SA Food Security Delegation Sees Israeli Forestry and Environmental Education in Action

Sunday, November 11, 2018 4:14 PM

“We deal with entire ecosystems which are comprised of a whole range of services for the communities that use our forests." - Chanoch Zoref, KKL-JNF Chief Forester for the Jerusalem Hills.

Day 2 of the South African food security delegation’s visit in Israel involved a working meeting with KKL-JNF Head Forester David Brand and a visit to the Nes Harim Field and Forest Educational Center.
It was day two of the South African food security delegation’s working visit to Israel. The South Africa participants met with Dr. David Brand, KKL-JNF's Head Forester.  Brand told his guests that KKL-JNF discerned the looming threat of climate change many years ago and began taking steps to counteract its impact.
“We understood that without intervention we were going to lose our forests. So we immediately began a program to meet the challenge of climate change. We started developing new advanced water harvesting techniques while conducting long-term ecological research, together with the development of more drought-resistant tree species.”
Brand spoke of the importance of understanding the relationship between tree physiology and water balance, about where to plant, about forest density, and forest thinning. The South African delegation members were stunned to hear that KKL-JNF plants saplings no larger than 20 to 30 cm tall that grow in pots of 240 ml volume, and have an average survival rate of 90%.  FTFA production and infrastructure specialist Rogan Fields said that up until now in South Africa, they have been planting saplings of over a meter high that grow in massive pots of 10 liters. “For us it’s a question of survival rate. We found that if we plant smaller saplings they simply do not survive.”
Veteran KKL-JNF forester Chanoch Zoref, who is the chief forester in the Jerusalem hills, said that unlike other countries, Israeli foresters do not only tend to trees.
“We deal with entire ecosystems which are comprised of a whole range of services for the communities that use our forests.  These services include elements of recreation, leisure, and education. All that is beside the forests’ natural ability to help mitigate the effects of global warming.”
Zoref led the group on a tour of the excavated Burgin ruins in the Adulam-France Park. The park, which covers some 50,000 acres of rolling natural hills and farmland, is dotted with archeological sites that date back to biblical times.
“According to the bible, King David hid here in a cave, when fleeing from Saul. We tend to these locations in the same way that we tend to the surrounding forests.”
While walking through the area he revealed that tree planting has all but ceased in the north of Israel.
“We have learned to depend on the natural processes that promote forest regeneration. These processes work and our task now is to regulate and protect them. We also protect a whole range of native vegetation types which altogether present a more robust ecosystem.”
At the KKL-JNF Nes Harim Field and Forest Educational Center (Nes Harim FFEC) located a short drive away from the Adulam-France Park, the visitors witnessed how KKL-JNF promotes the educational aspect of the ecosystem services. The center is located in the middle of a green forest and provides wood cabinsת classrooms and a dining room for youth who come to study there and enjoy the tranquility and lush surroundings.  
In a spurt of unlucky timing, a cloudburst sent all the youngsters running for cover and the guests were unable to meet the many youth who were there at the time. 
While waiting for the rain to subside, visiting South African forester Chris Wild, who is the director of Food and Trees for Africa, described the functions of the organization that he heads, which he said were not very different to that of KKL-JNF.
“We are one of the largest and oldest environmental and food security organizations in Africa. Urban forestry and greening, along with food security are our two main functions. Food security means providing nutrition for the needy, especially in schools, creating sustainable gardens and market gardens and even assisting commercial agriculture. We started as Trees for Africa but somewhere in the 1990s, we realized you cannot separate the environment from food security. That’s when we changed our name and function to Food and Trees for Africa (FTFA). I often say FTFA is actually a social development company that has decided to specialize in food security and urban forestry.”
In the afternoon when the rain stopped, forester Chanoch Zoref led the group through several other forest sites in the Jerusalem hills, including the Begin Park near Moshav Bar Giora.

Want to see more Israeli innovation for water and agriculture with the SA food security delegation? Read on!