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BGU Hosts World’s Largest Conference on Desertification

BGU Hosts World’s Largest Conference on Desertification

December 3, 2008

Press Releases





SEDE BOQER, ISRAEL, December 3, 2008 — More than 350 participants from over 40 countries are expected to participate in the largest international conference focused on the environment, which will be held at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Israel.


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 North 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 Prof. 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,” she said. 


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.

The conference is made possible in part by the generous support of AABGU and the Moses Feldman Family Foundation, PA, the Robert Sillins Family Foundation, NY and the Samueli Foundation, CA.


For more information on the conference agenda, click here.

About American Associates, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev

American Associates, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (AABGU) plays a vital role in sustaining David Ben-Gurion’s vision: creating a world-class institution of education and research in the Israeli desert, nurturing the Negev community and sharing the University’s expertise locally and around the globe. Activities include showcasing BGU’s academic excellence and cutting-edge research through educational programs, events and informative communications. AABGU’s main purpose is to support Ben-Gurion’s vision and the university that bears his name by creating a community of Americans committed to improving the world tomorrow from the heart of the Israeli desert today.

Media Contact:
Andrew Lavin
A. Lavin Communications
516-944-4486
alc@alavin.com