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Save the drop! Fesguietna! (فسقيتنا)


Please briefly describe your Water ChangeMaker journey

Djerba is the largest island on the North African coast and one of the world’s top tourist destinations. Its capital, Houmt Souk, is home to 76,000 of Djerba’s 163,726 inhabitants. Located on the southern shores of the Mediterranean, Djerba has a unique island ecosystem, with limited natural resources, a dry climate, low annual rainfall and high pressure, against a backdrop of human impact on the natural environment, extensive tourism and high population density in the cities of Houmt Souk and Midoun. These factors all have an impact on the coastal environment. Over the last decade, the island’s landscape has undergone enormous transformations. Excessive development of natural habitats has disrupted the coastal ecosystem and created severe water shortages for the island's inhabitants. The situation calls for immediate action. Despite a State project to desalinate brackish water and sea water, the freshwater supply is still not sufficient to meet the needs of the population. Designed to recover as much water as possible, the rainwater cisterns or "fesguia" are a good solution for retaining and conserving this resource. In addition to being part of the island’s architectural heritage, the "fesguia" are also considered part of its cultural, social and economic heritage. They are places where Djerban women gather to chat, talk about their lives, form friendships, wash wool, do their laundry, and collect their daily water supply in buckets. It is therefore an economical, plastic-free, money-saving technique not requiring any form of transportation, and most importantly it contributes to the sustainable management of water resources. Unfortunately the cisterns, which are owned by the Ministry of Agriculture and managed by local municipalities, are not inventoried or identifiable, nor are they subject to any monitoring or maintenance. They are therefore a neglected but strategically important freshwater reserve.

Please describe the change that your initiative created and how was it achieved

Changing the situation involves several steps: - Locating the public rainwater cisterns (collecting information from relevant public administrations, local associations, and resource persons), - conducting field visits and data collection, and - creating a deliverable: mapping of the island's public cisterns. Result 1: The public water cisterns on the island of Djerba are located, inventoried and mapped. - Drafting a survey (number of people likely to use the cisterns, reason for use, maintenance, waiting time, etc.) - recruiting and training investigators - analysing survey results - holding an information and cooperation meeting with the various stakeholders in intervention regions and the local population, especially women in rural areas (the cisterns’ primary users) - conducting a field survey among the local population (involvement, use, needs, etc.) - determining which cisterns will be subject to an intervention (sites selected according to feasibility criteria, amount of use, the water needs of the region, etc.) - raising awareness among right holders (especially among women) of the importance of preserving and maintaining the cisterns - starting repair works - analysing water quality before use - installing information panels to raise awareness of water resources and provide information about the site’s history - organising an awareness-raising workshop on the importance of public cisterns as a means of water preservation in the context of climate change. Result 2: Twelve identified public water cisterns will be repaired and used by the local population, who are now aware of their importance. - Holding information and cooperation meetings with various stakeholders (school management boards, teachers, student representatives and parents) - increasing awareness among students of the importance of water and cisterns in tackling climate change - training students and administrative and teaching staff on the role of rainwater cisterns in sound resource management - creating artistic and scientific activities on this issue in school clubs - setting up a pumping system and taps so that children can drink fresh water - providing training on maintaining and testing water quality. Result 3: Pupils and managerial staff in three primary schools on the island of Djerba gain awareness of the role that cisterns play in water conservation and are able to drink fresh water. - Organising a workshop to evaluate the pilot project with all local stakeholders and beneficiaries in order to consolidate good practices and replicate the experience - preparing a press release - publicising the pilot project through various media channels - documenting and using photos to illustrate the different stages of the project and its results (both quantitative and qualitative) as a reference source of information and scientific data. Result 4: Participatory evaluation of the completed project, joint mapping, lessons learned, actions taken, disseminated and publicised in the media.

How did your initiative help build resilience to climate change?

Preserving and developing rainwater resources to improve adaptation to climate change on the island of Djerba. Two hundred public water cisterns on the island of Djerba are identified, located in a geographic information system (GIS) application and a deliverable, and valued as a heritage asset for preserving rainwater. Twelve public water cisterns and three in schools are managed and can be used by the population. The local population is aware of and involved in addressing the island's vulnerability to climate change. Lessons are learned and disseminated, and participatory evaluation of the project is carried out with all partners, with media coverage and widespread dissemination of the actions taken.

What water-related decisions did your initiative influence or improve?

 The project adopted a participatory approach, which was an obligation rather than a choice, and without which the project would not achieve its objectives in the public and private sectors, local civil society and populations living in close proximity to the intervention areas. Adopting an inclusive approach involving all stakeholders helps ensure the ownership and sustainability of our project. - The project addresses an issue relevant to the daily life of the local community and which is therefore of interest to the local authorities. - Throughout the project, technical and communication support will be requested from civil society organisations interested in the environmental issue raised by this project. (Association of young architects, association of development and strategic studies in Medenine, Amal Ghizen, etc.) - The association works closely with the three municipalities (Ajim, Houmt Souk, Midoun), the regional delegation of the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, the Agence de Protection et d'Aménagement du Littoral [Agency for Coastal Management and Protection – APAL], etc. Digital mapping (provided in the form of a GIS application) improves access to information and is an essential tool for identifying State heritage. The development of the deliverable encourages collaborative and partnership work between the municipalities, the Ministry of Agriculture and heritage researchers with the support of associations.

What were some of the challenges faced and how were they overcome?

Our change is specific, because it has enhanced an important and neglected part of our architectural and cultural heritage. The aim is to create a strategic water reserve for the local population and build resilience to climate change. Thanks to the GIS application and digital mapping, the local population can easily access information and localisation data. The development of the cisterns has made them useable and has improved access to clean water. Raising awareness and promoting the concept of climate change and its impact on daily life.

In your view: Will the change that was created by your initiative continue?

Yes, the change is sustainable and it will continue, because we have established partnership agreements with other associations to involve them in adapting to climate change and monitoring the water cisterns with us. A new partnership for cooperation has been forged between our association, the Ministry of Agriculture, the Ministry of Health (to guarantee water sanitation), and the municipal authorities. Awareness-raising work among the local population has increased knowledge of the impact of climate change and how to cope with it.

What did you learn during the initiative or after? And is it possible that others could learn from you?

Yes, many people can learn from this experience, turning to technology with the creation of a GIS application for cistern identification that can be downloaded for Android. It contains all the necessary data (history, architectural design, volume, quantity, etc.). The cisterns’ architectural designs and their distribution across the island based on several criteria; the fact that they are over 100 years old and a reminder of past generations and peoples who have lived on the island (Maltese, French, Jews, Turks, and Europeans). It constitutes an important database for research into history and heritage. Investing in the cisterns according to their type and partnerships with the public sector and civil society can provide a model to follow and replicate in other areas or islands that have an arid climate or similar characteristics and which must cope with climate change. Awareness-raising and training methods, interaction and societal behaviour within the island system will enable the population’s needs to be better defined and understood in order to improve efforts to combat climate change in the future and strengthen resilience.