There is a lot of buzz about Israel’s competence in the field of agricultural technology. There is great expectation on this front as far as the Indo -Israel cooperation is concerned. The progress of this partnership, is crucial for the future of Indian agriculture and to the Prime Minister’s dream of doubling farmer’s income But details there of have not been disseminated in the mainstream media.
The Indo-Israeli Agricultural Project started in 2008 following the signing of a three-year action plan between the two governments. The plan was later on extended to include the 2012-2015 period. On the occasion of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s 5-day visit to India, Indians should know about the phenomenal success stories that have emerged from this partnership.
The Indo- Israel partnership in agriculture is implemented by MASHAV, Israel’s Agency for International Development Cooperation which shares the best of Isreal’s experience in development and planning. MASHAV is running centres of excellence in Bihar, Gujarat, Haryana, Karnataka, Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Punjab, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal. These centres demonstrate the best of Israel’s technology in growing fruits and vegetables.
India is presently in the midst of its second “Green Revolution”. During the first “Green Revolution”, India achieved self-sufficiency in the supply of food grains, an extraordinary achievement of its agricultural sector. While dealing with a high rate of population increase, the issue of food security has become crucial, leading the country to a compelling need to find alternative ways to feed its 1.2 billion people.
The first goal of the present “Green Revolution” is the transition towards sustainable agriculture, including implementing agricultural production practices which take into consideration the protection of natural resources and the environment; effective utilization of water resources and the reduction of harmful pesticides.
The second goal is diversification – by diversifying the food basket, the population will benefit from a larger supply of fruits and vegetables, a primary source of essential minerals and vitamins. The important task of achieving this challenge was entrusted to India’s National Horticulture Mission (NHM).
This framework is in sync with the needs of Indian farmers and PM Modi’s vision to double farmers income by 2022.
A Success Story in Gharaunda, Karnal (Haryana)
The centers of excellence in Gharaunda was one of the first that opened under the Indo-Isreal agriculture project. It serves as a model for rest of the centres opened elsewhere. Over 20,000 farmers visit this center according the document. The project is supported by National Horticulture Mission and farmers are provided a subsidy by state government for adopting the technology demonstrated here.
The main technology demonstrated here is called walk-in-tunnel farming/ protected agriculture. Walk-in-Tunnels (WIT) are protected structures with 2.5 to 4.0 meter heights. Tunnels are made of GI steel pipes and covered with 200 microns UV poly sheets. This protects the plants from pests and adverse climatic conditions. The approximate cost of installation of WITs is Rs. 600 per sqm. The Israelis call the same technology as protected cultivation.
The Israeli technology has demonstrated that the output of the crop can be increased by 5 to 6 times of that obtained using primitive technologies. But the most exciting part of the project is, the increase in yield comes with a 65% drop in water consumption and reduction in amount of fertilizers and pesticide usage. This technology can address India’s water problems and rising food requirement. Here is a table that shows the improvements registered in this center of excellence.
Presently, farmers in Haryana are growing vegetables using this technology in 1200 hectares with numbers rising steadily. If this technique is adopted all farmers of India, the output and income of agriculturists throughout the country could go up drastically. We might produce a surplus for exports as well !
There have been similar success stories in Dapoli Maharashtra, where mango output was tripled (1500 kg/hectare to 4500kg/hectare) by rejuvenating senile mango trees and increasing tree density from 100 to 400 trees per hectare. MASHAV says that it has further plans to extend the cooperation in the area of animal husbandry as well. Going forward, Israel could become the best friend of Indian farmers. With increase in budgetary investment for agriculture and better technology, India could very well achieve the goal of doubling farmer income by 2022.
Let’s take a moment to welcome Benjamin Netanyahu and thank Israel for helping our farmers. Cheers to India- Israel partnership !