Better Water, Better Jobs

Sunday, March 13, 2016 1:52 PM

In honor of UN World Water Day 2016: Special feature on how KKL-JNF has helped Israel become one of the world's most water-efficient countries.

In accordance with a decision by the United Nations General Assembly, World Water Day is observed every year on March 22. Thanks to its commitment to finding solutions for water related issues in Israel, KKL-JNF has amassed a great amount of knowledge relevant to the theme of World Water Day 2016 - Water and Jobs.
In 1992, the United Nations Conference of Environment and Development recommended that the UN General Assembly designate March 22 as annual World Water Day, when countries and people worldwide focus on water-related issues and how to positively affect the world’s water economy.
 
The theme of World Water Day 2016 – water and jobs – focuses on how sufficient quantity and quality of water can change workers’ lives and livelihoods and even transform societies and economies. Almost half the world’s workers – 1.5 billion people – work in water-related sectors and nearly all jobs depend on water and the people who ensure its safe delivery.
 
As an environmental organization capable of initiating complex multi-partner projects, KKL-JNF possesses expertise that can be of service to many other countries. The western world is now beginning to face water problems similar to those that Israel has been dealing with for a great many years. With the help of its friends worldwide, KKL-JNF improves Israel's water economy by building dams to harvest floodwaters, creating reservoirs for rainwater and treated wastewater, rehabilitating rivers and streams, developing advanced water technology, and more. 
 
Recycled water reservoirs provide water for the country's agricultural irrigation, fish breeding and recreation. Benefitting both the environment and the economy, recycled water reservoirs free up precious freshwater for domestic use while preventing pollution. Israel leads the world in the proportion of water it recycles and that used for agriculture. KKL-JNF is also involved in promoting water-sensitive cities, including bio-filter technology for harvesting urban runoff for reuse.
 
The agricultural research and development conducted in Israel by KKL-JNF’s R & D stations can serve as an example to the rest of the world. According to Dr. Elizabeth Finkel, a science writer based in Melbourne, Australia, “the world needs to feed a population of nine billion in the next fifty years with diminishing water and arable land and higher temperatures.  Obviously there are lessons to learn from Israel, which has turned its deserts into agricultural powerhouses.”
 
Developing water resources in the Negev Desert is a major challenge that KKL-JNF faced by constructing reservoirs and wastewater reclamation plants that provide farmers with water to irrigate their crops, thus freeing up potable water reserves for drinking. Reclaimed water allows farmers to choose what they want to grow and enables them to make a living in regions where it was previously impossible. In addition, thanks to the innovative cultivation methods and the unique cultivars developed by research and development stations financed by KKL-JNF thanks to the generosity of its supporters all over the world, agriculture in the region is prospering in spite of the hot, arid climate and the water scarcity. Agriculture is flourishing, new communities are being built, and at the same time, the delicate ecological balance of the desert is being maintained.
 
KKL-JNF has also succeeded in the afforestation of arid areas where no one believed forests could ever be planted. The limans (inlets), ridges and terraces constructed at tree planting sites in desert areas are based on the ancient methods of the Nabateans, a people that lived in the Negev desert centuries ago. These methods enable maximum utilization of every drop of water to cultivate rich vegetation, plentiful pasture and shaded areas for wayfarers.
 
As Israel's largest NGO with United Nations status, KKL-JNF is committed to international cooperation by addressing key global issues through mutual networking and knowledge sharing.  In the Turkana region of Kenya, an area in which all previous attempts at farming had failed because of unsuitable water and soil, high temperatures, drought and pests, a unique project that KKL-JNF is partner to, known as Furrows in the Desert, has transformed reality for local residents. This is a region where people sometimes have to walk for six whole days just to fetch water. Missionaries active in the region heard that Israel leads the world in desert agriculture and asked the Southern Arava R&D station in Israel for help.
 
In a joint venture with KKL-JNF, a training farm was established to enable local people to work with Israeli experts and volunteers. Crops suitable for the local conditions were selected, fertilizers and pest control materials were brought in and water-conserving limans were dug, just as they are at sites in the Negev where KKL-JNF plants trees. Since the project was launched, 132 farms have been established in Turkana, and today local crops include chick peas, beans and melons. Next year, with the help of KKL-JNF, date palms will be planted. The cost of training a single farmer is around $1,500, which is spent mainly on equipment. This modest sum can save the lives of an entire family. 
 
According to Moti Harari, a researcher at the R&D who travelled to Kenya to help set up the farm, “in the past the local people lived off meat, milk and nothing else. This meant that they suffered from vitamin deficiencies and serious medical problems. But now the farmers don’t just produce enough to feed themselves and their families, they also sell part of their produce.” Indeed, nature recognizes no borders.

Did you know...?

 
  • KKL-JNF has helped build 230 reservoirs and dams, providing two thirds of the water for Israel's agriculture.

  • KKL-JNF's recycled wastewater reservoirs free up precious freshwater for domestic use while preventing groundwater pollution.

  • KKL-JNF creates biofilters and constructed wetlands to aid in the purification of urban runoff and other polluted water.

  • KKL-JNF rehabilitates and develops springs and riverbanks.

  • KKL-JNF prevents erosion and desertification by repairing flood damage and regulating drainage.

  • KKL-JNF develops new water resources.