Tunisian ‘Hanging Backyard’ Farms Wrestle Regardless of Drought


Excessive within the hills of northwest Tunisia, farmers are planting 1000’s of fig bushes with a novel system of roofs they hope will save them from eternal drought.

However the “Hanging Gardens” of Jibba el Olia have been put to the take a look at this yr because the North African nation swept by means of its warmest July for the reason that Nineteen Fifties.

It has exacerbated an extended drought that has left Tunisia’s reservoirs at solely a 3rd of their capability.

The gardens are provided with water from two springs excessive within the mountains.

Water is provided to the gardens by a community of canals that are opened and closed at mounted instances in line with the scale of the backyard.

FILE – An irrigation system is pictured amongst fig bushes within the Tunisian metropolis of Jibba in southwest Tunis on August 19, 2022.

Importantly, all kinds of crops present resilience and inherent pest management in distinction to monocultures that dominate fashionable agriculture and require huge inputs of pesticides to outlive.

“We develop figs, but additionally different bushes reminiscent of quince, olives and pomegranates, and underneath them we plant a variety of greens and legumes,” mentioned activist Farida Jibby as bugs among the many flowers of thyme, mint and rosemary .

Jibby pointed to some channels that irrigate the steeply sloping orchards in 300 hectares (740 acres) of the realm.

In 2020, the Meals and Agriculture Group acknowledged the system for instance of “modern and resilient agroforestry”, including it to a particular listing of solely 67 “globally necessary agricultural heritage techniques”.

The UN company mentioned the system is “able to adapting and benefiting from an inhospitable topography”.

“Via the usage of pure geological formations and the usage of stones, native communities are capable of remodel the panorama into fertile and productive land.”

The FAO praised the range of native crop varieties grown by space farmers, in addition to the usage of wild crops to “clear up” potential pests and livestock and fertilize the soil.

rising with figs

Whereas nobody is aware of how previous this method is, human habitation within the area predates the Carthaginian civilization established within the ninth century BC.

However whereas it has been round for generations, the system is underneath risk within the type of local weather change.

Activist Tawfiq Al Rajehi, 60, says the move of water from the springs that irrigate the realm has decreased, particularly within the final two years.

In contrast to in earlier years, the encircling peaks are not coated with snow each winter, and the leaves of many bushes on the backside of the jabba are yellow and sick.

Rajehi, a trainer at an area college, mentioned local weather change and fewer rainfall have led to a different issue: farmers are in favor of money crops.

“Some farmers are rising extra figs as an alternative of much less water-intensive crops as a result of figs have develop into extra worthwhile lately,” he mentioned.

“We have to have a superb stability and number of crops.”

Nonetheless, residents say they’re pleased with their heritage.

Farmer Lotfi El Jarmani, 52, mentioned there’s additionally rising demand for the jibba fig, which was given a protected designation of origin by the agriculture ministry in 2012—the one Tunisian fruit nonetheless to get pleasure from certification.

“They’re gaining a status, plus they’re simpler to export, plus they bring about greater costs,” Jarmani mentioned, including that the majority exports go to the Gulf or neighboring Libya.

Rajehi’s daughter, Chaima, a college pupil, was sporting protecting gloves when she went out to reap fruit from her household’s small.

The 20-year-old mentioned, “Figs are greater than a fruit to us. We’re born right here amongst fig bushes and we develop up with them, we study from a younger age find out how to deal with them.”

JBB is working to influence farmers to protect conventional strategies of processing produce harvested within the area.

She is working with 10 different girls in a cooperative that extracts essences from wild flowers, dries figs, and produces fig and mulberry jam.

“The merchandise we discovered to make from our moms and grandmothers have gotten well-liked as a result of they’re of such prime quality,” he mentioned.


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