Tunisia Report 2013

Page 1

Special Guest Editorial

Tunisia in Transition Tunisia made history once again with the revolution of January 14, 2011; just as it has done repeatedly throughout its long and rich past. Tunisia is determined now to make this historical moment a true turning point. First of all, for the courageous youth that made this revolution happen by brandishing slogans of liberty, dignity and justice that reverberated across the region and far beyond. Then, to show that it is possible to build a full-fledged democracy based on the rule of law, and respect for human rights and basic liberties in a region that has seen few democratic apertures. The building of this new and ambitious political project takes place in a rather difficult context characterized by a slow learning process of democracy and a complicated socioeconomic context. Very high unemployment is among the challenges facing the leaders of Tunisia: 7 out of 10 unemployed are under 30 years old. The inability for educated and

certified youth to find employment was already a major problem before the revolution; today it is a matter of national urgency. We must establish efficient measures in the short-term to meet basic demand and to undertake the necessary structural reforms, namely in the education system, to create job opportunities and to offer youth the hope of a better future. Improving the employment situation is directly linked to the capacity of the economy to advance despite the inherent difficulties in any period of transition. International financial woes have not favored an easy economic transition while the internal political and security worries do not incite confidence from foreign investors. Faced with this complex equation and major challenges, Tunisia will need, once again, to rely on the innovative spirit of its men and women to invent a democratic model that is representative of the voices of each and every Tuni-

sian and to establish a system of governance that departs entirely from the old regime that caused so many of its current troubles. In this construction period, Tunisia needs to rely also on the support of its partners, in particular from the European Union. In this regard, promising new paths for cooperation have opened between Tunisia and the European Union in many areas such as trade, human mobility and scientific research. Long-term engagement in the fraework of our “priviledged partnershipâ€? must be the keystone of EU-Tunisian relations to assist in making the democratic transition a success in Tunisia. This success ultimately will bring prosperity to Tunisia and will have repercussions around the Mediterranean region. Tahar ChĂŠrif Ambassador of Tunisia to the European Union

Editorial | 3

Report Editor Stuart Reigeluth Contributors Alena Sander Anselm Duchrow eLSeed Ismail Bahri Marcello Cappellazzi Mouna Sfaxi Mounir Majdoub Lena Hoernlein Ulrich Laumanns Photographers Chris Belsten Chuck Moravec Citizen59 Dennis Jarvis Khaled Abdelmoumen Mariel Rosenbluth McKay Savage Mouna Sfaxi Cover and Map (pp. 22-23) InfoGraphics Oldemar Graphic Design Filipa Rosa Special thanks to Julika Tribukait from GOPA for coordinating the different articles by GIZ contributors; to JoĂŤlle Rizk as managing consultant at Revolve for her editing assistance; to Helmut Krist for supporting this country report; and to Nabil Ben Khedher and HĂŠdi Slimane for coordinating the editorial. Revolve is grateful to the German International Development Agency (GIZ) for their generous support with the publication of this country report.

Disclaimer: Articles in this report do not necessarily reflect the opinions of GIZ and only represent the views of the contributors.

Revolve Magazine (ISSN 2033-2912) is registered in Belgium: BE 0828.676.740. Image: Sid Bou Said, Nov. 2012. Source: Revolve


Contents 03 | Tunisia in Transition Editorial by Ambassador Tahar Chérif

06 | Tunisia’s New Constitution Revisions in 2012 to the Constitution now include environmental protection clauses.

12 | Climate Challenges The effects of rising sea levels, prolonged droughts, and encroaching desertification.

18 | Agricultural Reform How to achieve greater food security with growing urbanization and market liberalization.

22 | Map: Natural Resources & Energy Projects 26 | The Water Sector Tunisia is the first African and Arab country to implement a strategy to protect water resources.

30 | Renewables on the Rise 30% of Tunisia’s electricity production should come from renewable energies by 2030.

36 | Saphon Energy – Redefining Wind Tunisian entrepreneurs pave the way with innovative new wind energy technology.

38 | Cultural Profiles Exclusive interviews with two of Tunisia’s leading emerging artists.


The New Tunisian Constitution Writer: Mounir Majdoub is the lead expert on environment and sustainable development at the German-Tunisian Program for the Environment (PPE/GIZ).

Important revisions were made in 2012 to Tunisia’s Constitution to include clauses on the environment and sustainable development. While these are successful steps taken by civil society to influence policy-making in a positive manner, more measures need to be implemented to ensure greater preservation of the environment, writes Mounir Majdoub.

6 | Constitution

The 1959 Tunisian constitution – the first constitution of an independent Tunisia – makes no reference to the environment; neither did the 2002 amendments to the constitution. In 2002, at the second Earth Summit in Johannesburg, South Africa, 122 states throughout the world had already introduced environmental clauses in their constitutions, of which 10 were Arab states and 28 were African states.

After the October 2011 elections, the group Eco-Constitution presented a manifesto to enhance nature preservation, sustainable development, environmental rights, access to information, and participation in legal proceedings. The proposition to include environmental rights in the new constitution of a post-revolution Tunisia was among the very first of civil society’s demands. The main initiative is the “eco-constitution” followed by the “water constitution.” Environmental and sustainable development issues have now been added to the preliminary draft of Tunisia’s new constitution.

Globally, the right to a safe, healthy and ecologically-balanced environment as a human right is not yet recognized. The right to a healthy environment was declared as the first principle during the United Nations Stockholm conference on the environment in 1972, stipulating: “Man has the fundamental right to freedom, equality and adequate conditions of life, in an environment of a quality that permits a life of dignity and well-being.” This principle was retained in the 1981 African Charter of Human Rights and Peoples and received full recognition at the first Earth Summit of 1992 in Rio de Janeiro.

Eco-Constitution Proposals Preamble: The achievement of sustainable, economic, social and environmental balance and the protection of nature in all its components. Chapter on Rights and Freedoms: • Everyone has the right to a healthy and balanced environment and the duty to protect it. • Every citizen has the right of access to environmental information and participation in decision-making regarding policies, programs and projects with environmental impacts. • Everyone has the right to sue in defense of these rights. Constitutional Institutions: The creation of a Higher Council for Sustainable Development which evaluates and directs public policy for the achievement of sustainable development.

Image: Chott el-Jerid is the largest salt pan of the Sahara with a surface area of over 7,000 km2 (2,703 sq miles). Due to the extreme climate with annual rainfall of only 100 mm and temperatures reaching 50 °C, water evaporates from the lake. In summer Chott el-Jerid is almost entirely dried up, and numerous fata morganas occur. Source: Dennis Jarvis / Flickr

Constitution | 7

In 1986, the European institutions integrated environmental concerns into European Union policies. This was institutionalized with the Maastricht Treaty which added the principles of precaution and prevention. The Protocol on economic, social and cultural rights of the American Convention of Human Rights adopted in 1988 in San Salvador, dedicated an article to this issue. In the Arab world, the 2004 Arab Charter for Human Rights asserts in Article 28 that “Every person has the right to a healthy environment.” To date, over 150 states have constitutionalized environmental law. Generally, the propositions of the Eco-Constitution association and

8 | Constitution

Image (Top): The Ancient Roman Cisterns at Carthage are an impressive example of Roman engineering. The La Malga cisterns, built by the Romans at the beginning of the second century AD, to store water brought from the Zaghouan hills in an aqueduct 132 km (82 miles) long. Only 15 of the original 24 cisterns are now left, each 95 m (312 ft) long, 12.5 m (41 ft) wide and 11.50 m (38 ft) high. Source: Dennis Jarvis / Flickr Image (Right): Demonstrators face police lines on Avenue Bourguiba, Central Tunis. 20 January 2011. Source: Chris Belsten / Flickr

the water group were adopted in the constitution by Tunisia’s National Constituent Assembly (ANC). The participation of civil society in an advocacy campaign played a major role in this achievement. A network of over 200 associations supported the Eco-Constitution

campaign between May 2011 and June 2012. The visible degradation of the environment as well as incidents of drinkable water supply shortages in certain regions of the country in 2012 have increased environmental awareness and participation of elected officials.

The Protection of Nature and Sustainable Development: In the Preamble, paragraph 6 stipulates: “[...] opting to contribute to civilization by caring for the environment in such a manner that guarantees a safe sustainable life and a better tomorrow for future generations […]”

The Right to the Environment: In the Chapter on Rights and Liberties, Article 33: “Each person shall have the right to live in a peaceful and balanced environment and shall be entitled to sustainable development.” The same article refers to the obligation of the State, compa-

nies and persons to protect the environment: “Protection of the environment and wise utilization of natural resources shall be the responsibility of the state, institutions and people.” Article 34 specifically adds the right to water: “Every­ person shall have the right to water. The State shall protect water resources and rationalize the use thereof and distribute them fairly.”

The Right to Access of Information: In the Chapter on Rights and Liberties, Article 34: “Each person shall have the right to access in­formation without prejudice to national security and/or the rights stipulated under the present Constitution.”

The Principle of Participation: In the Preamble, paragraph 4: “With a view to building a participatory, democratic, republican regime”. In the Chapter on Local Powers, Article 140: “Local authorities shall adopt the mechanisms of democracy and partnership to ensure the broadest participation of citizens and civil society in the preparation of development programs and the development of land and shall follow-up on the execution and evaluation thereof in accordance with the provisions of the law.”

The Right to be a Party in Legal Proceedings: In Chapter V, Article 104: “The right to litigation and the right to defense shall be guaranteed. Parties to litigation shall be deemed equal before the judiciary. Two-level litigation shall be guaranteed by the law. Underprivileged persons shall have access to the judiciary.”

The Constitutional Authority for Sustainable Development: In the Chapter on Constitutional Authorities, Article 130 recommends the creation of: “An authority for sustainable development and the protection of future generations’ rights […] The Authority shall have cognizance over the general policies of the State, at the economic, social and environmental levels, to attain sustainable development that can guarantee the rights of future generations.”

Constitution | 9

Mentioning sustainable development in the Preamble and in the chapter on constitutional authorities is a guarantee as a State prerogative. The principle of participation is noted in the preamble in its democratic formulation and in the chapter on local governance. However, it is not clearly guaranteed at the level of executive decision-making. The authority for human rights, in Article 129, is concerned with moni-

10 | Constitution

toring all human rights issues including the environment, water and sustainable development. The authority for sustainable development will dedicate itself to controlling state policies, plans and programs for the coherent structuring of economic, social and ecological objectives. As opposed to other fundamental and divisive questions within the National Constituent Assembly, such as reference to sharia

(Islamic law), universality of human rights or the nature of the political regime (parliamentary, presidential or mixed), the environmental question is of general concern to everyone with the preliminary draft of the Constitution comprising a relatively elaborated content on this important issue. These amendments to Tunisia’s Constitution are a necessary step towards creating a more equitable life not only for Tunisians, but setting a

standard for other countries to adopt similar goals. Overall, the proposals advanced by the Eco-Constitution group and the water group were adopted in Tunisia’s new Constitution. This positive outcome was the result of an advocacy campaign led since May 2011, directed at different political parties and the media. A network of over 200 associations supported the Eco-Constitution

campaign between May 2011 and June 2012. Visible environmental degradation following 14 January 2011 as well as incidents of drinking water shortages in different regions of the country in 2012 also increased awareness among elected officials. More improvements can be made to the text and expressions used can be more accurate. In the preamble for example, less ambiguous

terms of “caring for the environment” and more direct definition of “water” would be beneficial to clarify whether it is water resources or drinking water. While creating an authority for sustainable development is a form of guaranteeing environmental protection, the name of the authority poses a problem: “protection of future generations’ rights.” The authority for human rights (Article 129) is concerned with all human rights, including the right to the environment, sustainable development and water. Redundancies need to be avoided between the authorities. The sustainable development authority will have to ensure that State policies, plans and programs present a coherent structuring of economic, social and ecological objectives for a better preserved environment.

In 1861, the Constitution of the Kingdom of Tunisia, adopted by Sadok Bey, was reputed for being the first constitution in the ArabMuslim world to implicitly evoke the environment. Chapter 12, Article 12 stipulates the principle of preservation: “No factory shall be installed in the capital, in other cities or surrounding areas, without the authorization of the municipality that shall oversee that the factory in no way cause harm to the public and its environment.” Image: Matmata, Tunisia. Source: Dennis Jarvis / Flickr

Constitution | 11

Adapting to Climate Change Writers: Anselm Duchrow (Head of Mission), Lena Hoernlein (Junior Expert) and Alena Sander (Intern) for the GIZ project on Implementing the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Tunisia.

The effects of global warming already severely affect Tunisia that is trying to implement policies to confront increasing sea levels, temperatures, droughts and desertification.

12 | Climate

Extreme weather conditions and abnormal changes of temperature, a dangerous rising sea level as well as an increase in the frequency and intensity of natural disasters – we will all be concerned by the projected impacts of climate change. However, some countries and regions will be more affected than others even if their contribution to it was less than marginal.

Tunisia is certainly one of the countries that contributed little to those human activities that induce climate change; for instance, human caused carbon dioxide emissions in Tunisia reached 2.4 tons per capita in 2008 – relatively low compared to the global average of 4.5 tons. Due to its diversified climate characterized by its temperate coast along the Mediterranean Sea in the north and the more arid regions of

the Sahara in the south, climate change impact will affect Tunisia in a way that can have disastrous consequences on the country’s environment and its economy. Tunisia’s primary concerns are an increase in temperature, a decrease in precipitation and a rising sea level. Scientists already emphasize an increase of 1.1°C in the average temperature that has been measured throughout the past decade in Tunisia. Their models project that until 2050, the average temperature will rise to 2.1°C. Scientists also expect consequences such as extended heat-waves and droughts as well as an average 30% decrease in precipitation.

Heatwaves & Droughts Tunisia will experience a rise in average temperatures by 1.1°C in 2030 and by 2.1°C in 2050 in comparison with 1961-90. Summer temperatures (+0.9°C to +1.6°C) will rise more than winter temperatures (+0.7°C to +1.0°C). Extremely dry years will increase in frequency and intensity by 2030. Precipitation will decrease moderately by 5% in the north and 10% in the south in 2030 and by 10% in the north-west and 30% in the south in 2050. Source: MedPro Report, February 2013. Image: Douz oasis in central Tunisia - the “gateway to the Sahara.” Source: Dennis Jarvis / Flickr

Climate | 13

With 94% of Tunisia already threatened by desertification, such climatic changes could be catastrophic. Long droughts will deplete agricultural yields and lead to a crisis in the agricultural sector, which comprises 12% of Tunisia’s gross domestic product (GDP). Olive production, for instance, one of the country’s most important agricul-

Situation in 2010

tural export products, could drop by 50%. The map below illustrates this scenario and shows how the land suitable for olive cultivation could decrease by 42% in the southern part of the country. Droughts also cause water shortages, which can lead to a water crisis since most of the country’s ground-

water resources are already overexploited. A 28% diminution of water resources is projected for the year 2030, coupled with a degradation of water quality. Higher temperatures and bad water quality are breeding grounds for diseases such as malaria and cholera. In addition, Tunisia is expected to experience a sea level rise of 38 to 55 cm by 2100.

Situation in 2050

Land suitable for olive cultivation in 2010 and 2050 in Medenine, a region in the south of the country. Source: GIZ study on « L’oliveraie tunisienne face au changement climatique. Méthode d’analyse et étude de cas pour le gouvernorat de Médenine »

94% of Tunisia is threatened by desertification.

The Tunisian coast consists of 2/3 of the country’s total population, more than 70% of its economic activities, 90% of the total capacity for tourist accommodation, and a great part of the irrigated agriculture. A sea level rise of 1m would impact 5% of the

14 | Climate

Tunisian population, and impact most its vital resources, particularly water resources, natural ecosystems, coastal infrastructure, agriculture and tourism. The more extreme climatic conditions of droughts and floods, heat waves and strong winds

will have severe impacts on tourist attractions such as the coastal areas and could render a holiday in Tunisia less attractive. The tourism sector will be affected since almost 50% of employed Tunisians work in the trade and services sector.

Risk Factors

Shocks - High youth and professional unemployment

- Instability in neighbouring countries

- High social disparaties

- Increased migration pressures from SSA - High regional competion - Decreased tourism due to shifting climate conditions

- Lack of adequate housing internal


- Regional water stress undermines cooperation

- Agriculture output depressed by climate shocks - Water scarcity undermines key economic sectors - Poor water management, resource base

- Increasing vunerability to global food price and oil shocks - High vulnerability to direct climate shocks

Country capacity and resilience State Capacity

- Macroeconomic imbalances - Below average service delievry in urban areas

Rules of the Game

- Weak political institutions - High corruption Social Contract

External stabilising factors Political / institutional

- EU and regional relationships focused on hard security and migration control

Civil Society

- Unified polity


- Relatively strong and active

- Weak political parties

- FDI flat-lined - Strong limits on EU migration

Feed-back Political instability and continued economic crises and shocks

Climate Change Related Factors Contributing To Instability In Tunisia Source: E3G 2012, “The Analytical Framework for Instability” UK Prime Minister’s Strategy Unit, 2005

Tunisia is expected to experience a sea level rise of 38 to 55 cm by 2100.

Implementing Policy Plans The risks induced by climate change impacts are obvious; yet addressing this issue poses a very real challenge to the Tunisian government. Struggling with pressing problems such as the transition to a democratic regime, unemployment and food security issues (the rise in food prices was a major driver behind the 2010-11 revolution that overthrew the Ben Ali dictatorship), working towards climate protection

and increasing resilience is often perceived as a burden to economic growth. Tunisia, however, is still one of the few countries in the world that plays a promising role in developing a national climate policy. Instead of seeing climate policy as a constraining factor that restricts the chances of economic growth, Tunisia recognizes the advantages of an attenuation and adaptation

strategy for sustainable economic development. The first steps were made through the ratification of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in 1993 and the Kyoto Protocol in 2002. Between 1990 and 2009, efforts to improve industries’ energy efficiency successfully reduced the Tunisian economy’s carbon intensity by 25%. Tunisia has also participated in the UNFCCC Clean Devel-

Climate | 15

opment Mechanism. Until today, it managed to register six important projects in the fields of wind and solar energy, urban transport and landfills. By announcing a National Climate Change Strategy in October 2012, Tunisia finally turned its struggle against climate change into an official policy and thus made another big step forward. Through the illustration of different future climate scenarios and their implications for Tunisia, the national strategy defines methods, activities and targets that are, in comparison to other mid-income countries, highly ambitious. The two core areas of the strategy are the reduction of greenhouse gases and the adaptation to climate change in different sectors and on different levels. The strategy envisages a reduction of carbon dioxide intensity by 60% until 2030 – a goal that has attracted public attention in a speech of the former Tunisian Minister of Environment Memia Banna Zayani at the UN climate summit in Doha in December 2012. This ambitious target takes 2009 as base year. The National Climate Change Strategy has been developed to be in line with the new global climate change treaty that is under negotiation in the UNFCCC and that is expected to set legally binding emission reduction targets for all countries – developed and developing. “There is a need for a new global agreement and we are convinced that this is going to be concluded during the climate con-

16 | Climate

ference in 2015. Our strategy will help us to meet the future requirements earlier and without a painful, abrupt change or adjustment”, stresses Imed Fadhel, Director at the Ministry for Environment and Sustainable Development in Tunis and National Focal Point for Climate Change. The promises made by Tunisian officials are more than a gesture of goodwill. Imed Fadhel hopes that the commitment will attract foreign and national financial investments, especially in the field of re­newable energies, which is one of the key concerns of the strategy. This is why the strategy can be a real opportunity­for Tunisia. As one of the few Arab countries with little energy resources such as crude oil, the country depends almost ­completely on importations of natural gas. In tandem with Tunisia’s Solar Energy Plan, the national strategy thus sets the corner stone for the development of renewable energies, such as wind or solar, to diversify its energy resources. The Tunisian govern­ment­ pro­motes energy efficiency and renewable energy sources to make the country less vulnerable to volatilities on the international market. Already by 2016, the share of renewables in the energy mix should reach 4%, increasing up to 30% by 2030. Simultaneously, the country’s total energy con­sumption will be reduced through am­bitious measures of energy efficiency in all sectors. In the field of climate change adaptation, strategies for the health,

agricultural and tourism sectors have been developed. Concrete actions are already implemented, such as projects on coastal protection and sustainable management of ecosystems such as the oasis, the drylands, the oak forests and the Alfa steps that are particularly endangered. Early warning systems for extreme climate events are also in preparation. These activities need to be further enhanced and integrated in the respective national sectoral programs and policies. Another main point in the National Climate Change Strategy is raising public awareness and engaging civil society by making information on climate change more accessible and easier to understand. The Ministry of Environment supports education projects such as the Enviromobile, a bus driving from city to city, providing schools with information about environmental problems including climate change and environment degradation – an original concept that allows children to understand their role as active members of society. The strategy is the result of an intensive dialogue between the public and private sectors, experts as well as civil society, with a special focus on agriculture, tourism, health and infrastructure. There is a need for cooperation between the different sectors on a national and on a more decentralized regional level. Such a strategy also requires a strong cooperation with non-govern­ mental organizations and other actors of Tunisian civil society.

Image: The bus tours the country giving workshops and raising awareness about the environment, seen here in Bizerte, northern Tunisia. Source: Environmobile Tunisia

The Tunisian National Climate Change Strategy was elaborated in an inclusive and participatory approach and is considered as outstanding in the developing world, even if its political validation is still in progress. “The current political situation of Tunisia makes decisionmaking more difficult”, explains Imed Fadhel. “But this does not mean that our hands are tied. Especially in the development of greenhouse gas reduction strategies, we are already making progress”. Current activities include the development of so called Nationally Appro-

priate Mitigation Actions (NAMA) in the sectors of energy, agriculture, cement production and sanitation. NAMAs are supposed to help raise international funds from private or public sources supporting policies and actions that countries undertake in the field of climate change. Industrialized countries have pledged a $ 100 billion annually by 2020 to support climate policies in developing countries, but very little has been disbursed so far. Mobilizing funds for climate policies is an obstacle for most developing countries, espe-

cially in times of political instability and economic recession. A particular problem is the justification of projects that will only yield a visible result in the long-term. Financial investment in environmental and climate change mitigation policies seems less of a pressing priority in comparison to other social and political problems facing Tunisia since its revolution in 2011. Tunisia is still at the beginning of climate policy development efforts, but the fact that the country is ready to assume responsibility is laudable and certainly deserves more attention from potential investors.

Climate | 17

Agricultural Reform Challenges Writer: Marcello Cappellazzi is assistant researcher at Revolve.

Tunisia has an advanced agricultural sector strategy, but many challenges remain to pursue greater environmentally and socially sustainable development, claims Marcello Cappellazzi.

18 | Agriculture







One common feature of Mediterranean countries is the massive potential for agricultural reform. The challenges are similiar for all countries on the shores of the sea, but the solutions vary considerably. Attempts have been made to harmonize the different agricultural policies and practices, with the ultimate goal of liberalizing the Euro-Mediterranean trade of agricultural products; however, Arab states on the southern shore and European Member

Regional Agricultural Water Use ( % on total use ) Source: AQUASTAT, FAO 2012

States on the northern shore still have highly protectionist measures to ensure competitiveness and cushion the effects of price volatility inherent in agri­cultural markets. In Tunisia, the agricultural sector represents an important part of economic and social life. In 2008, agriculture constituted 12% of the gross domestic product (GDP), employed around 22% of the total workforce and contributed 5,4% to overall economic growth.01 This is the result of over 30 years of internal reforms and international agreements that boosted the competitiveness of Tunisian products in the domestic and international markets. This process started in 1986 when the government initiated a drastic economic transformation of

the highly protected and regulated economy into a more open and market-oriented one.02 Considering that food exports now contribute 11% of Tunisian exports of goods and account for 26% of agricultural GDP, these reforms have had a significant effect, leaving room for further growth.03 The question is whether this process is socially and environmentally sustainable. The biggest constraint is represented by the Mediterranean water challenge: all countries around the sea are facing the effects of climate change and the exponential depletion of water resources in the region. The water used for agricultural purposes in some Arab countries in the Mediterranean region represents over 90% of water usage.

Agriculture | 19

Irrigation has fostered agricultural production and, especially in Tunisia, this has helped boost cereal production to meet food security needs of the population. Despite this, yields are generally insufficient to meet domestic demand and over the past ten years the percentage of irrigated land over the total agri­ cultural area has decreased. There are five 5 bioclimatic zones in Tunisia distinguished by varied

Rainfall by Region Around Tunisia : Station
































Sidi Bou Said












Source: Arab Agricltural Statistics 2010

20 | Agriculture

average rainfall: the wet­lands ( > 800 mm ), the sub-humid areas ( 600-800 mm ), the semi-arid zones ( 400-600 mm ), the arid lands ( 100-400 mm ) and the ­desert ( < 100 mm ). In 2009, cultivated areas covered more than 5 million hectares (ha) or 3% of the country.04 Of these, 2 million ha are used for arboriculture (including 1,6 million ha of olive trees) and another 2 million ha consist of arable land (including 1,6 million ha of cereals).05 These figures represent well the two longterm priorities of Tunisian agriculture policy: promote export-oriented production (Tunisia is the world’s fourth-largest olive oil producer) and achieve greater self-sufficiency (especially concerning the production of cereals and livestock). Trends in food supplies show that the country is engaging in a nutrition transition as Tunisia already achieved in 2009 self-sufficiency with vegetables, fruits, poultry meat, eggs and dairy products.06 Despite the financial incentives aimed at encouraging cereal production, domestic producers can only meet 28% of national demand. This is still a remarkable achievement given that food dependency, especially for cereals and livestock products, is endemic to the Mediterranean region.

Previous page: Olive groves in Mornag, Tunisia. Source: Chuck Moravec / Flickr This page: Cultivated fields. Tunisia. Source: Dennis Jarvis / Flickr

Tunisia is the world’s fourth-largest olive oil producer.

The goal of self-sufficiency is geared towards the achievement of greater food security in Tunisia. The challenge is the constant and exponential migration from rural areas to urban peripheries. From 1990 to 2003, the percentage of people living in rural areas decreased from 42,1% to 32,6% with 27% of the poorer populations living in the countryside.07 The isolation of rural areas, the lack of opportunities in terms of diversification of activities and the

absence of arable land are among the leading causes of rural poverty in Tunisia. Trade liberalization of the agricultural sector will further exacerbate this problem since more labor will be displaced from rural to urban areas, highlighting the paradox of progress in such scenarios.08 Market liberalization of agricultural products does not take into account the raising domestic demand of food, which was after

all a large cause of the Tunisian revolution in 2010-11. Tunisia is already self-sufficient in some products, but still relies heavily (47%) on wheat imports. The sharp increase in international food prices has not translated into higher domestic prices only due to government intervention.09 The policies implemented by the Tunisian government since the 1980s have increased agricultural output by 40% and with talks >> p.24

Agriculture | 21

Produced in oases in southern Tunisia, the variety of Deglet Nour dates or "fingers of light" is one of the most popular dates in the world. 90,000 tons of dates were exported from Tunisia in 2012 worth over 310 million Tunisian dinars.


Oued Mellegue

Oued Medjerda


Mediterranean Sea

TuNur: proposed cable from Tunisia to north of Rome














The fourth most important holy city of Islam



Oued Siliaha






Strait of Sicily


A submarine DC cable (400 kV–1,000 MW)

El Haouaria





Tunisia has doubled its installed wind capacity with the completion of the first 50MW of a 190MW plant under construction at Metline and Kchabta in the northern Bizerte region.

Oued Meliane


One of Tunisia's most important agricultural export products is the olive. The Sahel, Sfax and Medenine are the regions where most of olive plantations can be found.


The Tunisian Maltese orange is known as the "Queen of Oranges" and can only by grown in Tunisia, mainly on the Cap Bon Peninsula. Harvested between January and April, the Maltese half-blood is considered by experts to be the sweetest in the world.




Undeveloped gas licence

Producing gas licence

Undeveloped oil licence

Producing oil licence

Solar project:TuNur

Phosphate Industry Mining Processing plants

The south’s new production areas offer early crops of quality peaches and nectarines which are exported to a number of destinations in Europe and the Arab Gulf countries.





In central and southern Tunisia, peaches are the star fruit. Early varieties begin to ripen at the end of April.


was filmed


Tozeur is where







Oued Dejeneien



Wadi Shurshul in 2012

10.7 million


Natural Resources & Energy Projects


Below sea level


100 m

200 m

1000 m

1500 m

Mediterranean Sea

­initiated in 2000 with the European Union Tunisia started seeking a free-trade agreement as part of the Barcelona Process that is meant to engage the entire Mediterranean region.10 >> p.21

The trade preferences negotiated with the European Union are largely under-utilized, especially for agrumes (oranges), a product that belongs to the traditional export trends of Tunisia. The Maltese orange of Tunisia

24 | Agriculture

is a typical product of Tunisia and it have been mostly exported to France over the last 50 years.11 The agrumes sector is characterized now by weak growth and difficulties in meeting rising internal demand while trying to remain competitive in the international arena. The export of the Maltese orange is carried out by a small number of limited producers, which makes the price of Tunisia’s oranges 30-50% higher than other oranges on the international market.12

Trading activities represent another considerable potential for development in terms of improved quality and higher quantities of produce, upgraded processing, appropriate marketing and market geared certification.13 One example is the organic label “Bio Tunisia”, launched by Tunisian government in 2010 as part of a strategy to develop organic agriculture. Tunisia is the leading North African country in terms of organic agriculture

development: organic vegetable production rose from 4,000 metric tons in 2001 to more than 240,000 metric tons in 2009.14 The new “Bio Tunisia” label allows the value and benefits of all organic products from Tunisia to be communicated to consumers both nationally and abroad. This stratetegy has led to a very positive outlook for organic agriculture, as there is an important growth policy and support mechanism in place.

Top 20 Agricultural Commodity Products In Tunisia (2008) Product

Value ( in thousands * )

Metric Tons

01 Olives............................... 591.819........... 1 183.000 02 Cow milk.......................... 278.173........... 1 046.000 03 Tomatoes.......................... 277.208........... 1 170.000 04 Wheat............................... 126.998..............919.000 05 Cattle meat....................... 122.837................59.391 06 Chicken meat................... 118.034..............101.193 07 Sheep meat...................... 103.028................52.080 08 Chillies and peppers......... 100.421..............291.000 09 Hen eggs............................ 71.893................89.000 10 Grapes............................... 61.234..............132.000 11 Almonds............................. 53.795................51.500 12 Potatoes............................. 50.042..............370.000 13 Onions................................ 41.769..............185.000 14 Turkey meat........................ 41.088................37.593 15 Watermelons...................... 39.870..............450.000 16 Peaches and nectarines...... 39.625..............111.000 17 Dates.................................. 35.826..............127.000 18 Citrus fruit........................... 32.759................91.200 19 Apples................................ 31.594..............110.000 20 Oranges.............................. 30.051..............171.000 * International Commodity Price Source: www.globserver.cn/en/tunisia/agriculture

01. The Report, Tunisia 2009, Oxford Business Group 02. IFAD: Géographie, le secteur agricole et l’économie, Tunisia 03. ONAGRI: Economic aggregates of agriculture 04. Arab Agricultural Statistics Yearbook 2010 05. APIA: L’agriculture Tunisienne 06. FAO: Nutrition Country Profiles, Tunisia 07. IFAD: La pauvreté rurale en Tunisie 08. Shobha Shetty (2006), Water, Food Security and Agricultural Policy in the Middle East and North Africa Region – The World Bank 09. GlObserver: Tunisia Agriculture Profile 2012 10. Encyclopedia of the Nations, Tunisia – Agriculture 11. Ministère de l’Agriculture, des Ressources Hydrauliques at de la Pèche, Maltaise de Tunisie 12. IPEMED, Pour une organisation Euro-Mediterraneenne de la Production et des Echanges dans la Filiere Fruits et Legumes 13. Rural21 (2012), Promoting Tunisia’s agriculture 14. Lukas Kilcher and Samia Maamer Belkhiria (2011), Tunisia: Country Report Image: Fruits in market. Tunisia. Source: McKay Savage /Flickr

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Reforming the Water Sector Writer: Mouna Sfaxi is lead engineer for environmental mediums at the National Environment Protection Agency (ANPE) within the Tunisian Ministry of Environment.

Tunisia is at the avant-garde of Arab and African countries for its efforts to develop and protect national water resources.

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Tunisia is one of the very first African and Arab countries to have implemented a national strategy for the development and preservation of water resources. It has actively identified and pursued diverse financial and technical cooperation opportunities that include foreign institutional and private partners with the prospect and impetus of achieving better networking and of sharing skills and know-how. Several programs have already been carried out in the water sector, namely the first phase of the Investment Project in the Water Sector (Projet d’Investissement dans le Secteur de l’EAU – PISEAU I), financed by the World Bank from 2001 to 2007. This project enabled certain initiatives such as updating the inventory of potential sources of hydric pollution in Tunisia. The Water Pollution Control project (Contrôle de la Pollution de l’EAU – COPEAU), co-financed by the European Commission “Program Life third party countries” from 2007 to 2010, was carried out in partnership with the National Environment Protection Agency (ANPE) under the supervision of the Ministry of Environment and the Université de Liège’s (Belgium) Aquapôle. This project contributed to establishing a national water pollution surveillance network (COPEAU) through which the ANPE was able to reinforce its water quality tracking missions and, thanks to the acquisition of two mobile water

analysis laboratories in 2008, to fulfill its measurement and analysis objectives of underground and surface water resources. Today, the ANPE continues its surveillance mission within the framework of the second phase of the Investment Project in the Water Sector (PISEAU II), co-financed by the French Development Agency, the African Development Bank and the World Bank. This 5-year project (2010-14), primarily aims at improving the quality of life for rural populations by enhancing integrated and sustainable water resource management. Tunisia is currently multiplying its institutional efforts in setting up a National Water Information System (SINEAU) that plans to be “the tool which federates the water information systems”. It will be an “Intranet/ Internet information portal” with communication interfaces and access to contributing water systems. SINEAU will be a tool capable of integrating different dimensions to understand the current state of water resources, tracking their evolution, and optimizing decisionmaking in the field of surface, underground and irrigated water resources. In its first phase, it will host 3 sub-systems: the Water Resources Management System (SYGREAU), the Hydric Pollution Information System (COPEAU), and the Information and Tracking System for the Quality of Irrigated Lands (SISOLS).

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The COPEAU system will include the current and forthcoming data from the different ANPE surveillance missions, and what is to be produced by upcoming automatic stations. Indeed, within the PISEAU II framework, the ANPE is expecting to install 6 stations for the automatic and continued surveillance of the Medjerda River’s water quality. These stations will include a water extraction, material for automatic sampling as well as chemical and physical analysis (temperature, pH, turbidity, nitrates, etc.) They will also be equipped with a data transmission system, effectively creating an efficient alert network in case of pollution.

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Considering the vital economic role the Medjerda plays, namely in terms of irrigation and drinkable water, and in light of its deplorable state caused by refuse mismanagement in the wake of the Tunisian revolution, protecting the Medjerda water basin from all forms of pollution is increasingly urgent. Fully aware of this situation, Tunisia signed a modeling project in June 2012 with Belgium’s Region of Wallonia within the framework of the bilateral cooperation agreement between these two countries. This project was developed following a feasibility study for the implementation of a methodology and data collection targeted

at comprehensively modeling the Medjerda’s river basin ecosystem. The project aims to employ PEGASE, already active in one of the Medjerda’s sub-basins, as the operational tool for integrated management of water resources in Tunisia in terms of quantity and quality. ANPE’s use of modeling will give it the ability to establish the pressureimpact relationship between the pollution intensity (from agriculture, domestic and industrial usage) and the river basin’s water quality. Likewise, scenarios and simulations will be generated to forecast the Medjerda’s projected quality. This tool will be particularly beneficial for optimizing

the surveillance network (COPEAU) by providing quantitative and qualitative data from the river’s key points. As such, it is clear that modeling will not only give ANPE a complementary perspective on the Medjerda’s water quality, but will also put valuable information at the disposal of decision-makers in order to make preventive choices and to instigate medium- as well as longterm water resource management and protection programs. If the development is to be sustainable, civil society’s standpoint demanding a right to clean and available water should be taken into

account. And to this end coordination between the relevant institutions and stakeholders for the protection of water resources should be reinforced so as to contribute to decentralized and effective management. Measures should also be taken to

improve transboundary management and to address subterranean water pollution. The time has come to consider the threats of climate change on water security in countries suffering from water scarcity such as Tunisia.

The Medjerda is Tunisia’s longest river: its source is in Algeria and flows across north-west Tunisia into the Mediterranean Sea. Images: Medjerda River, Tunisia. 2009. Source: Mouna Sfaxi / ANPE

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Renewables on the Rise Writer: Ulrich Laumanns is Project Manager of “Promoting Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency in Tunisia� at the German International Development Agency (GIZ) in Tunis.

Tunisia is preparing the groundwork for many renewable energy projects, from wind farms in the north to solar plants in the south, and while recognizing the realities of current challenges, there is excellent potential for more, asserts Ulrich Laumanns.

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The market for solar water heaters grew from 7,500 m2 in 2004 to almost 70,000 m2 in 2011. This dynamic development is due mainly to the national support program PROSOL [...] Image: Wind farm above the village of El-Alia in northern Tunisia. Source: Citizen59 / Wikimedia

Renewable energy resources in Tunisia are abundant and more than sufficient to cover national energy demand. In the south, solar irradiation levels are very high and can reach more than 2,000 kWh/m2 per year. This is the least populated region of the country and there is enough space for the installation of solar power plants. The wind energy potential is also interesting with speeds of more than 8 meters/second at 60 meters height on several sites along the northern coast, on the Cape Bon peninsula, and in the southern desert regions. This significant potential remains until now largely untapped. In 2011, only 1% of primary energy demand and 2% of electricity consumption were covered by renewables. A total electricity production capacity of 310 megawatts (MW) of renewable energy systems has been installed in Tunisia. These include around 62 MW of hydro-power in the north-west, a wind park of

55 MW at Sidi Daoud (Cape Bon), a wind park of 190 MW near Bizerte, and around 3 MW of grid-connected photovoltaic systems. These figures pale in comparison to the current 3,483 MW of fossil fuel (essentially natural gas)-based power plants. Apart from grid-connected renewable energy systems, around 2 MW of off-grid solar home systems were installed during the 1990s national rural electrification program. There is not much further need to develop these systems as access to electricity has increased over the past decades to almost 100% of Tunisian households. Renewable energies, such as solar and wind, are also used in other off-grid applications such as telecommunications or water-pumping. Tunisia is exemplary in disseminating solar water heaters for households. These small thermosiphon systems have been installed in around 160,000 Tunisian households where they reduce energy consumption from hot water by around 40%. The market for solar water heaters grew from 7,500 m2 in 2004 to almost 70,000 m2 in 2011. This dynamic development is due mainly to the national support program PROSOL that combines investment subsidies for solar water heaters with an intelligent financing mechanism. Other renewable energy sources are being used at a very small scale. The potential for biomass

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energy use in Tunisia is limited due to (semi-)arid conditions in most parts of the country. There is potential for the use of organic waste for energy production purposes. A few biogas plants use organic waste from farms, sewage plants or wholesale markets to produce biogas and electricity. Some of these plants are now out of operation due to technical reasons. Geothermal energy is also limited although some hot springs

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in southern Tunisia are used for heating local greenhouses. Marine renewable energy technologies (wave and tidal energy, off-shore wind) have not been developed. The Tunisian Ministry of Industry is responsible for coordinating the energy sector, including renewable energies. In 1985, the National Energy Agency (ANME) was created to implement government policies in the field of renew-

able energy, energy efficiency and energy substitution. ANME is responsible for the management of the National Energy Fund (FNME) that provides subsidies for investments in renewable energy and energy efficiency. The national electricity company STEG has a monopoly on the transmission and distribution of electricity. Around 85% of total electricity is being produced in power plants

owned by STEG that also operates the 25 MW hydro-power station in Sidi Salem and the wind park of Sidi Daoud, built between 2000 and 2008. In 2012, the extension of the new wind park near Bizerte was completed; the park is expected to start producing electricity in 2013. STEG is preparing its first projects in the field of large-scale solar power generation in southern Tunisia.

The market for solar water heaters grew from 7,500 m2 in 2004 to almost 70,000 m2 in 2011. Image: Solar water heating system on a hotel rooftop in Nabeul. Source: GIZ

In 2012, the Tunisian government adopted ambitious targets for the development of renewable energies: by 2030, 30% of national electricity production should emanate from renewable energy sources, such as wind parks, solar photovoltaic power, and concentrated solar thermal power (CSP) plants. Adopted in 2009, the Tunisian Solar Plan (TSP) is being revised to include the new objectives and identify the necessary steps in order to reach them. Tunisia has initiated several governmental promotion programs that subsidize investments in renewable technologies. In the context of PROSOL, domestic solar water heaters are supported as are investments

in larger solar thermal systems in the hotel sector, for example, or in the industrial sector, using solar process heat. In 2010, PROSOL Elec was launched as a program to promote the installation of gridconnected solar photovoltaic systems. Subsidies are also available for the installation of renewable electricity systems for agricultural purposes as well as the installation of biogas plants. The amended Law on Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency of 2009 offers the possibility for electricity production from renewable energy sources for auto-consumption and the sale of excess electricity to the STEG for up to a maximum

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of 30% of total electricity produced. This includes the option to use the national electricity grid for transporting electricity to another point of consumption. However, the electricity sold to STEG is reimbursed only on the basis of the applicable electricity tariffs which are rather low in Tunisia, due to the high level of subsidies. After the 2009 amendment, several Tunisian industrial companies, such as cement factories, have expressed their interest in using the auto-production mechanism to satisfy their electricity demand by using renewable energies. However, the ambiguous legal framework and administrative obstacles have so far prevented the realization of any of these projects. In 2012, the Tunisian government started to discuss options for encouraging more private sector participation in the production of electricity from renewable energies. Propositions for the revision of the legal framework are being developed and a new Renewable Energy Law could be adopted in 2013.

In parallel, the Tunisian government is following regional initiatives that envisage increased cooperation and exchange between Europe and North Africa in the field of renewable energy. Most prominently, the Mediterranean Solar Plan (MSP) that is being developed by the Union for the Mediterranean (UfM) has inspired Tunisia to adopt a national solar plan. The Desertec Industrial Initiative (Dii) established close working relationships with all relevant Tunisian actors and is analyzing options for the realization of concrete reference projects in the field of renewable energy production and future export of green electricity. Direct physical export of electricity from Tunisia to Europe is not yet possible due to the absence of actual interconnections. Plans for a 200 km high-voltage direct current (HVDC) interconnection between Cape Bon and Sicily exist and have been discussed for several years as part of the ELMED project. Simultaneously, the private British

By 2030, 30% of national electricity production should emanate from renewable energy sources. Image: STEG Wind Farm, in the region of El Alia near Bizerte, Tunisia. Source: Khaled Abdelmoumen / Flickr

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company Nur Energie is proposing to construct 1,000 km HVDC cable from southern Tunisia to central Italy for the export of the electricity produced by a CSP tower plant with a capacity of 2,000 MW. Overall, prospects to develop renewable energies further in Tunisia are good, as existing national oil and gas resources continue to decline. Tunisia also prefers not to increase its dependence on energy

imports. Renewable energy technologies are becoming more competitive and, on several good sites in the country, wind energy is already producing electricity cheaper than STEG’s gas-fired power plants. The rapid price decreases of photovoltaic modules make this technology increasingly interesting for Tunisia, especially when it comes to covering the demand peak in summer, caused by the exponential increase in the use of air-conditioning.

More efforts are necessary to reach the ambitious objectives set by the Tunisian government. Adopting a national strategy for the future development of the electricity sector is paramount to demonstrate the government’s commitment to the promotion of renewable energies. Implementing this strategy requires a profound reform of the legal framework to provide attractive, stable and transparent conditions for private produc-

tion of electricity from renewable energy. The electricity sector also needs to be reformed, including the establishment of a regulatory unit to provide transparency and a level playing field for all market actors. Equally important, current high subsidies for fossil fuels have to be progressively eliminated due to their devastating effects on the national budget and the distortion of the competitiveness of renewable energies.

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“Innovation isn’t just a question of cleverness; it’s rather a deeper and different observation of the obvious…” Anis Aouini, Saphonian Inventor

Saphon Energy Redefining Wind A new Tunisia-based cleantech company specializing in research and development in wind energy has devised the Saphonian Zero-Blade Technology – an innovative curved sail that can capture more win at lower prices and with less environmental impacts than more conventional wind-blade turbines. As the energy transition gains momentum and renewables gain a larger share of the energy mix, the Saphonian may prove to be a pivotal instrument to achieving more sustainable development around the world.

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How it works: Like sailboats, the Saphonian uses a back-and-forth 3D knot motion to capture the pressure and vibrations caused by the wind – no blades, hubs or rotators are used for this innovative technology. Instead of spinning blades, the wind is harnessed by a curved sail-shaped body. The 3D knot motion (like a wobbling dish) allows the conversion of the wind’s kinetic energy into mechanical energy through the use of pistons. The pistons are connected to a hydraulic system which enables the conversion of the mechanical energy into hydraulic pressure and then to electricity. By replacing the turbine blades by a sail-shaped body that has a high

aerodynamic drag coefficient, the Zero-Blade Technology is capable of capturing twice as much wind kinetic energy as conventional bladed wind turbine. The curved shape of the Saphonian body is capable of capturing a greater part of the blowing wind. Thanks to the specific motion of the sail-shaped body and the absence of blades, the Saphonian has set itself free from the Betz law. It also reduced major aerodynamic losses given its bladeless design. The current wind turbine technology is not economically viable without substantial public subsidies. According to the 2011 Global Wind Report, the wind turbine industry is estimated at $68 billion and is growing at an average rate of 28 %. Rather than ask the wind power to defy the

Who’s Saphon? The word “saphon” has Punic roots. During the Carthagian Empire (814-146 BC), “Baal Saphon” was the divinity of wind as opposed to Eole, the Greco-Roman god of wind. The dominance of Carthage over the western Mediterranean Sea was made possible by the power of its maritime fleet which was powered by Saphon. Inspired by sails that capture and convert the majority of the kinetic energy from wind into mechanical power to move boats, the Saphon team asked themselves how they could use sail-inspired wind technology to produce electricity. They devised the Saphonian Zero-Blade Technology. Image: Saphonian zero-blade sail technology. Source: Saphon Energy

laws of economic gravity, we need to invent a new cost effective technology that addresses climate change and booming energy demand. The Saphonian can provide a greater amount of clean non-polluting energy from the same amount of wind than turbine-driven wind farms.

Eco-friendly solutions: Limited impact on avifauna: the Saphonian’s compact sail-shaped body could be clearly identified by birds and bats as an obstacle to be avoided. Low acoustic level: by removing blades and gearbox, the Saphonian could be considered as a neighborly system with a very low acoustic and vibration emission. No airwaves disturbance: by shifting from rotating to a nonrotating system, the Saphonian has a very limited impact on radio and TV airwaves and radar detection system (civil and military). Low accident risk: the Saphonian differs from the conventional wind turbines by the absence of blades as well as the inertia of a heavy rotational motion. This significantly reduces the risk of accidents due to blades breakdown, fragments injection, snow projection and even fire. For more information, visit: www.saphonenergy.com

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Q&A: eL-Seed, Tunisia’s Calligraffitist In 2012, Tunisian muralist and artist, eL-Seed (b. 1981, Gabès), brushed a verse from the Quran on two sides of the Jara Mosque minaret – also the tallest in Tunisia. He uses his own technique of ‘‘calligraffiti” to inspire Tunisian youth and to send a message of tolerance. Revolve talks to him about his work and inspirations as an artist. How was it to grow up in Paris and then move and paint in Tunisia?

And when did you discover that street art and ‘calligraffiti’ was your thing?

artists before the revolts, so since then art has really exploded, especially in the streets.

I kept a strong link with Tunisia while growing up, every year I spend several months in my hometown Gabès. One of my first murals was painted in Gabès when I was a teenager, and it still stands, although quite faded. There is always a sense of pride when I paint in Tunisia. Because I grew up in Paris, I felt the need to be close to my Tunisian roots and to be able to give something back and contribute in a positive way.

When I moved to North America, I started painting with Hest1 and this is when I started experimenting with style and combining my love of calligraphy and graffiti. It progressed naturally from there and I kept on trying new styles and new compositions. The whole process came so naturally, because it is my passion.

Civil society (political groups, students, NGOs and artists) existed before the revolution, but restrictions weighed over intellectual or artistic forms of expression, how do you view the situation now?

Which artists inspire you?

I did a workshop in Gabès in the summer of 2009 and I remember people being curious about graffiti, not having really been exposed to it. As I went back several times to paint since the revolts, graffiti really has become more mainstream. Before 2011, graffiti artists painted in an underground subculture and not much attention was paid to these artists. There were also fewer

I greatly respect Iraqi artist Sundus Abdul Hadi for the difficult issues she tackles. French graffiti artist Hest1, who helped me develop the first stages of my art, and other graffiti artists like Shuck2, who started experimenting with Arabic script in the early 1990s. Of course, there is also Hassan Massoudy, an exceptional calligrapher.

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Street art has boomed in Tunisia since and after the revolution, how was it like to be an artist before 2011?

Tunisians are not afraid to voice their opinions now, which is a great liberation for artists to comment on society. However, there are different restrictions now, at least in the sense that you are labeled easily as being this or that, or belonging to this or that political movement, even if you have said nothing yourself. Because Tunisia is still figuring out a lot of things, and will be for the next few generations, there is a lot of tension between factions that are afraid their country will be hijacked. Within this environment, a lot of artists can be caught up in justifying Image: Minaret of mosque in Gabés.

Now p art to eople are try us wher and figur ing e e to g o wit out new h this Tunis ia.

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their ‘side’ and attacking another ‘side’, rather than commenting and acting as a reflection or mirror of the bigger picture. This I find is a different form of restriction, or coercion. What is your personal experience with censorship in Tunisia? I never encountered censorship in a direct way – at least not from the government. The only constraints I felt came from individuals and groups that did not want projects to

succeed for different reasons. There is still a lot of corruption in Tunisia so there are a lot of problems when you do something that is more public. A lot of groups are front-organizations that just want to put money in their pockets and pretend to be ‘reconstructing’ Tunisia when in fact they just try to put their name out there to get more funding. Is your art a response to clashes between hardline Islamist Salafists and artists? My art in general is not a response to this, but I have undertaken some projects with the intention of addressing this issue. For example, the minaret project in Gabès last summer was in some ways fuelled by my desire to open dialogue between these two ‘camps’ and show a different way of using

Images: (Left) “My name is Palestine”. Source: Mariel Rosenbluth (Below): Assabah, Medina of Tunis. (Right): Writing history, Kairouan.

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art and religion to move Tunisia forward in a po­s­itive direction. How do you wish to inspire Tunisian artists? I wish to inspire Tunisian artists to dig deeper into the psyche of Tunisian society and take a step back to look at the big picture. Authenticity and self-reflection are some of the best traits of an original artist, and this combined with a sober look at the dynamics in Tunisia today I think would

really give Tunisia some great artistic leaders. You mentioned that you liked ‘democratizing art’, how do you approach this? I approach this simply by involving people in the artistic process. This can be in the form of workshops, internships on big projects, or it can happen organically during a project with people approaching me and wanting to help out. It also comes naturally to graffiti I think. The art is

there on the streets and it’s free to look at, anyone from any segment of society can view it, critique it, like it, or hate it. Do you believe in the power of art to break social, political and psychological barriers? Has this been the case in Tunisia, do you think? Absolutely. I think it is partly the art itself, which can inspire, but also an artistic movement that is able to bring to light certain

issues through different artists and mediums. I­ think the ‘artistic revolution’ came after the actual protests and revolts. Now people are using art to try and figure out where to go with this new Tunisia. It’s going to take time, but art is a great tool to test new ideas and propose directions.

To view more images of eL-Seed’s “calligraffiti”, visit: www.revolve-magazine.com

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Image: Still from, “Film”, 2011-2012. Source: Ismaïl Bahri

Q&A: Ismaïl Bahri and Black Ink Ismaïl Bahri (b.1978, Tunis) lives and works between Paris, Lyon and Tunis. He is represented by Les Filles du Calvaire, Paris. His work incorporates many cultural and aesthetic references, developing visual experiments that are both sensitive and exacting. The results of these experiments are drawings, videos, photographs, installations, and hybrids of these forms. In the video “Orientations” (2009), the artist filmed a stroll through Tunis by framing a glass filled with black ink that acted as a lens by reflecting the surroundings this questioning of art’s permeability in regards to the contemporary world generated through a quasicinematic process based on principles of recording motions, and simultaneous creation on a sensitive surface and a projection screen, all while making use of laughably inadequate equipment.

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What are your sources of inspiration? They vary and depend on each project. For specific research, I might want to delve into scientific investigation or I will read a philosopher or study the work of other artists. For instance, it was by reading a text by Marcel Proust that the series of videos of the work ‘Film’ came into being. In ‘Film’, a piece of rolled-up newspaper opens on a surface of black ink. An image of the process of ‘précinéma’ is created, as the newspaper is unrolling it gives then life to the images and writings in it, it also gives us a short summary of our word in a few centimeters, like a mini version of our world. The piece of Proust that I am talking about recalls Japanese origami that, when placed in cups of water, opens and unfolds, revealing a hidden and unexpected universe in miniature. Which artists and/or movements have contributed most to your development as an artist? I could talk about Paul Klee with his delicate and rigorous studies and their infinite variations or Gabriel Orozco and his ability to draw the geometry of the elements that surround him? Or Francis Alÿs and his attitude or the artist/tourist François Daireaux and his ability to combine details (like the gesture of a worker or the fragment of an object) with the context in which it all takes place. The presence of black ink defines your work, such as “Resonance” and the series “Blood Ink” and in “Orientations”. Why black? Ink is a recurring element in my work. Its black appearance; its darkness does not appeal to me due to

its symbolic significance. I happened to meet people, for instance in Cairo, who linked the use of black in my videos to something negative and pessimistic. In my case, I am interested in the ink for its basic physical properties, that is to say, for its fluidity, shiny, for its ability to reflect what surrounds it, for its ability to interfere in the interstices of things (in the pores and fibres of paper for example) or to coagulate and leave behind delicate indelible lines. In “Orientations”, you explore perceptions and views that appear and disappear in Tunis. Is this not a distraction for your senses? I see distraction as an element of deviation, distance. In “Orientations”, I wander around the city of Tunis through an extended, altered and weakened perception. While walking, I use a camera and a glass filled with black ink used as an optical lens that reflects the architectural elements that surround this lens. This glass works as a compass that develops and creates another view of the city. I use the term ‘developing’ to refer to the way a photographic image is developed in a dark room. In “Orientations”, I walk the city trusting the images that appear, I walk the city through the images that the glass (or the lens) reveals. This video shows the abyss of multiple images and ways or representing the city. This perception uses the black ink as a distorting filter, as an intercessor that distances the immediate surroundings. The image of the city is perceived in ricochets and the viewer reaches its environment indirectly, via reverberations and overflowing. With these undulations, the gaze loses

definition, and reality weakens. A gap, a distance with my home city of Tunis that I know so well, is created. What does Tunis mean to you now? I left Tunisia several years ago. I go back regularly for work. I have fragmented and intermittent visions and perceptions of this city, a bit like the vision developed in ‘Orientations’. My words can therefore only be partial and superficial, but I would say that we feel the city is preparing for events and that a delicate underlying tension, even imperceptible, criss-crosses the city constantly. To view more Ismail Bahri’s work, visit: www.ismailbahri.lautre.net

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