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Ben-Gurion University will partner with a French institute to research desert agriculture.

The university, well known in the fight against desertification, has entered a partnership with the CIRAD Institute in Montpellier, France, the French national institute for tropical agriculture, to work on sustainable development projects.

The partnership was announced at a chic fund-raising dinner in Paris hosted by the Association of French Friends of Ben-Gurion University, and reportedly is the first for the university and a French institute.

The association is headed by Gerard Worms, the former president of French industrial giant Suez. Worms said CIRAD will work with the Institute for Agriculture in Arid Zones on the campus in Sde Boker, the former home of Israel’s first president, David Ben-Gurion.

The joint projects will include using waste water in agriculture, underground drip irrigation and the development of plants that grow in saltwater to provide higher food value for poorer Southern Hemisphere countries.

Ben-Gurion is now the third largest university in Israel, with 17,500 students from 35 countries. Classes are taught in Hebrew, Arabic, English, French, Spanish and Russian.

University President Dr. Rivka Carmi said the dinner in Paris raised about $356,600 for the Institute for Agriculture in Arid Zones. The CIRAD Institute, funded by the French government, also gave Ben-Gurion a grant of $5 million.

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