Food Security and Renewable Energy

With the help of its friends worldwide, KKL-JNF supports renewable energy initiatives in the Arava, as well as the research and development of sustainable agriculture that minimizes the use of water, land and fossil fuels.

Renewable Energy = Food Security

Food Security means that all people at all times have physical & economic access to adequate amounts of nutritious, safe, and appropriate foods, which are produced in an environmentally sustainable and socially just manner.

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimates that by 2050, a 70 percent increase in current food production will be necessary to meet the expanding demand for food. The global food sector is still highly dependent on fossil fuels. The type of energy we use in the agrifood chain and how we use it will determine whether our food systems will be able to meet future food security goals and support broader development objectives in an environmentally sustainable manner. Our ability to reach food productivity targets may be limited in the future by a lack of inexpensive fossil fuels. Higher fuel prices raise food prices, which in turn affect food security.

We need to rethink the role of energy when considering our options for improving food systems. Currently the food sector contributes over 20 percent of total greenhouse gases emissions. The challenges facing the world regarding food production are how to develop food systems that are not reliant on fossil fuel and that produce fewer greenhouse gases emissions. This will provide a reliable energy supply that can at the same time support food security and sustainable development.

Renewable energy systems have many advantages, but for our purposes, we will mention two: they reduce the food sector's dependence on fossil fuels and they reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The combination of renewable energy with food production has the potential to increase food security by enabling more production at lower prices.

Renewable energy sources include hot water sources, wind energy, solar energy, hydroelectric power, bioenergy and geothermal energy.
Ethiopian farmers on the Seeds of Hope program. Photo: KKL-JNF

KKL-JNF for Renewable Energy

Much of Israel's renewable energy projects are concerntrated in the Elot Region in the Southern Arava, and many of them are supported by KKL-JNF.

The Elot Regional Council is the southernmost regional council in Israel, and extends over 220,000 hectares and includes 12 communities (10 kibbutzim and two community settlements). The region is inhabited by some 3500 people.

The weather and constant sunlight make this a perfect area for developing alternative energy sources and the regional council envisions a renewable energy "silicon valley" in the Southern Arava. The regional council encourages such initiatives and is involved in recruiting government and private support for environmentally friendly energy production.

The Elot region has diverse renewable energy projects. The area has the highest concentration of solar energy fields in Israel as well as several laboratories studying alternative energy options. The first commercial solar field in Israel, built by the Arava Power Company is located at Kibbutz Ketura. The Eilot Regional Council now provides 50% of the energy requirements of the city of Eilat.
Solar panels installed on the roof of KKL-JNF's Jerusalem offices in December 2015. Photo by Tania Susskind

Regional Center for Renewable Energy R&D near Yotvata

KKL-JNF and its partners (Ministry of Regional Cooperation, the Eilot Regional Council, Jewish Federations of Canada and the USA) have developed the Regional Center for Renewable Energy Research & Development. The center, which was recently completed, is already bringing together scientists specializing in this field. The center hopes to attract additional experts to the area. The planned building will adhere to the principles of renewability by repairing, expanding and improving an existing building that is no longer in use. The proposed retrofit will be modular and can be implemented in stages. The building will be developed according to the highest environmental standards. As with so many KKL-JNF development projects, the Regional Center for Renewable Energy R&D will provide jobs and boost the local economy.
A conference in the recently-built Renewable Energy Research and Development Center near Yotvata. The auditorium is lit by sunlight. Photo by Yoav Devir

Kibbutz Ketura

Ketura is a kibbutz located 50 kilometers north of Eilat, in the southern Arava. Jewish tradition at the kibbutz has become a focus for cooperation, tolerance and mutual respect. One-third of the members are native Israelis; the majority of the immigrants come from English-speaking countries, with a smaller number from Europe and the former USSR.

Ketura is home to the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies. The institute aims to identify the key conservation and environmental issues in the Arava, coordinate the environmental movement’s work in the region and initiate eco-activism on the local and national levels. The Arava Institute offers innovative environmental studies programs.
Solar energy field in Kibbutz Ketura in the southern Arava. Photo by Yoav Devir

Students explore a range of environmental issues from a regional, interdisciplinary perspective. Participants come from the Middle East as well as from North America and the rest of the world for study in Israel. KKL-JNF developed infrastructure for the kibbutz dining hall, parking areas, roads and housing, as well as financing scholarships for Jewish and Arab students from all over the Middle East at the Arava Institute.

Ketura is now developing an "ecological village" that will display "low-tech" technologies that do not use conventional electricity, but alternative forms of energy (guided by experts from the Regional Center for Renewable Energy R&D). The village aims at developing alternative energy solutions for sites in the world that cannot access conventional energy. In its first stage the village will have 4 buildings and will hold seminars and courses related to renewable energy.

A hut in the model low-tech village in Ketura, which is powered by solar energy and uses bio-gas for heating and cooking. Photo by Yoav Devir

The combination of modern agriculture and renewable energy will have a significant impact on improving food security. Four different institutions are involved in studying and developing renewable energy sources in southern Israel: the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies, the Dead Sea and Arava Science Center, the Ben Gurion University Campus in Eilat and the Southern Arava R&D Station.

The Eilat-Elot Renewable Energy Administration was established in 2008 and it focuses on research and innovation and aims to become a source of employment for new residents of the area.

KKL-JNF is involved in other alternative energy projects in the region, including a wind farm at Ma'ale Shaharut, environmental construction at Lotan, Ketura and Ne'ot Smadar and an ecological village at Ketura.

With the scarcity of large tracts of land on which to operate solar energy plants, KKL-JNF's plans to float solar panels on its water reservoirs. In addition to generating energy, these panels also save water by reducing evaporation. Furthermore, the water surface of the reservoirs can be harnessed to produce alternative energy.

Holes in the ceiling provide natural natural light in a hut in the Ketura model off-grid village. Photo by Yoav Devir

KKL-JNF for Food Security

One of KKL-JNF's most important projects in food security is supporting regional Research and Development (R&D) stations in agricultural regions throughout Israel.

These stations aim to develop new crops and improve farming techniques for existing ones, helping farmers in peripheral parts of the country compete successfully in the global produce market. The stations exploit the natural potential of peripheral regions: climate, soil, varieties of water sources and manpower quality and employ field advisors and noted researchers who work in cooperation with national academic institutes.

The R&D stations in the Southern Arava, Ramat Negev and Besor focus on the challenges facing farmers in the extreme climates of the Negev and the Arava and the use of modern innovative methods to create efficient, productive agriculture in the desert. There is also research on effective water use to prevent aquifer salinization and to save water.

Israel has consequently become a world leader in desert agriculture, and KKL-JNF willingly shares its knowledge with any country in need of solutions for nutritional security.

Two prominent examples are: the 'Seeds of Hope' project in Ethiopia, where KKL-JNF and the Fair Planet NGO work to provide Ethiopian farmers with high quality tomato seeds that can thrive in semi-arrid conditions; and the 'Furrows in the Desert' project in Turkana, Kenya, where KKL-JNF is helping to teach desert farming techniques to the Turkana people, a semi-nomadic tribe that can no longer rely on grazing to sustain themselves.

Growing tomatoes in desert conditions at the Arava R&D. Photo by Yoav Devir
An experimental greenhouse at the Besor R&D for growing pineapples in arid conditions. Photo by Tania Susskind
An experimental greenhouse at the Besor R&D for growing pineapples in arid conditions. Photo by Tania Susskind