Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Tunisia’s arid regions: how can desertification control and socio-economic development be reconciled?

06.03.2007
The pre-Saharan region of Jeffara, located in the South-East of Tunisia, is particularly exposed to the risk of desertification, like most of the arid or semi-arid regions of the Mediterranean Rim.

It is also prey to deep socio-economic changes. This situation raises the major challenge of ensuring the balance between protection of the various ecosystems and the development of rural populations who live in them. Increasing economic diversification, accelerated and amplified in the context of rural policy reform and globalization of trade, has contributed to an intensification of desertification processes, in spite of the efforts nevertheless exerted by government organizations.

In order better to understand the processes involved in changes taking place in Jeffara and identify the limits beyond which the pressure of human activity causes an irreversible depletion of natural resources, a multidisciplinary research programme was set up in 2000 by the IRD, working in conjunction with local partners, over a study area of about 120 000 hectares (1). The approach adopted laid emphasis on the study of the interrelations between changes among local actors and their activities, on the one hand, and those of the environments, on the other. This revealed the issues, the assets and risks involved, as well as the conflicts that arise for the use of rare and fragile natural resources. The analysis results were used as a basis for recommendations drawn up to foster improved harmonization between desertification control strategies and the legitimate socio-economic development of local communities.

The rural populations of Jeffara have always known how to adapt themselves to the region’s restrictive environmental conditions by developing original practices in the use of resources and by adopting diversified family-based strategies (multi-activity based way of life, migration and so on). However, these old, traditional ways of regulating resource use are now being called into question. For 40 years now, pressure on resources has strongly increased, especially on water stocks. The pattern has changed, from concentrated production on small areas alongside extensive livestock rearing over much larger areas, to the development of several economic activities at once that depend on the same catchment areas. The same groundwater thus feeds drinking water supply, tourism, irrigation of large plantation plots (olive groves) and the food industry. In response to this pressure, systems to foster rain water and run-off water recovery have long been operating involving jessour (2) or, more recently, water and soil conservation schemes. The latter, set up along the main run-off pathways and their tributaries, slow down the run-off speed, thus favouring infiltration and recharging of the water tables.

In the Jeffara, the crop plantations established on weakened soils are increasingly fragmenting the land space. Such land is now reaching saturation level and soil degradation has intensified. Between 1974 and 1999, the areas cultivated increased by 180% in the mountains, 356% on the piedmonts and 798% on the central plain. This intensification of agricultural land uses stems partly from a State policy which since the 1960s has been resolutely in favour of land privatization, and has generated a “land rush”. Arboriculture has therefore developed at the expense of livestock farming in the piedmonts and the plains, even on land where the terrain is unsuitable. This trend is a threat to a number of ecosystems which indeed are in danger of disappearing. Ecological studies reveal, in addition to the disturbing erosion of original vegetation assemblages, an increasing overall uniformity of the flora and hence a loss of biodiversity.

Such degradation can be checked by prohibiting the development of endangered natural environments for cultivation. However, real practical alternatives must in that case be proposed to farmers, in the agriculture sector, through maintenance of a certain diversified production in their holdings and enhancing commercial value of high-quality local or regional produce, but also by means of diversification of activities and of sources of revenue other than farming. This diversification would offer people improved flexibility to face up to climatic and economic hazards and enable them to manage better their families’ financial resources. In addition, the effort government has made in water management, through the CES, could be enhanced by schemes for desalinating brackish water and recycling waste water.

In the Jeffara, desertification control and socio-economic development do appear to be reconcilable, on condition that the specific nature of each environment and the social dynamics that make it up are taken as a whole, with a long-term viewpoint, incorporating economic and social contexts going beyond the regional territory. This issue is crucial for the future of the local people, who would no longer be obliged to leave their region in search of better standards of living.

Marie Guillaume-Signoret – IRD
Translation : Nicholas Flay
1) This programme “Désertification dans la Jeffara tunisienne: pratiques et usages des ressources, techniques de lutte et devenir des populations”, backed by the ‘Comité scientifique français de la desertification’ lasted 4 years. It involved the IRD, the IRA (Institut des regions arides), the regional commissions for agricultural development and the provinces of Médenine and Gabès.

Following this study, the Jeffara region became one of the pilot sites in Tunisia for the ‘Réseau des Observatoires de Suivi des Ecosystèmes à Long Terme’ (ROSELT) promoted by the Observatoire du Sahel et du Sahara (OSS) in which the IRD is involved.

(2) Local name for the small traditional dams emplaced in ravines and encased valleys for upstream collection of water and the soil that it carries.

Marie Guillaume | alfa
Further information:
http://www.ird.fr/us/actualites/fiches/2007/fas257.pdf

More articles from Agricultural and Forestry Science:

nachricht Ammonium nitrogen input increases the synthesis of anticarcinogenic compounds in broccoli
26.04.2017 | University of the Basque Country

nachricht New data unearths pesticide peril in beehives
21.04.2017 | Cornell University

All articles from Agricultural and Forestry Science >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Making lightweight construction suitable for series production

More and more automobile companies are focusing on body parts made of carbon fiber reinforced plastics (CFRP). However, manufacturing and repair costs must be further reduced in order to make CFRP more economical in use. Together with the Volkswagen AG and five other partners in the project HolQueSt 3D, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) has developed laser processes for the automatic trimming, drilling and repair of three-dimensional components.

Automated manufacturing processes are the basis for ultimately establishing the series production of CFRP components. In the project HolQueSt 3D, the LZH has...

Im Focus: Wonder material? Novel nanotube structure strengthens thin films for flexible electronics

Reflecting the structure of composites found in nature and the ancient world, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have synthesized thin carbon nanotube (CNT) textiles that exhibit both high electrical conductivity and a level of toughness that is about fifty times higher than copper films, currently used in electronics.

"The structural robustness of thin metal films has significant importance for the reliable operation of smart skin and flexible electronics including...

Im Focus: Deep inside Galaxy M87

The nearby, giant radio galaxy M87 hosts a supermassive black hole (BH) and is well-known for its bright jet dominating the spectrum over ten orders of magnitude in frequency. Due to its proximity, jet prominence, and the large black hole mass, M87 is the best laboratory for investigating the formation, acceleration, and collimation of relativistic jets. A research team led by Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has found strong indication for turbulent processes connecting the accretion disk and the jet of that galaxy providing insights into the longstanding problem of the origin of astrophysical jets.

Supermassive black holes form some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astrophysics. Their enormous energy output is supposed to be generated by the...

Im Focus: A Quantum Low Pass for Photons

Physicists in Garching observe novel quantum effect that limits the number of emitted photons.

The probability to find a certain number of photons inside a laser pulse usually corresponds to a classical distribution of independent events, the so-called...

Im Focus: Microprocessors based on a layer of just three atoms

Microprocessors based on atomically thin materials hold the promise of the evolution of traditional processors as well as new applications in the field of flexible electronics. Now, a TU Wien research team led by Thomas Müller has made a breakthrough in this field as part of an ongoing research project.

Two-dimensional materials, or 2D materials for short, are extremely versatile, although – or often more precisely because – they are made up of just one or a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Fighting drug resistant tuberculosis – InfectoGnostics meets MYCO-NET² partners in Peru

28.04.2017 | Event News

Expert meeting “Health Business Connect” will connect international medical technology companies

20.04.2017 | Event News

Wenn der Computer das Gehirn austrickst

18.04.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Wireless power can drive tiny electronic devices in the GI tract

28.04.2017 | Medical Engineering

Ice cave in Transylvania yields window into region's past

28.04.2017 | Earth Sciences

Nose2Brain – Better Therapy for Multiple Sclerosis

28.04.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>