The third general assembly of PACTORES took place in Medenine, Tunisia, hosted by our colleagues of the IRA (Arid Regions Institute) at their premises on the 21st and 22nd of January. The WP3 task of collecting data on the financial performance of farms in the case study areas has been completed, and outcomes from WP1 are about to be ready for dissemination in the coming months. The focus of the coming months will be on capitalizing on the results achieved by the project thus far.
On the 23rd of January, we embarked on an extremely interesting field trip to get to know the pastoral areas in the semi-desert region of Tunisia close to the border with Algeria. The El Ouara communal rangeland is located in the south-eastern part of Tunisia where it borders with Libya. It is accessible within a 2-hour drive from the IRA headquarters. These rangelands are characterized by a Mediterranean rainfall pattern and temperature regime. The unique land use in the southern part of this area involves extensive grazing for sheep, goats, and camels. Topographically, El Ouara is mainly composed of vast encrusted glacis with a thin and sandy top layer. The vegetation cover, essentially comprised of dwarf shrub-steppe with perennial grasses, reaches 15%, 25%, and 40% during dry, medium, and rainy years, respectively. The pasture productivity can satisfy the herd’s needs during the rainy season, but during the dry period, animals require feed supplements (primarily barley). These climatic variations constitute the main challenge for pastoralists in the region. In periods of drought, they face many difficulties in obtaining the supplementary feeds. Further, feed prices are increasing as availability decreases without pastoral production. In this situation, the grazing model is changing from extensive to semi-intensive. Privatization of communal lands followed by agricultural conversion (for olive tree plantations) can also be considered a significant challenge faced by pastoralists since it limits the access to grazing lands and reduces the rangeland areas, especially for the biggest herds. In addition, military activity in the region also plays a limiting role in access to rangelands and reduces the availability of grazing areas.
Check out some visual highlights of the trip below – the unique landscape, some of the PACTORES colleagues in action, and of course the delicious food. Stay tuned for further updates as the project continues to develop!