Tunisia has enough to eat, but this will not last for too long, say ITES and WFP

The Tunisians complain, but seeing the bread that is wasted throughout the year, the food poured into the garbage during the month of Ramadan and the tons of food that the restaurants and the supermarkets throw out daily, we may say that the country was not hungry, far from it.

Even if it is undeniable that the crisis is raging, especially in recent years and that all this food waste is the tree that hides the forest.

The Strategic Review on Food and Nutrition Security in Tunisia, prepared by the Tunisian Institute of Strategic Studies (ITES), in partnership with the World Food Program (WFP), helps us to see more clearly in this case.

 The results of this document, presented Wednesday June 14, 2017 in Dar Dhiafa, Carthage, by academic and ITES expert Karim Ben Kahla, indicate that the country is in 53rd position out of 113 in the Food security index in 2016.

Tunisia has even offered gained places since 2012. The study concludes that the food supply is not a problem; the country even has a score of 56.7 points out of 100, 57.4 / 100 for the availability of supply and 62.2 / 100 for quality.

Yet, supreme paradox, the import of food products is rising and weighs up to 9.2% in the country’s overall imports. Cereals account for the lion’s share, 43% in the overall volume of food imports, followed by vegetable oils and then sugars and derivatives.

The Sword of Damocles

But the country faces dangers that hang over its food security, including the effects of climate change and degradation of natural resources, first water.

As a reminder, Tunisia occupies a worrying 33rd position worldwide for the imminent risk of water shortage by 2040, according to the report of World Resources Institute. The document shows the frightening risk of losing more than 80% of non-renewable water resources.

To be added to the other major problems: degradation of soil and soil quality and fertility, vulnerability to erosion and desertification (possibility of losing 50% of arable land by 2050), fragmentation of properties and increase of the cereal imports dependency ratio (about 60%).

With regard to access to food, the report mentions the concerns of vulnerable groups due to economic and monetary obstacles, the most salient of which are inflation and the decline in purchasing power, dependence on imports and soft economic growth.

Among the fringes most vulnerable to access to food are, of course, people living in rural areas, those in the Central West and North-West areas and women and children, particularly rural women, at the head of single-parent families.

The document also indicates other health risks related to nutrition, despite this apparent abundance. Roughly speaking, Tunisians eat badly, according to experts; the latter stressed in the report that 46% of the population is categorized as overweight and 29% suffer from anemia.

Food wastage was also mentioned as a factor threatening food security. The document states that approximately 16% of the purchased bread land in garbage, followed by cereal products (10%), vegetables (6.5%), fruits (4%), milk and its derivatives (2.3%) and meat (2%).

The solutions

The drafters of the report recommend that the authorities rapidly launch a multi-sector national plan to ensure healthy eating, give full backing to advertising spots to raise awareness of the evils of food and waste, review in depth the foundations of agricultural pedagogy and give more weight to agricultural entrepreneurship.

There is also need to go up-market in the training of a specialized agricultural labor force (rather than generalist), boost agricultural innovation, revive the old-fashioned techniques (the organic), take care and improve the value of water and soil resources and boost production systems.

The list of things to do is very long, but it is at this price that Tunisia, less spoiled by nature than its citizens believe, will escape the sword of Damocles hanging over its head…

African Manager

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