Sustainable agriculture and rural development
Title: Promotion of sustainable agriculture and rural development in Tunisia
Commissioned by: German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ)
Lead executing agency: Ministère de l’Agriculture, des Ressources Hydrauliques et de la Pêche (MARHP)
Overall term: 2016 to 2020
Agriculture plays an important role in the Tunisian economy and is one of the main sources of income for the rural population, 45 per cent of whom work in agriculture. Most are smallholders working on family farms.
Despite the economic significance of agriculture, at present the sector is not sufficiently well organised to ensure that its products are produced, processed and marketed sustainably. Farmers often do not possess the knowledge required to manage their farms in an ecologically, economically and socially sustainable manner. This results in impoverishment and the deterioration of natural resources such as soil and water.
Farming is hard physical work and means living at subsistence level. Today the agriculture and food sector does not offer sufficient economic development opportunities for the rural population – especially for women and young people. Even the better educated find themselves facing a high level of unemployment, which provides a breeding ground for unrest and extremism.
Sustainable agriculture and the sustainable processing of agricultural products have improved income opportunities for the rural population – especially among women and young people – in the country’s Nord-Ouest and Centre-Ouest regions, and the rural areas have become more attractive.
The project strengthens cooperation platforms in the provinces. It brings farmers, small processing companies and non-governmental organisations together in joint projects where all the stakeholders cooperate on making their production systems more sustainable. The project team motivates young people and women in particular to become involved.
In cooperation with the German consulting firm AFC, the project promotes the value chains for apricots and medicinal and aromatic plants. The aim is to refine agricultural products and facilitate access to export markets. In addition, the project supports public and private training providers in expanding and improving their range of courses in agricultural services, consulting and training. So far, the project has set up training programmes in sustainable soil management and the development of sustainable agriculture, and drawn up guidelines for promoting the value chains for apricots and pistachios. The target group is comprised of political decision-makers, farmers and small processing businesses.
The team advises the Tunisian Ministry of Agriculture on enabling the knowledge gained to feed into national strategies and developing a monitoring system.
Young people receive support for developing their own business projects, with a particular focus on the targeted use of innovative agricultural and communication technologies. This creates employment opportunities in rural areas.
In 14 joint projects, farmers and small entrepreneurs are working on improving the position of their agricultural production systems. Their portfolio includes olives, apricots, pistachios, almonds and aromatic plants.
To encourage the farmers’ entrepreneurial spirit and sensitise them to the basics of business management, the project has trained 14 trainers in farmer-entrepreneur courses.
With support from the project, 46 young graduates in agriculture, most of them unemployed, are developing their own business idea – an innovative service using the smartphone app Plantix to advise farmers how to deal with plant diseases. The app recognises plant diseases using photos and provides suggestions for treatment and prevention.
The previous project reached more than 7,300 smallholders and their families from 2013 to 2016. They have improved their skills in sustainable agricultural methods and increased their incomes. That is a major step towards securing a livelihood for themselves and their children.