Tel Aviv, Israel—Twenty-nine Palestinian participants of NEF’s USAID-funded Planting the Future project traveled from the West Bank to attend the 19th Annual International Agricultural Technology (AgriTech) Exhibition in Tel Aviv, Israel. Participants toured exhibitions at the trade fair and learned about cutting edge methods and technologies in their respective fields: dates, dairy, herbs, fruits, and vegetables.
Iyad Mallouh, manager of an agricultural cooperative in the West Bank and one of the Palestinian participants, said that he sees “unemployment, low income, and unstable political conditions” being major concerns for young Palestinians today.” He observed that these factors allow “no chance for youth to start to implement their ideas on the ground.” One of the objectives of Planting the Future is to promote economic development and cross-border dialogue through joint agricultural businesses to create jobs, generate income, and increase access to markets.
AgriTech is well known as the premier venue for showcasing new agricultural technology in the region. While there, NEF participants were able to gain knowledge and insight into the latest technologies being used in Israel for planting, irrigating, and harvesting to bring back to their own communities. In several sectors, there are gaps in technology and productivity between Israel and Palestine, underscoring the need for collaborative efforts to expand access to technology and markets.
Mallouh appreciated the networking opportunities at the event, because he was able not only to exchange ideas with others “who have good experiences and skills that we can benefit from” but also to establish new business partnerships. Says Mallouh, “We met some Israeli traders who are interested in importing our products, such as iceberg lettuce, red and white cabbage and many other types. Now we have started working with them officially.”
Along with improving economic development in the region, Planting the Future also aims to improve relations between Palestinians and Israelis through these cross-border encounters and relationships. Mallouh observed that the project allowed Israelis and Palestinians to share information about their industries and cultures and to discuss how they could cooperate and “make peace, and deal like neighbors and not enemies”.
NEF is helping to build lasting trust and communication between Israelis and Palestinians—with a focus on youth. Mallouh says that in the months to come, he hopes to improve his work so he can start new projects with his neighbors.
Overall, 89 young Palestinians and 83 young Israelis have participated in joint training, field visits, and planning sessions. As of July 2015, 23 cross-border agribusiness projects have been approved for funding through the Planting the Future project.