Travel Tunisia: "hanging gardens" resist drought

09:30  18 september  2022
09:30  18 september  2022 Source:   lepoint.fr

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  Tunisie: des © AFP

A U when the drought jeopardizes the crops in Tunisia , "hanging gardens" in a village at 700 meters altitude in the Northeast of the country resist thanks to a unique system listed as a world agricultural heritage.

known especially for its fig trees, Djebba has been part since 2020 "ingenious systems of the world agricultural heritage (SIPAM)", an appellation managed by the organization of the UN for food and agriculture ( FAO ) which Awarded it to some 70 sites in 22 different countries since 2005.

A Djebba, farmers have managed to shape the mountainous landscape to their advantage by integrating agriculture on natural terraces or built in dry stone.

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These "hanging gardens" which also benefit from an effective irrigation system meet the food needs of local communities throughout the year.

If the Djebba gardens produce many other fruits and vegetables, the fig remains the fetish fruit of the village which has organized since 2017 its annual "Karmous" festival (fig in Tunisian dialect) to promote this flagship product and main source of income for The majority of the inhabitants of this region.

Djebba produces more than 13 varieties of figs including that of "bouhouli" which only grows in this region and which has been protected by an appellation of controlled origin (AOC) since 2012.

- "Natural riches" -

The hanging gardens In the upper part of Djebba, are irrigated by the water of five sources at the top of the mountain which flow to the traditional canals which cross the farms.

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Farmers distribute the water by opening and closing canals for precise hours according to a sharing system based on the size of each garden and the number of its trees.

To take advantage of the "natural riches" of its region, Farida Djebbi, 65, founded in 2016 a cooperative bringing together a dozen women to enhance and encourage the return to traditional methods in the production of jam, dried figs and Water distilled with several wild plants and flowers.

But the region is not completely safe from climatic vagaries, warns local activist Taoufik Rajhi, 60, who alerts a drop in water in the sources in recent years, which makes weigh "A threat to the agricultural system".

If "the upper area close to water sources" remains shelter, the gardens below, where the leaves of certain trees are yellowing, may suffer from the rarity of the water, he adds .

Mr. Rajhi estimates that the drop in the level of sources is mainly due to "climate change and poor rainfall".

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"Maintaining balance"

but it also points to a tendency to favor commercial agriculture with an intensive plantation of figuiers, more profitable, to the detriment of other varieties less consuming of water.

Hence, according to him, the need to "maintain the balance and diversity" of the Jardins de Djebba. According to FAO, such diversity allows effective use of water, maintains the richness of the soil and makes the model "resilient".

Despite the drop in water level and its potential impact on their crops, Djebba farmers boast of the specificity of their territory, which has no less than 25,000 fig trees.

In the middle of the harvest season on his farm, Lotfi Al-Zermani, 52, welcomes this the figs of Djebba are "highly demanded" in Tunisia but also for export, thanks to the AOC label.

"Export has become easier and is done in greater quantity, and the price of figs has increased," he rejoices.

"Fig is not a simple fruit in Djebba. We were born and we are growing up among the fig trees. We learn to take care of them since childhood," says Shaïma Rajhi, 20 -year -old student, collecting the emblematic fruit on the family farm.

09/18/2022 07:53:58-Djebba (Tunisia) ( AFP )-© 2022 AFP

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