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Jewish National Fund is leading the way in researching and developing leading-edge technology for trees, solar power, salt water irrigation, and more.


As the population of the planet grows, the world’s watching Israel and what it is doing in the desert. For more than a century, JNF, as a part of its support for the land and people of Israel has sponsored research initiatives, beginning with expeditions to study plant life and soil quality in Israel as part of efforts to cultivate the land. Today, JNF has become a world leader in technological, agricultural, and environmental innovations.


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At JNF’s Central Arava R&D Center, biologists are focused on finding cures for cancers, Alzheimer’s, and ALS.  And, in the Negev, by working with distinguished academic and scientific institutions, JNF has accomplished and supported never-before-seen innovative solutions in the areas of solar power, water sustainability, agricultural development, and electric power.

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Arava R&D Center

The Central Arava R&D Center is a leading scientific research and development center established in 1986 as part of the Negev-Arava R&D program, with the aim of developing and advancing new materials, raising the quality of the produce, finding new crops and opening new markets. In recent years, alongside the extensive research in agriculture, a strong scientific research division has developed focusing in the fields of molecular biology, drug discovery, biotechnology, ecology, geology, and more. Today, over 30 professional staff members work at the R&D Center, all first and second generation residents of the Arava. 


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The Arava International Center for Agricultural Training (AICAT) in Sapir, the regional capital of the Central Arava, is a Jewish National Fund-sponsored initiative to  enhance communities and generate employment opportunities in the Negev. Through AICAT, JNF imparts professional agricultural knowledge and skills to students from developing countries while establishing itself as the national and international leading authority in sophisticated arid lands agricultural studies and training. This provides an invaluable contribution to developing countries and their students who attend, but also provides additional high-quality employment for local residents. There is a staff of 80 lecturers and facilitators consisting of Arava residents, and as part of their studies, AICAT students work on local farms. They also have the opportunity to take part in regional agricultural activities and visit tourist sites throughout Israel.


AICAT students have come from various countries, including Cambodia, East Timor, Ethiopia, Indonesia, Jordan, Kenya, Laos, Myanmar, Nepal, Nigeria, Philippines, Rwanda, South Sudan, Thailand, Uganda and Vietnam.


The school offers a 10-month diploma program for undergraduates and an 18-month master’s program. Demand for the programs is increasing, and they have been over capacity since 2012. As more and more countries participate in the program and the center becomes the global hub for agricultural training, the number of enrolled students is expected to increase significantly over the next few years. This has created the need for a larger campus. Renovation of the existing facilities and expansion of teaching facilities is necessary to meet growth expectations, making a larger campus necessary. AICAT expects to have at least 1,500 students enrolled by 2020.


Jewish National Fund-USA, the University of Arizona, and the Arava regional councils have formed the Kasser Joint Institute for Global Food, Water and Energy Security. The Institute will develop tools and design methods to adapt technologies and initiate programs to aid communities in arid and hyper-arid environments with a focus on Africa. Leveraging the existing facilities and resources of the University of Arizona and the Arava region, the Joint Institute will promote applied research and student training programs. Over the next three to five years, the Joint Institute will establish at least 3 multi-disciplinary programs in Africa to provide technology transfer, applied research, knowledge, training, on-going guidance, and education.