ISRAEL - Asian and African Students Learn High-Tech Agriculture

Arno Froese

Kelvin Ombongi, 27, stands in a classroom in southeastern Israel, far from his native Kenya.

He’s been at the Arava International Center for Agricultural Training (AICAT) in Sapir since 2019, learning advanced Israeli farming methods that he hopes to plow into a career in urban agriculture back home.

“By the time we go home, we’ve learned the art of starting something small and building it to completion, and not giving up on the way,” says Ombongi.

“It’s not only education; AICAT is also creating leaders.”

Ombongi’s unscripted words bring a warm smile to the face of AICAT’s director, Hanni Arnon, an educator who founded the center in 1994 with partners including Israel’s Foreign Affairs Ministry and Agriculture Ministry.

“These are students from countries where the main source of income is agriculture. But it’s traditional agriculture,” says Arnon.

“Usually when we ask what they grow, they say ‘rice.’ Why? ‘Because my father grew rice, and his father and his father’s father.’

“So we bring these young people here to the desert and provide them with theoretical and practical courses in agriculture. 

Starting with about 500 students per year, AICAT now trains 1,200 people annually.

About 20,000 alumni come from Cambodia, East Timor, Ethiopia, Indonesia, Jordan, Kenya, Laos, Myanmar, Nepal, Nigeria, Philippines, Rwanda, South Sudan, Thailand, Uganda and Vietnam.

“We cooperate with countries that Israel doesn’t have diplomatic ties with, such as Indonesia,” says Hanni Arnon, the founder.

“They see that even though we don’t have any natural resources, we do the impossible of blooming the desert. They say, ‘Wow, in my country we have good water and good soil, so why are we poor?’ And they take inspiration and a new spirit when they go back home. They learn to ask questions and find solutions to their challenges.”

Arnon says they also return home as informal ambassadors for Israel, sowing what she calls “good seeds” for a more peaceful and prosperous future., 3 July 2022

Arno's Commentary

In this case, technology is the key, not tradition. History has taught us that the desert cannot be used for agriculture. That is definitely not true in Israel. While more than half the country consists of desert, agriculture is thriving nonetheless. 

Why is Israel different? Because of the promises of God. “The wilderness and the solitary place shall be glad for them; and the desert shall rejoice, and blossom as the rose” (Isaiah 35:1). This prophecy is yet to be fully fulfilled, but what’s happening in Israel today is a foreshadowing of that which is to come.

Arno Froese is the executive director of Midnight Call Ministries and editor-in-chief of the acclaimed prophetic magazines Midnight Call and News From Israel. He has authored a number of well-received books, and has sponsored many prophecy conferences in the U.S., Canada, and Israel. His extensive travels have contributed to his keen insight into Bible prophecy, as he sees it from an international perspective.

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