24 May 2018
Southern Tunisia, Tunisia
Organic Food and Agriculture

For Abdelkrim Bessadok, the palm groves in the south of Tunisia represent much more than trees with dates to harvest. Instead, the splashes of vibrant green embody a heritage that should be protected, and a source of potential to be developed. Bessadok, a true oasis lover, sees this heritage disappearing day by day because of global warming and soil depletion.

To respond to these challenges, Bessadok embarked on a project inspired the humble alfalfa plant – or as he describes it, “the queen of forages.” His initiative, Queen Luzerne, promotes a sustainable ecosystem based around alfalfa cultivation. The hardy plant, which resists drought and high water, does not require any pesticide treatment or chemical fertilizer. In return, alfalfa enriches the surrounding soil of the oasis. The plan is for alfalfa to allow small local farmers at the oasis to increase their production and improve their incomes.

Queen Luzerne has chosen a worthy subject in producing dried alfalfa, a product that is much sought after by the cattle breeders and animal nutrition professionals. This demand owes to alfalfa’s ability to yield the most protein per area cultivated: in protein output, 2,500 kilograms per hectare of alfalfa is equivalent to 800 kilgrams of soybeans. What is more, dehydrating alfalfa makes it available throughout the year, allowing for easier shipping and storage.

“By growing alfalfa, the production cycles are lengthened, the quantity of phytosanitary product is reduced – and above all – local farmers and breeders become financially autonomous. I see no better way to improve the sustainability of farms,” says Bessadok. The one-thousand-year-old plant can even be used to create purified water from the region’s discarded irrigation wastewater.

Bessadok views alfalfa cultivation as a great opportunity for these remarkable qualities: its contributions to protein production, water purification, and reducing unemployment. He hopes that Queen Luzerne will help to drive sustainable agricultural development in the region. And SwitchMed is playing a key role in his transformative idea.

“This global green economy approach, which SwitchMed is trying to promote, is very rewarding. Concretely, the training on green entrepreneurship has allowed me to simplify my project idea and make it realistic,” says Bessadok.

 

This story was originally published on the SwitchMed website.

Queen Luzerne Organic Food & Agriculture
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