Tunis/Tunisia — The integrated forest management project aimed to improve the living conditions of the people living in the northwestern region of Tunisia has been extended to 2024, due to the lack of timely implementation, Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) Tunisia Resident Representative Shinhohara Shunei said in an interview with TAP.
During the three-year extension period, priority will be given to combating fires and upgrading agricultural trails.
The extension of the project, implemented since 2008 by the Ministry of Agriculture, is decided by its funder, the JICA.
The decision taken in 2021, follows major delays and even blockages in the project due to the deep socio-economic and political changes during the post-revolutionary period, explained Shunei.
Besides, this project conducted in the governorates of Beja, Jendouba, Kef, Siliana and Zaghouan, was not spared from the impact of the coronavirus crisis.
As a matter of fact, the execution of consultations and contracts, the follow-up and the completion of works were heavily disrupted. However, the physical objectives were achieved at 90%, and even at 140% for certain components. For example, the social development component was more than 80% completed.
In terms of sustainable forest management and conservation, the project has been very successful, as shown by the collaboration between the local population and the administration, through a participatory approach.
In this regard, Shunei recalled that the improvement of the social life of the forest inhabitants is a crucial factor for involving the people of these regions in the protection of the forest resources.
Funded by a JICA loan worth ¥3,128 million (68 million dinars), the project targets the development of 72 forest areas through the afforestation of 1.5 ha and the development of integrated forest and water conservation activities.
Several components for the conservation of forest ecosystems are undertaken under this project, including forest and pastoral plantations, the management of stands, the opening and maintenance of tracks, the furbishing of national parks, the upgrading of forest nurseries, the preservation of water and soil, and protection against fires.
//Water resources development, one of the important pillars of Tunisian-Japanese cooperation//
Shunei spoke about the development of water resources in this project, underlining that this component is one of the main pillars of Tunisian-Japanese cooperation. "Water is a major challenge today, and its preservation and development, especially in a country like Tunisia, where water resources are relatively scarce, is a very important issue.
"This project has helped build 200 rainwater collection tanks (majels) in villages in these five governorates, which have no access to water.
The building of these tanks has provided these inhabitants with easy access to water resources to ensure a decent human life.
"Thanks to this rainwater collector, the inhabitants of these regions have had easy access to water resources for supplemental irrigation of tree crops, for watering livestock or for irrigating vegetable gardens and developing beekeeping.
Concurrently with this project (in its water component), JICA is undertaking several other projects in the water sector in Tunisia. Overall, eleven projects are being implemented, the official said.
"Currently, we are cooperating with the Tunisian government in the implementation of 11 water projects, covering all the country's governorates, including 7 financing projects worth ¥80 billion, the equivalent of 2 billion dinars.
Over half of these 7 projects are nearing completion. The beneficiaries of these projects are SONEDE, ONAS, the Ministry of Equipment and the Ministry of Agriculture.
These projects focus on supplying drinking water to rural areas in Jendouba (96%), improving the supply of drinking water to urban centres (88%), upgrading the water environment in urban centres in 10 governorates (33%), building the seawater desalination plant in Sfax (10%), protecting Greater Tunis from floods (97%) and lastly, protecting the Medjerda wadi from floods, which started in mid-December 2021.
The four other projects cover technical assistance, training and human development in the water sector.
They include feasibility studies for the integral management of the sedimentation of the Sidi Salem dam and for the building of an advanced water treatment plant in Gabes, in addition to training and scholarships for the development of human resources, as well as technical assistance for the reduction and control of non-revenue water for SONEDE.
Technical assistance will be launched soon, initially at SONEDE Médenine, as a trial experiment, and will then be extended to all governorates.
Cooperation between Tunisia and Japan is governed by the National Development Plan (NDP), established by the Tunisian authorities and by the Tunisian government's programmes.
JICA can also propose solutions in relation to the projects planned by the government. This cooperation targets the country's economic growth, narrowing of regional disparity, support to the Tunisian authorities in their response to global issues, such as climate change, preservation and revaluation of water resources, resilience against natural disasters, decent living, and territorial development, etc.
Translated by Ben D'haou Nejiba