Thursday, March 29, 2012

Sons of the Land

Dear Laila kindly provided a translation of my akhbar article

Sons of the Land
When French colonialism grabbed Tunisia in the nineteenth century, its main aim was to exploit Tunisia’s land to produce wheat for France’s consumption. To achieve this, the French established education and research centers, the most important of which was the Ecole Coloniale d'Agriculture de Tunis (Colonial Agricultural School of Tunis), whose name reflects its mission. This centre specialized in training agricultural engineers and local guides to develop agricultural production and to improve the yield of grains. All this was to serve the colonialist project.
When Tunisia was liberated, these colonialist centers were turned into national research centers, but they did not change their approach to agriculture. They automatically adopted the intensive production method which relies on modern approaches and is better suited to large tracts of agricultural land, owned by a small sector of the rich.
As for owners of ‘small holdings’ the research did not consider them in any serious manner. Their only choice was to join the agri-commercial sector, which they were never qualified to succeed in. One of the results of this, is that they lost their food security and became dependent on subsidized imported wheat from France and other ex-colonial countries. This led to other problems, unemployment and immigration rose. 
Migration into the cities finally led into migration onto the streets, setting the spark of revolution, as in Sidi Bouzeid. This story, as reported by some Tunisian media outlets, proves the peasant roots of the Arab revolutions. If we take a look at the rest of the Arab countries witnessing popular uprisings at the moment, we find the same pattern repeating itself. 
The peasants and rural people moving into the cities, not the petit bourgeois - the Facebook generation - as Western and Arab media like to think, are the ones who sparked the revolutions. From the farmers of the Fayyoum and Delta in Egypt to those who came down from the mountains of Yemen and the plains of Tihama, the revolution belongs to those who sacrificed their lives for freedom. Glory to you, sons of the Land! 

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