TUNISIA – Tunisian Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries, and Water Resources published an unprecedented decree prohibiting with immediate effect the use of drinking water in agriculture for a period of 6 months up to September 2023.

This new provision also applies to other activities, including irrigation of green spaces, cleaning streets, and public spaces, and washing cars. For four years now, climate change has affected Tunisia with a succession of persisting drought episodes.

The state water distribution company SONEDE also announced that water will be cut off daily from 9 p.m. until 4 a.m., with immediate effect.

The quota system is one of the measures the country has put in place to have equitable resource sharing to try to reduce the effects of drought, which is now in its fourth year.

Ameur Horchani, Former Secretary of the State of Water Resources, Ministry of Agriculture, in a paper titled Agricultural Water Management: Proceedings of a Workshop in Tunisia (2007), says Tunisia’s water resources are characterized by scarcity and a pronounced irregularity.

The paper adds that effective management of water resources depends on continual monitoring and control, as well as the implementation of reforms in the water sector.

According to Hamadi Habib, a senior official at the Ministry of Agriculture, the country has indeed recorded a drop in the water stock of its dams to around 1 billion cubic meters, or 30% of their overall storage capacity, in the face of in particular to the absence of rain which has lasted since September 2022.

In Tunisia, the agricultural sector uses more than 80% of water through irrigation. Although irrigation practices are very important for dry-season agriculture (summer), during the humid season (winter), dry spells occur often and crop water requirements can only be achieved by additional irrigation.

By 2030, Horchani predicts Tunisia’s that water demand, driven by population increases and improvements in living standards, could reach its maximum.

Neither the government nor any stakeholder has come out to estimate how the decree is going to estimate the agricultural sector for the period stipulated.

Recently, the Tunisian agricultural union official Mohamed Rjaibia only revealed that the country’s agricultural harvest will be “disastrous” this year, with the crop declining to 200,000-250,000 tonnes due to severe drought from 750,000 tonnes last year.

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