50-year-old farmer Charfeddine Touati is a co-founder of SMSA El Faleh, an agricultural cooperative in the north-western town of Bousalem, Jendouba.
A lifelong farmer with strong roots in Bousalem, Mr. Touati has always worked to develop the region’s agriculture. After completing a university degree in agronomy (the science of soil management and crop production) he bought a plot of land in Bousalem to start his own project. With just one employee, he began growing grain and vegetables, while breeding cows.
Over the years, Mr. Touati bought more cattle and increased his production, but struggled to bring in more revenue. He realized that to achieve strong growth, he needed more efficient machinery, but like many small farmers, did not have the money to invest in it.
To address this challenge, Mr. Touati collaborated with around 200 local farmers in 2013 to create Jendouba’s first agricultural cooperative (SMSA). By pooling their resources and investing together, these farmers could buy high-quality agricultural supplies, pay for useful agricultural trainings, and run an informational desk providing guidance on agricultural and breeding techniques. As a result of these new resources, many SMSA members achieved strong growth in the following years and even expanded their herd.
For cattle farmers, however, one major challenge remained – accessing affordable animal feed. In Tunisia, good animal feed, which is crucial to cattle’s health and productivity, is often unavailable or too expensive, and the COVID-19 pandemic compounded this problem. Instead of purchasing cattle feed, some farmers sought to produce their own with local ingredients, but this required expensive machinery that was out of reach.
To help the SMSA’s members develop a sustainable solution to the animal-feed shortage, JOBS awarded the cooperative a COVID-19 relief grant that funded a direct-seeding forage harvester and a corn-picking machine. This equipment enabled the SMSA to more effectively harvest corn, alfalfa, and hay, which are key components of animal feed.
The SMSA quickly saw the benefits of this new machinery. In 2021, the SMSA was able to plant up to four varieties of crops on the same plot, cut corn-harvesting time in half while improving its nutritional quality, and decrease its grinding waste by 5%. Overall, this enabled the cooperative to increase its production by more than 30%.
The results led to a big sales jump and attracted far more members to the SMSA. In 2021, despite the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, SMSA El Faleh brought in 300 new members and recorded a $180,000 increase in sales.
“The grant enabled us to overcome a major problem facing most Tunisian farmers -- the lack of modern equipment. With JOBS’ support, we have significantly increased our production of animal feed, and have been able to include and assist more local farmers and producers.”
Founding member – SMSA El Faleh