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Conference Themes

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Afforestation in Drylands

Co-conveners, Itzhak Moshe ( and David Brand (

The session will focus on demonstrating case studies of successful experiences as related to afforestation as a means to combat desertification, reduce land degradation and enhance ecosystem services for the benefit of people in drylands.


Co-conveners , Eli Zaady ( and Anat Levengart (

The agro-ecology sessions will include issues regarding the impacts of intensive agriculture on natural environments and resources, such as soil, water, and air, and on the biodiversity of organisms, in the nearby natural areas and within agricultural systems. The issues addressed will also include factors from agronomy, ecology, sociology, economics and related disciplines, and efficient food production per natural input in arid and semiarid zones. 

Architecture and Urban Planning in Drylands

​Conveners, Guedi Capeluto ( and David Pearlmutter (

People spend a significant part of their lives indoor. As such, the indoor environment and its quality have a decisive effect on human wellbeing, health, productivity, and potentially also on morbidity and mortality. Trends of urbanization in developing countries, densification and high rise construction, urban pollution and the urban heat island effect, become especially problematic when combined with climatic extremes and a growing climatic uncertainty, alongside desertification processes, bringing the desert on the edge or inside previously temperate environments.

In developed countries, some 40% of all energy is consumed for heating, cooling, and making buildings habitable. When the energy costs of building construction and materials, on the one hand, and urban transportation, on the other, are added to this basic load, it becomes clear that most of society’s energy use and comfort conditions inside and around buildings are influenced by the work of architects and planners. But the use of conventional energy sources is known to have adverse effects on the environment and human health.

The 2014 Cook Workshop aims at reviewing constraints and trends, among them environmental climatic and social ones, which should affect planning, design and construction policies and practices. The repercussions on the livability of buildings and settlements, and the survivability and resilience potential of communities in arid regions may well be at risk.  Thus, for many countries, high-performance green building (and the standards that encourage this) are not a luxury to be adopted in the future once more pressing constraints are eased, but, rather, a critical development goal to lessen these constraints and allow a viable path into a livable future.
The workshop will cover topics of green architecture and healthy buildings, climate and energy related regulation, issues of urbanization and sustainable development, with special focus on drylands and deserts.

Carbon Footprint

Co-conveners, Goen Ho ( and Amit Gross (

Climate change due to increasing greenhouse gas emission is predicted to lead to more severe and frequent extreme weather events, drying of arid regions and rising sea levels. It is imperative that we reduce carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions to the atmosphere. This session provides case examples of the benefit of carbon footprint reduction not only for climate change mitigation, but at the same time for the benefit of communities in arid regions through dryland rehabilitation, reduced embedded energy in construction materials & the use of renewable energy in mining settlements and production of energy from wastes. The presentations will illustrate how carbon footprint is estimated, its link to water and energy footprints and provide examples of how indigenous communities can benefit from opportunities arising from carbon reduction activities.

Climate Change

​Convener Elli Groner (

Climate change has been seen as the main threat to life in deserts and their surrounding areas. Decreased precipitation can have severe impacts on the ecosystems, livelihood and health in deserts. While areas surrounding deserts can turn into deserts due to desertification, it is the areas in the heart of deserts that are severely damaged due to the decrease in rainfall. In this session, several examples of climate change and its impact on agriculture and livelihood in desert areas will be presented.

Climate History, Drought and Desertification in the Ancient Near East

Convener: Hendrik J. Bruins (

The essence of desertification is land degradation, according to the official definition of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD). Land degradation is characterized by a reduction of biological and economic productivity of the land. In this session, we focus on the occurrence of severe climatic aridization and drought in the ancient Near East, assessing the possible effect on land-use and society. It seems that the period from about 2200-1900 BCE (the so-called 4.2–3.9 ka BP megadrought) was characterized by a significantly drier climate in many parts of the Near East. Also other periods in the past 5000 years show abrupt climate change to drier conditions. Precise dating is crucial to establish a temporal linkage between climatic and societal history. However, a linkage in time is not necessarily sufficient to prove a causal link. There also needs to be an assessment whether climatic aridization passed a critical threshold, rendering certain land-use activities, such as agriculture and pastoralism, economically nonviable or marginal. Movements of people to wetter regions may be a response to severe drought and climatic aridization. Therefore, changes in population density in the past, the ability of the hinterland to supply sufficient food to urban centers, and changes from farming to pastoralism are factors to be considered in the above context. The present may be a key to the past, while knowledge of past climatic changes and dry periods is essential in terms of future climatic risk assessment and drought contingency planning.


Dead Sea with ancient and modern beach ridges.jpg

Figure 1. The Dead Sea is a regional rain/runoff gauge and evaporation pan, containing important palaeoclimatic records; notice ancient and modern beach ridges (photo H.J. Bruins, 21 Feb 2014).


Horvat Haluqim, terraced wadi, silos (1).jpg
Figure 2. An ancient terraced wadi at the site of Horvat Haluqim in the central Negev, containing records of ancient farming periods based on the capture of runoff water; notice two grain silos in the foreground (photo H.J. Bruins, 26 Nov 2009).

Degradation Processes and Actions to Combat Desertification in Mongolia

Convener, Arnon Karnieli (

Considerable attention has been given to desertification processes in Mongolia since vast areas of sandy deserts are located in the cold Asian deserts that are characterized by arid and semi-arid climates where the annual precipitation is below 500 mm.  The reasons for this land degradation include, on one hand, human activities such as overgrazing, logging, mining, expanding farms, and population pressure, and on the other hand, climate factors such as droughts, increasing temperatures, and severe sand and dust storms.  However, this region has also experienced various actions to combat desertification, undertaken by the government and local residents, including the ground and air-seeding of trees, bushes, and grasses over large areas and the construction of long windbreaks, shelterbelts, barriers, and pastureland enclosures, as well as the introduction of chemical mulching and hydrologic solutions.

Demographic drivers of desertification: recent trends and lessons in family planning

​Description forthcoming

Desert Ecology

Co-conveners Elli Groner ( and Shirli Bar-David (

Is there anything special about desert ecology or is it just another branch of ecology ? From semi-arid to hyper-arid regions, desert ecosystems are driven by water shortages. This session will address plant adaptations to deserts,  the ecosystem structure and function in drylands and how they shape the human communities that live there.

Deserts and Drylands in Ancient Literature and Archaeology

Convener, Haim Goldfus (  

The sessions under the above heading will focus on two subjects. The first one will deal with the various meanings and reflections of the term 'Desert/Dry-Lands' and its derivatives, in ancient texts such as the Bible and early Christian literature. The second subject will cover the existence and interpretation of different kinds of archaeological remains found in desert environments from the Negev Desert to the Great Wall of China.


Drip Irrigation (main theme of Desert Agriculture this year)

Can drip irrigation solve global water and food crises?

The world is facing two serious interdependent crises; a water crisis and a food crisis. These crises are a result of the proliferation of world population and the economic improvement in many developing countries.

World food demand is expected to increase by more than 50% over the next 40 years.1.png

Irrigation is crucial to the global food supply: 18 percent of the world’s farmland that is irrigated yields 40 percent of the world’s food needs and uses 70% of total available fresh water.

The supply of additional food will be carried out through intensification of agriculture production; mostly by increasing irrigation efficiency and by moving  agriculture into less productive drylands.
Drip irrigation can double or triple water productivity – boosting crop per drop – alleviating both the world water and food crises.
In spite of this, only 4 percent of the world’s irrigated land is equipped with drip-irrigation systems.
Our objective is to exploit the 2014 DDD conference in order to bring awareness
 of the role drip irrigation in solving the world water and food crises to the international community.

The meetings will demonstrate that recent breakthroughs are allowing the profitable irrigation of rice, sugar cane and other major field crops with significant saving in water and significant increases in yield. It will also show how low pressure drip systems are helping small farmers to get out of poverty. The meetings will provide a forum to discuss and evaluate economic, social-cultural, agronomic and environmental aspects of drip irrigation and its role in today’s world.


Drip Irrigation Themes for Drylands, Deserts and Desertification 2014 

·          The roles of drip irrigation in the alleviation of water and food crises

·          The economics of drip irrigation

·          Sub-surface drip irrigation

·          Low pressure drip irrigation

·          Drip irrigation for small farmers in developing countries

·          Innovative approaches to drip irrigation

·          Chemigation, Fertigation

·          Drip irrigation with saline water

·          Drip irrigation with recycled water

·          Drip irrigation of rice

·          Drip irrigation of field crops

·          Drip irrigation of horticultural crops

·          Landscaping with drip irrigation

·          Environmental aspects of drip irrigation


We invite you to participate in this exciting event and to contribute from your experience to its success.


For more information please contact us:

Dr. Naftali Lazarovitch is a professor and researcher at the Wyler Department for Dryland Agriculture, French Associates Institute for Agriculture and Biotechnology of Drylands, Jacob Blaustein Institutes for Desert Research, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev. He received his PhD in 2006 from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. His main research interests are creating a better understanding of water flow and solute transport in the soil-plant-atmosphere system, increasing agricultural water use efficiency using optimal irrigation and fertigation scheduling and modeling (numerical and analytical), measurements and interpretation of water flow and solute transport in the root and vadose zone. His ​​work has been published in more than thirty journal articles.


Dr. Dov Pasternak is a Professor Emeritus from the Ben Gurion University of the Negev.
In 1964 he was among the first pioneers who introduced the drip irrigation system to the Arava valley of Israel.  Over a period of 30 years he developed the basis for irrigation with saline water using drip irrigation.
In 1998 he started the development of the low pressure drip irrigation system for small African farmers called the African Market Garden and during a period of 10 years he lead the   dissemination of this system in dry West Africa countries.
Prof. Pasternak working at ICRISAT-Niger developed new production systems and new crops for the semi arid regions of Africa. Author of 66 articles in peer reviewed journals and book chapters.
Currently he is serving as an international adviser on agricultural development of dry regions.


Dr. Alon Ben-Gal is a senior researcher in the Department of Environmental Physics and Irrigation, Institute of Soil, Water and Environmental Sciences, The Agricultural Research Organization, Gilat Research Center, Israel. Dr. Ben-Gal's interests may be best described as: "X-treme agriculture: managing water in the arid zones".
He works extensively with drip irrigation with research and expertise including: irrigation of crops; agricultural utilization of saline water and of recycled wastewater; optimization of water under irrigation in arid regions; plant response to environmental stress conditions; and flow and transport of water and solutes in the vadose zone. He enjoys active multi-disciplinary regional and multi-national collaboration on topics promoting agricultural water use efficiency and is the author of over 60 peer reviewed journal articles and book chapters.


Dryland landscapes as pattern forming systems: modeling and analysis

​Co-conveners, Ehud Meron ( and Golan Bel (

There is increasing evidence that self-organization induced by biomass-water feedbacks plays an important role in shaping dryland landscapes. Model studies have provided much insight into the mechanisms by which positive feedbacks can render uniform vegetation unstable and lead to the formation of vegetation patterns. Yet, the mechanisms at work in specific systems and the interplay between different mechanisms have remained largely unexplored. This session will bring together experts in modeling and in model analysis, as well as field and remote sensing experts, to present recent progress in understanding vegetation pattern formation and the implications it bears on ecosystem processes and function.


Ecohydrology of dryland landscapes

Co-conveners, Ehud Meron ( and Golan Bel (

The process of desertification, in which ecosystems undergo a significant reduction in bioproductivity, is often related to changes in the temporal and spatial distribution of precipitation and other water sources. Many theoretical and experimental works have been devoted to the improvement of our understanding of ecosystem dynamics. However, in many of these studies, the spatio-temporal dynamics of water and the feedbacks between hydrological processes and other ecological processes are not considered in detail. The goal of this session is to bring together scientists from various disciplines in order to present recent advancements in ecohydrology research and to encourage interdisciplinary interactions that may lead to better modeling and understanding of ecosystem responses to global and local changes in the water resources and, in particular, that may improve our quantitative understanding of the desertification process.

Economic Development in the Drylands

​​Description forthcoming

Environmental Education

Co-conveners, Noa Avriel-Avni ( and Orit Ben-Zvi Assaraf (

The aim of this workshop is to initiate a dialogue between researchers and educators from the fields
of dryland environment and environmental education, in order to understand the conditions
necessary for resilient desert-social-ecological systems (SECS) and the role of environmental
education (EE) in achieving this resilience.

The basic premise of the workshop is that close and continuous relations between environmental
educators (teachers and researchers) and drylands scientists are required to support resilient dryland
social-ecological systems. The extreme conditions and threat of desertification in dryland
environments intensify the uncertainty and instability of both traditional and modern social systems. Open discussion of sustainability in such extreme environment is therefore vital for defining the
challenges faced by dryland social-ecological systems worldwide.

Combining local focus together with positioning within regional and global processes can yield
local insights on place-based education and lead to better spatial understanding of the challenges.
The alliance between educators and dryland researchers will also help to establish a broad corpus of
educational methods based on general environmental and education theories. The workshop will
facilitate the integration of knowledge from worldwide drylands in order to formulate guiding
research questions for the development of such educational methods and for evaluating their
influence on dryland sustainability.

Geological Aspects of Deserts and Desertification

Convener, Yoav Avni (

This session will cover the long-term geological components that, in most cases, facilitate the short-term process of desertification. The session will address issues such as the age and genesis of the Saharan Desert, the contribution of glacial-inter glacial cycles to the actual desertification process as they are visible in the field at present, the natural desertification of drylands resulting from non-anthropogenic environmental change, the influence of loess penetration into the desert environments on desertification, and the monitoring of long-term soil erosion on geological scale time.


Kidron River Restoration

Description forthcoming


Mathematical aspects of desertification and restoration

Co-conveners, Ehud Meron ( and Golan Bel (

Desertification is commonly viewed as a dynamical transition from a productive stable state to an alternative less productive stable state. The transition can be induced by an environmental change or by a disturbance, and becomes feasible near an instability point of the productive state. The session will address mathematical aspects of such transitions, taking into account the possibility of the productive state being spatially patterned. Questions to be addressed include mechanisms of desertification, warning signals for imminent desertification and restoration of desertified areas. The session will also address field observations of vegetation patterns and pattern dynamics, and attempt confronting model predictions with empirical data.

Media & Environment

Convener, Ehud Zion-Waldoks (

What role does environmental journalism play in the success and failure of public environmental campaigns? Should the environmental journalist be an advocate for the environment or an educated observer? These questions and others will be addressed in this panel of environmental journalists who bring, perhaps, a wider perspective on the public face of the fight against desertification and other environmental debates. This session will be held in conjunction with the Foreign Ministry’s MASHAV Center in Haifa, which offers courses on communications.

NGO Perspectives on Dryland Development

Description forthcoming


Nutritional and Food Security

Co-conveners, Dov Chernichovsky ( and Hendrik Bruins (

The challenges of growing sustainable and resistant food to secure food supplies in the face of growing demand, on the one hand, and threats to supply, on the other, are pervasive especially in developing countries.  Augmented food, which can grow with less water and fewer resources, shows promise to produce food even when conditions would not allow their growth in traditional and changing settings; it is important for food sources to be able to withstand deteriorating land, water supply, and environmental factors.  The session demonstrates that through research on different strains of foods, according to a variety of naturally occurring variables, food sources can be chosen and managed so as to meet these challenges.  

On-site Waste Collection and Treatment (liquid, sludge, solid) in Rural Areas

Convener, Amit Gross (

In the modern world, the use of natural resources and the production of domestic wastes and contaminated effluents have significantly increased, and now pose severe health and environmental risks in many regions, particularly in arid areas.  There is an urgent need to remedy already contaminated sites and to find the means of minimizing contamination trends. A fairly new field of research, called Ecological Sanitation (ECOSAN), focuses on an advanced, usually on-site, alternative method to conventional sanitation techniques. The objective is to protect human health and the environment. Unlike traditional sanitation methods, ecological sanitation processes on-site human waste (in addition to traditional waste, such as animal manure) to recover nutrients that would otherwise be discarded.

This session invites papers addressing the range of on-site waste solutions, such as wetlands, biogas and other methods for small agro-waste operations, human waste, wastewaters, greywater and the like. It also seeks papers that evaluate the risks and environmental issues that are associated with such practices.

Public Health and Life in Deserts & Drylands

Co-conveners, Maya Negev ( and Nadav Davidovich (

Session 1: Climate change and health

Climate change is already impacting human health in ways that differ across continents, ecosystems, socio-economic statuses and populations. This panel invites papers on current and predicted increases in phenomena such as heatwaves, cold-spells, food poverty, water supplies, air quality and aeroallergens, with an emphasis on deserts. Papers discussing policy implications, both mitigation and adaptation, at all governance levels, are also welcome.

Session 2: Infectious diseases

Desertification and climate changes have had an important influence on the emergence and reemergence of infectious diseases.  We invite papers that discuss the different factors affecting infectious diseases from an ecohealth perspective, including human, biological, ecological and social determinants. Studies presenting policy implications, including a science-policy interface discussion, are also encouraged.

Session 3: Ecosystem services and health

Earth’s ecosystems are fundamental to human well-being and health, as defined by the WHO as not simply an absence of illness or disease, but as a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being (UK National Ecosystem Assessment, 2011). In this panel, we invite papers analyzing the diverse influences on the human health of ecosystem services, with an emphasis on drylands and deserts.

Session 4: Environment, health and social justice in arid areas

Social and economic inequalities have a deep influence on public health, including environmental health. These inequalities are intensified in arid areas, due to extreme environmental and ecological conditions, intensified by climate change. We invite papers discussing these aspects, with a focus on indigenous populations.

Workshop: indigenous populations, public participation, qualitative research With Prof. Colin MacDaugall, details to follow.



Remote Sensing

Convener, Arnon Karnieli (

Environmental problems of drylands, such as desertification processes, land degradation and rehabilitation, land cover and land use change, climatic change, droughts, early warning, and more, are characterized by both spatial and temporal dimensions.  Therefore, remote sensing techniques, based on long-term monitoring and repetitive data, over vast expanses of unsettled regions, are applicative and powerful tools for research and implementation in these areas

Rethinking Agricultural Technologies: From Transfer to Translation, From Extension to (Re)Innovation

​Convener, Yaakov Garb (

Various technologies have played a central role in agriculture in developing countries, and those in arid regions in particular.  Considerable efforts revolve around the generation, “transfer,” and uptake of these technologies from one setting to another, often from developed to developing countries.  In this panel, we will consolidate some of the recent thinking on socio-technical systems, socio-technical change, and the role of agricultural extension, so as to present and deepen an emerging new perspective, emphasizing co-design and “translation,”, rather than dissemination or transfer, as well as processes of farm level innovation and lateral learning, and consider how these can inform more creative and equitable approaches to the value chain by which technologies are developed, modified, and brought into use.

Soil and Land Restoration

Convener, Uri Mingelgrin (

This session will focus on the following themes:

  • Effect of overgrazing on soil quality and restoration procedures - Overgrazing is one of the most important causes of land deterioration in arid regions. Overgrazing exposes the soil to erosion and increases runoff and flood damages. Case studies of overgrazing-induced damage, grazing regimes intended to minimize such damage and protocols to reclaim land damaged by overgrazing;

  • Maintaining soil productivity under irrigation with marginal waters - Agriculture in arid and semi-arid regions is often supported by irrigation with water of marginal quality. Low quality water, and in particular saline water, may bring about a reduction in the productivity of the irrigated land. Cases of irrigated valleys that turned into salt plateaus are reported periodically from various regions of the globe. Means to prevent deterioration in soil quality and to reclaim deteriorated soils under irrigation with marginal water - of various types (e.g., treated effluent, saline water);

  • Soil conservation under shifting climatic conditions -  The predicted forthcoming climatic shift (Global warming) will have, most likely, a particularly strong effect on semi-arid regions, since a relatively small change in precipitation rate or in frequency and intensity of rain events in those regions may make arable land unsuitable for cultivation, if proper actions are not taken.  Such actions may include importing water for irrigation from outside the region or taking steps to prevent erosion. Measures needed to be taken if predictions arising from the most commonly considered global warming scenarios come true, to prevent deterioration of soil quality or to restore the land's quality once damaged.

Wadi Attir Project

Convener, Michael Ben-Eli (

Three events on Project Wadi Attir will be offered at the conference:

1. An overview presentation at a general session.

2. A workshop/panel discussion with members of the project team.

3. A visit for conference delegates to the project site.

About Project Wadi Attir

Project Wadi Attir is a groundbreaking initiative of the Bedouin community in the Negev, for establishing a model sustainable agricultural operation. The project was initiated by The Sustainability Laboratory, a US-based non-profit, and the Hura Municipal Council, the governing body of a local Bedouin township. Designed to leverage Bedouin traditional values, aspirations, know-how and experience with modern-day science and cutting edge technologies, Project Wadi Attir showcases implementation of holistic sustainability principles developed by The Lab. It demonstrates an approach to sustainable development in an arid environment, valid and replicable locally as well as in other similar regions around the world.

The core of the project includes an organic farming enterprise involving animal husbandry and the production of dairy products; cultivation of medicinal plants and the development of a related line of health products; and the reintroduction of nutritious, indigenous vegetables to common use. At its heart, the project will include a visitor, training and education center, with a focus on ecology, sustainability innovation and entrepreneurship. The project site will be supported by an integrated infrastructure of green technologies including a soil enhancement program; solar energy and bio-gas production; the production of compost from organic waste; advanced irrigation management; and waste water treatment and recycling.

Implementation of the project is supported by a uniquely broad coalition involving KKL-JNF, researchers from the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, foundations, and individual donors, as well as a government consortium led by the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, and including the Ministry of Development of the Negev and the Galilee; the Economic Development Authority in the Minority Sector, PM’s Office; and the Authority of Bedouin Settlement in the Negev.

Water Management Challenges in the Drylands

Convenors:  Sharon B. Megdal ( and Alon Tal (

Through studies from across the globe, this session explores opportunities and obstacles to addressing complex water resource challenges of the drylands.  For river systems as diverse as the Jordan and Colorado, the common factors to policy and management options provide insights into the similarities and divergences of their respective future pathways.  Experience with transboundary aquifer assessment along the United States-Mexico border demonstrates the progress that can be made in assessing shared aquifers when the framework and institutional setting for cooperation are in place, along with the obstacles posed by insufficient funding.  The criticality and challenges of groundwater monitoring to determine the potential for the coexistence of uranium extraction and protection riverine ecosystems in Namibia are explored, where anthropogenic factors and complex natural dynamics must modeled.  For the transboundary Illi River basin, land use changes associated over time and their implications for water resources and ecosystem services are explored; adverse impacts to the Illi Delta, home to the largest wetland complex in Central Asia are indicated.

Women & Economic Change in Rural-Arid Regions

Convener, Sarab Abu-Rabia-Queder, ,


Literature on economic anthropology has shown that the shift in economic patterns from dependence on subsistence economies to dependence on market economies has changed women's roles within these societies. In rural settings, women who were productive and active participants in the group’s economic life were compelled to either alter their traditional roles or to decrease their productive activity to a considerable extent. With the introduction of a modern cash economy, some women lost their productive role within the family altogether (Feinberg, 1986; Morvaridi, 1992; Brockington, 2001). While men usually found jobs outside the domestic sphere, in the public work force, women, who were unable to do the same, found novel ways of modifying their traditional roles in order to maintain their contribution to the group’s economy.