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Using water wisely to feed growing cities
North Africa contains 5 per cent of the world’s population but only has 1 per cent of the world’s available water resources. In Tunisia, water availability is as low as 350 m³ per person per year, but rapid urbanisation and climate change are placing further stress on water resources and food production. Use of treated wastewater for irrigation has helped to sustain agriculture in peri-urban areas, but severe government restrictions on wastewater use are constraining production.
In the town of Soukra, six kilometres from the capital city, Tunis, hundreds of low-income families live off the crops they grow. In recent years, however, rapid urbanisation has caused the city to expand, encroaching on farms, driving land speculation and threatening the livelihoods of Soukra’s farmers. Since the 1990s, nearly 30 per cent of arable land has disappeared. Farmers are also facing significant water stress: climate change has altered rainfall patterns, causing more extreme droughts and floods and leading farmers to draw more water from wells. As a result, saltwater from a nearby lagoon has been seeping into the groundwater, leaving some fields waterlogged and others too salty to grow healthy crops.
Greenhouses and wastewater