Mario Levy and Kibbutz Sde Eliyahu
Agriculture has always been an important part of life at Kibbutz Sde Eliyahu (a Kibbutz is a communal settlement in Israel, usually on farmland). Founded in 1939 in the fertile Beit Shean Valley, the community has grown wheat, barley, grapes, figs, pomegranates, olives, and date, as well as raised cattle and poultry for decades. However, it wasn’t until the 1970s that the members began to explore the use of agroecological principles on their land. Kibbutz member Mario Levy recognized the dreadful ecological impacts of using pesticides and lobbied fellow Sde Eliyahu members to develop more sustainable practices. With Levy’s encouragement, the community began to look to natural ecosystems for the best ways to manage their farmland. They soon found that nature indeed had the answers. Specifically, Kibbutz Sde Eliyahu learned to breed insects to manage pests.
Early adoption of ecological farming techniques has made Kibbutz Sde Eliyahu a pioneer in the movement. Since transitioning to agroecological practices, the community has developed many innovations, its specialty being biologically-based integrated pest management (IPM) systems. In simple terms, the Kibbutz breeds predatory insects to eat the pests that damage their crops. They currently breed a total of nine insects to manage six different pests.
Learn more about these farmer innovations and the Kibbutz here.
Biologically-based IPM has a myriad of benefits. It promotes healthy plants with sound structures and, more generally, sustainable agricultural models. Additionally, by eliminating the need for chemical pesticides, IPM reduces environmental damage from toxins, including harm to soil and wildlife, and prevents waterway contamination. Farm workers and community members are also effectively protected from exposure to chemical pesticides.