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 a forest with dates to harvest. It is a heritage that should be protected and an enormous potential that needs to be developed. This oasis lover sees this heritage disappearing day by day because of global warming, soil depletion and the carelessness of young people. To respond to these challenges, the entrepreneur embarked on a project inspired by a plant to revitalize the Oasis of Gabes his hometown, the queen of forages to use his words: the Alfalfa plant. Having seen the real potential that this project offers for achieving sustainable agricultural development in the oasis, that can benefit the whole locality, SwitchMed and the international jury of experts selected this green venture for the incubation phase. 

While strolling through the Oasis, Bessadok tells us passionately about his project and the benefit of animating and promoting a sustainable ecosystem around alfalfa. In fact, this plant withstands drought and high water salinity of the water. It does not require any pesticide treatment or chemical fertilizer, and in return it enriches the soil of the oasis. Extending its cultivation to the oasis will allow small local farmers to increase their production and improve their incomes.

The project of Abdelkrim focuses on the valorization of this miracle plant by locally producing dried alfalfa, a product that is much sought after by the cattle breeders and animal nutrition professionals. In fact, this forage produces the most protein per area cultivated: 2,500 kg per hectare of alfalfa versus800 kg produced for soybeans. Moreover, dehydrating alfalfa makes it available throughout the year, making it easier to ship and store.

As a pioneer in this field, the project will locally produce an animal alimentation of a better protein quality at a competitive price compared to imported protein.

“By growing alfalfa, the production cycles are lengthened, the quantity of phytosanitary product is reduced, and above all, the farmers and breeders become financially autonomous. I see no better way to improve the sustainability of farms,” says Bessadok, the founder of Queen Luzerne.

This one-thousand-year-old plant can even be used for the valorization of the purified wastewater of the region into an irrigation water that are discarded. There are many opportunities for cultivating the alfalfa: its valorization into animal protein and its purification powers will help to reduce unemployment and regional economic insecurity by employing young people, which will lead to a sustainable agricultural development in the region.

“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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