Globally Important Agricultural Heritage Systems (GIAHS)

Sowing seeds in Tunisian sands

17 June 2020

Nature can transform itself from a foe to an ally. Farmers have known this for centuries and have learned to survive and produce food despite hot temperatures, little water and even lack of arable land. Under such circumstances, communities have translated their resilience and inventiveness into farming techniques that have endured the test of time and are part of the solution for a challenging future.     

A small town in the north of Tunisia, Ghar El Melh, was once a Phoenician settlement (1101 BC). Between the mountains of Jbel Ennadhour and the lagoons of Ghar El Melh and Sebha of Sidi Ali el Mekki, a small space for agricultural activities has flourished using a technique called Ramli, adopted during the Andalusian diaspora in the 17th century. Ramli means “on sand” and the practice is exactly that, growing food on a sandy terrain.

Ramli crops are irrigated by fresh rainwater that floats on the surface of the salty sea water. This fresh water reaches the crops through the movement of the tides. Farmers must regularly calculate the sea level and maintain the soil at the exact level of the water. If the plot is too low, the roots come into contact with saltwater, killing the crops. If it is too high, the roots dry out. Farmers regulate the soil levels by adding sand and manure.

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