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On May the 10th, a Tunisian delegation made up of directors and staff members of its Ministry of Agriculture and associated authorities visited Naturland. The visit was part of an official tour of bodies involved in sustainable agriculture and was organised by the GIZ (Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit GmbH, a company specialising in international development). Both Naturland and its visitors expressed their intention to take steps to developing co-operation in the immediate future.

The GIZ and the Tunisian Ministry of Agriculture bear joint responsibility for the implementation of a programme designed to promote economically efficient and ecologically sustainable agriculture in the regions of Centre Ouest and Nord Ouest in Tunisia. The programme is financed by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Co-operation and Development.

The Tunisians showed great interest in the development of Naturland and the various organisations it is composed of (the association itself, plus its professional advisory services, Naturland Zeichen GmbH which is responsible for licensing, and the marketing company), the functions of which were presented in a series of short talks. In addition to these talks, there was time for intensive discussions about the opportunities which certification to the Naturland standards opens up to its members abroad. In the course of the tour, a visit was paid to Seidlhof Stiftung, a Naturland farm. It is run as a foundation which offers children educational courses on its mixed agricultural and horticultural farm.

Background: agriculture plays a central role in Tunisia’s development. In the inland regions, as many as 50% of the people are employed in agriculture, of which 80% are women. Despite its key function, the agricultural sector in Tunisia has been neglected in the past 30 years. Because of low productivity and the poor quality and marketing of Tunisian products, they often lack competitiveness on national and international markets. The unsustainable use of natural resources and the increasing effects of climate change only serve to aggravate the problem. Smallholder farmers in rural areas are barely organised, if at all; public advisory services are not tailored to their needs and access to financing is also a problem. Agricultural professions are suffering a decline in financial and social status. As a result many young Tunisians are relocating to the coastal regions.