Picture by Nadir Bouhmouch. Some rights reserved.Over the past several years, the people of Jemna, a region in southern Tunisia famous for its excellent quality dates called Deglet Nour (the dates of light), have been engaged in an important and inspiring struggle around land rights.
It took around a century for this oasis community to score a victory, albeit precarious for now, through occupying and working their long-confiscated land in an astonishing experience of self-management and voluntarism that emphasised the centrality of the peasant question and the right to land and other natural resources such as water in revolutionary times.
Jemna is a challenge and a threat to the power of the neoliberal and counter-revolutionary elite and it represents resistance and an alternative to the kinds of neo-colonial, dispossessing and environmentally damaging forms of managing and exploiting the land.
Despite its limitations, contradictions and the challenges it is facing, the experience of Jemna remains a glimmer of hope in a context of counter-revolution, the deepening of neoliberal/neo-colonial policies and the reinforcing of the free-market orthodoxy.
It has been a revolutionary outburst and a significant moment in the history of peasant struggles in Tunisia and the region as a whole. Lessons need to be learnt from this amazing experience, one of them is that sovereignty over land, food and natural resources is an inalienable right; and land is first of all for those who till it!
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