Like many Mediterranean countries, Tunisia is increasingly confronted to problems of scarcity in water resources. Nowadays, about 80% of these resources are allocated to agricultural sector. Irrigated areas in Tunisia are currently around 420000 ha consist of 220000 ha of public areas and 200000 ha as private perimeters. Private irrigated perimeters are mainly in central and southern part of the country as small family farms of few hectares. If in the north of irrigation water comes from dams and hill lakes, in the arid south, the water comes almost exclusively from surface wells that exploit a shallow groundwater very sensitive to climatic changes. Because of traditional irrigation techniques, water use efficiency of irrigated agriculture remains low and stands around 50% while efforts aim to reach 70%. For better utilization of available resources, a national water-saving strategy was already launched for over a decade. The main components of this strategy are training for technical staff operating in the field, improving existing surface irrigation systems through ditch coating and the development of underground networks in PVC to reduce water loss through evaporation and seepage during water transportation from the source to the irrigation units. The other component is the incitement through a government grant of up to 60% of the materiel cost for conversion to localized irrigation. Because of their small size, family farms can take advantage of these measures. The present paper attempts to review the main features of this small family agriculture and discuss its ability to take advantage of these "new irrigation techniques" to improve its profitability and maintain its sustainability.


Tunisia, arid, water, drip irrigation, efficiency.

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