughout Israel to purchase Angus heifers for their own breeding and economic development. 

 

Ongoing Research

                The research staff at RNDARC often chooses their research topics based on the feedback of local farmers, as the ultimate goal of the research center is to provide innovation that directly benefits farmers in the Ramat Negev Regional Council’s jurisdiction.   The research focuses mainly on existing crops grown in arid-land environments, new greenhouse technologies, domesticating foreign crops and adapting them for growth in a desert environment, and research of orchard crops, including pears, grapes (for wine), and olives (for oil).  As a result of this diverse and evolving research, it is anticipated that some new equipment or supplies may be needed throughout the course of the Phase II campaign that cannot be predicted at this time.  RNDARC also frequently requests textbooks to support the research of staff and students, which is included in the budget for research expenses. 

Infrastructure

                The Mandel Campus, which houses RNDARC’s main building and fields, is in need of infrastructure repair.  The roads that lead from the Campus’ entrance to the main building require repair and repaving, and are not suitable for the increased volume of traffic that is expected upon completion of the visitors’ center.  In addition, the roads will need to be expanded approximately one meter on either side, allowing for two lanes of traffic driving in each direction.  This will allow for increased visitor traffic, as well as an easier arrival for trucks and large farming equipment that presently does not fit on the narrow road without blocking traffic in both directions.  Besides the improvements to the main road, substantial landscaping needs to be done around the main building. 

 

Experimental Greenhouses

                The main campus of the research center requires some additional equipment and improvements to effectively complete current and future research projects.  Chief among these necessities are climate controlled greenhouses.  RNDARC requires two greenhouses that measure one dunam each.  One of these greenhouses must be fully climate controlled, and the other must be a traditional greenhouse used for control elements in experimentation.  In addition to the new climate controlled greenhouse, it is also necessary for RNDARC to upgrade an existing heating system in a structure measuring three dunams to prevent frost damage to crops.

 

Warehouses

                While the main building at RNDARC was completed in 2008, there are still some outdated trailers and storage facilities that are in need of replacement.  The management envisages a modern facility that will contain warehouse and office space.  The desired building will be 22,000ft², and is anticipated to house all farm equipment at RNDARC.  This facility will also include new refrigeration and storage systems, packing equipment and other required equipment for the research center, used specifically in farming in the field and greenhouses.  The office space will be rented to provide additional income to RNDARC that is necessary for execution of research and maintenance of facilities.

Economic Development

                The Negev Foundation is partnering with the OR Movement to expand the ability of the Ramat Negev communities to attract new industry to the region.  The economic development plan will include the hiring of a full-time executive staff member to serve as a liaison between companies that are looking to conduct business in the Negev and the relevant regional contacts that are able to affect the infrastructure and economic measures necessary to support such a move.  Furthermore, the program will assist private companies and individuals to identify suitable investment opportunities in the Negev.  The staff member will additionally assist individuals who are looking to find work in the Negev, and the program will host a number of job fairs throughout the year that specifically showcase jobs available in the jurisdiction of the Ramat Negev Regional Council and surrounding areas.

                        A dunam is an area of measure commonly used in the Middle East.  One dunam is equal to 1000m².

Zionism, the belief that Jews should have a home in the State of Israel, has been under threat since the creation of the State of Israel 64 years ago.  While the threats have often been external, Zionism’s modern threat comes from within the country.  Due to the high cost of housing in Israel, many Israelis are unable to afford a home that is adequate for their families.  The combination of high cost of living and high population density is causing many families to consider moving to the less populated peripheries of the country, where there is more available land to raise their families and pursue agricultural and entrepreneurial endeavors.  Despite the lower cost of living in the Negev and Galilee, the cost of land and housing in these regions remains high, and it is prohibitively expensive for most families to move into an adequately sized dwelling.  In many cases, enough housing simply doesn’t exist, and construction is not financially feasible for the great majority of Israelis in the current economy.

                To address this concern, the Regional Council is partnering with The Negev Foundation to implement an affordable housing program, which will consist of two phases.  In Phase I, the Regional Council will build 60 freestanding rental homes.  The residences will be built on the grounds of the following Kibbutzim: Revivim, Mash’abei Sadeh, and Sde Boker, and will be available for subsidized rent by new residents in Ramat Negev or those who are in the process of constructing permanent family homes.  In Phase II, a fund will be made available to subsidize the construction of permanent housing for residents throughout the Ramat Negev region.  This subsidization will be comprised of special loans and discounts that will alleviate the financial burden on family while they permanently integrate themselves into the Ramat Negev community.

During the 20 year history of The Negev Foundation’s involvement with the Ramat Negev Regional Council, the two groups have collaborated on many projects that focus on the environmental sustainability of the region.  Given the changing political, economic, and environmental conditions in the Ramat Negev Regional Council, these projects are presently being revised to address the current needs of the communities located within the Regional Council’s jurisdiction.

The Negev Foundation and the Peres Center for Peace, partnering with the Ramat Negev Desert AgroResearch Center, the Amman Center for Peace and Development, The Palestinian Livestock Cooperative Union (PLCU), and members of the Israeli Bedouin community, are launching a new project to improve regional relations and economic development through small animal husbandry.  The program will bring together groups from Jordan, Israel, and the Palestinian territories to improve the sheep and goat industry in the region.  The foundations of small animal husbandry in the Middle East date back to biblical times and have roots in all three Abrahamic faiths, but today there is much room for improvements in efficiency at every stage of production.  This program’s goal is to foster conflict mitigation and cross-border cooperation through joint activities using a “people-to-people” approach, focusing on the common heritage of the industry among all participants.  In addition to the conflict mitigation aspect, the project will also have positive effects in the areas of income generation, women’s empowerment, food security, and environmental concerns.

The state of Ohio has a proud tradition of agricultural productivity, and stands to benefit a great deal from new technologies being developed throughout the world.  Specifically, the greenhouse technologies that have been developed and perfected in Israel can add great value and efficiency to Ohio farms by improving the yield and quality of crops, as well as extending the growing season to ensure maximum profitability.  The Ohio-Israel Agricultural Initiative (OIAI), a program of The Negev Foundation, seeks to strengthen its efforts to link agricultural professionals in Ohio with Israeli greenhouse technology through two main strategies.  These strategies, while interrelated, offer varied benefits to different segments of the Ohio farming community, and can be widely applied to improve the productivity of many crops produced throughout the region.  It is envisioned that this project will be based on a public-private partnership, involving the participation and contribution of entities from both sectors.

The first strategy that will assist the program is the construction of a high-tech commercial demonstration greenhouse.  This greenhouse will serve to demonstrate the efficiency of a variety of greenhouse technologies while producing commercial crops.  This technology will be most valuable to management of medium and large scale farms, who will be exposed to methods to increase their farms’ productivity and efficiency.  A complementary strategy will focus on the establishment of tunnel structures, which will demonstrate Israeli agricultural technology in a lower-scale, lower-cost context.  This will be primarily ideal for owners of small and medium scale farms, who would not be able to afford the offerings of a high-tech greenhouse, but can benefit greatly from affordable improvements such as modern Israeli plastics and irrigation systems.

 

An expert panel of professionals is currently being assembled to advise the project’s staff, and includes farmers, business leaders, engineers, academics, agricultural experts, and others that will contribute their wisdom and knowledge to ensuring the project’s success.  These individuals have excellent qualifications and local familiarity, and will undoubtedly add creativity and insight to the activities.