In December 2008, a conference was held at Sde Boker College for key officials from the ministries of agriculture of a wide range of countries, including Kenya, Ethiopia, China, Nigeria, and Burkina Faso. The seminar was initiated by MASHAV (the Israeli Foreign Ministry’s Department of International Cooperation), together with KKL-JNF and the Center for International Cooperation of the Ministry of Agriculture (SINDECO).
David Brand, director of KKL-JNF’s Forestry & Development Department, led a pivot of the seminar, which addressed various aspects of open space management, forest management, the propagation of tree and bush species, tree nursery management, forest and forest-product management. He later spoke of the seminar: “The participants in the seminar took part in three concentrated days of lectures about the practical aspects of managing open areas, ranging from methods of establishing forests, collecting and germinating seeds, and managing nurseries, to utilization of the forest for production of by-products that are not wood products such as the honey industry or ecotourism.”
The seminar participants toured throughout the Negev to study the modern application of ancient methods of stopping floodwaters, soil preservation, and the restoration of wadi banks in flood regions. In addition, they also learned how to deal successfully with moving sand dunes that threaten extensive areas on the edge of the Sahara in Africa.
“We never thought about the problems through basic aspects such as those that exist in Israel,” admitted one of the Ethiopian representatives, Atu Fecado, during the concluding discussion of the seminar. “We felt that an annual rainfall of 600 millimeters was the minimum required for afforestation and for expanding forested areas. We were therefore amazed at what we saw here in Israel, particularly in the Negev where there are forests growing under conditions of only 200 millimeters of annual rainfall.”