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U.S.-Israel Shared-Value Initiatives: Agriculture Cooperation

The International Arid Lands Consortium (IALC), established in 1989, strives to be the acknowledged leading international organization supporting ecological sustainability of arid and semiarid lands.

The United Nations estimates that the world population will surge above 7 billion people during 2012. With approximately 40% of the world's land in arid and semiarid zones, there is a heightened need to transform this terrain for agriculture and habitation, and at the same time, reduce the negative impact of increased human activity and desertification. Most of the countries located in these zones are developing nations already suffering from desertification, loss of agricultural productivity, over-harvesting of trees for fuel, and human and animal pressures. This worsening condition creates a growing need to respond to these global concerns.

Rising to this challenge is the IALC, an independent, nonprofit organization authorized by the U.S. Congress. The IALC was created by scientists who believe that as the world's population continues to increase, it is essential that much of the world's arid terrain be transformed into habitable and productive land.

The IALC's purpose is to conduct research and develop applications in arid and semi­arid land technologies, and to apply its research in the United States, Israel and other countries. The IALC enhances cooperation in these areas between the Jewish National Fund (JNF), the USDA Forest Service, the Higher Council of Science and Technology in Jordan, the Egyptian Ministry of Agriculture, the Desert Research Institute in Nevada and a number of public American universities (listed below).

Each member brings distinctive capabilities to bear on the study and use of arid and semi­arid lands, providing expertise in such areas as water conservation and harvesting, development of stress-tolerant plants, agroforestry, range management, fire control, remote sensing and drought mitigation.

Since 1993, the IALC has received federal appropriations totaling $12.6 million and has funded a total of 94 research projects, 30 demonstration projects, and 11 special initiatives from this amount.

Many of the IALC's efforts are based on the success of the Jewish National Fund in reclaiming formerly barren land in Israel. According to the former director of the Consortium, Dr. Kenneth Foster of the University of Arizona, Israel is "by far the leading country" in the application of various technologies studied by the consortium, and the "hands-on experience that Israel has gained will be of great benefit to the U.S. and other countries around the world."

In an effort to spread its knowledge, JNF has hosted a number of IALC conferences in Israel which have been attended by delegates from nations throughout the world, including China, Egypt, India, Kenya, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Spain, Brazil, France, the Dominican Republic, Mexico and Australia. Participants examined JNF's achievements in water conservation, afforestation, soil conservation, irrigation with saline water and reclaiming arid land for agriculture.

The IALC's projects in Israel represent unprecedented global cooperation in crucial ecological questions. These projects include “Global Change and Ecosystem H2O and CO2 Fluxes in the Mojave and Negev Desert,” “Runoff, Flood & Non-Sewage Wastewater for Native Tree Propagation,” “Wastewater Organic Matter and Metal Effects on Aromatic Compounds in Soil Reducing Runoff/Soil Erosion by Afforestation in a Semiarid Area,” “Faunal Perturbation Effect on Soil Biodiversity-Desert Ecosystems,” “Ancient Desert Agriculture Systems Revived,” and “Financing Wastewater Treatment: US-Mexico & Israel-Palestine Borders.”

The participating American universities that are members of IALC:

University of Arizona; University of Illinois; New Mexico State University; South Dakota State University; Texas A&M University-Kingsville.

Sources: IALC; IALC Overview (January 2011); Jewish National Fund (JNF), Partners for Change (DC:AICE, 1997);Partners for Change