Promoting democracy through sustainable resource use

Project description

Title: Participation of rural communities in water and soil management upstream from the Nebhana Dam
Commissioned by: German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ)
Country: Tunisia
Lead executing agency: Ministère de l’Agriculture, des ressources hydrauliques et de la pêche
Overall term: 2016 to 2020


In order to meet the country’s growing demand for water, the Tunisian Government started investing more heavily in dam construction in the 1980s. For the most part, it is the people living downstream from the dams who have been the primary beneficiaries of the new infrastructure. By contrast, those living upstream have seen little benefit. In these poorly irrigated areas, the agricultural sector remains underdeveloped, and there are high rates of unemployment. This is also true for the area upstream from the Nebhana Dam in Oueslatia, one of the poorest regions in Tunisia. Lacking work opportunities in agriculture and industry, people are continuously moving away, particularly the younger generation. Nevertheless, there is great potential for environmentally sustainable agriculture, which also creates jobs. Currently, however, this potential is not being adequately tapped as market structures and channels are not in place.


Local people participate to a greater extent in water and soil management in Oueslatia. Organic agriculture and the marketing of organic products are strengthened.


The project sets out to help upgrade the infrastructure that supplies water to schools, health stations and private households. Job prospects in the agricultural sector are enhanced. To this end, the project works with communities, for example to identify products that can be locally produced in an environmentally sustainable manner and subsequently sold, such as honey and medicinal herbs.

By participating in decision-making processes at local level, the people themselves select which activities are to be promoted. Democratic processes are practised through dialogue and cooperation. The intention is to curb the rural exodus, in particular of young people, by generating employment in the agricultural sector. The project supports this process by means of financing for start-ups and training. In this way, members of local platforms for participation can learn how to assess employment potential, how to approach the sustainable use of water and soil resources, and how to better represent their interests. At the regional and national levels, the partners receive support on independently introducing and implementing processes for political participation. Around 30,000 people will be reached as a result of the project, benefiting among other things from improved water supply and sanitation.

The lead executing agency for the project is Tunisia’s Ministry of Agriculture. Other partners include the General Directorate of Spatial Planning and the Protection of Agricultural Areas, the Kairouan Agricultural Office, the water sector planning office of the Ministry of Agriculture, and the Kairouan Development Association. GOPA-Concept, a Tunisian-German work group, assists the project, for instance with the training of administrative staff in Oueslatia. It is also supporting the drafting of a management plan for water and soil being developed by the people on a participatory basis.

The project is part of a special initiative of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) that is designed to stabilise and promote development in North Africa and the Middle East. Through the projects that make up this special initiative, BMZ is helping to open up economic and social prospects for people in the region. Within this context, an additional sum of more than EUR 300 million has been earmarked for projects carried out by GIZ and other implementing organisations in the period from 2014 to 2021. The thematic focus is on youth and employment promotion, economic stabilisation, democracy and stabilising neighbouring countries in crisis situations.

Additional information