In Gafsa, a phosphate mining region in the southwest of Tunisia, a state-controlled company called CPG extracts phosphate from the hills. Mining is an important economic resource to the Tunisian economy, and it has been practiced since Roman times. The phosphate mining now accounts for nearly 4 percent of the GDP.
The local mining villages of Redayef, Mettlaoui, and Oumm Laarayes are rich in resources but marginalized by the government. They remain poor and polluted - a conduit for wealth. Meanwhile, coastal towns prosper.
Workers lured from Libya, Morocco, Algeria, and around Tunisia live on this nearly uninhabitable land. Ethnic divisions, exacerbated by life in a harsh landscape, have produced disharmony between the people and nature.
These incompatible parts remain in a state of constant flux and volatility.
This is my testimony of the harshness of the place, balanced, I hope, by the humor of the inhabitants and my affection for them.