Behind the Headlines Ecuadorian Projects Aided by Israel

Over three years ago Ecuador initiated a series of reforestation projects and cooperative agricultural settlements with the aid of Israeli advisors. CAME (Conscripcion Agropecuaria Militar de Ecuador) is modeled after the Nahal system, in which a small group of Israeli soldiers train together, work as a volunteer unit on a kibbutz and when discharged form a cooperative farming village.

Col. Hugo Salvador, commander of CAME, explained that the 800 soldiers comprising the unit at any one time are drafted for one year’s service. Three months are spent in agricultural training followed by an additional three months at one of several reforestation sites or colonization areas.

The colonization zones are centered in the oil producing region on the border with Colombia in the town of Lagro Agria and in Sangolqui, just south of the capital city. Quito, settlements composed of 80-100 demobilized CAME soldiers and their families radiate out from the central army camps found in both northern Ecuadorian towns. As this level is reached in one place new settle- ments are established in nearby areas, with support provided by the same centralised camp.

SIMILAR TO JERUSALEM HILLS

Conscripcion Forestal Ecuatorians is painted on the woodframe arch over the entrance to Cotopaxi, one of three CAME reforestation sites. The camp is situated at the base of the foothills of Mt. Cotopaxi, a region of short rolling hills making up a high plateau called the paramo. The countryside at 10-11,000 feet is cold, wet, poorly drained and primarily used as grazing land.

Cotopaxi, with 6000 acres, is run as a three-way cooperative between the Ministry of Agriculture which supplies the pine trees (similar to the variety planted in the hills of Jerusalem). CAME soldiers who plant 4500-8000 trees daily and the owners of the land.

SMALL SEED, GIGANTIC HARVEST

Capt. Omri Negev, Israeli tank commander from Moshav Bertuvia, is beginning his fourth year as agricultural advisor to the program. Sitting underneath a poster bearing the CAME motto, “a small seed, a gigantic harvest” in the 50-year-old train station that serves as headquarters at Cotopaxi, he stressed the importance that projects like CAME hold for Israel when he said that, “Israel wants to build bridges with all the world. They (Ecuadorians) will come to Israel, see what life is like there, our problems, the conflict with the Arabs and maybe they will better understand our situation.”

That hope is built upon the foundation of an increasingly cordial relationship between the two countries. Projects like CAME have worked to cement firm bonds in the past and continue to offer further benefits to both Ecuador and Israel through cooperative development action.

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