El Gataaya in Ghar el Melh, Bizerte, are farming plots in the lagoons that are irrigated by salty seawater. Local growers use the tide to water their Ramli agricultural crops which are grown on sandy substrates. The crops are planted on the topsoil in such a way that the roots are watered through a thin delicate layer of freshwater, carried through seawater.
Some believe the practice to be unique in the world, with a 100% biological production of potatoes, onion, eggplants, saffron, beans, tomatoes, watermelon and melons.
There had been some 200 lots of Gataayas in the region, with an approximate surface of 1 ha per unit. However, according to President of Agriculture and Fisheries Union of Ghar El Melh, most of these units have been abandoned due to infrastructure complications, which leaves roughly only 80 ha currently operational.
With the construction of new ports and roads in previous years, the natural water circulation was altered which affected the practice gravely, said member of the non-permanent committee on environmental issues, Mustapha Djebril. The water is no longer flowing right, he said, and farmers are deserting their lands and selling properties, which is causing more harm as new owners carry out arbitrary construction activities. He called on authorities to work with locals to promote the practice and mitigate the losses the farmers had endured.
This Ramli agricultural system in the lagoons of Ghar El Melh in June 2020 was recognised as Globally Important Agricultural Heritage Systems (GIAHS): a designation managed by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation.