Environment 40

Beja: Water scarcity threatens agriculture and life itself

As water levels in Tunisia’s dams have fallen, the country itself has fallen below the water poverty line. Water levels in the country’s dams are at a record low in comparison with previous years, at 28.5% of reserve capacity, according to the Ministry of Agriculture and Financial Resources. This drop has had a direct impact on agricultural activities and contributed to soaring prices, while also causing interruptions in the supply of water used for irrigation and human consumption.

Cleanup-Month: Environmental protection relegated to citizens

« It’s a sign of the Ministry’s shortcoming. The minister travels around with her staff and meets with governors, but doesn’t include the communes. The result? A handful of individuals cleaning up plastic » quips the president of the National Federation of Tunisian Communes (FNCT). « The initiative aims to instill a culture of environmentalism. A clean environment is a daily effort and lifelong commitment » retorts a ministry official.

Sea in danger, contaminated by human and industrial waste

Stretching across a distance of 1,300 kilometers, the Tunisian coastline is one of the country’s most treasured riches. And pollution threatens to destroy it. Every year, the Ministry of Health publishes a list of beaches where swimming is prohibited. The most obvious culprit is the National Sanitation Utility (ONAS). Water analyses indicate the presence of significant levels of fecal matter in the sea. But the government’s laissez-faire policies offer no incentive for industrial facilities to limit the pollutants they release into the environment.

Tunisia Running Dry

For the past five years Abderrazzak Sibri hasn’t harvested a single olive from the 357 olive trees on his land in Sidi Mahmoud, a rural town in the province of Kairouan (central Tunisia). Sibri had planned to plant more olive trees, but lack of rain, several years of draughts and decreased ground water levels impacted production and changed his plans. “What bothers me most is that I have been investing in these trees,” he says. “When they finally reach the age in which they can produce regularly and abundantly, there is no more water to keep them growing.”

Renewable energy in Tunisia: fossilized intentions

Located in the south of Tataouine, the Nawara oil field was inaugurated by former prime minister Youssef Chahed on February 5. According to Chahed, the field was alloted a 3.5 billion dinar budget and promises a production of 2.7 million m3 of gas, 7,000 barrels of petroleum and 3,200 barrels of liquefied petroleum gas per day. This is enough to reduce Tunisia’s energy deficit, an estimated 435.5 million dinars, or 44.9% of the 20% commercial deficit. And yet this project that Chahed described as « historic » flies in the face of the country’s international commitments.

Hammamet’s forest

Beginning in October, farmers in Tunisia’s northwest, particularly Beja, Jendouba, Zaghouan, will begin planting cereal crops like wheat and barley and leguminous crops including chickpea, lentil and faba which will both feed soil and stock pantries. A select few farmers in the region will also plant canola, an industrial oilseed supplied by French agribusiness giant Groupe AVRIL who is partnering with the Tunisian Ministry of Agriculture to develop a canola sector that is « 100% Tunisian ». The project is in fact part of a decades-long push to introduce canola as a « locally grown » alternative to imported grains and oils.

Hunting in Tunisia: Obsolete legislation, poor management and a lack of political will

In January 2018, the Lebanese Hunting Club posted a series of photographs displaying hunters smiling behind their spoils, hundreds of birds downed during a trip to Tunisia. The images suscitated a wave of outrage by conservation groups not only for the way that the group advertised their copious kill, but for the fact that hunting of this scale is permitted under current legislation. On paper, regulations in the sector were designed to conserve biodiversity and ecosystems. To what extent do today’s hunting practices, quotas and implementation live up to this role?

Celebrating Mouled : Harvest season begins in Tunisia’s Aleppo pine forests

On December 1, Tunisians celebrated the birth of the prophet Muhammad with assidat zgougou, a pudding-like dessert garnished with nuts, dried fruits, and candies. For one day out of the year, families savor this uniquely Tunisian treat made from zgougou, seed of the Aleppo pine tree that grows abundantly throughout the Mediterranean. With some 360 thousand acres of Aleppo pine forest in Kasserine, Siliana, Kef and Bizerte, Tunisia is the only country where the tree’s black-grey seeds are harvested for human consumption.

Zabaltuna: Bringing orientalist figures back to life in Tunisia’s dirtiest landscapes

A buxom young woman steps lightly from the water, carrying a jug at her hip and holding her sefsari above her head. Hooped earrings hanging down to her throat, bangles on her wrists, gold coins across her chest. She emerges, barefoot onto a muddy shore strewn with—red bottle caps, a packet of Camel blue cigarettes, empty plastic bottles. A fare 18th century maiden in a most unlikely environment. The scene is one of many diffused via Zabaltuna, a digital campaign that denounces Tunisia’s waste management problem, an increasingly noxious environmental and public health issue especially since 2011.