Young Tunisian men and women busy planting cactus that helps rehabilitate and protect the land from erosion and degradation. Copyright: WFP/Reem Nada
In rural central and western Tunisia many families struggle to put food on the table every day. As many as 78 percent of the population can barely afford to produce or buy their food. With climate change making its fierce mark on the area, WFP and the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) designed a joint project to assist small-scale farmers and help them establish small agricultural businesses.
Sidi Bouzid, TUNISIA – Siham's hands are far from delicate compared to young women her age in other parts of the country where food is not a problem. Unlike them, she carries an axe and goes out to the field every day planting cactus. In her village Al Khorshof, Arabic for cactus, rain has been scarce for the past six months.
Though, Siham is still luckier than other young women in the villages around Sidi Bouzid who work as casual labourers in the field earning only 7 Tunisian Dinars (US$4) per day – and even that is only seasonal. Since September last year, Siham has been receiving a monthly electronic cash transfer of US$147 (almost 11 TND daily) for her work that helps rehabilitate agricultural assets close to her home and protect the land from erosion and degradation.
“The project has changed our lives a lot; before, we didn’t eat meat; we bought clothes only once a year but now we can buy clothes and eat better,” Siham says. “The project has improved many things for us.”
She is one among 259 youths benefiting from WFP’s cash-for-assets project in central and western Tunisia. The young men and women 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 has already presented the project she designed with the help of the FAO training she received. She hopes to have a small business breeding sheep and goats once she gets the microcredit through the Enda Inter-Arabe, a microcredit institution with branches across Tunisia.
When this young woman dreams, she dreams big. “I dream of having an ever-growing herd; one goat becoming ten then fifty and so on…I want to be successful.”
While Siham waits to receive the microcredit; a small sum of 3000 to 5000 TND (approximately US$1900 to 3100) to start her business, the income she gets through WFP cash-for-work activity supports her and her family.