Thursday, August 8, 2013

Teaching high-tech agricultural practices to the world

The Arava International Trainee Center, or AICAT for short, is located in the desert settlement of Sapir. It is a 20 year old training facility attended by students from developing countries throughout Asia and the Far East. These individuals almost all have university backgrounds in agricultural subjects and they come to Israel with the blessings (and often the financial backing) of their home countries.  Their purpose is to learn how to grow their crops under unfavorable conditions using the successful techniques practiced on farms throughout the dry desert Arava.

That farmers in Israel are able to grow lush, fertile, beautiful crops in the middle of the hot and dry desert is nothing less than a modern day miracle. The techniques used by Israeli farmers are taught both in the classroom and through practical experience. Students study at AICAT for the period of a year, during which they live on various settlements (Moshavim) in and around Sapir. They are paid by the farms where they work, they are given the opportunity to tour Israel, and they develop a community of other like-minded students during their time abroad. When these students return to their home countries, they are natural ambassadors for Israel, and they bring back with them the skills and knowledge to increase agricultural productivity.

Over the years, the Center has received students from various Asian countries, including Thailand, Cambodia, Myanmar, Nepal, Vietnam, Laos, Philippines, India, Ethiopia, Southern Sudan, Jordan and Tibet. As the number of participating countries increases and the center becomes the global hub for agricultural training, the student population will more than triple over the next five years bringing the need for a larger campus.

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