Wire

100K NIS zero-interest loans offer lifeline to Israeli farmers affected by war

The support comes as 35% of the farms in the Gaza Envelope have halted operations since Oct. 7, and 84% of farmers believe the war has hurt Israel’s food security conditions.

Farmers work the fields of Moshav Nehalim, south of Petach Tikvah, Dec. 27, 2020. Photo by Eitan Elhadez-Barak/TPS.
Farmers work the fields of Moshav Nehalim, south of Petach Tikvah, Dec. 27, 2020. Photo by Eitan Elhadez-Barak/TPS.

SparkIL and HaShomer HaChadash have partnered to offer a lifeline to farmers experiencing difficulties due to Israel’s war against Hamas in the Gaza Strip, through emergency loans of up to 100,000 shekels (about $27,000), spread over five years with zero interest and no extra costs.

The loans are provided through SparkIL, a peer-to-peer lending platform that enables individuals across the Jewish world to support the small business of their choice in Israel. On SparkIL’s online platform, potential lenders can view a borrower’s profile, including their name, photo, details about the farm, and why they need the loan. The business can then update its supporters on a regular basis about how these loans have helped them flourish.

The Iron Swords War has deeply affected the entire Israeli economy, with the agriculture industry as one of the hardest-hit sectors. According to a recent survey conducted by HaShomer HaChadash, 35% of the farms in the Gaza Envelope have completely halted operations since October 7, and 84% of farmers believe the war has hurt Israel’s food security conditions. Additionally, 90% of farmers from the Gaza Envelope are experiencing a severe lack of personnel, and many are reporting extensive damage to agricultural production.

HaShomer HaChadash and SparkIL, in cooperation with Ogen and The Jewish Agency for Israel, have risen to this challenge through their new joint initiative, which was created from a NIS 30 million ($8.2 million) fund, enabling loans for hundreds of farms and small businesses. Via SparkIL, lenders can commit as little as $25 to participate in the crowdfunding initiative.

“In the midst of this challenging climate, there are hundreds of farmers in need of our help to recover, to build, and to develop their farms anew,” said Naama Ore, CEO of SparkIL. “The loss of foreign workers and four months of intense fighting have directly affected Israel’s ability to sustain its own food security. We have the privilege at SparkIL to assist farm owners, in cooperation with HaShomer HaChadash, through zero-interest loans with the help of investors from Israel and around the world.”

Farmers are eligible for the loans if their current earnings do not exceed 2 million shekels ($550,000) and they have been in business for at least one year. HaShomer HaChadash also offers personalized mentoring for the farmers in accordance with their specific needs, connecting farmers with specialists who assist them with financial planning during crises, human resource management, professional farming practices, marketing and more.  

“Today, Israeli farmers are protecting land and creating food during a time of instability, yet the government has still not given compensation and assistance to the farmers,” said Yoel Zilberman, founder and CEO of HaShomer HaChadash. “As such, we created a joint initiative with SparkIL, with the aim of protecting their economic stability so that they can continue farming and come out of this crisis even stronger than before. These loans are just the first in a series of steps that will provide greater assistance that we are planning to offer farmers, including connecting them to investments and new technologies.”

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HaShomer HaChadash is a volunteer recruitment organization dedicated to safeguarding the land and farms in the Negev and Galilee, as well as upholding Zionist ideals on which Israel was founded. Volunteers watch 47 farmland posts that help protect 145,000 acres of farmland from illegal seizures, thefts, arson and vandalism, all while teaching love of the land to more than 11,000 youth annually.
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