Algeria and the drought challenge a shortage of grains and ideas

Algeria and the drought challenge a shortage of grains and ideas

The independent French website “Orion (Orient) 21” published an article entitled “Drought  Algeria, a shortage of grains and ideas” by Jamal Belaid, a French-Algerian agricultural engineer specializing in agriculture in semi-arid regions, in which he said that in Algeria, the effects of warming are not limited to Thermal on fires. In mid-May, after two months of drought, heavy rains fell in the north of the country, but they came too late to save the wheat crop. On the other hand, agricultural services bodies are still unable to reconsider dry farming, but rather choose to escape forward by resorting to solutions such as planting one million hectares of wheat in the middle of the desert .

The writer, who has written about agriculture in Algeria, including a book entitled “Agriculture in Algeria,” indicated that it was customary for the west of the country to be affected, especially by the lack of rain. This year, however, the whole grain-growing region was drought-ridden, although the beginning of the year was good, and the public authorities were certain at the end of winter that it was possible to exceed the national average of 17 quintals per hectare. He pointed out here that Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune stated at the end of 2022: “We have three million hectares destined for grain production. If we multiply it by the production rate of 30 quintals per hectare, we get 9 million tons,” enough for the country to be free of imports. However, the lack of rain shattered these hopes, as Belaid wrote.

According to the author, priority was given to seed production, with extensive use of irrigation. But the level of water shortage is such that coastal cities depend on 14 seawater desalination plants for their supplies. In the face of the depletion of many wells, licenses were granted for deep drilling. He pointed out that the Algerian President regretted the numbers provided by the administration.

Peasant bodies have no ideas, are slow to reconsider agricultural techniques, and cling to the method of administrative management of farmers. The Algerian President regretted the numbers provided by the administration

The writer pointed out that figures have been circulating for decades about agricultural production and others. However, according to him, it was far from the truth, and “the area of ​​cultivated land across the country, for example, was estimated at three million hectares, but when we conducted investigations within the framework of digitization, we found that it did not exceed 1.8 million hectares.”

He stressed that despite the productive reserves enjoyed by the grain regions in the north, hopes are directed towards the desert sands, where it is planned to reclaim one million hectares. He stated that in the year 2022, more than 1,500 kilometers south of Algiers, the regions of Adrar and Al-Manea produced nearly two million quintals of grain out of the 42 million quintals produced at the national level, which are grains that are produced under huge columns for pivot irrigation. He pointed out, “In the face of drought in the north, the Algerian Professional Bureau for Grain sent convoys of trucks and harvesters to the south at the beginning of May, under the slogan “Reap until the last grain.” Thus the south provided seeds for the next agricultural season in the north, but at the cost of public subsidies and a large consumption of water.

The writer pointed out that the authorities claim that there is no shortage of water in the desert, as its volume is estimated at 50 billion cubic meters in the alpine aquifer, but it is fossil water that is not renewed except to a very small extent. He mentioned that in Al-Maneaa, twenty years ago water was floating on surface, but today it is found at a depth of 30 meters. He pointed out that the Bureau for the Development of Industrial Agriculture in Desert Lands is responsible for granting agricultural concessions. Candidates are quick to take the plunge because of the lure of land and generous subsidies.

On the other hand, the writer emphasized that in the north, in the wake of the drought, the farmers did not harvest anything, and they do not have the means to re-cultivate their fields, so they are asking the state to cancel their debts. As for the agricultural service bodies, according to the author, “they have no ideas and are slow to reconsider agricultural techniques, clinging to the method of administrative supervision of farmers. The sowing process takes place after a month of delay, while direct sowing is an alternative, as it allows better utilization of soil moisture, combines speed of implementation with reduced mechanization costs, and guarantees a minimum harvest even in a dry year. This would enable the farmer to cover his costs and resume a new cropping cycle the following season.”

The attraction of sheep farming and the mirage of desert grain cultivation have so far crippled the development of wheat cultivation in the north of the country. The current drought may be an opportunity to review the grain strategy

The writer emphasized that the Algerian Grain Professional Bureau monopolizes the process of collecting crops, so flour mills find themselves isolated from farmers. According to him, “For forty years, French and Australian experts visiting Algeria have been advocating in favor of agriculture that conserves resources, but agricultural bodies have remained deaf, preferring to rely only on the use of new varieties and fertilizers.” Thus, an idea emerged such as diverting part of the water from the desert aquifer to grain areas located a thousand kilometers north. “Current practices are identical to mining agriculture without returning straw to the soil, which is the only way to improve its fertility and store more water.”

The writer stresses that for farmers, raising the largest number of sheep for Eid is a priority, and every skein of hay is reserved for them. Despite raising the price of one quintal of wheat bought by the Professional Grain Bureau to 6,000 dinars (40.54 euros), raising sheep remains more profitable. Barley is also widely used for fattening lambs, with a free-market price of 7,000 DZD (47.30 EUR) per quintal.

He says that part of the imported flour wheat is converted, as flour mills find more benefit in selling it at a price of 3,500 DZD (23.65 euros) per quintal instead of selling it at the regulated price of 2,200 DZD (14.87 euros) in the form of flour to bakers. It is noteworthy that the price of flour mill products is partly free, so these mills do not hesitate to cheat on the flour extraction rate by reducing it to the smallest possible amount. This is a method that allows them to obtain a larger volume of milling products that are sold to breeders. The price of a quintal has more than doubled, reaching 5,000 DZD (33.79 euros) per quintal.

The writer concludes by saying, “Algeria today is interested in wheat coming from the Black Sea, and the grain storage capacity enhancement program aims to ensure domestic consumption for more than six months, which is the estimated period of the country’s “strategic stock.” The attraction of sheep farming and the mirage of desert grain cultivation have so far crippled the development of wheat cultivation in the north of the country. The current drought may be an opportunity to review the grain strategy.”

West Africa : 2 years after the putsch, demonstrations still prohibited

Clashes pitted groups of young Guineans against security forces in the suburbs of Conakry on Tuesday, the anniversary of the military takeover in 2021, witnesses reported.

A group of opposition parties and organizations said in a statement that two young men aged 16 and 18 were killed during an operation by security forces in the suburbs of the capital on Monday, the eve of the 2nd anniversary of putsch of September 5, 2021 . No comment was obtained from the authorities.

This collective, the Forces vives , had called for a “peaceful” march on Tuesday to demand a rapid return of civilians to the head of the country. But the authorities have banned all public gatherings.

The Ministry of Territorial Administration released a press release on Monday evening recalling “the formal ban on support movements and demonstrations on public roads” decreed in May 2022. It cited the need to “preserve public tranquility” .

As every time the authorities have prevented demonstrations since 2022, mobile and scattered groups of young people set up barricades, set tires on fire and confronted security forces with stones who responded using anti- Riots in the districts of Sonfonia, Wanindara and Hamdallaye, traditional centers of protest , witnesses told an AFP correspondent.

A doctor from Sonfonia, Aliou Kamara, said he had received five young people suffering from slight injuries, “certainly caused by baton blows and stone throwing” .

Sonfonia had already been the scene of clashes on Monday. The authorities chose “bloody repression (against) Guineans with the sole aim of confiscating power ,” the Forces Vives said Tuesday in a press release.

Guinea , a country with a tormented political history, has been led by a junta since the military overthrew civilian President Alpha Condé on September 5, 2021, in one of the successive putsches in West Africa since 2020.

The military agreed under international pressure to make way for elected civilians by the end of 2024, the time to carry out deep reforms , they say.

In a press release announcing their demonstration on Tuesday, the Forces Vives affirmed that after “two years of exercise of power by the Guinean military junta, the break with the people of Guinea is completely consummated” .

In addition to banning demonstrations, the junta arrested a number of opposition leaders, launched legal proceedings against others and dissolved a citizen collective critical of its action.

The Forces Vives accuse the authorities of having undertaken nothing with a view to a transfer of power . “There is still no draft Constitution, no electoral code, no election management body, no technical operator, no electoral register, no realistic election budget,” they said .

Authorities have not announced any celebrations to mark the second anniversary of the coup. But they sent members of the junta and the government it put in place to the media to defend the results of the two years.

They brandished the investments made in equipment such as hospitals, the drafting of a multitude of laws and regulations, the creation of a court against financial crime or the holding called for for years of the trial of a massacre committed in 2009 under another junta. They defended themselves from suppressing freedom of expression .

The Minister of Territorial Administration, Mory Condé, assured on television that the government was “ahead” of the timetable agreed with the regional organization ECOWAS for a return of civilians to power. “Guinea is doing better and better thanks to the vision of its Head of State” , Colonel Doumbouya , said the Minister Secretary General of the Presidency, General Amara Camara .