Abigail Klein Leichman
October 1, 2023

Fatima Tirap, adviser to the president of Chad, came to Israel for the first time last March as part of an 11-country African delegation learning about agricultural technologies and especially precision irrigation

“Israel is very good in this sector and we are working with international partners to see how they can raise money and implement it in our region,” Tirap tells ISRAEL21c. 

“Chad is huge, but we have zero technology. Israeli agritech will completely change the game and the economy.” 

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Tirap’s experience was made possible by Beersheva-based DeserTech Climate Technologies Community, a new Israeli initiative supporting the Great Green Wall

Helping Africa build a Great Green Wall across the desert
Fatima Tirap, adviser to the president of Chad. Photo courtesy of DeserTech

The GGW is an African-led movement to grow an 8,000-kilometer wall of vegetation to mitigate climate change, drought, famine, unemployment, food insecurity, conflict and migration across Africa’s Sahel region between the Sahara Desert and the Sudanese savanna.

DeserTech was launched in the Senegalese pavilion at the COP27 climate conference in Egypt last November by Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, the Merage Foundation Israel, the Israel Innovation Institute and the Ministry of Environmental Protection as part of the UN Convention to Combat Desertification.

DeserTech positions the Negev as an international center for adapting technologies and connecting entrepreneurs, investors, industry, researchers and policymakers in the fight against severe desertification afflicting former fertile African drylands. 

Helping Africa build a Great Green Wall across the desert
Schematic vector map of the Great African Green Wall of the Sahara and Sahel, courtesy of Wind Vector via Shutterstock.com

“We had an incredible time seeing how agriculture is done in the Negev,” Tirap says. “For a young Sahelian Chadian woman, it was an eye-opener.” 

Chad, she notes, recently opened an embassy in Tel Aviv.

“We are proud of our good relationship with Israel. I kept telling the team that the project [in agritech] will the first baby of the marriage of Israel and Chad.”

Family farmers in Chad need Israeli knowledge, she said, to improve how they grow crops such as cotton, sesame, maize and peanuts. 

A living lab

Helping Africa build a Great Green Wall across the desert
Sinai Gohar Barak, international ecosystem development manager of DeserTech. Photo by Kim Nguyen-van Zoen

Sinai Gohar Barak, international ecosystem development manager of DeserTech, said this neutral nonprofit initiative will benefit Israel as well as the 11 participating African nations.

“By establishing a global hub for desert tech in the Negev and using it as a living lab for science and technology, we want to accumulate knowhow and be a growth engine for the Negev region. It’s an economic model for development,” she says.

“The Israeli ecosystem has a lot of solutions and operates globally but not necessarily in Africa because until now we didn’t understand all their needs and problems. Following our two-month assessment, we identified 60 defined challenges.”

Helping Africa build a Great Green Wall across the desert
African stakeholders at a seminar in Israel run by DeserTech Climate Technologies Community. Photo courtesy of DeserTech

Following a seminar in Israel for African stakeholders, 16 projects are already taking root through DeserTech. 

“A life-or-death issue in rural agriculture in the Great Green Wall corridor is post-harvest loss, which reaches 70 to 80% in some parts of northern Nigeria,” Gohar Barak tells ISRAEL21c. 

“One solution we matched them with is Natural Offset Farming, an Israeli company that develops a cooling system using CO2 in a compact unit to cool down produce until it’s taken to market. 

Helping Africa build a Great Green Wall across the desert
NOF cools produce to curb post-harvest losses. Photo courtesy of DeserTech

In another project, Climate Eyes will help stakeholders map out a plan to build and manage a series of small dams and creeks meant to reduce flood risk and enabling harvesting of rainwater.

“We are devoted to bring technology to this market that is on the frontlines of climate change and desertification,” Gohar Barak says. 

“Some of the countries that have participated do not have relations with Israel. We are geographically close to Africa and want to establish ourselves as leaders to show how we can survive and thrive together in an increasingly arid world.”

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