India-Israel agriculture cooperation: The quiet revolution

With its agriculture sector employing 47% of the country, 'the path to India's lasting prosperity cannot bypass its rural interiors'
Agri-business is just part of the $5 billion trade between India and Israel. (photo credit: courtesy)
Agri-business is just part of the $5 billion trade between India and Israel. (photo credit: courtesy)

Away from the glare of media attention, away from the limelight of jet-set diplomacy – a revolution is taking place. It offers no allure, no spectacular footage, but a revolution nevertheless. Today Israeli innovation and technology is changing the way farmers in rural and interior India cultivate and harvest.

To strengthen this co-operation, a high-level Israeli business delegation made up of top agriculture companies is visiting India this week (March, 24-27). The “Food Security and Agriculture Delegation” is attending series of business events to promote India-Israel Agricultural Cooperation in the cities of Delhi, Mumbai and Chandigarh and explore business opportunities in India.

The events are co-hosted by the Commercial Department, Embassy of Israel and Confederation of Indian Industry (CII-FACE) as well as other regional partners, enabling Israeli companies to interact with leading Indian players, entrepreneurs, researchers and top government officials.

Mr. Yonatan Ben-Zaken, the Head of Israeli Economic & Trade Mission (Embassy of Israel, New Delhi) sees agriculture cooperation as the most important pillar in India-Israel relationship. According to him, “by implementing Israeli technologies and know-how, the product ivy and yield of a local farmer grow by 5-10 folds.” Furthemore, the “similarities of climatic conditions, makes Israeli cutting edge technologies the right choice for India.”

As part of a bilateral agreement (Comprehensive Work Plan for Cooperation in Agriculture, 2006) several Centres of Excellence (CoE) have been set up by the Israeli agency MASHAV (Center for International Cooperation, Israel’s Min. of Foreign Affairs) and CINADCO (Centre for International Agricultural Development Cooperation, Min. of Agriculture & Rural Development). They have been supported on the Indian side by the National Horticulture Mission, National Horticulture Board and respective State Horticulture Departments.

Encouraged by initial reception of these Centres of Excellence (CoE) by local farming communities, Israel has decided to set up more CoE all across India – showcasing the latest Israeli innovation in farming, horticulture and dairy sectors as well as training farmers in new technologies, techniques and know-how. By 2015 30 such CoE are suppose to come up in 10 different Indian states.

India’s Agriculture sector still employs estimated 47% of the workforce, but contributes only around 16% to the nation’s GDP. In rural India women make up roughly half of the agricultural workforce. This number is astounding, if we realize that women in rural India do most of the household chores as well (and ladies, that is certainly a story for another day!). 

In last two decades India has amazed the world with her growth story in IT-services, telecommunications, pharma and manufacturing sector. However, the path to India’s lasting prosperity cannot bypass its rural interiors, but would have to be paved through them.

Going by the present trends, vast potential for mutual cooperation and positive effect on local communities; in the long run agriculture is poised to be the single most significant and transformative factor in the India-Israel relationship – not defense.

Read Start-Up Israel to keep your finger on the pulse of Israeli high-tech and innovation!

About the Author
Vijeta Uniyal is an Indian journalist based in Europe. He is Contributing Editor for the Commentator and Senior Distinguished Fellow at New York-based Gatestone Institute. He graduated from the Jawaharlal Nehru University (New Delhi) and worked for more than 10 years in international organisations, including German Foreign Office, German Minister for Economics and Technology, Goethe Institute and Humboldt Foundation.
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