Forests and the forestry sector
Algeria has a total land area of 238 million hectares, of which 2.15 million (about 0.9 percent) are covered by forests (2000). Plantations account for 718 000 ha of this forest cover. Excluding the Sahara, forests cover about 15 percent in the northern part of the country. A further 15 to 20 million hectares are made up of grasslands, scrub and garrigue. Forest cover increased by 13 percent between 1990 and 2000.
The best conditions for trees are found in the northeast of the country, where the rainfall is highest (up to 1 200 mm), and there are cork oak (Quercus suber), holm oak (Quercus ilex) and cedar forests here. Many of these forests are degraded, as is the case throughout Algeria, and in some areas livestock farming is a serious obstacle to regeneration. Fast-growing pine (Pinus spp.) and eucalyptus (Eucalyptus spp.) forests are also found in the northeast. The country¿s largest timber resource is the Aleppo pine (Pinus halepensis), which accounts for about half the forested area. Most of the stands are scattered in the central mountains.
Apart from State forests, Algeria has established large areas for conservation. There are four nature reserves covering 36 800 ha in all, seven national parks (37 000 ha), four hunting zones (50 000 ha) and two parks in the Sahara (560 000 ha). The fact that Algeria has now set aside almost a quarter of its land area as parks and reserves indicates the importance the country attaches to conserving its natural resources.
With regard to catchment areas, more and more marginal land is being cultivated each year as a result of population pressure. Moreover, herders are grazing their livestock on land that was forested or had good plant cover only ten or so years ago. As a result, 12 million hectares are threatened by erosion, especially in the steppe zone, which is environmentally very fragile. Sedimentation from erosion reduces the storage capacity of dams.
The main contribution of forests has so far probably been environmental. Quantifiable benefits have certainly not matched government spending in the sector. Although the annual extraction of wood products has more than tripled - from about 45 000 m3 in 1978 to 200 000 m3 at the beginning of the 1990s - this extraction covers only a small proportion of the wood used, with the rest being imported. Only 18 percent of the wood that could be sustainably harvested is in fact extracted. The total demand for wood products is estimated at about 1.5 million cubic metres, and domestic production meets only 10 percent of this.
Forests supply a substantial proportion of fodder requirements. They need to be better managed on a sustainable and economic basis in order to increase production - including that of fodder - and employent.
The wood-based manufacturing sector is composed of large-scale public enterprises, which absorb 55 percent of the total supply, and private cottage industries, which, together with the building industry, absorb the other 45 percent. The two largest public wood companies are the Entreprise nationale de manufacture du bois et de l¿ameublement (National Wood and Furnishings Manufacturing Company), which has 20 factories throughout the country, and the Entreprise nationale d¿assemblage et de préfabrication (National Assembly and Prefabrication Company.
Last updated: May 2003