India has chosen Israel as a strategic partner in the field of agriculture because of the heavy investment Israel has made in the field of Agri-Tech Start-ups. Earlier this partnership used to be among private entities alone, however with time, and lobbying of certain bodies, this partnership has become an inter-governmental alliance. Today, this partnership is aimed at introducing crop diversity, increasing productivity & increasing water use efficiency.
One of the projects that evolved from this partnership is the Indo-Israel Agricultural Project (IIAP), under the Indo Israel Action Plan, based on an MOU signed by Agricultural ministers of India and Israel in 2006. IIAP is mandated to establish of Centers of Excellence (CoE), in which Israeli Technologies and methodologies are disseminated, keeping the local Indian context in mind. These Centers of Excellence (CoE) are platforms for knowledge transfer and introduction of Israeli Agro-Technology. As a goal the CoE aims to serve the farmer with a focus on a key crop. Each CoE is required to have a Nursery management that practices Cultivation techniques, Irrigation & fertigation.
In the late 1990s, Andhra Pradesh was the state taking pride of the Israeli technology in agriculture. The Kuppam project of 1998 sought to demonstrate the Israeli model using drip irrigation for local farmers. In Kuppam, Israeli agro-business companies such as Netafim were involved.
Andhra Pradesh CM Chandra Babu Naidu on 3rd January, 2019 inaugurated the Indo-Israel Centre of Excellence for Vegetables and Flowers at Kuppam. Apart from this, there is a large-scale project of drip irrigation, the Ramthal Marol project, going on in Bagalkot district of Karnataka. This project is being implemented by Krishna Bhagya Jala Nigam Limited with the assistance of Israeli agro-business firm, Netafim.
In the second budget as the Chief Minister of Karnataka, H D Kumaraswamy allocated Rs 145 crores to Israeli model farming scheme. This follows from the Rs 300 crore allocated last year to the same scheme. What this ‘scheme’ entails apart from micro irrigation technologies such as drip irrigation is still to be seen. Drip irrigation per se is an elementary technology that farmers have been using for centuries in India. Yet Kumaraswamy invokes his commitment to Israeli technology, which came about since he visited Israel last year before being elected. Since then, the state agriculture and horticulture minister as well as secretary of state agriculture department have too visited Israel to learn their agriculture technology.
An independent study by Deccan Development Society heavily criticised this model for being not only unsustainable but also detrimental for the local village economy, and several other experts further condemned this model as “technically unsound, low in agricultural sustainability, environmentally destructive and economically unviable.
Such outcomes are unsurprising, considering that Israel’s agriculture and its agro-business firms such as Netafim are not developed to support small farming communities but to colonize land taken by force from the Palestinian farmers, who have been expelled from their farms at gunpoint. The model entrenches illegal occupation and apartheid against Palestinians people that still remained on their lands. Even for Jewish Israelis, this agro-model over time has become so investment intensive that between 1981-95 almost 50% of the farms closed down, many after defaulting on loan repayment. And these empirical facts come from Alon Tal, who is on the International board of Jewish National Fund, an agent of Israel’s settler-colonialism, and has been awarded by Monsanto.
All India Kisan Sabha endorsed the Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, resolving to denounce and document any cases of Israeli corporate takeover in the Indian agro-sector and raising awareness among Indian farmers to prevent Israel and its corporations from reaping profits in India that finance military occupation and apartheid in Palestine.
Even if it were not for Israel, the agri-tech start-up boom would have occurred in India with the help of other big players like Tatas, Ambanis and Adanis, as they all see the agri-industry as the new cash cow. In fact, they are also already laying the foundation of catalysing this disruptive economy that will permanently displace the farmers from their agricultural lands, pushing them to become victim of the vicious cycle of urban poverty. These corporates openly claim that the farmers are not part of the future of the Agri-industry as they are just incapable of adapting to the scale. The capitalistic take-over of the agriculture sector will be very systematic, manipulative and in the disguise of welfare of farmers. Without a strong resistance, the agri-technology will never become accessible to small farmers. Further the agricultural sector will permanently be taken over by corporates and the farm labourers will be exploited as bonded labours like it infamously happens in tea estates around the world.