Transformation of Forest Resources by Women’s Groups

Creation of non-agricultural income for women living in Tunisia’s mountainous north-west, by means of distillery of medical and aromatic plants, beekeeping and animal husbandry

  • Sectors: Product transformation, Creation of non-agricultural income
  • Duration: 04/2001 – 12/2005
  • Volume: 0.1 Mill. Euro
  • Persons/ Months: 5
  • Client: Austrian Development Cooperation, Ministry for Foreign Affairs, Vienna
  • Partners: AVA Consultations Agricoles Ltd, Tunis, NGO Atlas

Distillery of aromatic and medical plants to extract essential oils represents an underexploited and therefore interesting potential in the remote mountainous regions of Tunisia-s north-west. Smallholder families living in this area have few agricultural and livestock resources. Male migrant labour is common, whereas women dispose of sufficient spare time during the summer months after harvest, and are highly interested in developing distilling activities.

An experimental programme of distillery of myrtus communis and eucalyptus camaldulensis has been elaborated in order to find out more about the qualities to be obtained, the technology to be used and the women-s capacity to handle all aspects of production. A training component concerns sustainable plant collection in collaboration with a local university. Furthermore, other plants are being tested, and the results are analysed at a scientific laboratory. Simultaneously, marketing channels, both national and abroad, are being investigated.

After this first phase, the production period with the most promising varieties should begin with several groups of about five women each, who should later organise themselves as an association or cooperative.
By now, the project-s aims have been extended to other sources of income, such as beekeeping and the appropriate marketing of honey, and the keeping of sheep and poultry. For that purpose, a rural development fund allowing for micro-credits has been established.

Austroprojekt was involved from the very beginning with the feasibility study and participatory planning. It also offers technical assistance related to botanic, technological and commercial questions.

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