IRD in France has released the results of a long study of the Jeffara region of Tunisia, which has been very prone to desertification. The study pinpoints the role of agriculture and the use of natural resources as key factors in the spread of deserts, but acknowledges the very complex interactions at work. The press release concludes:
“[D]egradation can be checked by prohibiting the development of endangered natural environments for cultivation. However, real practical alternatives must in that case be proposed to farmers, in the agriculture sector, through maintenance of a certain diversified production in their holdings and enhancing commercial value of high-quality local or regional produce, but also by means of diversification of activities and of sources of revenue other than farming. This diversification would offer people improved flexibility to face up to climatic and economic hazards and enable them to manage better their familiesâ€™ financial resources. In addition, the effort government has made in water management, through the CES, could be enhanced by schemes for desalinating brackish water and recycling waste water.”
But can they find a way to diversify and add value before the farmlands, soils and water have vanished completely?