DOI: 10.3390/ani14060885 ISSN: 2076-2615

Analysis of Management Practices and Breeders’ Perceptions of Climate Change’s Impact to Enhance the Resilience of Sheep Production Systems: A Case Study in the Tunisian Semi-Arid Zone

Aziza Mohamed-Brahmi, Mehrez Ameur, Ilyes Mekki, Alicia Tenza-Peral, Masarra Nasraoui, Yathreb Yagoubi, Samir Smeti, Samia Ben Saïd, Naziha Atti, Sandra Lobón, Mokhtar Mahouachi
  • General Veterinary
  • Animal Science and Zoology

Global climate change inflicts unambiguous risks on agricultural systems and food security. Small ruminants are known for their ability to adapt to changing environmental conditions. This paper aims to characterize sheep production systems in a vulnerable agricultural zone and the breeders’ perceptions of climate change to apprehend challenges that they are confronting, and formulate resilience actions. The data analysis is based on 94 semi-structured surveys of sheep farmers carried out in the Tunisian semi-arid region. The PCA analysis results revealed three main sheep production systems. The agro-pastoral rain-fed system (AGPRF) is dominant (55%), with large farms and common pastures integrating cereals and fodder. The agro-pastoral irrigated system (AGPI: 20%) is characterized by small-area and forage irrigation (1.8 ha) and a smaller number of ewes but a greater use of animal feed supplementation. The agro-sylvo-pastoral system (AGSP: 25%) is a system where grazing is based on common lands and using tree sub-products, while the agricultural area is exclusively used to cultivate cereal crops. Sheep breeders’ climate perceptions are summarized as unpredictable climate events, a decrease in precipitation, and an increase in temperature. Resilience actions principally consist of reducing flocks’ numbers, using alternative local feed, fodder, and water resources, and building more shelters and planting more trees in the grazing areas. Nevertheless, cost-effectiveness should be considered in such vulnerable zones to insure the sheep production systems’ sustainability.

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