Learning about Ancient Desert Agriculture

Learning about Ancient Desert Agriculture

On June 14-16, three talks on ancient desert agriculture in Israel's Negev Desert were given by Itzhak Moshe, KKL-JNF Southern Region Deputy Director, at the Israeli pavilion at the Expo 2015 world exhibition in Milano. He was joined by Italian experts Professor Pietro Laureano, Ms. Mariagrazia Falcone, Professor Stefano Grego, and actress Pamela Villoresi.

The talks given by Itzhak Moshe, deputy director of KKL-JNF's southern region, focused on how ancient desert water conservation techniques are being applied by KKL-JNF as part of its efforts to halt desertification. An Italian lecturer also spoke on each day of the event, adding their own professional perspective on the topics Moshe addressed.
Israel is a country that is largely arid, and the means KKL-JNF has developed for soil erosion prevention, research and monitoring, desert afforestation and more, serve as a model for countries in similar semi-arid and arid regions of the world. Moshe showed the large and enthusiastic audience pictures he took in Israel and Jordan that show diverse methods of harvesting floodwater and land preservation. He also described how desertification occurs and how it leads to lack of soil productivity.
Over the three days that he spoke, Itzhak also focused on KKL-JNF's efforts to combat desertification. These include long-term ecological research monitoring stations that examine data such as carbon sequestration, development of tree species suitable to the particular environment (ecotyping), grazing interfaces, green belts around cities, and more. In addition, KKL-JNF has developed agro-forestry and manages grazing lands by planting rows of individual trees along earthen ridges to capture surface runoff and encourage the growth of savanna-style steppe. KKL-JNF has also planted “liman” tree clusters in banked-up water catchment depressions for shade and greenery.
The guest speaker on the first day of the talks was Professor Pietro Laureano, an architect and urban planner, who is a UNESCO consultant for arid regions, water management, Islamic civilization and endangered ecosystems. Professor Laureano is a long-time friend of Israel and KKL-JNF, and has met with Itzhak Moshe in the past. His talk focused on water conservation, bringing examples from KKL-JNF's Sataf springs site in the Judean Hills, and sites in Jericho and Jerusalem. He also spoke about the recovery of the abandoned troglodyte city of the Sassi of Matera in southern Italy, where prehistoric systems were recovered to examine the collection of rainwater and methods of passive cooling.

Ms. Mariagrazia Falcone, marketing coordinator for the Israel Ministry of Tourism in Milano and an expert on archaeology, spoke on the second day about archaeological finds in Israel related to ancient methods and technologies of water conservation. She mentioned examples of how this was accomplished in Massada, Jerusalem and the Galilee region.

On the third and final day of the talks, Itzhak Moshe was joined by Professor Stefano Grego of the Docente Universita di Agraria di Viterbo, who also serves as the president of the European Society for New Methods in Agricultural Research (ESNA). Professor Grego's lecture focused on heritage knowledge and sustainability science as means of fighting desertification. He noted KKL-JNF's important contribution to this field and mentioned that he participated in a conference organized by KKL-JNF on this subject in Israel two years ago.

The event attracted a large audience, including lecturers and students from various Italian universities. At the beginning of the third day, Pamela Villoresi, a famous Italian actress and a member of KKL Italy's honorary presidium, described her recent visit to Israel and how the country has successfully contended with its water crisis. As a result of the event, both professionals and laymen became aware of KKL-JNF's achievements in the critical fields of water conservation and combating desertification and how they can be applied in other countries facing similar challenges throughout the world.