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Bnei Shimon Regional Council

Agricultural Research Greenhouse at Shomria

Background:

The Atzmona community left its home in Gush Katif in 2005 and arrived in Shomria in April 2006, after an 8-month struggle to survive as a community and to rebuild homes and businesses in a new challenge - settling the Negev. Shomria lies in Bnei Shimon Regional Council, just north of Kibbutz Lahav, and until the arrival of the Atzmona community it was a tiny struggling kibbutz. Most of its former members have remained in Bnei Shimon and now live in Dvir and Lahav.

The economy of Atzmona had been based on a few specialty branches, and large indoor plant nurseries were the main source of income for many families who raised houseplants and green herbs for the local market. The members of the newly formed community at Shomria face the challenge of developing agriculture in their new home, 20 miles east of the Gaza strip and in climatic and geographic conditions differing drastically from those of the Mediterranean coastline. Situated at 400 meters above sea level, in hilly ground with very rocky loess soil, Shomria has cold winters, year-round low night temperatures, and low humidity. The community needs to develop farm small-holdings which will support entire families, and it needs to experiment with a range of viable crops before investing large capital outlay.

Objectives

To fulfill this need, the community plans to build a local research nursery at Shomria, which will benefit all farmers wishing to develop businesses. The research nursery will develop expertise and advise farmers as to which economically profitable crops can be grown in the region. It will also draw up guidelines for necessary investment programs, train workers and build suitable business plans. The goal is to set up successful farming enterprises in the Shomria region, making maximum use of available land, water and the local workforce. The result will ensure that all the farming families will be able to make a decent living from 1,000 dunams of land. The business will belong to Shomria, which currently has 64 families (over 400 adults and children). The center will concentrate on intensive crop farming, suitable for ‘tunnel’ and shade-net nurseries, including: fresh herbs and vegetables using organic and conventional farming methods; insect-free vegetables for the kosher market; cuttings and house-plants for export, particularly flowering plants, and innovative crops suited to local conditions.

Operation

A fenced 15 dunam plot ( 3.75 acres ) will include 2-3 dunams of covered nursery, 3 dunams of ‘tunnel’ nursery (using polyethylene sheeting) and 3 dunams of shade-net nursery. Different types of sheeting, nets, construction methods and soil will be tried. Two workers will be employed on a full-time basis. The Volcani Institute for agricultural research and the Ministry of Agriculture’s Agricultural Extension Service are involved in the program. The research will enable experienced farmers to develop intensive agriculture suited to the local environment and create employment opportunities in keeping with the life-style and needs of this recently displaced community which is striving to renew itself in Bnei Shimon Regional Council.

Contact:
Dudi Reich

052-3904826