"Israeli Lesson For Our Agriculture"

JALAN KUMAR SHARMA, Chief Executive Officer of Sana Kisan Bikas Bank Ltd (Small Farmers Development Bank Ltd) spoke to NEW SPOTLIGHT on his recent observation trip to Israel. Excerpts:

Feb. 15, 2014, 5:45 p.m. Published in Magazine Issue: Vol: 07 No. -16 Feb. 14- 2014 (Falgun 02, 2070)

How do you view your recent trip to Israel?

I changed my views of Israel after my visit. I always considered Israel as a country with its desert as a big barrier to making progress in agriculture. I never imagined that a country without water can make such a big progress in the agriculture sector. Israelis have proved that it is not the amount of water that matters, the issue is the use of water. That was the lesson I have learnt.

What are your experiences of agriculture in Israel?

The hard work of Israeli people has made their country proud in the world as an exporter of agriculture products. Their progress in agriculture is remarkable. Half of their country is covered by desert, with no water at all. But they have been utilizing the water available by producing high quality products to export to Europe and the United States of America. Nepal has to learn from this.

How was progress possible there?

With the hardworking spirit and superb technology, Israelis have enough agriculture products to export to Europe and the United States of America. Nepal should follow the Israelis. Bordering with two big neighbors, Nepal has a major advantage to produce the exportable items.

In what ways is Nepal learning from Israel now?

With the support from Israeli Embassy, Small Agriculture Development Bank has sent two hundreed young boys and girls to Israel to learn the agriculture practices for a year. After their return to the country, they will definitely contribute to bring change in Nepal's agriculture sector. This is the impression what we got after our recent visit to Israel.

Besides technology, what can Nepal learn from Israel?

We can learn the importance of utilization of water in agriculture sector.  They are using every drop of water to produce grains. Their agriculture practice is world famous.  The nutrition and water they supply to each plant is saving the water. Small amount of water can make a big difference in their approach to farming.

What is the aim of the current project?

Our aim is to involve Nepal's young population aged between 20-30 in agriculture. With the support from Israeli ambassador Hanan Goddar, we have already sent the first batch of the sons of small farmers who were chosen on a competitive basis. We are now in the process of selecting the second batch. This is good news to share with all.

What are the selection criteria?

The participants have to be sons and daughters small farmers, of age between 20-30 and with higher secondary education. A country with an overwhelming number of small farmers, Nepal cannot prosper without improving their farms. This is what we have learnt. Nepal and Israel have long relations with exchange of visits of high level officials from Agriculture Development Bank. Farmers of both the countries have exchanged their visit. This is for the first time that such a large number of young people are now in Israel. Agriculture Development Bank has started this exchange of visit.

Is this first exchange visit?

This is the continuation of the process of our exchange visit. This is good that we have sent young male and female members to Israel to learn agriculture practices. We proposed with the Israeli ambassador on sending the youth to Israel in 2012. This is a good exchange of visit to lure Nepal's youth in agriculture center. We have shown visiting Israeli delegation how Nepal's small farmers worked. Ambassador Hanan actively visited our projects. Nepalese are now working in two places in Israel. There are altogether 204 Nepalese students working in the northern and southern Israel.   

How is the process of selection?

Our process of selection was transparent and open. It is accountable also. The students were the offspring of small farmers who were our members. We have covered 8 districts of central, western and far western regions. The criteria of selection were strictly followed. They must be sons and daughters of small farmers, members of our team, and should have +2 level of education.

How will they benefit?

Once they return, they don't need to worry. We will offer them loan. There is a lot of scope for Nepal's agriculture sector. We can produce off season vegetables for export. If water starved Israel can do, there is nothing impossible for Nepal to do.  We have set the criteria for the selection process. Our team is composed of five members, including the officials from various ministries like Ministry of Finance, Cooperative and Poverty Reduction and Agriculture. We met 150 Nepalese working in three different places. They are quite satisfied and happy. Along with working in the field, they were also given a chance to study. They are also saving certain amount of money.  They will use the money as the seed money to start work back at home.

How do you see prospects of agriculture growth?

Nepal has to find out places for export. We can export our products to all countries. We have adequate water and it is available all over Nepal. We have diversity of climate. There is water everywhere. Since we have two big markets nearby, we don't have any problems for the market. If we introduce modern technology, students will learn to go hi-tech. Nepalese are learning skills. In a country with 70 percent farmers and 80 percent living in rural parts, agriculture is the best way to transform the Nepalese society.

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