I decided to stay


Story of Said Touati

©Nikos Economopoulos/Magnum Photos for FAO

Said Touati lives with his 90-year-old mother in Tajerouine, northwestern Tunisia, a dry and remote area on the border with Algeria. It is an agricultural region without any major industries nearby.

Despite a university degree in mathematics, Said had been unemployed for 12 years.

Besides his degree, he had also learned sheep breeding from his father, but raising sheep requires resources that Said did not have. Though he liked working with livestock, his financial situation was not good enough to begin the breeding on his own.

“This area is isolated and half of its population left, but I stayed,” Said reveals. More than 1.2 million Tunisians live abroad. Many migrate to nearby countries in Western Europe in search of work opportunities.

"I was thinking of migrating, but I decided to stay in my country."

Said, too, was ready to migrate to Italy, following other men from his community. “I decided to stay in my country. I live with my mother and I am the breadwinner in the house. I cannot leave her alone,” he says with tears in his eyes.

©Nikos Economopoulos/Magnum Photos for FAO

In 2016, Said was selected along with more than forty other young people to be part of the FAO Rural Youth Mobility project, funded by the Italian Development Cooperation and implemented together with the Agence pour la Promotion des Investissement Agricole (APIA). The project provides unemployed rural youth in migration-prone areas of Tunisia and Ethiopia with the training and equipment they need to start their own agricultural businesses.

Through this project, Said learned how to run an organic sheep farm and received a herd of 55 sheep. His cousin also helped by sharing some of his own land with Said so that he could begin his sheep breeding.

©Nikos Economopoulos/Magnum Photos for FAO

“I had lost hope due to the unemployment in the region, but the FAO project gave me a chance,” Said reflects.

Now Said has the option to earn a living in his own community. Migration no longer feels like the only way out of poverty.

“My goal is to hire as many young people as possible in my region,” Said declares.

FAO is working on giving people, especially youth, decent work opportunities to help them support themselves and to make the choices that are best for them. Migration should be a choice and by investing in people’s livelihoods, FAO is helping to make it one.