Far away from their native rural villages and living in Israel’s cramped urban centres and absorption facilities, many Ethiopian immigrants have abandoned their previous careers in agriculture.
Two brothers, Ya’acov Almo and Uri Ben-Baruch, have decided to change this reality by setting up a new agriculture association called Addis Alam, which means “New World” in Amharic. The group is hoping to acquire a piece of land for Ethiopian immigrants to grow spices, medicinal plants and other crops that are not locally available in Israel, such as teff – a low-calorie, gluten-free grain that can be baked into bread or used to produce alcohol.
“All our life we ate this, and then we got to Israel and it wasn’t here,” Almo told The Jerusalem Post on Monday.
A common complaint among Ethiopian immigrants when they initially arrive in Israel is about stomach pains, as they begin to replace teff with wheat flour in their diets, Almo said. While some stores eventually began importing teff, the grain remains far more expensive in Israel than in Ethiopia – and often unaffordable for members of the immigrant community.
Almo and his colleagues began growing teff in Ofra, where he has lived for the past 32 years, as well as in an area near Beit Shemesh. Nonetheless, the farmers would like to expand the growth of teff and other traditional Ethiopian crops to a larger plot of land to meet their community’s needs.
To realise their vision, Almo and Ben-Baruch turned to the Agriculture Ministry and the Economy Ministry for help, requesting that the government allocate its farmers a piece of land to cultivate, as the immigrants are unable to finance the plot’s purchase themselves; however, government officials agreed to allocate a piece of land for the farmers only after they completed an agricultural training course.
At a ceremony in Ramle on Sunday night, Addis Alam’s founders marked the end of the course, developed for the organisation by the Economy Ministry’s Maof department. Maof provides a variety of services to small businesses, including expert consultancy and assistance in obtaining financing for such ventures. organization.
Maof head Honi Natan praised the initiative and emphasized the importance of the collaborative work of the Economy Ministry and the Agriculture Ministry to move the program forward.
“I hope that next time I will meet you in land plots that have been allocated, and we can enjoy the crops you are growing,” Natan said at Sunday’s ceremony.