Peruvian farmers turn to Israel to learn state-of-the-art irrigation technology

As Peru’s valuable water resources continue to diminish at an alarming rate, representatives from 15 farming federations traveled Monday to Israel to learn about the latest innovations in irrigation technology.

Agriculture Minister Ismael Benavides said the irrigation training in Israel “will help to complement our program to improve irrigation, infrastructure, and irrigation and spray-tech, which this year amounts to $80 million.”

“With this visit, the ministry aims for the Peruvian farmers to learn the mechanisms used in Israel, a country that has always faced a shortage of arable land and water to develop its agricultural sector,” Benavides said. “We must not forget that the irrigation efficiency of Israelis is 90 percent — in other words, they don’t lose a drop of water to the sea.”

Overall irrigation efficiency in Peru is between 18 and 30 percent, with most of the water resources running off into the Pacific Ocean.

The Peruvian representatives are also to learn about agrobusiness, marketing, reforestation, risk and quality management, as well as cooperative approaches to agriculture, such as those managed by Israeli kibbutz and moshav.

Although the lack of adequate water management is a dire issue in Peru, the nation’s agro-business and export sector continue to grow at a fast clip. Booming markets for asparagus, red globe grapes, mangos and other cash crops are grown on the arid Pacific coast, which, according to the World Bank, accounts for only 21 percent of Peru’s cultivable land, but 60 percent of its agricultural GDP.

Because of unreliable and low rainfall, the coastal agricultural boom is completely reliant during the dry season on woefully inadequate irrigation infrastructure that draws water from increasingly hard-to-reach aquifers, and reservoirs in the Andes.

Peru’s government is in the midst of an internal debate between the Agriculture Ministry and recently formed Environment Ministry over how best to root out and reform the country’s biggest water wasters.

Newly appointed Environment Minister Antonio Brack last week raised the issue of the poor efficiency of irrigation. Although more proficient techniques such as trickle drop irrigation exist, Brack said, great quantities of water are being “wasted” because of “obsolete irrigation technology.”

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