Oases: When our ancestors did permaculture

Published : 25-08-2021

Permaculture and forest gardening, these fashionable concepts are not new: they were already applied in ancient times in the oases of Tunisia!

A forest garden is a garden created on the model of the forest and which gathers various agricultural productions on several levels. A concept of natural and sustainable agriculture, very popular in the context of permaculture (sustainable agriculture system using biodiversity).
But what is an oasis, if not a forest of palm trees created by man, irrigated by multiple channels fed by springs?
And here is what the Latin author Pliny the Elder wrote in the first century AD about the oasis of Gabes, in southeastern Tunisia:
“There, under a very high palm tree grows an olive tree. And under the olive tree, a fig tree. And under the fig tree, a pomegranate tree. Under it, the vine. Under the vine, wheat is sown, and then vegetables, all in the same year, all growing in each other’s shade.”

Dates, pomegranates and bananas

Thus, two thousand years ago, various crops were combined in the same space, on several levels, under the protective shade of tall trees!
Even today, in the traditional Tunisian oases, date palms are associated with many fruit trees and vegetable plants.
The pomegranates and henna of Gabes are famous. In Tozeur, small bananas are produced in the shade of palm trees.

From Pliny the Elder to Al-Idrissi

Pliny the Elder is the author of the Natural History, an encyclopedia in 37 volumes!
We also have this testimony from the Moroccan-Andalusian geographer Al-Idrissi, author of a monumental atlas dedicated to King Roger II of Sicily (12th century):
“Gabes is a considerable city, well populated, surrounded by a real wood of orchards that follow one another without interruption and produce fruit in abundance, palm trees, olive trees, …”

The oasis of Gabes is a candidate for inclusion in the Unesco World Heritage since 2008. Also read: Tunisia’s World Heritage sites.

Read more:

Sahara: The Tunisian South
Nature: Discover the natural variety of Tunisia


Tozeur, the oasis city

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