Helping Rural Communities In Tunisia
As many as 78 percent of the population in central and western Tunisia can barely afford a day’s meal and many families depend on casual work in the fields to earn a living. With climate change that is affecting the region, even the 7 Tunisian Dinars (about US$4) they would get for a day’s work are not guaranteed. Warda, a mother of 11 in her late fifties, says her work is very seasonal and she only works a few months a year and spends the rest at home wondering how she will make ends meet.
This is a lake bed near Sidi Bouzid in central Tunisia, an area that has seen very little rain over the past six months, leaving the lake vulnerable to the effects of soil erosion. These sites were one of the main drives behind a joint project by the World Food Programme and the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) to assist small-scale farmers in the area and rehabilitate the area protecting the land from erosion and degradation.
A participant in WFP cash-for-assets project planting an acacia tree to prevent soil erosion. WFP launched the trial phase of the project in September 2012 and will carry it through until the beginning of July 2013. Through this intervention, participants get US$147 every month to rehabilitate agricultural land; that is almost 11 Tunisian Dinars per day.
Both WFP and FAO designed the project to assist the poorest of the poor in these areas benefiting 259 and their families. In each area the residents themselves nominated the participants limiting their choices to one unemployed youth from a single household to maximize the benefits of the project.
Participants received training through FAO’s Junior Farmer Field and Life Schools that divided them into 30-member groups. Besides getting technical education on agricultural production and cattle breeding, they also learnt how to build a business plan and how to apply for microcredit from an existing financial institution to help them establish small businesses.
Siham, a 22-year-old unemployed young woman, works in a field close to her house planting cactus trees with the rest of her group. This cash-for-work activity provides an income for vulnerable participants and at the same time helps protect the land from erosion and degradation, the cactus leaves are used as cattle fodder.
Cactus leaves on their way to be used as food for animals. Famers burn the thorns and then cut the clean leaves into small pieces to feed the few heads of sheep and goats some of them raise in their backyards.
Siham has already completed her training period with FAO. She is currently waiting to receive the small loan that will help her and her family increase the few animals they have. She says the project has significantly improved their lives and provided her family with a much needed income. She hopes the small business she would start will bring her family out of poverty and hunger for good.