A date palm oasis surrounded by a mountainous moonscape… welcome to Kibbutz Ketura. I’m in the Negev desert, which covers more than half of Israel, and where I am receives about 50mm of rainfall a year. The Negev is a rocky desert interrupted by dry riverbeds called ‘Wadis’ and a series of deep craters known as a ‘Makhtesh’.
For the next 2 months I am taking part in an internship with the Centre of Sustainable Agriculture, to learn about agriculture in the desert. There’s a few interesting things about this place, one of them is living on a kibbutz.
A kibbutz is a rural community that is based on the principle of joint ownership of property, equality and cooperation of production. To become a member, you must apply and then be voted in by the community. The income everyone generates goes back into the kibbutz and is then evenly distributed depending on the needs of the individual or family. So, for example, there are communal cars which are shared by everyone unless your job description specifically requires a car!
The other interesting thing, is the types of farming systems… In the southern Negev, growing cereal crops is not an option. So, the agriculture aspect is focused on trees and shrubs which can be irrigated with saline groundwater. The main way that income is generated through agriculture on this kibbutz is via a date plantation and an algae farm. Most of the Medjool dates produced in Israel end up over in Europe, while a powerful antioxidant is extracted from the algae to be used in supplements and cosmetics.