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Environmental impacts of agricultural practices and water and soil conservation works: the case of the Merguellil catchment

Jouini M., Burte J., Sinfort C.. 2016. In : AC and SD 2016 Agri-Chains and Sustainable Development: linking local and global dynamics. Montpellier : CIRAD, p. 250-252. International Conference on Agri-Chains and Sustainable Development, 2016-12-12/2016-12-14, Montpellier (France).

Semi-arid agricultural areas are fragile territories where water and soil resources must be preserved. In such zones impact evaluation is difficult due to the lack of data. We focused on the upstream Merguellil watershed, located in central Tunisia, where several water and soil conservation works were built since 1990 to control water erosion and to protect the downstream area. The rapid expansion of such conservation measures raised the issue of their impact on soil and water resources. Our main goal is the impact assessment by LCA of the most relevant farming systems in our territory, taking into account on-site and off-site contributions to local and global impacts. Our strategy is to combine LCA with a participatory approach to integrate knowledge and perceptions of local actors and to provide elements on environmental impacts for all stakeholders. The first step was a territorial systemic participatory diagnosis to characterize the dynamics of the territory, to identify the natural resources and their uses, the developments of the agricultural practices and the characterization of the existing farming systems. This diagnosis was achieved through technical field visits and interviews with farmers. The second step was a territorial LCA of representative systems, mapping the different systems to consider the characteristics of their location (access to water, soil type¿). Systemic territorial participatory diagnosis allowed to define a typology of production systems and to model the territory considering the interactions between these systems. Four types of production systems were identified to proceed with territorial LCA: olive and apricot system and olive and cereals system both in rainfed and irrigated combinations. LCA results are discussed for the most important midpoint indicators. This study demonstrated two major issues of LCA use for sustainable development in semi-arid watersheds: i) LCA results communication with stakeholders to fit with their understanding of the system and ii) localized impacts on soil and water resources, taking into account Water and Soil Conservation Works.

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