Sarah Toumi

Ashoka Fellow
Tunisia,
Fellow Since 2014
Acacias for all

Citation

This profile was prepared when Sarah Toumi was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2014.
The New Idea
Sarah is changing the agricultural industry in the Arab Maghreb sub-region, starting with Tunisia. In this region, desertification and dwindling water resources are major environmental concerns that negatively impact agricultural communities and lead to increased levels of rural poverty. Sarah is combating these environmental and economic challenges by creating a movement that shifts the focus from commonly cultivated crops to alternative seeds that are more sustainable for the environment, creating greater opportunities for income generation.

Further, Sarah is introducing farmers to sustainable farming practices through training and education that shifts their attitudes surrounding their land. To complement this approach, Sarah offers farmers new opportunities through alternative crops—mainly Acacia trees, which have a positive environmental and economic impact. They revitalize the land, create a greenbelt to prevent desertification and consume much less water than the traditionally cultivated crops, olives and almonds. Acacia trees additionally produce Arabic gum and Moringa oil which provide large economic returns when sold. Sarah couples the introduction of new crops with empirical research and studies on new potential opportunities that can be used by farmers to fight soil erosion, desertification and water scarcity.

To complement this, Sarah is creating a movement throughout the Arab Maghreb sub-region in which farmers are not only practicing sustainable farming techniques and using alternative crops, but are also taking ownership over sustaining their practices and thinking long-term about the land. Farmers are empowered to become self-sufficient economically and access the market. Sarah is enabling the farmers by organizing them into agricultural cooperatives which then extract and sell Arabic gum from the Acacia trees in international markets. These practices provide new economic opportunities that shape the future of the agriculture industry and lift farmers and their families out of rural poverty.

Sarah’s idea is applicable to all arable lands of North Africa and countries with a desert region. Starting in Tunisia, she plans to expand geographically in order to combat desertification, a major environmental concern throughout the entire Arab world.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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