In Tunisia, the Massire project works in Kebili and Medenine governorates. Agricultural activities in Kebili governorate mainly focus on date production. Approximately 40,000 farms (most of them family ones) farm on 38,000 ha of irrigated lands. Farmer associations manage irrigation water in 11,000 ha within traditional oases. The remaining 27,000 ha are mainly palm groves in so-called “extensions”. These palm groves have increased fast over the last decade, as part of a pioneering front developing on previously unfarmed areas. In these areas, irrigation water is obtained from groundwater, based on individual and informal accesses.

Date production in Kebili governorate represents nowadays 68% of national production. However, fast developing extensions face many vulnerabilities, such as groundwater overuse, drainage problems, and the risks in terms of production and marketing related to a focus on one crop only. Agricultural activities in traditional oases are often limited by the small size of fields and by infrequent access to collective irrigation delivery.

Several initiatives have developed recently to promote more sustainable development. Organic agriculture is growing fast. New irrigation materials (small-scale temporary storage basins, drip irrigation) are increasingly used. Local initiatives and programs aim to support the integration of young people and women associations are increasingly present and active.

© Faysse

In Medenine governorate, the main agricultural activities are olive production (200,000 ha), animal breeding (600,000 of pasture lands) and cereals (42,000 ha). Farmers have access to irrigation throughout the year on 3,000 ha only, because groundwater is often brackish, the productivity of aquifers is often limited, and because drinking water is given priority. There are however many infrastructures to collect, transport and store rainfall water.

Areas planted with olive trees have increased over the last years, but the income derived remain only a complementary one for rural households. Animal breeding (sheep, cattle, camel) sometimes has to deal with overgrazing problems.

Organically certified olive production is developing fast and nowadays represent 10% of total land planted with olive trees. Many local collective initiatives have developed to provide incomes, either from agriculture or rural tourism. Many local organizations have been created during the last decade, in particular as an outcome of the intervention of development projects. The activities of these associations are diverse and often innovating, although their capacity to generate income for rural inhabitants is often still fragile.