The Democratic and Popular Republic of Algeria covers an area of 2 381 741 km2, and is the second largest country in Africa after the Sudan, but nearly nine tenths of its land is in the six Saharan provinces. Its capital is Algiers. To the north it borders the Mediterranean Sea, to the south Mali and Niger, to the west Morocco and to the east Tunisia and Libya (see Figure 1). It is subdivided into 48 wilayas or provinces.
Four fifths of the population are Arabs; Berbers form the largest minority. The languages are Arabic and Berber. Almost all the population are followers of Islam.
It was a province of the Roman empire, thereafter the Vandals and Byzantines invaded. The Islamic conquest of North Africa took place in the seventh century; it became part of the Ottoman Empire in the sixteenth century and was taken by the French in the early to mid nineteenth. Algeria gained its independence from France in 1962.
Two great mountain ranges, the Sahelian Atlas in the south and the Tell Atlas in the north, divide the country into three types of landscape which are distinct in their relief and morphology, giving rise to great biological diversity. From north to south the three zones are the Tell System, the High Plains and the Sahara. Algerias rivers are mainly seasonal. The basins of the Chelif and the Hamiz provide about a third of the countrys irrigation needs.
The population at the 1998 census was 29 270 000. The previous census in 1987 recorded 22 710 000 which gives a mean annual population growth of 2.8 percent over the decade. People actively involved in agriculture represent 25 percent of the national work force, about one million people, of which 125 000 are livestock rearers.
Figure 1. Map of Algeria
Urban and peri-urban areas, which cover only four percent of the land, are the most densely populated with about 80 percent of the total population. The steppes, beyond the Tell Atlas, 9 percent of the country, are true grazing lands and their people, essentially agropastoralists, form 12 percent of the population. The remainder, 8 percent, are dispersed in the Saharan regions which cover 87 percent of the country.
The hydrocarbons (oil and gas) sector is the backbone of the economy, accounting for roughly 52% of budget revenues, 25% of GDP, and over 95% of export earnings. Algeria has the fifth-largest reserves of natural gas in the world and is the second largest gas exporter; it ranks fourteenth for oil reserves.
According to the Ministry of Agriculture (Statistiques Agricoles 1999) Algerias 2,380,000 km2 are distributed as shown in Table 1.
Table 1 : Land use
The land used by the agricultural sector is 40 000 000 ha, 17 percent of the country: 31 000 000 ha are grazing, the home of Algerian pastoralism. Eight million ha are farm land of which 94 percent are arable and 6 percent under perennial crops. Farm land corresponds to 0.28 ha per inhabitant.
Forest land covers 4 100 000 ha (Ghazi and Lahouati, 1997), divided as follows:
The main forest trees are:
The alfa (Stipa tenacissima) steppe is the transition between the forests and the steppes. The area covered by alfa was 5 000 000 hectares at the beginning of the twentieth century but is now reduced to 2 000 000. Its degradation is due to overexploitation since it provided an important source of paper pulp as well as being used in basketry and weaving by the traditional artisanal sector (Nedjraoui, 1990; Kadi-Hanifi, 1998).
Barren land, 80 percent of the country, is in the Saharan region where ergs, regs and hamadas dominate.
The livestock sector
Stock-rearing in Algeria mainly concerns sheep, goats, cattle and camels. Table 2 shows the results of livestock censuses over the past decade.
Table 2: Livestock numbers (000 head)
Source: FAO database 2002
Sheep predominate with 80 percent of the total, over ten million ewes. Goats are in second place with 13 percent of which does comprise half. The cattle herd is small, 1.6 - 1.7 million head of which 58 percent are milch cows. Agro-ecological zones differ in their livestock specialization. Cattle are mainly limited to the north of the country with some enclaves elsewhere. The steppe is the favourite zone for sheep and goat raising, over ninety percent of their total is there, causing serious over-exploitation of the herbage.
Algeria has three great structural units: the Tell, the High Plains and the Sahara.
The Tell System
This comprises a succession of mountain massifs, coastal and sub-littoral, and plains.
- The Western Tell is formed by alternating lines of massifs, of medium height, dominated by a dorsal of Jurassic and Cretaceous limestone and depressions represented by the low plains of Oran and the plain of Bas Chélif.
- The Central Tell comprises a chain of mountains prolonging the Western Tell; it includes the mountains of Zaccar, the Atlas of Blidé and the mountains of Djurdjura which rise to 2 300 m. The Cretaceous rocks are schists, marls and marly limestones. The coastal edge is dominated by a large depression which forms the rich alluvial plain of Mitidja.
- The Eastern Tell is the most mountainous part of the country and consists of parallel chains; from North to South these are:
- The chains of the coastal Tell, composed of gneiss and granite which are a prolongation of that of Djurdjura. These are the massifs of Collo, Skikda and lEdough which border the low plain of Annaba where the two largest areas of sweet water are found: Lake Tonga and Lake Oubeïra which are on the list of nature reserves of the Convention of Ramsar.
- The Outer Tell, comprising the mountains of Babors and the massifs of Lesser Kabylie are on the basement complex of the Jurassic and Eocene.
- The chains of the Inner Tell are dominated by mounts Hodna, Belezema and the massif of Aurès (2 328 m) and the Nemenchas mountains. This belongs to the Atlas.
The High Steppic Plains
These are between the Tell Atlas to the north and the Saharan Atlas to the south, at altitudes between 900 and 1 200 m; they are dotted with saline depressions, chotts or sebkhas, which are continental lakes formed during the Pleistocene when there was torrential rainfall and heavy run-off. Two areas are recognized:
- The Western Steppe, which comprises the South Oranese and South Algéroise High Plains; their altitude decreases from Djebel Mzi (1 200 m) in the west to the saline depression of the Central Hodna (11 000 ha) which is occupied by detritic deposits.
- The Eastern Steppe, to the east of the Hodna, is formed by the High Plains of South Constantine where dolomites and limestones of the Cretaceous dominate. They are bordered by the massifs of Aurès and Némemchas.
The Sahara is a great barrier separating the Mediterranean from the tropical zone. It consists of plateaux (hamadas and tassili) where the volcanic Massif of Hoggar rises to 3 000 m, plains (regs and ergs) and depressions (sebkhas and gueltas).
Hamadas and tassilis are immense calcareous, table-shaped plateaux with skeletal soils dominating in the valleys and wadis. The Tassili of Ajjers covers 350 000 km2. Regs are flat areas covered with stones and gravel; of varied forms, the result of serious aeolian erosion of surface soil horizons. Ergs are sandy deposits in the form of dunes. The Western Erg is 500 km long by 150 250 km and covers 100 000 km2 and is part of the great Saharan dune complex. The depressions are either saline (chotts and sebkhas) or non-saline where run-off accumulates (dayas).
There are several soil types. (Djebaili et al, 1983 , Halitim, 1988 ; Kadi Hanifi, 1998).
Coarse mineral soils or little evolved soils are found mainly on the summits of mountains where they are subject to intense hydraulic erosion. These soils are characteristic of forests and mattorals and include:
Poorly developed soils include:
Calcimagnesian soils are the group of carbonate soils:
Isohumic soils are present in the erosion glacis of the recent Quaternary. They bring together soils with calcareous or gypsum crusts. They are found in arid zones with under 200 mm annual rainfall.
Halomorphic soils include saline soils (solontchak) with AC profiles and saline alkaline soils (solontchak-solonetz) with profile A (B) C. These soils are generally deep and found in chotts and sebkhas. They are low in organic matter. Their salinity is of the types chlorate, sulphate-soda and magnesian.
Algerian soils are subject to serious aeolian and hydraulic erosion due to the climate and strong anthropic pressure which has reduced the vegetation cover.
Wind erosion mainly affects the arid and semi-arid zones. Wind action removes the finer particles, clay and sand, leaving an unproductive stony soil. About 600 000 hectares in the steppe zone have been totally desertified, past the stage where a recovery of vegetation can take place.
Hydraulic erosion affects 28 percent of northern Algeria. Soils on the steep slopes of the Tell are the most seriously affected. Erosion takes the form of rills and gullies on the whole catchment with the uncovering of the bedrock and creation of badlands (Hadjiat, 1997).
Sources of information on Algerias climate include: Data from 1913 - 1938 published in "Le climat de l'Algérie" by SELTZER (1946). Data from 1926 - 1950 for Saharan stations published in "Le climat du Sahara" by DUBIEF (1950 - 1963). Data from 1913 - 1961 published in the legend of the rainfall map of northern Algeria, by CHAUMONT et PAQUIN (1971). The rainfall map published (1993) by l'Agence Nationale des Ressources Hydriques. Up-to-date data are published by l' Office National de la Météorologie.
Algeria, influenced by the sea, topography and altitude, has a Mediterranean, subtropical, temperate climate. This is characterized by a long, dry summer of 3 4 months on the coast, which extends to 5 or 6 months on the High Plains and over 6 months in the Sahel Atlas.
Rainfall is very variable, monthly and especially annually. This variation is due to gradients (Djellouli, 1990). There is a longitudinal gradient: rainfall increases from west to east (450 mm annually at Oran, over 1 000 at Annaba); this gradient is due to two phenomena: to the west the Spanish Sierra Nevada and the Moroccan Atlas act as a screen, eliminating the Atlantic influence. In the east high rainfall is attributed to perturbations in northern Tunisia. There is a latitudinal gradient: mean annual precipitation varies from 50 mm at MZaba to 1 500 at Jijel. This decrease from the coast towards the Saharan zone is due to the great distance depressions have to cover crossing the two Atlas ranges. There is also a universal altitude gradient which varies according to the distance from the sea.
The mean minimum temperature of the coldest month "m" is between 00 and 90 in coastal zones and between 20 and 40 in the arid and semi-arid zones. The mean maxima of the hottest month "M" vary with the continentality : from 280 310 C at the coast, between 330 and 380 on the High Steppic Plains and over 400 in the Sahara.
Algeria has all the Mediterranean bioclimates from the perhumid in the north to the perarid in the south for the bioclimatic levels and from the cold to the hot for their temperature variants; see Table 3.
Table 3. The bioclimatic zones of Algeria
Depending on the climatic (National Agroclimatic Classification of the Arab League, Louay, 1978) and edaphic factors, the agro-ecological zones of Algeria can be defined. Soils and climate define the natural vegetation and the agricultural potential of the various zones. ( Djellouli, 1990; Cadi et al, 2001 and Smadhi, 2001).
Figure 2. Agro-ecological zones of Algeria (map drafted by SALAMANI M. 2001).
Going from north to south, a range of vegetation and land types are traversed including forests, maquis and mattoral, to the semi-arid steppes then to the desert ecosystems. The following zones are recognized according to rainfall ranges:
1200 - 1800 mm corresponds to the perhumid level and is present in limited zones the area of which is no more than 300 ha, between 800 and 2000 m in altitude in the Tell Atlas; here very rare endemic species like the aspen (Populus tremula) and the Numidian fir (Abies numidica) are found along with forests of cedar (Cedrus atlantica), cork oak (Quercus suber) and Aleppo pine.
900 - 1200 mm is the humid level found in the north-western regions, dominated at altitude by forests of cedar and various oak woods, Quercus faginea, Quercus suber and Quercus afares.
600 - 900 mm is the subhumid level which covers the northern part of the Tell atlas from west to east and where forests of holm oak and Aleppo pine grow.
400 - 600 mm is the upper semi-arid level which corresponds to the more or less degraded forests, maquis and mattoral on the summits and northern slopes of the Saharan Atlas, Quercus rotundifolia, Callitris articulata, olive and lentisk are the commonest woody vegetation in the north west with Aleppo pine at altitude.
In the past decade the forest sector has benefited from a Programme of "Grands Travaux" which is based on the following actions and principles:
300 - 400 mm corresponds to the sub-steppic of the semi-arid; it is characterized by the disappearance of forest species and the appearance of steppe vegetation like Artemisia, alfa (Stipa tenacissima) and esparto (Lygeum spartum). These lands, considered good grazing, are in the north of the High Plains of Algiers-Oran on the south slopes of Aurès, the mountains of Ouled Nâils and Nemachas. In this bioclimatic zone there is competition between grazing and cereals in the depressions.
100 - 300 mm this rainfall belt corresponds to the arid southern and presaharan steppes which have a much sparser vegetation cover, giving meagre grazing on skeletal soils; they are at an advanced stage of degradation.
< 100 mm is the zone south of the Saharan Atlas. The vegetation, which is localized in the wadi beds, is hydrophilic and psammophilic, strongly adapted to very dry conditions and with a high degree of endemism. There is grazing based on the grasses Aristida pungens and Panicum turgidum and browse shrubs such as several acacias.
Agricultural areas are found in the north on the coastland sub-coastal plains and in the south, in the agropastoral zones, in wadi valleys or oases. Oasis agriculture is strongly dominated by dates, a very important crop in the Saharan regions (inventories of about fifteen Algerian palm groves have identified 400 cultivars, a hundred of which have been described in detail Hannachi S et al., 1998). Agricultural land is distributed as follows:
- arable land comprises fallows (48 percent) and gramineous crops (47 percent) which are cereals (82 percent) and forage (18 percent). Seventy two percent of the resting land is grazed.
- perennial crops comprise orchards (452,000 ha, 5.6 percent of agricultural land), vineyards (74,000 ha, 0.9 percent), and natural grazing (36,000 ha, 0.4 percent).
- irrigated areas, mainly tree crops, market gardens and cereals, cover 443,000 ha annually.
The number of holdings is about 1,054,000; of these 60,000 (6 percent) are privately owned and cover 70 percent of the land; eighty percent of holdings are under 10 ha. The state owns 94, 860 holdings (9 percent) which cover 2 500 000 ha, 31 percent of all agricultural land.
Table 4 shows the development of livestock numbers over the past decade; 78 percent are sheep, 14 percent goats and only 6 percent are bovines. The steppe and presaharan zones hold 80 percent of the total, mainly sheep.
Table 4. Evolution of livestock numbers (000 head)
The main cattle breed, the Atlas Brown, has four sub-breeds:
Exotic breeds are represented by: the Dutch Friesian, an excellent milker, is widespread in the coastal region and constitutes 66 percent of improved breeds; the French Friesian is also widespread and a good milker; the Pie Rouge de lEst and the Montbéliarde are present in small numbers. These breeds, introduced to raise production, find themselves under ecological conditions very different from those of their countries of origin. Although they are imported for their high genetic potential, their performance decreases because of the strain on their metabolism in adapting to the local environment.
Algerias sheep herd is dominated by three breeds, well adapted to local conditions (Adem, 1986 ; Chellig, 1969 and 1992) :
There are four secondary sheep breeds:
Some even rarer breeds are mentioned, the Taadmit, developed from the Ouled Djellal, and a few isolated herds of merinos, which correspond to attempts to intensify sheep production.
The composition of the herd is tending to change. Nowadays the hardy Beni Ighil, so well adapted to the steppe, is being replaced by the very prolific Ouled Djellal which is a more profitable meat producer. In fact a yearling Beni Ighil has the same weight as a four month Ouled Djellal lamb (Abdelguerfi and Laouar 1999).
Horse breeds are: the pure Barb, which has practically disappeared in the Maghreb except for a few specimens in Algeria; the purebred Arab and Arab-Barb crosses. Asses are the local breed and mules are also kept. Camels are the local race of Arabian camel.
Ruminant production systems in northern Algeria
Stock raising systems vary according to geographic regions:
In northern Algeria the nature of the herd depends on altitude. In the plains and valleys cattle predominate; up to 1 500 m sheep and goats are commoner, rarely cattle in winter; above 1 500 m the high pastures are only used by transhumant herds of cattle after the snow melt. Because of differences in pasture quality, cattle predominate in the east while sheep and goats are commoner in the west.
Cattle in the North
About 80 percent of cattle are in the North, of these 53 percent are to the east and 24 percent to the west with 23 percent in the centre. In general herd composition is as shown in Table 5.
Cattle are an important source of income for the agro-pastoralists of the Tell and compensate for the low income from crops due to very small areas cultivated; this encourages the increase of livestock and serious overgrazing of free communal pastures. Two types of cattle raising are distinguished:
Table 5. Structure of the cattle herd
Sheep in the North
Sheep are relatively unimportant in the Tell in a sedentary system, with sheep housed in winter, and usually associated with goats. Flock size is small, 10 to 20 ewes according to holding size. Forage is scarce in the mountains and there is no scope for increasing production (Arbouche, 1995). Agropastoralists only devote 5 percent of their arable land to fodder and there is overgrazing of the maquis and the forest understorey, the degradation of which aggravates the risks of erosion. In some regions, like Kabylie, flocks are fed, in winter, on fig leaves and olive twigs and taken in spring to the fallows which provide adequate grazing; in mountainous areas the high pastures furnish summer grazing(Arbouche, 1995).
The income of agro-pastoralists varies according to holding size. Crops are the main source of income (57 60 percent of all income) for those under ten ha, where semi-intensive systems predominate. However livestock is the main income source (72 percent of all income) on holdings over 10 hectares with extensive production systems. ( BNEDER survey, 1996).
Livestock production systems in the High Plains steppes
In Algeria the steppes are excellent grazing lands but have real problems associated with pastoralism.
Table 6. Livestock numbers in the steppe (000 head).
Development of sheep rearing Sheep are the main stock of the steppe (about 80 percent) and their number has not stopped rising since 1968 (Table 6).
The exponential growth of livestock numbers in the steppe and their concentration because of the decrease in nomadism, is due to several phenomena:
- a rapid demographic growth which has caused an increase in the consumption of animal protein has taken place in the last quarter of the twentieth century. The population in the steppe which was 925,708 in 1954 is now estimated at nearly 4 000 000 inhabitants (Kacimi, 1996). This takes into account both the sedentarized and mobile populations (Table 7).
Table 7. Evolution of the human population of the steppe
- speculation on the mutton market (the retail price has risen from 55 DA/kg in 1977 to 500 DA/kg at present) has contributed to the development of sheep rearing.
- extensive stock-rearing has also benefited from subsidies which the state provided on concentrate feed during the 1970s and which, originally, was only to be used by the livestock cooperatives to compensate for the meagre forage available during lean seasons. Very large amounts of imported barley were distributed at low prices (1.7 DA kg in 1985) to cover the fodder deficit. Concentrate use rose from 750 2 060 millions of fodder units between 1971 and 1985. (Le Houérou, 1985 ; Boutonnet 1989). Figures for the importation of barley and maize are shown in Table 8.
Table 8. Evolution of imports of coarse cereals (in 000 of tons)
The steppe production system. The population of the steppe, composed basically of pastoralists, practiced nomadism (in which the whole family moves with the herds) and transhumance (which only affects the shepherds and the livestock). These are forms of social adaptation to arid regions which permit survival under conditions of cyclic droughts and help to maintain environmental equilibrium. That system allowed rational management of space and time through two basic movements:
These two transhumant movements allow the steppe to be used for 3 or 4 months in spring, which is the season of maximum herbage production; that is to say the growth of annuals on the spring rain with their high nutritive value largely compensate the poor forage quality of the perennial herbage. That intelligent combination gave an optimum utilization of natural resources and, since the steppe grazing was only used for one third of the year, the vegetation had time to regenerate. The management of the grazing lands by the population was based on tacit agreements based on ancestral traditions. That grazing land comprised public land which regrouped the forests, the expanses of alfa and the vast grazing lands, arch lands held as collective property by the tribes and melk lands which are privately owned. (Bouhkobza, 1982 ; Berchiche et al 1993 ; Bedrani, 1996) .
Nowadays the pastoral society has undergone great socio-economic changes. There has been a great reduction in nomadism which subsists sporadically. Long distance movements only concern 5 percent of the steppe population. Former nomads are not totally sedentarised as one might think but have become semi-sedentary. Movements are more limited (10 to 50 km). Pastoralists have modified their system by combining cereal growing with stock rearing. Herd size is small - about 80 percent of owners have fewer than 100 head and 90 percent of the sheep are privately owned. The types of owner are:
Livestock in the Central Sahara.
An analysis of the situation in the parks of Tassili and Ahaggar gives an overall idea of pastoral management in the Central Sahara (stock numbers are shown in Table 9).
Table 9. Stock numbers in the Sahara Central (head)
There are several types of stock-owner in these regions:
Livestock production parameters and the system of integration
Table 10. Evolution of livestock production parameters in Algeria
The dairy industry
Average annual milk production during the past decade has been about a billion litres (see Table 10) of which 60 percent are from cows, 26 percent from ewes and 13 percent from goats. Camel milk is not taken into account. A study of zootechnical performances undertaken in 2000, on eighty holdings, by lObservatoire des Filières Lait et Viande rouge of lInstitut Technique des Elevages (ITELV) gave the following results:
Data for average milk production by agro-ecological zone and by breed for December 2002 are given in Tables 11a and 11b.
Source: Observatoire des filiè lait et viande rouge (OFLIVE), December, 2002
Table 11b. Average milk production by bovine race and by agro-ecological zone.
Source: Observatoire des filiè lait et viande rouge (OFLIVE), December, 2002
The weak production on the level of the plains (9.38 Kg/vt/j) is explained by the extensive agricultural vocation of these zones. Generally, the bovine race Pie Rouge presents better performances than the Pie Noire.
The annual growth of milk production is very low. It barely covers 40 percent of national consumption which is 110 litres per inhabitant annually, the deficit being met by imports. The global allowance for imports of milk and milk products is US $ 490 000 000.
The level of collection of raw milk by public dairy units varies between 5 and 15 percent, between 50 000 000 and 150 000 000 litres. The degree of industrial integration is 4 to 10 percent.
There are many constraints connected with milk production; they are linked to the development of cattle keeping:
The meat industry
Red meat is mainly produced by extensive sheep (56 percent) and cattle (34 percent) raising. Goat meat (8 percent) and camel (2 percent) are marginal, such meat is only eaten in the south of the country. It is difficult to estimate the balance between production and consumption because of non-controlled slaughtering. Published surveys reveal an annual consumption of 4 kg of mutton and 3.5 kg of beef. Population growth and erosion of purchasing power has led to a reduction in meat consumption by 40 percent in the past decade, especially for those social strata on fixed incomes. Nevertheless, the strong demand generated by the social categories with high incomes who have improved their consumption model by increasing their intake of animal protein, has allowed meat prices to remain high (the retail price of red meat has increased by ten times in twenty years).
Land dedicated to fodder production and grazing cover 33 000 000 hectares: extensive grazing (87.7 percent), fallows (10.6 percent), sown fodder (1.6 percent) and natural pasture (0.1 percent) .
Sown fodder (see Table 12)
Sown fodder is basically oat-vetch mixture which accounts for 70 percent of the area grown; 10 percent of the area is sown to cereals (barley, oats and rye). Lucerne and sorghum are rare, 1 to 5 percent of the area. During the 1998 1999 campaign the quantity of fodder seed delivered to growers was about 20 000 quintals, of which oat-vetch accounted for 68 percent. (Abdelguerfi, 1987). Sown fodder provides 577 000 000 UFL (the UFL is a unit expressing the annual energy needs of a ewe for maintenance and supplying milk to her lamb).
These fodders represent ninety percent of the energy supplied by sown fodder and concern essentially oat-vetch mixtures, fodder oats and oat-pea mixtures. Fodder consumed green supplies 43 000 000 UFL (Houmani 1999). There is also fodder barley, berseem (Trifolium alexandrinum) and lucerne.
Table 12. Production of sown fodder
Natural fodder (see Table 13)
Land dedicated to natural forage production comprises those fallows which are mown (80 percent) with over 130 000 hectares and natural meadows (20 percent) with about 35 000 hectares. Natural meadows are basically found in the humid and sub-humid bioclimatic zones. Yields are of the order of 8.4 quintals per hectare for natural meadows and 4.8 quintals for mown fallows. The total fodder is 1 443 000 000 UFL from the meadows and 73 000 000 UFL from the fallows.
Table 13. Productivity of natural forage
Many studies and trials on methods of increasing cereal production and diversifying fodder resources have been undertaken in the past thirty years (Le Houérou 1971, Project FAO-UNDP-SAIDA, Project ACSAD-Tiaret, and the Ministry of Agricultures dossier on the better use of fallows). These activities aimed at reducing the fallow area through the use of alternative crops. Thus the introduction of medics (annual Medicago) in rotation with wheat was intended to improve the structure and fertility of the soil and thereby improve both crop and livestock production. According to Hamadache (2001), fallow replacement crops include :
These activities form a principal part of the aims of the PNDA and benefit from subsidies.
The fodder resources of North Algeria
The pasture resources of the North are not large; they have been evaluated in a study in the mountains of Béni Chougrane (FAO/FIDA, 1993) :
Fodder resources of the grazing lands of the steppes and the presaharan zone
Numerous vegetation studies have elucidated the pastoral potential of the steppes which are dominated by four great vegetation formations(Djebaili, 1978 ; URBT, 1974-1991 ; Nedjraoui, 1981 ; Aidoud, 1989 ; Le Houérou, 1998, 2000, 2001) :
The alfa (Stipa tenacissima) steppes of which the potential area is 4 000 000 ha have a wide ecological range. They are found, in fact, in the semi-arid bioclimates with cool or cold winter and the upper arid zone with cold winters. These steppes colonize all geological substrates between 400 and 1 800 m. The yield of alfa can reach 10 tons/ha of dry matter but the useable green part produces 1 000 to 1 500 kg/ha of dry matter. The nutritive value of alfa is low, 0.3 to 0.5 UF/kg of dry matter although the inflorescences are very palatable (0.7 UF/kg DM). The grazing production of this type of steppe varies between 60 and 150 UF/ha according to the degree of cover and its floristic composition (Aidoud and Nedjraoui, 1992).
The Artemisia (Artemisia herba-alba) steppes cover 3 000 000 ha in the upper and middle arid zone with cool and cold winters with precipitation between 100 and 300 mm. This type of steppe occurs in zones which receive run-off, in depressions and on encrusted glacis with a glazed film on the surface. Primary production varies from 500 to 4 500 kg/ha of dry matter with an annual production of 1 000 kg/ha of dry matter. The annual grazeable yield is 500 kg/ha, that is 150 to 200 UF/ha. Artemisia has a feeding value of 0.65 UF/kg dry matter, these steppes are often thought to be the best grazing lands to use throughout the year, especially in bad seasons, in summer and winter when they provide important reserves. Their degraded facies corresponds to that of Peganum harmala around campments and water points.
The esparto (Lygeum spartum) steppes occupy 2 000 000 ha, rarely homogeneous, on encrusted erosion glacis covered by a film of aeolian deposits over brown, halomorphic soils in the zone of the chotts. These formations are the upper and middle arid zone with cool and cold winters. Lygeum spartum has little interest as grazing, 0.3 0.4 UF/kg dry matter. These steppes are not very productive with a yield of 300 to 500 kg/ha dry matter, but they are, nevertheless good enough pastures. Their interest comes from their floristic diversity and their relatively high productivity of annuals and small perennials, about 110 UF/ha.
The "remt"(Arthrophytum scoparium) steppes form chamaeophytic, bushy steppes with a ground cover below 12.5 percent. The harsh conditions of their environment, extremely arid (20 - 200 mm/year), high temperatures, variants hot to cool, poor soils, brown calcareous with hardpans or encrusted siernozems make these steppes rather uninteresting from the grazing point of view. The energy value of the plant is about 0.2 UF/kg dry matter. The mean annual production is 40 to 80 kg/ha dry matter, between 20 and 50 UF/ha/year. This kind of steppe in mainly used by camels.
The psammophitic steppes are connected with the sandy texture of the surface horizons of aeolian origin. These formations are unevenly distributed and their area is estimated at 200 000 ha. They follow the corridors of sand deposition in the depressions of the chotts. They are commonest in the arid and presaharan zones. These psammophitic formations are mainly grassy steppe with Aristida pungens and Thymellaea microphylla or shrubby steppes with Retama raetam and their grazing value varies between 200 to 500 UF/ha.
The halophyte steppes. These cover about 1 000 000 ha. The nature of salts, their concentration and their spatial variation has brought about a particular zonation of highly palatable halophytic vegetation around saline depressions. The commonest plants in these formations are: Atriplex halimus, Atriplex glauca, Suaeda fruticosa, Frankenia thymifolia, Salsola sieberi and Salsola vermiculata. This kind of steppe is much sought after by the herders and its grazing value is about 300 UF/ha.
Details of the floristic composition of typical pasture types are given in Annex tables 1 4.
CONSTRAINTS TO PASTORAL PRODUCTION
Yields of cultivated fodder vary with the vagaries of the weather. In 1996 the yield was 28 quintals/ha against 9.8 quintals in 1997 for oat-vetch and 31 quintals against 5.5 for the other forages during the same periods, 1997 was a drought year.
Table 14. Reduction of precipitation (mm/yr) on the High steppic Plains
On the High steppic Plains weather perturbations, especially rainfall (see Table 14) are a major cause of the fragility of these environments, already very sensitive, and provoke ecological crises which have repercussions on the primary production of ecosystems and on changes in their floristic composition. The availability of forage on natural grazing is variable (Table 15). Studies have shown a loss of pastoral production equivalent to 236 UF/ha from a reduction of 104 mm/year in the steppes of south Algeria. This is a good illustration of the situation throughout the steppe, whatever the facies. In fact the same evolution has been demonstrated for the Artemisia and esparto steppes.
Table 15. Evolution of the production of alfa (Kg dm/ha) according to grazing pressure and rainfall.
The severity of overgrazing has been evaluated from the potential carrying capacity and the present stocking rate.
Table 16. Stock numbers in sheep units (000) and stocking rates (ha/sheep unit)
In 1968 the classic steppe pasture fed 7,890,000 sheep units (see Table 16), which gives a stocking rate of 1.9 ha per sheep unit and the steppe had on offer 1 600 000 000 UF, enough for one sheep per four hectares. At that time the steppe was already overgrazed and the stocking rate was twice the potential one. Despite the alarm bells rung by the pastoralists of that time, the situation has deteriorated. In fact in 1996 the grazing lands are seriously degraded and their forage production is 533 000 000 UF, that estimate is an average which takes into account annual species and variations in rainfall. The potential stocking rate would be about 8 ha per sheep unit. Now the total livestock correspond to 19 170 000 sheep units and the actual stocking rate is 0.78 ha per sheep unit. The number of livestock is, therefore, ten times greater than that which the pasture should carry; this is only possible because of the high level of concentrate feeding.
Too many sheep on the best grazing and around water points causes trampling and soil compaction which leads to soil denudation, lower soil permeability and moisture reserves and increased run-off. These increase the risk of erosion considerably. Micro-dunes form giving rise to pre-desert landscapes. This overgrazing, which takes no account of ecological conditions, arises from keeping the herd too long on the grazed areas, thus removing a quantity of vegetation largely greater than the annual production. The impact on the vegetation is enormous both qualitatively and quantitatively.
On the qualitative side good grazing species, with a palatability index of above 6, are eaten before they have time to set seed or form regrowth for the coming season. (The palatability index, on a scale 0 10 also takes into account chemical composition, speed of growth, palatability, digestibility and resistance to grazing). The indices of Algerian plants have been determined (URBT 1978) through discussions with herders and field studies. Their root system dies and they disappear totally from the facies leaving the unpalatable species such as Atractylis serratuloides, Peganum harmala, etc. which are characteristic indicators of pasture degradation. The result of this regressive transition is a reduction in floristic richness and biodiversity. On the quantitative side, overgrazing causes a decrease in the cover of perennials and of the phytomass, and thus a degradation of plant formations.
Many studies of the steppes by academics since the nineteen seventies show a serious regression of plant cover, of over 50 percent, and a serious diminution of the production of steppe ecosystems which has fallen from 120 to 150 UF per year in 1978 to 30 UF at present, for degraded grazing and 60 100 for palatable grazing. (Aidoud and Nedjraoui, 1992 ; Zegrar et al, 1997).
Land tenure problems in relation to degradation of natural resources
In 1975, when the pastoral code was promulgated, all the steppes and presaharan grazing lands between the isohyets of 100 and 400 mm became state property and their management the responsibility of the communes (a commune is the local administrative unit headed by an elected mayor and council). The law on ownership of agricultural land of 1983 was applied to grazing land and "anyone who develops pasture land can claim its ownership". The law of 1990 concerning land tenure policy reduced the area of land "with a vocation for grazing" to the steppes between the isohyets of 100 and 300 mm, allowing clearing in the 300 400 mm band. Because of these changes and in order to respond to the food needs caused by demographic growth, land use in the pastoral zones is now in anarchy with an extension of cereal growing, with very low yields (2 5 quintals per hectare) on fragile soils.
Land preparation with offset discs, as practiced by the agropastoralists, is very erosive, causes deterioration of the surface horizon and usually sterilizes it permanently. This destroys perennial vegetation and reduces annuals severely. Grazing is being lost to land cleared, ploughed and very often abandoned thereafter. It is estimated that, to date, 2 000 000 ha of steppe have been ploughed.
After 1945, and the consequences of the second world war, the colonial authorities initiated a series of activities as solutions to the crisis in the pastoral economy and advocated closing areas for resting, sedentarization of the population and control of epizootic disease. Since independence pastoral policy has concentrated on the steppe and sheep husbandry. The same actions continued with an intensification of social production links; the means of production, stock and equipment, became collective property. There have been many attempts to organize the steppe and very few have produced positive results insofar as improving the grazing land is concerned.
Evolution of policies for organizing grazing land
In 1968 livestock cooperatives were installed, under the lAssociation pour le Développement de lElevage Pastoral (ADEP) set up in 1969. These cooperatives received the best grazing land and enjoyed much logistic support from the state. They were dissolved in 1979 without having responded to their objective of improving pastoral production and better grazing management.
In 1972-1973 the Pastoral Code was promulgated in the context of the Agricultural Reform. Its principal objective was to safeguard the grazing lands by limiting stock numbers, closing areas, banning ploughing in pastoral zones and the uprooting and sale of woody plants. Conflicts of interest appeared once the Code was put into operation and these measures have not been applied. The first and second phases of the Agricultural Revolution brought about the setting up of Coopératives Agricoles Polyvalentes Communales de Service (CAPCS) to supply farmers with food and domestic goods. The third phase was reduced to the creation of 200 cooperatives for pastoral stock-rearing and 49(ADEP) and the transfer of land to the Front National de la Révolution Agraire.
During 1974 1979 the item "pastoralism" represented only 0.5 percent of the funds given to the Ministry of Agriculture. Special programmes of grazing land development and improvement of sheep production were begun, mobilizing important resources for agropastoral development in about ten wilayas.
The eighties were characterized by a new orientation of agricultural policy which brought about the dissolution of the pastoral cooperatives, the abandoning of the Pastoral Code in 1982 and the adoption of the steppe dossier in 1985 which brought about the creation of the Haut Commissariat au Développement de la Steppe (HCDS). That body is responsible for putting in place an integrated development policy for the steppe taking into account all economic and social aspects. Since 1992 it has favoured a new "participative" approach to steppe development, based on involving the pastoral population in a relation of partnership with the steppe communes.
In 1990 a law concerning land ownership was adopted; its goal was to return the land expropriated during the Agricultural Revolution. An institution in charge of land control "lOffice National des Terres Agricoles" was set up in 1996.
Projects and achievements in improving grazing resources
There have been numerous projects since independence aimed at improving the management of grazing lands and slowing down their degradation.
The Hodna project in 1968 and the projects Algeria 16, 22 and 30 (1969 1970) with UNDP participation, had as their objective the improvement of pastoral resources (fodder crops and sheep husbandry) with an aim to integrated planning and management of grazing land through agronomic experiments and phytoecological studies. The application of these projects was not worth the investments which were put into them. The technical documents prepared by the experts (reports and maps) are still referred to by present day pastoral specialists.
The principal studies and achievements of the nineteen eighties were generally under the HCDS. The steppe as a whole has benefited from 165 projects in the pastoral programme between 1985 and 1992. They involved improving grazing lands and infrastructure by construction of boreholes, pastoral wells, irrigation canals (séguias), opening tracks, improvement of land tenure, creation of "pastoral units" (60 units of which 47 were in Ouled Touil). These are homogeneous units taking social as well as technical factors into account and follow tribal or sub-tribal divisions.
Since 1992 programmes on the steppe are executed through a participative approach which involves a close collaboration between the agropastoralists and the organizations responsible for executing the programmes, in this case the HCDS. Thus in the framework of the policy of Grands Travaux there are foreseen, among others:
Grazing developments are consolidated by a programme of water supply. The HCDS has opted for the collection of surface water and spring capture.
The achievements of these Grands Travaux have attracted the adhesion of the pastoral populations which have been involved. The closure of degraded areas is desired by the herders; it is the same for plantation on the grazing lands which should rehabilitate degraded ecosystems. The beneficiaries who participate in a project are aware of the interest of these plantations and are ready to protect them and multiply them. All these actions have been developed in partnership with the steppe communes and this has permitted the introduction of a new type of exploitation of grazing land institutionalized in 1997 which concerns the letting of areas improved or closed by the communes. In the context of these Grands Travaux, projects are initiated and developed by the HCDS with academics in pastoral matters, knowledge of the steppe environment through the identification and mapping of potential areas for cereal growing, identification and mapping of potential zones for the use of sheep herds during their winter migrations.
Closure and resting has allowed forage production to rise from 40 UF/ha to over 250 UF/ha, an increase of 525 percent. The introduction of fodder shrubs (15 000 ha of plantations) such as Atriplex nummularia, Atriplex vesicaria, Medicago arborea, and Opuntia ficus indica has allowed the improvement of degraded grazing lands by a production of 500 to 800 UF/ha, it has also allowed the stabilizing of dunes and patches of sand. Atriplex vesicaria produces 4 tons of green matter per hectare under rainfed conditions and when irrigated can yield ten to twenty tons of dry matter per ha.
Le Plan National de Développement Agricole (PNDA)
This National Agricultural Development Plan, adopted in 2000, has as its objective "improvement of the level of food security". It is linked to the encouragement and support of farmers for:
- developing products which are suited to natural zones and land types
- adapting the soil management systems for arid and semi-arid regions
These activities, based on agro-climatic constraints converge "towards objectives of reconstruction of the agricultural territory and conservation of natural resources (water and soil) capable of favouring sustainable development". The putting into operation of programmes is supported by the Fonds National de Régulation et Développement Agricole (FNRDA).
For fodder crops activities supported concern improving production and productivity through supply of agricultural inputs (seeds, agronomic operations) and specialized equipment (mowers, silage-harvesters, silos). To be eligible for such assistance farmers must integrate fodder crops into their production system.
For animal husbandry, activities supported concern the protection and development of genetic resources by giving bonuses for the birth of females, especially camels. It also concerns rehabilitation of water points in collaboration with the HCDS and support for emergency feeding of sheep in drought conditions or for loss of forage due to pasture closure or transformation of production systems. Only farmers having herds of over 100 head can claim such support.
For dairy production the actions supported aim to increase production and productivity. They concern acquisition of specialized equipment (drinking systems, milking parlours), the setting up of collection centres, encouragement of milk production and delivery to processing plants through bonuses. Support for artificial insemination and supply of breeding stock is proposed to protect the genetic patrimony and also for the encouragement of small and medium exploitations specialized in fattening, slaughter, storage and transformation of meat products. Any farmer with some cattle, including 6 dairy cows can participate.
The role of research in improving grazing land
The Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research has , in June 1995, brought out National Research Priority Programmes (PNR) in the context of improving grazing lands (Nedjdraoui, 1999). Tenders by the Ministry have allowed numerous researchers to enrol in these programmes and receive subsidies for carrying out the work. This new policy has made it possible to bring out the scientific and technical potential of workers in this field of research. The Centre de Recherches Scientifique et Technique sur les Région Arides (C.R.S.T.R.A) was put in charge of coordinating and leading these research activities through a thematic, intersectorial network. Several fundamental lines and themes were retained, including:
I. The possibility of improving the productivity of agricultural systems
1. Developing forage systems for different pedo-climatic zones
2. Possibilities of using saline soils
3. Regeneration and improvement of the steppe ecosystem
4. Regeneration of the alfa lands and procedures for their exploitation
5. Development and management of the steppe
6. Influence of agro-systems on the growth and development of the date palm
7. Sustainable systems of agriculture
II. Technical and economic studies on animal husbandry
1. Cattle, sheep and goats
2. Camels and equines
3. Small stock
4. Saharan animal husbandry
III. Management of natural resources
1. Participative approach to resource management
2. Pastoral nurseries in arid zones
3. Pastoral production systems (socio-economic aspects of nomadism)
4. Industrialization of the steppe and Saharan zones.
5. Evaluation, study of cultivation systems and soil management.
IV. Qualitative and quantitative analyses of livestock resources
1. Livestock census, health and breed improvement
2. Ecophysiology and hormonal regulation of reproduction and water and mineral metabolism of mammals in arid and semi-arid zones.
ORGANIZATIONS INVOLVED IN PASTORAL DEVELOPMENT
La Direction Générale des Forêts
(DGF), as the national coordinating organization is responsible
for applying the policy of combating desertification. It is involved
in research programmes on rational grazing management to slow down
land degradation processes and pastoral plantation programmes in the
Le Haut Commissariat au Développement
de la Steppe (HCDS) is in charge of integrated development of
steppe regions. It initiates the policy for management of these regions
at the level of land tenure, for the improvement of grazing land by
planting fodder shrubs and the encouragement of the pastoral population
to integrate into development processes.
LAgence Nationale de lAménagement
du Territoire participates in studies and programmes of development
of pastoral areas, especially in the steppe zone.
Le Centre de Recherches Scientifique
et Technique sur les Régions Arides has as its main mission, research
on arid regions or areas in danger of drought and desertification.
LUnité de Recherches sur les Zones Arides (U.R.Z.A.) concentrates
on studies on oases systems and the physiological behaviour
Le Centre de Recherche en Economie
appliquée (C.R.E.A.D.) is interested in socio-economic problems,
in agropastoral systems in the various steppe zones and rural development.
L'Unité de Recherche sur les Ressources
Biologiques Terrestres (U.R.B.T.) focuses on phyto-ecological
evaluation and evaluation and mapping of the main steppic and presaharan
grazing lands in the context of regional development projects. It
has seven experimental and observation stations sited in the different
ecosystems. Observations began in 1974 and continue today, permitting
a study of pasture evolution according to environmental parameters.
These studies are part of the Réseau dObservations et de Suivi
Ecologique à Long Terme (ROSELT) programme.
L'Institut National de Recherches
Agronomiques (INRA) through its various stations develops research
themes on livestock and crop production to study the mechanisms of
degradation of steppic grazing lands.
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This profile was drafted in January 2001 by Dr D. Nedjraoui, Professor of Ecology of Pastoral Systems at the Université des Sciences et de la Technologie H. Boumediène (USTHB), Algiers and Director of Research at the Unité de Recherche sur les Ressources Biologiques Terrestres (URBT). A periodic updating of data on pastoral systems will be assured.
The English translation was undertaken by J.M. Suttie in April, 2001 who also made a number of amendments. Table 2 was updated by S.G. Reynolds in November 2002 and table 11a and 11b were forwarded by Dr. Nedjraoui and added in October 2003.
Table 1. Typical inventory of a mountain pasture (Atlas Blidéen)
1 Ecological characteristics :
Altitude : 1350m
Bioclimate : subhumid
Erosion : medium
Degraded grassland with Poa bulbosa
Vegetation cover 64%
Table 2. Pasture types of the massifs constantinois (massifs de Ben Badis)
Table 3. Grazing values of steppe species
Table 4. Characterisation of different types of steppe pastures