Oum Zessar Watershed, Tunisia

Case study leader: Observatoire du Sahara et du Sahel (OSS) in partnership with IRA Medenine

Ecoregions covered: Mediterranean dry woodlands and steppe, Mediterranean woodlands and forests and partially North Saharan steppe and woodlands and Saharan halophytics

Site description: Oum Zessar Watershed is located in south Tunisia in Medenine gouvernorat and has a 35,000 ha surface area. This site is part of the Jeffara of Tunisia, presents a lower arid Mediterranean climate and a 160 to 220 mm average rainfall per year with an average of 30 days of rain. Water resources are a major constraint for pastoral (sheep and goats) and agricultural (cereals and tree cultivation) activities and local inhabitants (24,188 hab in 2004). This site is a typical agro-pastoral interlocked area with the gradual and in some areas accelerated expansion of cropland at the expense of the natural rangelands. In fact it has very significant eco-environment vulnerability, degraded vegetation in rangeland, intensification of agricultural use in plain areas. This region has been a target area of the main national strategies for natural resource and combating desertification (Water and soil conservation, water resources, pasture and rangelands, sand encroachment, rural development.

Pressures: Main desertification issues are anthropic pressure having markedly increased in recent years due to changes in socio-economic policies. The effect of this has been an increasingly irrational use of natural resources, and as a consequence a state of severe degradation: 1) Accelerated expansion of rainfed agricultural (specially olive tree and annual crops, cereals, etc. and irrigation system, 2) Significant change of agrarian system and land use, and 3) Development of multi sectors activities for income generation (urbanization, services, migration etc.).

Stakeholders: The observatory being part of ROSELT/OSS is part of a large network of researchers, policy-makers and communities, as well as national, sub-regional, and regional institutions. Other institutions involved in research and management Oum Zessar Watershed are e DG/ACTA (Direction Générale de l'Aménagement et de la Conservation des Terres Agricoles), INS (Institut National des Statistiques), IRA Mednine (Institut des Régions Arides) and CRDA (Commissariats Régionaux au Développement Agricole)

Case study focus: ROSELT/OSS program has first helped to establish a biophysical and socio economic variables monitoring and strengthened local institutions capacities for environment monitoring/evaluation.

Previous projects: ROSELT, DESIRE (desertification mitigation and remediation of land), ACCCA (Advancing Capacity to Support Climate Change Adaptation), LADA (Land degradation in drylands)

Country or case-study specific expertise of partners: OSS, IRA Medenine, CIRAD G-EAU, ICRAF

For more information check study case