Having established Agriculture Centres (Centres of Excellence, CoE) in Bassi and Kota in Rajasthan, as well as an Olive Centre in State’s Jaisalmer district, Israel is now working with Indian authorities to set up two additional Agriculture Centres (CoE) in the northern Indian State of Rajasthan. Ohad Horsandi, Spokesman of the Israeli Embassy in Delhi, revealed the details while talking to a regional newspaper in Jaipur, Rajasthan.

Indian State of Rajasthan, larger in size than Poland, is home to more than 70 million people. Famous as a tourist destination for its unique fauna, ancient architecture and rich cultural experience, the state also lies in the middle of the Thar Desert – making it India’s most water scarce region. Israel has reached out to local farming communities through its Centres of Excellence, run by Israeli development agency MASHAV.

So far, the most ambitious project of the India-Israel agricultural cooperation in the state has been of the olive plantation initiative. On the behest of Rajasthan’s Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje, more than 100,000 olive saplings were initially imported from Israel. In 2006, Chief Minister Raje, the first women Chief Minister of the state, had sought Israeli cooperation after visiting an olive farm in a kibbutz in the Negev desert.

Today olive plantations cover about 300 hectare of land spread across the state. Last year, state’s first olive refinery rolled into production near Bikaner city – the first refinery of its kind in South Asia.

Israeli Embassy’s spokesman visiting the region also talked about plans to increase cooperation in the areas of technology, tourism and water management. Israel has invited officials from Rajasthan to attend WaterTec 2015, a conference and exhibition being held in Tel-Aviv from October 13-15, 2015. The biennial event offers Indian participants the opportunity to learn about various Water Management solutions, as well as meet companies, experts and investment partners.

Talking to media the spokesman said, “Israel is having discussions with the Rajasthan government on expanding partnership in areas of water management, post harvesting and tourism.”

In recent years, Israel has expanded its cooperation with India in the field of agriculture. The corner-stone of Israeli initiative are the Centres of Excellence (CoE) across the country. The CoEs showcase latest Israeli innovations in farming, horticulture and dairy sectors, and act as training centres for Indian farmers in new technologies, know-how and techniques. By end of this year over 30 such centres are expected to be functional all across India.

[Author is Indian journalist based in Europe and Senior Distinguished Fellow at Gatestone Institute]