Tunisia – Unique agricultural system for irrigating crops in Ghar al Milh


Location: Ghar al Milh – Bizerte – Tunis – Tunisia

Language: Arabic


Sound: natural

Source: A24 in Tunisia

Restrictions: A24 subscribers

Date: 09/29/ 2022


Agricultural system in coastal city of Ghar al Milh in Bizerte, northern Tunis, is a national treasure, as it is a traditional system with unique property, inherited from ancestry that dates back to Andalusians who founded the city.

Tunisia is experiencing water scarcity and decrease in water resources, 80% of which are used in agriculture, according to specialists and official authorities. The agricultural system in Ghar al Milh depends on rainwater stored in the soil, which is known as “passive irrigation system”, in which roots of plants are nourished by rainwater stored in the sand. Tidal movement results in salty sea water to enter the lake connected to the sea, and push fresh water stored from rainwater up to reach the roots of various types of plants and nourish them.


– Soundbite (Omar Al-Biuli – Expert in agricultural and water resources):

“The irrigation water used includes wastewater that runs in sewage or dams, which we call blue water, rainwater that we collect and there is what we call green water. The best source of water is soil, as it has good water retention, as they store water when it rains, which helps crops grow.”

– Soundbite (Ali Al-Qarsi – Farmer for 25 years and former teacher):

“The region has a natural irrigation system, which our ancestors who trace back to the Andalusian migration, invented. In an integrated irrigation system, there is a good stock of rainwater in this sandy layer, the depth of which is about 70 or 80 centimeters and below it we find salt water, and this prevents the leakage of sweet water. The tidal movement results in salt water to rise under the soil, it rises and descends with sweet water, which enables crops to irrigate from their roots and not through surface irrigation. Climate change for the past four years has become an issue for us, as we can no longer continue summer planting, which includes peppers and tomatoes.”

– Soundbite (Muhammad Muawi – Farmer):

“Work is affected by lack of rain. When rain is delayed during fall, the effect is low, but during spring, the effect is high. In spring, rain and sea level decrease, which causes loss of half of the crops because crops are in dire need of water during that period. Ghar al Milh has been afflicted with land degradation, except a few plots we can still plant on. There is major loss of sand, which we have no way of replacing, because even bringing sand from the beaches is prohibited.”

– Soundbite (Omar Al-Biuli – Expert in agricultural and water resources):

“Our land ranges between dry and semi-arid. Our natural resources are little, and we use approximately 80% of the water resources in agriculture, but there is water loss rate of about 50%. If we reduce water in agriculture and improve the feasibility of agricultural water, the issue of scarce drinking water will be resolved.”

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