There's a prevailing thought that says that it's hard to establish agriculture in the desert. But that's not necessarily so as our Israeli correspondent discovers in a visit to Southern Israel.When mentions the desert, one thinks of dryness, heat and desolation.
But it turns out that the desert can bloom, be full of life, and yield harvests of fine fruits and vegetables.
"actually if you think about desert as desert, you probably think there is no water, but we find a huge aquifer under the desert which allowed us to use it and actually we can pump it out and make the desert bloom or green with a lot of agriculture." It turns out the desert climate is good for agriculture, thanks to the ground water under the sand dunes.
"It's possible to do a lot of agriculture in the desert, because few reasons. First, we have the perfect weather for agriculture. We can grow vegetables in the winter, which is hard to do in the center or the north of Israel. Second, we have the experience and the brackish water that will allow us to use in an easy way. So, agriculture in the desert it's not a problem, it works very well together."
Although the groundwater is somewhat salty, it turns out that this saltiness actually improves the fruit.
"The saltier the brackish water we're digging from the aquifer the more sweet and better the vegetables."
Arbel explains the phenomenon in which a plant in stress gives a sweeter fruit.
"When you irrigate the fruits or the vegetables with brackish water, the plant is in stress, it suffers and produces less leaves and more fruits, smaller fruits, with less water inside and a lot of meat, it actually makes the fruit three times sweeter than usual vegetables."
The Negev area covers 13,000 square kilometers - about 60 percent of Israel. The question is, if there is water and agriculture, which means there is employment - why do only 600,000 people live in the Negev?
"A lot of people think the desert is hot, which is not right, we are suffering from cold here more than heat. A lot of people don't know the Negev and because they don't know the Negev, they think that it's not really a place they will consider to live in, but I think this perception is changing in the last few years."
Israel - Cleantech in the Making