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PARTNERSHIPS FOR ENHANCED ENGAGEMENT IN RESEARCH (PEER)
Cycle 7 (2018 Deadline)


Southern Tunisia Climate Hub (STCH)

PI: Bouajila Essifi (essifib@gmail.com), Institut des Regions Arides
U.S. Partner: Steve Ostoja, United States Dept. of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service (USDA ARS) and the University of California at Davis (UC Davis), the John Muir Institute of the Environment
Dates: November 2018 - October 2020


Project Overview:

Desertification affects approximately one-sixth of the world's population, 25 percent of the global land area, and 70 percent of all drylands, amounting to 3.6 billion hectares. The most obvious impacts of desertification, in addition to widespread poverty, are (1) the degradation of 3.3 billion hectares of the total area of rangeland, constituting 73 per cent of the rangeland with a low potential for human and animal carrying capacity; (2) the decline in soil fertility and soil structure on about 47 per cent of the dryland areas constituting marginal rainfed cropland; and (3) the degradation of irrigated cropland, amounting to 30 per cent of the dryland areas with a high population density and agricultural potential. Desertification is both a natural phenomenon and a process induced by human activities, and it is now recognized as a global issue affecting us all. Combating desertification must be part of a sustainable development that takes into account the different economic, environmental, social, and institutional dimensions, and therefore, opens the way for the implementation of early warning systems and helps policy- and decision-makers to set out relevant strategies for sustainable development. The activities of the Southern Tunisia Climate Hub (STCH) supported under this PEER award are highly aligned with one of USAID's development objectives for Tunisia, namely to transparently foster collaboration between the regional development agencies (CRDA, in the two targeted governorates) and farmers, while building community resilience and effectively addressing population needs in these marginalized regions. The aim of this project is to develop and utilize inclusive approaches to addressing natural resource management, including water management, soil conservation, and land management, as well as addressing general sustainable development issues in two counties in southern Tunisia: Medenine and Tataouine. These areas have been long-affected by land and water mismanagement combined with persistent drought under changing climatic conditions.

This project seeks to strengthen the Tunisian economy by promoting economic opportunities in the agricultural sector within the rural communities of southern Tunisia. It represents an aspect of the USAID’s contribution toward helping Tunisia surmount its socioeconomic challenges, as identified in the Tunisian Strategic Development Plan (2016-2020). Anticipated direct impact on the agricultural workforce in southern part of the country includes capacity building for skilled workers to match the market’s needs, which promote job creation. The Institut des Regions Arides has long experience in providing training to local farmers and land managers and strengthening the links between research and development, agronomic education, and the private sector.

Summary of Recent Events

During the April-June quarter, the PI and his team were working on setting up the different research themes and endproducts. They also made a reliable progress in designing the geoportal design along with data collection of regional thematic maps, satellite imagery covering the study area.

The project website is now accessible at the following address: www.climatehub.tn, in which they will communicate STCH events, news, and end products, etc. This would be a repository for all relevant information on southern Tunisia Climate Hub. In addition, co-supervision and hosting of graduate students is a continuous process on the following topics: water and land resources management, ecosystem services, and STCH geoportal. In the framework of building partnerships with the private sector, they hosted an event/info-session at IRA
headquarters in Medenine on the potentiality of the use of drones in the monitoring and combating desertification in arid zones.

A curriculum on Climate Smart Agriculture (CSA) on improving peach trees productivity towards climate variability for farmers and agricultural land managers in Tataouine governorate is being developed. A stakeholder outreach event will be organized in September-October. A network of low-cost climate/weather stations' in the study area of the project for measuring, modelling and monitoring purpose is set to be implemented, the network is very helpful for development purpose and forecast of extreme events.

In the next 3-6 months, the PI will conduct the following activities:
  • An outreach/demonstration for local farmers (CSA)
  • A training session on GIS tools for natural resources management
  • Purchase of equipment (computers and other equipment)
  • Visit of PEER project partner: meeting with project-related faculty members and expert at UC Davis, government agencies in California. Participating in the American Geophysical Union (AGU) fall meeting (Dec. 2019)



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