The Rural Sector
Most of Israel's rural sector is organized on cooperative forms, which have changed in the last two decades. In the 402 Moshavim each family cultivated an equally sized farm, but the inputs and the marketing was handled by the local Agricultural Cooperative, to which all farmers had to adhere. Since a growing part of the Moshav members no longer farm and new members joined from the city to live in a quieter place, every family now belongs to a new Municipal Union and only the farming families remain in (the weakened) Agricultural Cooperative. In the 302 Kibbutzim, all means of production were collectively owned and each family received the same income. While these rules are still kept in a minority of Kibbutzim, most decided to partially privatize, allowing their members to choose where to work, also outside the Kibbutz, but still contributing to common cultural and social institutions. Thus the Kibbutz become similar to the Moshav. Due to the very high birth rates in the Arab and related sectors, only 37 traditional villages remain with a population of under 2000. The others have grown to become cities, but with parts of the families still being engaged in agriculture.
Agricultural Research and Development
The Agricultural sector provides over 90% of the national food supply and exports mainly fruits and flowers. It is only due to the technologically high R&D standards that it can compete on the international market. Nearly half of the water is used for agriculture (which is recycled), but without lowering the quality of produce. Drip irrigation, which was developed in Israel, is used where possible. The Agricultural Research Organization (ARO), also known as Volcani Center, belongs to the Ministry of Agriculture and accounts for 75% of the agricultural research in the country. The other major contributor to agricultural research is the Faculty of Agriculture, Food and Environment at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem (on its Rehovot campus). It is the only Faculty of Agriculture in the country and only a few km away from the ARO. Also at other universities, individual researchers work on agricultural issues. Practically, all advisers were trained at the same Faculty and several ARO specialists teach at The Faculty. Thus, there are close links between research and extension. Several regional R&D Centers serve mainly development areas. In these centers, the scientific directors are from ARO, experiments are often conducted by advisers, and also leading farmers (often with a degree in Agriculture) are heavily involved. Also commercial companies that produce agricultural inputs often conduct their own R&D.
Shaham, the Advisory and Professional Service of the Ministry of Agriculture has 150 advisers (down from 600 at the peak). All of these advisers are specialists in one of the agricultural branches or services. They advise some 15,000 farmers. Most advisers have a M.Sc.(Agr.) degree, 10% even earned a Ph.D. While the Ministry of Agriculture budget for R&D remained quite constant during the last 15 years, the budget for extension has diminished by 48%. Shaham encourages its advisers to engage in regional R&D. Fifty head advisers work from headquarters, the rest from five (once nine) regional centers. When the extension service had to drastically reduce its personnel, the older and tenured extension specialists have remained, thus the average age of these extension specialists is 56. Therefore, Shaham supports promising students of agriculture, who work 2-3 days a week with its advisers, thus creating a pool of future advisers. Shaham also trains farmers‚Äô sons, who do not attend the Faculty of Agriculture. Each farmer can receive annually two free visits by the Shaham advisor or a private adviser. If that is not enough, farmers can ask a private adviser or ‚Äúinspector‚Äù (on plant diseases) to come to their farm and explain how they should move forward.
There are many commercial firms that give their advice to customers for free. Crop associations do the same for their members. Many farmers have contacts to researchers. Twice a year Shaham advisers organize meetings to sum up the situation in specific branches or even crops. These meetings are attended by researchers, advisers, growers and other stake holders. Also, visits to the regional extension office are free. In most branches and issues, Shaham is the major source of information for farmers. Exceptions (and their major info-sources) are: irrigation equipment (advised by supply companies), animal husbandry (herd book, veterinarians, feed mixture firms) and topics, which Shaham does not cover, e.g. farm management.
List of Extension Providers
The following list shows an excerpt from the GFRAS Directory of Extension Providers for Israel. Some of these entries may be specially marked for having more detailed information in the database of the Worldwide Extension Study WWES.