Agriculture

How Israel Became a World Leader in Agriculture and Water

Posted on: 2nd September 2019
By Multiple Authors
Jonathan Said
Head of Inclusive Growth and Private-Sector Development Practice, Tony Blair Institute for Global Change
Merav Yachin
Tech and Innovation Adviser, Tony Blair Institute for Global Change
Danielle Abraham
Executive Director, Volcani International Partnerships
Thierry Ngoga
Head of Support to State Capability, AGRA
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INTRODUCTION

Two thirds of the land is semi-arid or arid and much of the soil is of poor quality. There is a shortage of natural water resources, a scarcity of precipitation and Israel is far from key export markets. Most early immigrants tasked with developing the land had no prior farming experience and on arrival faced a desertified, barren and swampy landscape.

Despite such overwhelming challenges, in its short history Israel not only managed to create a remarkable agricultural transformation, securing national food security and establishing thriving export industries, but also emerged as a global leader in agriculture and water management. How did it succeed?

Unsurprisingly, Israel’s agricultural success against all reasonable odds has generated great interest. Many government representatives of developing countries visit Israel in search of advice and support, asking, “what can we learn from Israel’s story and what can Israel offer?” This report provides a response, with insight into how Israel developed its world class agriculture and water management sectors, with an emphasis on the roles of government, markets and innovation.

Israel is a unique country whose history, politics and geography shaped the mindset of its people and its leaders. Nonetheless it offers many valuable insights and practical lessons. This report extracts such lessons for today’s developing countries. Many African nations, in particular, are still awaiting an agricultural revolution that historically has proved crucial for the development, food security and large-scale poverty reduction of advanced and fast-developing countries across the world.

This report presents the main building blocks of the agriculture sector – and to a lesser degree the water management sector – through a historical lens that demonstrates how they came to be. It identifies how Israel developed its capabilities when its agricultural capacity, its institutional capacity and its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per capita were at similar levels to where many developing countries are today. The paper’s primary target audiences are policymakers in developing countries, their development partners and the Israeli community engaged with developing countries.

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Download the full report here.