A Water Forum in Kairouan, Tunisia

In Tunisia, water scarcity is a significant problem, especially in the central and southern parts of the country. One hundred fifty kilometers south of Tunis in the governorate of Kairouan (Al-Qayrawan), for instance, farmers have difficulty  accessing water for the irrigation of the their fields. Even more alarming: some people do not have access to drinking water, as ground water levels continue to drop.

Tunis_MapHow can a dialogic approach improve the situation?

In the region of Kairouan, public officials  and farmer groups do not always have the same understanding of the water problem. Farmers accuse public actors of poor and unequal water governance. On the other hand, public water officials claims that farmers were using water inefficiently and accessing water sources illegally.

In this kind of situation, a dialogue between different stakeholder groups offers opportunities for transforming differences into constructive discussions. The main objective of such kind of dialogue is to bring all actors around one table, build trust and find commonly accepted solutions related to water governance and use.

Tunis_ActeursThe idea of a Water Forum

The Water Forum in Kairouan focuses initially on the district of Sbikha and seeks to support and spread this idea of collaboration. The Forum is an engagement process of different stakeholder groups of public administrators, farmers and water users and prepares these actors for working together.

In a first phase, farmers from specificrural communities meet to discuss strategies and best practices of efficient water use, for instance drip irrigation. Also civil society groups are meeting to discuss the problems and challenges related to drinking water.

These meetings take place in different parts of Sbikha, in the Nebhana River basin.. Given the lack of structured farmer associations, , participants vote for a key group of actors (a small container) to represent their community in discussions with the water administration. In the next phase, farmer representatives meet with administration experts and discuss the topics, strategies and demands that were raised by their groups. The objective of these mixed meetings is to produce concrete measures and even guidelines for water management and consumption which are accepted by everybody. The most important topics and agreements will be documented in a Water Charter for the Nebhana River system (including a key dam and irrigation canals and three acquifers), which will be signed by local administration, farmer and civil society leaders and shared with the larger public.

The Nebhana Water Forum is a good example for a stakeholder dialogue in the water sector which can have a greater impact on water use and consumption patterns in the region. Of course, consumption habits are changing very slowly and the Forum will only be successful if it produces positive results for everybody. The CLI works closely together with the German development cooperation (GIZ) and local partners to facilitate the process.

Fotos : Google Maps und Dominic Stucker, CLI