Couscous, capitalism and neocolonialism in Tunisia

The international economic order does not look kindly on hints of self-sufficiency or agricultural independence

By Belén Fernandez

Middle East Eye – Wednesday 28 June 2017

On the ferry from Europe to Tunisia in May, I met a middle-aged Tunisian man on his way home for a visit from the northern Italian city of Ancona, where he had worked in a plastic factory for the past 15 years.

The man confessed that he had often questioned his decision to abandon his village near the Tunisian-Algerian border to seek work in Italy, where – contrary to popular belief, he declared – there was little proper food to be found.

In his village, he said, his family grew everything they needed. He launched into an enthusiastic run-down of the bread-making process.

Unfortunately for my little-while friend and other global inhabitants, however, the current international economic order does not look kindly on hints of self-sufficiency or agricultural independence.

In a brand-new documentary Couscous: Seeds of Dignity by Tunisian geographer and academic Habib Ayeb, one Tunisian farmer incidentally laments: “You’ll see, in ten years we’ll import sandwiches from Italy. To make a sandwich, we’ll have to go get the flour from Italy.”

The film, which is so beautifully shot that one feels continuously tempted to photograph the screen, deals with issues relating to food sovereignty in Tunisia from the ground up – from the point of view of the small farmer, whose expertise and physical bond with the land have been rejected and violated at every turn by corporate-capitalist agricultural policies designed to wrest as gigantic a profit as possible from the human need to consume food.

To read the full paper follow the link: http://www.middleeasteye.net/columns/couscous-capitalism-and-neocolonialism-tunisia-1659688403

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A propos Habib Ayeb

Géographe et Réalisateur
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