A four-day international conference in the Negev is aimed at helping 200 million people around the world threatened by poverty and hunger. More than 50 countries will be represented at a four-day international conference in the Negev that is aimed at helping 200 million people around the world threatened by poverty and hunger. The third annual conference, with the unwieldy title of “Conference on Drylands, Deserts and Desertification: The Route to Restoration,” opens Monday at Ben Gurion University’s campus in Sde Boker, located between Be’er Sheva and Eilat. More than 500 government officials and academics, including those from the Palestinian Authority and Jordan, will participate. The conference is co-sponsored by the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). "If you do nothing about desertification, people will starve and die," said Prof. Alon Tal, Arava Institute founder, Ben Gurion professor and native of North Carolina. Israel’s success in rehabilitating the Arava desert has attracted worldwide attention to the Jewish State, where 97 percent of the land is arid. Israel has not only "made the desert bloom,” it also has also invested major resources in learning how to keep dry lands from overtaking fertile soil. With increasing worldwide soil erosion, salinization and groundwater mismanagement, Israel wants to share its solutions with the world.