Six Agrostudies interns reside at Kibbutz Be’eri, one of the last remaining old school cooperative Kibbutzes in Israel. Three of them are from Tanzania and three from Zambia. They live on the Kibbutz and eat in the communal lunch room along with everyone else, participating as one of this Southern Israeli community.
Kibbutz Be’eri undertakes highly developed and diverse horticulture farming. They have extensive citrus and Jojoba orchards as well as fields where they grow a wide variety of crops such as carrots, sweet potatoes, corn, barley, wheat and more.
The students help with the irrigation, laying down the pipes and digging out weeds for the organic crops, both important skills to hone for when they return to their home countries, but one of the more unusual experiences the students are exposed to at the Be’eri farm involve the Jojoba orchards.
Jojoba bushes produce seeds from which an oil is extracted. This oil is used for skin care and it also has medicinal advantages. Israel has three main Jojoba growers, Be’eri being one of them, and 90% of their crops are intended for export. Be’eri has been growing Jojoba bushes for 30 years as hot climate around them is compatible with its growth. It is a very durable bush with few diseases. The Agrostudies interns spend most of their time in this orchard, learning how to care for these bushes, trim them and collect the seeds.
Harvest begins in September and it is always a marathon against time to collect as many as possible before winter reaches the region. The seeds fall to the ground and must be collected before the first rains appear. It is lucky therefore, that Israel has such an extensive dry season.
For the students, however, this is more than just an opportunity to learn how to cultivate orchards; it is an opportunity to see how an agricultural business for export is run. The seeds are collected and sent the nearby Kibbutz Hazerim where the oil is extracted. Later they are packaged and shipped abroad.
Agriculture on a large scale is not just about growing food, it is a large scale and often international business. The students undertake entrepreneurship courses during their internship and one of the most important things the internship can offer is to open the students’ eyes to new opportunities and ideas; to discover new markets and methods and hone the skills to participate in those markets.
Aside from their time at work they are also part of the social fabric of the farm and Kibbutz. They take part in the Kibbutz parties and trips. A short while ago they drove up to Jerusalem and visited the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.