Challenging Agribusiness and Building Alternatives in Tunisia and Morocco

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Someone in bright clothing working on their knees in a green field, with their head covered by fabric. Credit: Ali Aznague

The ‘bread uprisings’ that erupted in the early part of the last decade in many areas of North Africa revealed the failures of the global food system. Challenging agribusiness and building alternatives in Tunisia and Morocco is a report written by War on Want’s partners from Tunisia and Morocco, shedding light on the struggle and concerns of small farmers, fishermen and agricultural workers in both countries, from a grassroots and social change perspective.

Large corporations have monopolised food production for their own profit. Mono-cropping, export to higher paying markets, biofuel production, basic foodstuff speculation and land grabbing are rife. This industrialised agricultural extraction is having an increasingly detrimental impact on already scarce water resources. Mass production, mono-cropping and heavy water consumption within arid zones such as deserts is diminishing valuable, non-renewable groundwater. Meanwhile, arable lands are being converted from food production to energy production (biofuels) and for growing crops for use in European cosmetics such as Jojoba in Tunisia, which is virtual water exportation.

This new form of colonialism, driven by corporate profit, exploits a food system in North Africa and the Maghreb which itself was the result of 19th Century colonialism when an extractive process of accumulation and seizure was instigated in southern states to support urban centres in the north.

This development model, which most impacts poor villagers in marginalised regions, results in serious tensions, leading to resistance and protests. Communities attempt to resist the plundering of their mineral resources, the seizure of their lands, the severe exploitation of their workforce and the loss of their livelihoods. However, it is clear that this form of development is not compatible with transitional justice due to its disastrous social and ecological consequences. Meanwhile, the situation has worsened in recent decades in the aftermath of the neo-liberal reconfiguration of the region’s economy and the increase of cross-border capital flows.

War on Want supported partners in Tunisia (Working Group for Food Sovereignty and Al Warcha) and Morocco (ATTAC Maroc) to conduct extensive participatory field research on the state of the agricultural sector in each country, focusing on smallholder farmers and agricultural workers. Both studies confirmed that access to food and food production are undeniably a political issue. This report summarises their findings.