Course:FRST270/Wiki Projects/Indigenous versus the Modern Natural Resources Management System in Oued Sbahiya Northern Tunisia

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The Indigenous versus the modern natural resources management system in Oued Sbahiya Northern Tunisia

This case study focuses on a Mediterranean peasant community of watershed in Northern Tunisia. It shows the interaction between indigenous and modern natural resources management system. Erosion is a serious problem in Northern Tunisia. The authority tries many ways to promote soil management works, but with changes of peasant’s old daily lifestyle, local labor reduce and rest of them can’t afford such a conservation work. Local people need more cashes but the paid of agriculture products can’t satisfy their demand. Erosion control authorities had to directly pay cash to farmers and promote their willing to do manual work. It’s hard for peasants in northern Tunisia find a satisfactory way to solve their soil conservation problem at the conflict of modern and old natural resources management[1].



The Republic of Tunisia is the northernmost country in Africa and covers an area of 164,400km[2]. The Libya is to the southeast, Algeria to the west, and Mediterranean Sea to the north to the east. It has over ten million citizens, almost all of Arab-Berber descent. The capital is the Tunis and located on a large Mediterranean Sea gulf, behind the Lake of Tunis and the port of La Goulette.[3]


The physical features and environment of the land of Tunisia have remained fairly constant.[4] in the north of Tunisia, the weather is temperate and have a Mediterranean climate with mild rainy winters and hot dry summers, the terrain being wooded and fertile. The Medjerda river valley (Wadi Majardah, northeast of Tunis) is currently valuable farmland. Along the eastern coast the central plains enjoy a moderate climate with less rainfall but significant precipitation in the form of heavy dews; these coastlands are currently used for orchards and grazing. The highest point in the country at 1544 meters is Near the mountainous Algerian border rises Jebel ech Chambi. In the near south, a salt lake running east-west cuts across the country. [5][6][7]

Economic Situation

The proportion of people living on less than US$ 1.25 a day declined from 5.9 percent in 1990 to 0.7 percent in 2010. After reaching 32.4 percent of the population in 2000, the poverty rate dropped to 15.5 percent. About 33 percent of the poor live in rural areas. [8] In 2013, Tunisia produced GDP of USD 47 billion, representing a per capita ratio of USD 4317 [9]. The GDP has increased by 4% to 5% per year in the last 20 years.[10]

Tenure arrangements

Forest tenure arrangements[10]

  • The forest area is mainly state owned. No shifts in forest tenure was done in the last 25 years.
  • The prevailing forest tenure types in Tunisia are as following:
1. State-owned forest area.
2. Private land submitted to forestry regime.
3. Other private lands: Wind breaks, shrubs, forest plantation on river banks or for soil and water conservation purposes.

Agricultural land tenure arrangements[11][10]

  • private lands (4.7 million ha of which 54,000 ha of forest), classified in two categories:
1.  The first one is submitted to forest regime (due to their protection role) where harvesting is submitted to a special authorization from the ministry in charge of forests that precise the harvesting conditions.
2.  Second category, private owners practice all their property rights, but they should notice to DGF the harvesting activities in their owned land.
  • state-owned land
  • forest domain (1.3 million ha of which 926,000 ha of forests) and collective lands (about 4 million ha, mainly rangelands) .

Besides, private forests (54,000 ha) and some private and collective rangelands (956,000 ha) are submitted to the forest regime, and therefore, they cannot be converted, and they are submitted to strict regulation for their exploitation.

Administrative arrangements[10]

1981: The Silvopastoral Development Office for the North West (ODYSEPANO) established.

1988: Forest laws and regulations provide special fund for encouraging afforestation of private lands. Later replaced by the country’s unique code of Incentives to Investments.

1990: Established new political and economic policies, with particular emphasis on the liberalization of the economy and the important role the private sector.

1990-2001: Strategy for afforestation and combating desertification.

2010-2014: The Social and Economic Development Plan.

Affected Stakeholders

Stakeholder Main relevant objectives Relative power
Tunisia peasants - solve erosion problem

- earn more money for live


Interested Outside Stakeholders

Stakeholder Main relevant objectives Relative power
The Centre Régional de Développement Agricole (CRDA) -promote soil management works in Tunisia low
General Directorate of Forests from Ministry of agriculture -responsible for applying the forest code and for managing, protecting, and developing the state forests and other woodlands, in addition to grazing lands submitted to the country’s forest regime[10]. high
the Office for Sylvo-Pastoral Development of the North West (ODESYPANO) -Through the way of subsidy to increases attractivenenss of conservation practices to farmers [12]

-in charge of promoting agro-silvopastoral development in the five administrative districts of northwestern Tunisia. Its activities encompass implementing forest and agro-forestry plantations.[10]

Groupement de Développment Agricoles (GDA) -For a greater involvement of forest users in forest management issues.[10] Low


Erosion Problem

High erosion risk in the watershed of Northern Tunisia prompted the Tunisian government to promote soil management works. But not all works are successful.

  • Conflicts

In Oued Sbahiya, farmer unwilling to do the conservation work without cash support, they need to have more money to satisfy their demand.

  • Solution

The Centre Régional de Développement Agricole (CRDA) provide bulldozers to the farmers for erosion control works on their land in 1990s. The bulldozers can push large quantities of soil, rubble, or other conversion work[1].

The Office for SylvoPastoral Development of the North West (ODESYPANO) subsidises about 80% of the investment cost of erosion control works, while participating farmers are expected to provide the remaining investment costs (in kind), as well as the annual maintenance costs in Barbara watershed[12].

A law enacted in 2003 about the protection of agricultural land. It distinguished three classes: prohibition zone, safeguard zone, and zone submitted to authorization. State owned forests and forests submitted to forest regime are classified in prohibition zone. Olive trees, other fruit trees, forest non submitted to forest regime and managed forests are included in the safeguard zone. Any touristic, industrial and urban management should be done in the less fertile lands in the zone submitted to authorization.[10]

  • Results

The intervention rapidly made soil conservation authorities unpopular with the peasants. Because bulldozers were too big to operate efficiently in the patchwork and tracks scrapped away amounts of soil. This conservation way does not work[1].

With subsidies, the attractiveness of conservation practices to farmers increases, but often remain less attractive than just cereals. Thus, even with subsidies, some farmers have resisted adopting the recommended measures. In the case of stone walls in gullies, they have sometimes agreed to adopt the practice but declined to provide their in-kind labour contribution, thus effectively increasing the subsidy to investment costs to 100%. Subsequent maintenance is minimal, reducing the useful life of the walls from an expected 15 years to eight or less.[12]

Relative critical issues: Overgrazing and environmental degradation problem

Persistence of a high density of population living inside or nearby the forest area (87 inhabitants / km2). This population ensures the labor needs for forest plantation and management, but constitutes a pressure on forest resources through grazing, clearing (0.07% of the forest area), logging and charcoal production. [10]

  • Conflicts

Most often, herders deliberately choose to graze as many animals as they can afford, since the Tunisian forest legislation maintained livestock grazing among the list of usage rights that can be freely practiced by local populations.[13]

  • Solution

The creation of Agricultural Development Groups, called “Groupement de Développment Agricoles (GDA)” in 1999, for a greater involvement of forest users in forest management issues. However, rigidity and inadequate regulations have hindered the organization of local forest populations and limited their participation to the management of forest areas. [10]

The national strategy of forestry for the period 2015 – 2024 with four strategic axes: (i) create an enabling environment for sustainable development of forests and rangelands (ii) securing sustainable added value of forest and rangeland resources (iii) establishing sustainable management (iv) consolidate and improve forest and pastoral cover. [10]


There is another problem relate to conflict of erosion problem. City lights are attractive for youngsters, and many people migrate elsewhere in search of better chances, leaving the burden of agriculture on the shoulders of old people, women and children. As a result local labour scarcity, the household economy cannot anymore afford conservation works.

So current attitudes and behaviours of peasants in this case study could not be considered independently from some embedding economic and political factors, such as tenure policies, structure of the local market, and social marginalization. [1]

And there are some recommendations will be helpful to conflicts as following:

-Increased attention to Rural Youth Mobility project in Tunisia, which focus on indigenous population loss problem, and related to the young people situation in case study.

-The modern alternative is not always appropriate to the prevailing land tenure pattern.

-Economic is strong related to conservation work especially in development country.

-Improve the authority ability to manage environmental issues and through environmental projects to accelerate the investment of environmental activities, like the Mediterranean Technical Assistance Programme (METAP)[14] .


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Borrini-Feyerabend, G., & Jaireth, H. (2007;2004;2013;). Sharing power: A global guide to collaborative management of natural resources, pp. 21-23. Sterling, VA;London, UK;: Earthscan. doi:10.4324/9781849772525
  2. Country fact sheet on food and agriculture policy trends [Advertisement]. (2017, August). Retrieved from
  3. See map at end of article.
  4. Cf., LaVerle Berry and Robert Rinehart, "The Society and Its Environment" pp. 71–143, 79, in Nelson (editor), Tunisia. A Country Study (Washington, D.C., 3rd ed. 1987).
  5. Kenneth J. Perkins, Tunisia: Crossroads of the Islamic and European Worlds (Boulder, Colorado: Westview 1986) pp. 1–5.
  6. Jamil M. Abun-Nasr, A History of the Maghrib (Cambridge Univ. 1971) pp. 1–6.
  7. The World Factbook on "Tunisia" Template:Webarchive.
  8. Country fact sheet on food and agriculture policy trends [Advertisement]. (2017, August). Retrieved from
  9. World bank. Economic indicators.
  10. 10.00 10.01 10.02 10.03 10.04 10.05 10.06 10.07 10.08 10.09 10.10 Daly, Hamad. 2015. “Tunisia Case Study. Prepared for FAO as Part of the State of the World’s Forests 2016 (SOFO)” 2016.
  11. Banque mondiale, 2006. Examen de la politique agricole.
  12. 12.0 12.1 12.2 Croitoru, L., & Hassen, H. D. (2010, January). Using Payments for Environmental services to Improve Conservation in a Tunisian Watershed. Retrieved from
  13. Ameur, B.M., Salah, G. and Hamed, D. 2001. Analyzing forest users' destructive behavior in Northern Tunisia. Land Use Policy 18: 154. Crossref, Google Scholar
  14. Ennabli , M., & Whitford, P. (2005, April 30). Mediterranean environmental technical assistance program(METAP) . Retrieved from

Seekiefer (Pinus halepensis) 9months-fromtop.jpg
This conservation resource was created by Course:FRST270.