Lessons from Israel’s agricultural sector

The New Vision, August 2008
By Christopher Omoding

WHO knew that bananas could grow in a desert? David Sseppuyya’s pictorial from a recent trip to Israel confirmed this (Sunday Vision August 3). The photograph showed bananas growing at the foot of the Mount of Beatitudes and it reveals the fact that agriculture in Israel is advanced.

Israel’s agriculture sector is characterised by an intensive system of production, stemming from the need to overcome the scarcity in natural resources, particularly water and arable land. The constant growth in agricultural production is due to the close cooperation between researchers and farmers. Together, they develop and apply new methods of agriculture.

The result is modern agriculture in a country more than half of whose area is desert. With only 24,000sq.km, Israel is a-tenth of the size of Uganda but has a GDP per capita of $23,000(sh38m). Yet Uganda has only $394(sh 644,190) despite its relatively vast size and resources (Sunday Vision, June 1).

Uganda uses about 12 Km3 of water per year for irrigation, whereas her annual total renewable water resources are 66 Km3. These figures reveal the great potential for irrigation agriculture in the country.

Currently, most of Uganda’s agriculture is rain-fed which makes it vulnerable during climatic variations. Tarsis Kabwegyere, the Minister for Relief and Disaster Preparedness, recently revealed that 3.5 million Ugandans face starvation in Teso, Karamoja, parts of Lango, Acholi and West Nile.

This year’s delayed rains have resulted in a poor growing season (Daily Monitor August 8). Uganda experiences food shortages yet she has enough resources for feeding her population. Nutritional deficiencies are also common in many parts of the country.


Malnutrition is responsible for 40% of deaths among children. Irrigation agriculture is the way forward because the rain-pattern is becoming more unreliable. According to the 2002 Uganda Population and Housing Census, Uganda’s annual population growth rate at 3.4%, while the annual rate of food production is only 1.5%. If food production levels do not increase, food shortages will become more acute in the near future.

Food shortages can be solved through a revolution in agriculture. I appreciate the Government’s initiatives for improving agriculture such as the Plan for Modernisation of Agriculture and the National Agricultural Advisory Services but there is need to do more.

Uganda can learn from Israel. As Israeli farmers and scientists have had to cope with a difficult environment and limited water resources, their experience is relevant to Uganda. Israel’s success lies in the determination and ingenuity of farmers and scientists who have dedicated themselves to developing a flourishing agricultural sector, demonstrating to the world that the real value of land is a function of how it is utilised.

According to the Israeli government’s official website, Israel is willing to share its expertise with developing nations such as Uganda through its Centre for International Cooperation.

The fields of expertise include water resource management and irrigation, desert agriculture and combat of desertification, emergency and disaster medicine and employment programmes.

The Ugandan government should seek partnership with the Jewish state because all Ugandans will benefit, including the 3.5 million that are currently facing starvation.

Uganda will, therefore, benefit greatly through partnering with Israel. As a result, problems like food shortages could become history and an arid area like Karamoja could start cultivating bananas and become a food basket.

The writer is a concerned citizen

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