23 May 2018
Kasserine, Tunisia
Organic Food and Agriculture

Habib Chakhari, 41, is exactly the person to breathe new life into goat farming in Tunisia’s Kasserine region. He combines a background in agriculture with academic and professional training in industrial machinery. Add in Chakhari’s comprehensive knowledge of Kasserine (he grew up there), and you have your man for the job.

Specifically, Chakhari wants to create a small business network in Kasserine, which revolves around goat farming and cheesemaking. He has created a company, Bio-Chèvre-Lait, which sells organic goat’s milk products with international certifications.

“Growing up on a farm has given me a special perspective on our relationship with nature. I always knew I would return [to agriculture] one day,” sais Chakhari, Bio-Chèvre-Lait aims to modernize goat farming in a sustainable way, while integrating the business seamlessly into Kasserine’s economy.

Chakhari’s mission demands that he find ways to encourage local people to stay in Kasserine. The region has a deep agricultural tradition, but many residents are moving Tunisia’s coastal regions in search of greater job opportunities. Goat farming in particular could do much more to support the local community: most consumption at present is mainly domestic, with few official regulations or certifications in place. This means that Tunisian goat’s milk and cheese products are largely absent from the market.

But Chakhari sees a commercial opening, given that Kasserine has experienced goat-tenders in abundance. He wants to harness this local know-how by helping local farmers work more efficiently together as part of a broader agriculture network.

“The government wants to populate this region in an effort to fight terrorism. Is there any better way of doing it besides empowering the locals, who know and love the region more than anything else, and give them good reasons to stay?” Chakhari said.

Ambitiously, Chakhari wants to introduce fellow farmers and prospective customers to the benefits of participating in the circular economy. This includes ensuring that all farming practices are measured against their environmental impact.

On a social level, Chakhari plans to create from 27 to 54 jobs for rural women during the network’s first year. Women will receive support in starting and running their own private enterprises. According to Chakhari, this focus acknowledges that women are already the backbone of Kasserine’s agricultural industry.

Through the SwitchMed programme, Chakhari will also receive help from an agronomist to set hygiene standards for alpine goat herd. A financial expert will assist with finalizing his green business plan during the incubation period.

“We need to lead by example,” Chakhari said. “How better to [attract investors] than to pave the way myself?”

 

This story was originally published on the SwitchMed website.

Bio-Chèvre-Lait Organic Food & Agriculture
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