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Ben-Gurion University of the Negev to host

The conference will take place December 14-17, 2008 at the University's Sede Boqer campus and sites in the Negev under the auspices of BGU's Jacob Blaustein Institutes for Desert Research (BIDR). Among the co-sponsors of the conference are the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), Israel's Ministry for Foreign Affairs, Jewish National Fund, the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv, and Netafim, the global leader in smart water solutions for agriculture.

Many nations, particularly developing countries, are affected by the destructiveness of desertification which leads to famine and rural community displacement. While desertification is an increasing problem worldwide, Israel is the only country where the desert is receding, due in part to research and technologies that have emanated from BGU's Blaustein Institutes.

Among the U.S. participants are Prof. Rattan Lal from Ohio State University, and Keynote Speaker Prof. James Reynolds of the Nicholas School of the Environment at Duke University in South Carolina.

Dozens of representatives, experts, scientists, and practitioners are attending from Africa, India, Italy, Turkey, China, Spain, Germany, The Netherlands, and the United Kingdom. At the first conference held in 2006, representatives from the Palestinian Water Authority and Jordan attended.

"This event embodies BGU's role as a worldwide leader in environmental research and development whose purpose is to share our knowledge and experience with every nation that is willing," explains Rivka Carmi, president of BGU. "At the same time, it is an important event at which we can showcase our expertise and success in solving many of Israel's own water and desertification issues that will aid in sustainable development in the Negev and throughout Israel."

Among the many research subject areas to be addressed at the "Drylands, Deserts and Desertification" conference include desert ecology, solar energy, conservation, sustainable desert agriculture, desalination and the role of gender in desertification.

According to the chairman of the organizing committee, Dr. Alon Tal, who is a professor of environmental policy at BGU, "this conference will be nearly twice as large as the first held here in 2006. The notion of a professional conference whose participants were quite heterogeneous was considered anomalous at the first gathering, but proved to be a particularly interesting forum during which scientists mix with farmers and bureaucrats to share their experiences. The event will not only be the largest international conference ever held in Israel about an environmental topic, but probably the largest international academic forum ever on desertification."

Each of the four days of the conference focuses on a specific theme:

  • Day 1: Life and Soil Degradation in the Drylands, including causes and consequences of soil damages.
  • Day 2: Vegetation's Role in Sustainable Dryland Living, including chemical induction, land restoration and soil and water management.
  • Day 3: Field Trips to Negev Desert Sites
  • Day 4: The Human Dimensions- Policies and Partnerships to Combat Desertification, including modern education and strategies.


Contact: Andrew Lavin
American Associates, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev

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