Angolans are producing Israeli varieties of produce such as eggplant, tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, melons and watermelons.Using advanced irrigation technology imported from Israel, Angola is now growing fresh produce for its citizens.
Thanks to a joint Angolan-Israeli venture, for the first time Angolans are producing Israeli varieties of produce such as eggplant, tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, melons, watermelon, butternut squash, lettuce, and sweet corn, and are lessening their reliance on buying imported produce.
A major force in changing the daily lives and diets of Angolans is Israeli company Green 2000 – which together with local Angolan company Copinol SARL set up an 11-acre farm in 2002 called Terra Verde, outside the capital city of Luanda.
Based in Caesarea, Green 2000 Ltd consists of a group of agronomists who represent a number of seed companies both in Israel and abroad, and sets up agricultural projects globally including in Argentina, Chile, Kenya, Kazakhstan, Jordan, Turkey and the US, carrying out planning, management and consultancy.
Their involvement in Angola was inevitable. One of Africa’s major oil producers, Angola is also one of the world’s poorest countries. Located on the South Atlantic Coast of West Africa between Namibia and the Republic of the Congo, the country covers 1,246,700 sq. km., slightly less than twice the size of Texas, out of which only 750 sq km is irrigated.
Salaries are very low, and 70% of the population of 12 million lives below the poverty line. A driver for a commercial company, in the capital of Luanda, earns around $300 a month, and after paying his living expenses, including buying water, comes home with very little left over.
Much of the country’s infrastructure is still damaged or undeveloped and is recovering from 27 years of civil war and economic mismanagement. And despite its abundant natural resources, output per capita is among the world’s lowest. Subsistence agriculture provides the main livelihood for 85% of the population, but half the country’s food is still imported, including fresh produce. The average Angolan, because of the low level of salaries, finds it difficult to pay these prices. Imported produce is more expensive and only a very few are able to afford it.
In 2002 Copinol SARL – under the leadership of Israeli Zeev Zacharin – devised the idea of Terra Verda and enlisted the planning and consulting services of Green 2000 Ltd. The result is a farm that includes includes 12 acres of greenhouses and 74 acres of open-field vegetable crops and produces between 35 to 50 tons of produce per week.
“Local investors in Angola approached our company in 2001 to establish a farm. We checked out the location of the project, made a survey of climate, soil, water availability and the infrastructure needed for a project of this nature, and based on our findings presented a plan and budget proposal. It was approved and so the project began,” explained Rafi Dayan, Green 2000 Ltd’s Israel manager.
The farm is managed jointly by Israeli agronomist Uri Ben Basat and his Angolan counterpart Pedro Sivelo. Ben Basat was born in Gan Yavne, near Ashdod and grew up on Kibbutz Hatzor, where he studied agriculture and spent many years growing citrus. He subsequently established a greenhouse business, and managed a farm in Mexico. Zacharin’s daughter Meirav is also involved in the business – handling marketing for Copinol.
“Green 2000 is involved in consultation, planning and setting up an agricultural training center,” explained Dayan. “Different varieties of vegetables are grown in open fields and greenhouses depending on their suitability to Angola’s climate. The company installed a drip irrigation system computer-programmed to ensure that only the required amount of water is used. The farm also has its own pumping station guaranteeing an abundant water supply to avoid reductions or cuts in the flow.”
Most of the produce grown at Terra Verde makes its way to the country’s supermarkets and restaurants, he added.
They signed a contract for 5 years for ongoing farm management.
According to Dayan, greenhouses, and computer-controlled drip irrigation are all methods usually employed in Israel but very new in Angola. This modern technology enables Terra Verde to grow the popular Israeli produce year round.
According to Ben Bassat, Terra Verde has proven so successful, that in the next year or two, more farms will be established in other Angolan locations. Which will mean lower prices, more fresh, locally grown produce, and some happy Angolans.