Intern profile: Ebby Soita

The current semester at the Arava Institute includes 7 interns who are each conducting an independent research project under the supervision of Institute faculty. Ebby Soita is one of this semester’s interns, researching the efficacy of differing flowers to help local farmers with pollination and natural pest control 

Originally from Trans-Nzoia County, Kenya, Ebby studied agricultural sciences at the University of Nairobi. She became aware of Israeli research in the field during her studies, so in 2022 when an offer to come to Israel to learn about sustainable agriculture presented itself, Ebby jumped at the opportunity.   

She first visited the Arava Institute as part of a program at the Arava International Center for Agricultural Training, and attended some lectures on hands-on approaches to sustainable agriculture with Dr. Tali Zohar, Director of the Center for Renewable Energy and Energy Conservation. “It was Tali who encouraged me to come to the Institute as a student,” says Ebby. She enrolled as a student for the Fall semester of 2023. “Coming here as a student laid the foundation needed for my internship.” 

Ebby Soita doing field research on flower stripsThis spring, under the supervision of Dr. Jessica Schäckermann, Ebby is researching how different types of flowers might provide natural agricultural support and benefits to desert farmers, by using a technique known as flower strips. Flower strips are a method used to integrate different flower species, especially local native ones, in agricultural areas to enhance biodiversity and connected ecosystem services like pollination and biological pest control. Ebby uses this method to find out how different types of flowers attract pollinators, like butterflies or bees, and biological pest-control agents, like parasitoid wasps and other insects.  

“The aim is to help farmers. If we can prove a certain type of flower will bring more pollinators, then farmers have a naturally occurring method to help their crops grow.” The same is true for pest control: Integrating certain flowers that attract specific types of insects is a non-harmful way for farmers to help protect their crop from pests.  

Like all interns and students, a significant portion of Ebby’s time at the Institute is spent within the community, attending Dialogue Forum session, and joining community building activities as is expected of all participants. “The people here are my favorite thing. This place cultivates an environment of sisterhood and brotherhood. My family is very far away, but when I come back to campus I feel at home.” 

Submitted by Sarah Weissel

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