Changing the global perception from reactive disaster management to proactive action and risk management increases the ability of many countries and societies to enable sustainable living for their inhabitants. For example, countries that are already preparing to deal with droughts, such as Niger, seem to be able to rehabilitate the land and restore its fertility, thus saving lives and positively affecting the country's economy, which is largely based on agriculture. As the UNCCD declared in their annual 'Drought in Numbers 2022’ report, an estimated 55 million people globally are directly affected by droughts every year; it is the most serious hazard to livestock and crops in nearly every part of the world. In the EU and UK alone, annual losses from drought are currently estimated to be around EUR 9 billion and projected to rise to more than EUR 65 billion if no meaningful climate action is taken.

What Israel can offer to help prepare for and mitigate the devastating effects of desertification?

The DeserTech Community, established in 2020 by the Merage Foundation Israel, Israel Innovation Institute, Israel's Ministry of Environmental Protection and Ben Gurion University, aims to offer technological solutions to countries and companies that are dealing with extreme climate phenomena. The Community brings together Israeli startups, corporations, researchers at various academic institutions, and investors to support the development of solutions to overcoming extreme climate, water scarcity, land degradation, and low accessibility to essential resources – all caused by desertification.

Today we bring together more than 100 Israeli startups operating in the fields of water, energy, agriculture, and infrastructure, and we are connecting them with global business development opportunities. In addition, The DeserTech Adaptation Seminar, held in Be'er Sheva and throughout the Negev in March 2022, connected 17 UK and Netherlands-based companies with Israel’s leaders in research and industry focusing on desert challenges; the fruits of these collaborations are ripening now.

The Israeli desert, the Negev, offers the support of world-leading agronomists and water experts, and hundreds of hectares of greenhouses and outdoor desert agriculture for testing different microclimates. Companies and cities can pilot new technologies or adapt existing technologies to the challenging conditions of the desert – extreme temperatures, sandstorms, degraded and saline soils, off-grid, and remote communities and more.

We will soon be launching the Negev Resource Map – a digital platform where anyone around the world can reach the best minds and organizations that can provide services and tools for adapting to desertification. Thus, we will increase Israel's involvement in the global fight against desertification and create opportunities that will lead to economic growth in the Negev, the heart of Israel where innovation and the desert meet.

Together, we will overcome the challenges of desertification.

Written by Sivan Cohen Shachari, Director of the DeserTech Community