Globally Important Agricultural Heritage Systems (GIAHS)

Hanging gardens from Djebba El Olia, Tunisia

GIAHS since 2020


Detailed Information



Global Importance

Located on the slopes of Jbel el Gorrâa Mount, the system of Djebba el Olia has been able to adapt and take advantage of an inhospitable topography. Through the use of natural geological formations and the use of stones, local communities have been able to transform the landscape into fertile and productive lands.

Based on local agro-biodiversity and adapted to the arid context, the hanging gardens are examples of innovative and resilient agroforestry that meet the food needs of the communities throughout the year. Thanks to the maintenance of the forests at high altitude and the multitude of species in the tree stratum of the gardens, Djebba El Olia benefits from a particular microclimate.

The hanging gardens of Djebba El Olia are the home of many traditional agricultural techniques, food processing knowledge but also of natural resources common sharing.

Food and livelihood security

A large number of vegetable, leguminous and fruit species are produced in the gardens. Apart from figs, most of this production is dedicated to self-consumption, particularly vegtables and legumes. Surpluses are sold on local markets.

53% of the producers own animals, be they cattle, sheep, goats or horses. Local food security is further enhanced with the use of spontaneous edible plants consumed in their natural state, prepared as meals or used as medicinal preparations.

The average gross income from the sale of products is dominated mainly by the sale of figs in various forms. The contribution of sales of garden products to household income reaches 50% for 52% of the region's farmers. It can exceed 70% for the remaining 48%, underlining the economic dependence of farmers.


The agrobiodiversity of the Djebba El Olia site is rich. First of all, at the interspecific level with the great diversity of cultivated plants from selected and resilient local seeds. The solanaceous plants (tomato, pepper) occupy a good place along with squash, broad bean, onion, bean and potato. At the intra-specific level, let us mention the fig tree which is mainly represented by the local varieties of Bouhouli, Zibri and to a lesser extent Thgagli, Wahchi, Khartoumi and Soltani from Khartoumi, Wahchi, Zergui, Khenziri, Ahmer, Boukhobza and Nemri.

Livestock breeding is no less representative of the site's biodiversity, with in particular the local breed of sheep "Black Thibar", adapted to the rugged nature of the terrain, and the Brown Atlas cattle breed known for its great hardiness. Finally, the nearby forests and wild flora and fauna species reinforce the ecosystem services provided by the gardens of Djebba El Olia. Indeed, limiting their use of chemical inputs, the presence of high or wild pollinators is important.

Local and traditional knowledge systems

Hanging gardens are complex cropping systems based on the interrelationships between agroforestry components focusing on fruit trees and vegetable and legume crops. The choice and management of cultivated and wild species associations is the main basis of the site's ingenious knowledge. This local knowledge also involves the use of wild plants as repellents and natural protection for plants of interest.

Semi-extensive animal husbandry makes it possible to meet the organic matter needs of the gardens, which constitute an alternative grazing area thanks to harvest residues. During the other part of the year, the animals graze on the mountain plateaus below the gardens or at higher altitudes.

Lastly, it was only possible to cultivate the mountain slopes by building dry-stone terraces and working the mountain slopes to make them cultivable. This terraced system has been reinforced by an irrigation system managed collegially by the farmers allowing everyone to share this resource equally and limit waste.

Cultures, value systems and social organizations

The attachment of this population to cultural events is important. It is illustrated in particular by the number of events organized in the region such as the zarda and the festival dedicated exclusively to Jebba figs. Created more than twenty years ago and having reached its 24th session in 2017, it was organized for a long time under the name of "festival of vines". It was only last year that it was given the name "festival of figs" and was given an official existence and a legal management structure in the form of an association.

Landscape features

The mountain of Djebel El Gorraa sheltering Djebba is an emblematic element of the landscape of the municipality. Surmounted by a limestone slab characteristic of a perched syncline resulting from an inversion of relief, the cliffs are favourable habitats for the local birdlife.

Innervated by a spectacular system of water springs, cavities and karstic galleries, the local landscape has benefited from the creation of a natural park "Parc naturel de Djebba" to protect this natural heritage and better enhance its cultural impact in the lives of Tunisians.

The hanging gardens on the mountainside are the visible marks of the ingenuity of Man who has shaped this landscape over the centuries and who is the sole guarantor of its maintenance and conservation for future generations.