Open Space Preservation in the Agricultural and Rural Sectors
Open farmland is a major component of Israel’s scarce remaining open spaces. More than 56% of the total open area in northern Israel is used in agriculture, while only 2.5% is designated as protected areas. Thus, maintaining open and environmentally friendly farming is a critical challenge in the struggle to preserve Israel's unique and endangered biodiversity and to provide ecosystem services to the rest of the country. Open farming areas, unlike built-up ones, are an important land reserve that can be modified for use for ecological restoration and/or recreation. Therefore, cooperation with the agricultural and rural sectors is essential in order to preserve the Land’s unique natural and cultural legacy.
OLI has been engaged in the following activities:
Cooperation with the Israeli Rural Regional Councils Center (IRRCC). This cooperation has already contributed to the IRRCC’s decision to take responsibility for the provision of open space services for the general public. Further cooperation aims to achieve mutual understandings regarding policy and tools for open space preservation and to promote its implementation. The cooperation with the IRRCC and its growing commitment to open land preservation was expressed, among other aspects, by the IRRCC initiative to prepare a comprehensive guide for planning and management of open spaces in rural areas.
Agro-ecological pilot projects: OLI has been engaged in promoting the following agro- ecology pilot projects, which are advanced jointly with farmers and other partners, in order to convince the national government to adopt internationally accepted agro-ecology principles. OLI's pioneering efforts to convince the agriculture sector to enter a new era of ecological agriculture have been successful. The Ministry of Agriculture adopted OLI's recommendations and have allocated NIS 1.2 Million for the following three agro-ecological projects including:
Emek Hefer: A pilot project initiated by OLI together with the Emek Hefer Regional Council, the Ministry of Agriculture, and the Ministery of Environmental Protection to implement agro-ecological farming and ecological restoration in an agricultural area along the Alexander River.
Status: A 5 year work plan for the project, developed by a team including an ecologist and the regional representative of the Ministry of Agriculture and the farmers, is now in its second year of implementation.
Lev Hasharon - OLI participated in this project by conducting the nature and landscape survey and providing the data for planning and management of the area.
Beit Netofa Valley – OLI is engaged in an effort to persuade the Ministry of Agriculture to promote an agro-ecological pilot project in the Beit Netofa Valley. The project aims to provide incentives for local farmers to maintain and advance the unique traditional environmentally friendly farming instead of a government drainage project that threatens to jeopardize the unique ecological and visual features of the valley. The Ministry of Agriculture was successfully persuaded to halt the drainage project and consider preparing a comprehensive plan for the valley. We conducted an environmental survey of the area as background to the project planning and implementation.