“The arid desert shall be glad, The wilderness shall rejoice And shall blossom like a rose. It shall blossom abundantly” (Isaiah 35:1–2 JPS)
The Arava International Center of Agricultural Training (AICAT) training program began in 1994 and has been going for 27 years. This program is conducted in the Arava area of Israel, which is an area that is challenging when it comes to agriculture because it is located in the Negev desert.
From the photos that I will add and that you can see on the ILTV YouTube it will be clear that in the hands of the Jews and Almighty G-d, the desert is blooming.
Hanni Arnon, Executive Director of AICAT, shared that AICAT has students from many countries in Africa and Southeast Asia including Vietnam, Nepal, Cambodia, Fiji, Vanuatu, Myanmar, East-Timor, Cape Verde, Laos, Thailand, and two Muslim countries: Indonesia and Gambia. It is especially interesting that Indonesia and Gambia, both Muslim countries, are sending students to study agriculture in Israel. They value agriculture so much that they overlook negative feelings about Israel. Even though the media paints Israel in a negative way, they choose to come and learn about agriculture for a year in Israel. Israel has a good name for the innovations that they have developed in agriculture.
The main program is a year-long diploma program studying agriculture. Students who are already majoring in agriculture in university in their home country can earn university credit for their study of agriculture in Israel. They learn hands-on, that is, by doing rather than only in the classroom. The student sees, handles, smells, and eats the fruit and vegetables. In addition, they travel around Israel to see and appreciate the land and its history. They also visit various agricultural projects throughout Israel.
In the Arava, each student works closely with a mentor who is a farmer, working with them to make their study more effective. After completing the year of study, when they are back in their home country, they will continue to consult with their mentor via the internet. All AICAT staff are Arava residents and this program creates quality job opportunities which are very important to the Arava region.
Each student writes up a business plan that can be used in their respective country, which is the basis for being awarded a grant, of which the number is increasing each year. This year, ten grants will be awarded to graduates in May. These grants are based on mutually agreed upon goals and benchmarks to help the student and the country to develop a particular agricultural project. Students become entrepreneurs at the end of the program to improve their farms and become involved in the global challenge of food security and feeding the world. They also become good ambassadors for Israel.
It is interesting to note how students are chosen from countries interested in the program. AICAT sends invitations out to various countries about participating in their training programs. They cooperate with universities or official government entities in their respective country, such as the Ministry of Agriculture. After a potential student is identified, AICAT will apply to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Israel and the Israeli embassy in the respective country in order to request a special permit and visa to be granted which will allow the student to enter Israel to study.
The students learn as they actually work on the farm, which is producing a variety of fruit and vegetables. The students learn to understand the importance of agriculture both in Israel and in their home countries.