Evaluation of the public awareness campaign on the vegetable water in the Medjerda bassin

During its scientific expeditions around the Medjerda river, Exploralis noted that during the time of harvest of olives, some parts of the river were completely blackened by discharges of vegetable water.

The vegetable water is a waste from the process of extraction of the olive oil. They are viscous, acid effluents, rich in organic matters and polyphenols which, poured in overdose in the river can have harmful effects on the ecosystem of the river and on the populations which depend on it.

Exploralis launched a public awareness campaign which lasted two weeks in the town of Béja to draw the attention of the population towards this danger and tried to point out the importance of the river by quoting some statistics and by displaying the images of a schoolboy and a farmer holding water glasses obviously contaminated by the vegetable water.

One week after the beginning of the project, a team from Exploralis moved to lead a survey near the passers-by in the downtown area of Béja, in order to measure the echo of the campaign in the street.

50 people agreed to take part in this survey, 30% are women and 70% are men, their ages varying from 17 to 75 years.

  • 35% of the participants say to have seen or heard of the public awareness campaign. While the rest never noticed it.
  • 47% say to have comprehend the communicated message and can even remember it. Where as 53% say they don’t remember or didn’t understand it. Some say that they cannot read, others say that they do not know what are the vegetable waters.
  • Only 10% remember the figure given in the campaign on the number of hectares of agricultural lands irrigated by the Medjerda. 57% say they have no idea and 33% could give an estimative figure.
  • 16% of the interviewed people were able to give the figure evoked in the campaign about the number of Tunisians provided with drinking water from the Medjerda. 53%say they have no idea and 31% gave figures close enough.
  • 76% affirm that discharging the vegetable water in the river represents a danger, while 18% do not think it. 6% hesitate and say they are not sure. Some say that since it is organic matter and not chemical, then it should not be dangerous.
  • 90% say they are convinced by the campaign and support it. 6%say they do not agree, or they are not sure.

This campaign was an occasion to revive the debate around this problem and to educate the citizens on the importance of preserving the river. Other actions could be under consideration towards the rural populations and children of the area for a better awareness about the brittleness of the natural ecosystems and the sometimes irreversible consequences that pollution can cause.

 

This project was designed and implemented by Exploralis and jointly financed by the Regional Environmental center (REC) through its project WaterSum( project financed by the the government of sweden) and  the Small Scale initiatives for Civil Society Organisations in North Africa