Geography and population
Algeria, with a total area of about 2.4 million km≤, is
located in the north-western part of the African continent overlooking the
Mediterranean Sea in the north. It is bordered by Tunisia and Libya to the
east, Niger, Mali and Mauritania to the south and Morocco to the west.
The country can be divided into three physiographic units:
The Atlas Mountains. They consist of two principal mountain
chains: the El-Atlas El-Talli Mountains, extending along a narrow coastal
strip, and the Desert Atlas Mountains with peaks over 2 300 metres above sea
level. The two chains are separated by hills that contain a group of depressions
known as El-Shatout.
The South and South-east Hills. They are a group of isolated
hills in the north of the Great Desert called El-AhjarHills with a peak of
over 3 000 metres above sea level. The Hilly Coastal Depressions. They include
the region separating the Atlas Mountains and the ElAhjar Hills. The elevation
is 350 metres in the south-west and about 100 metres in the northeast. The
minimum elevation is 21 metres below sea level. Sand dunes are scattered all
over this region.
The cultivable area is estimated at about 10.74 million
ha, which is 3 % of the total area of the country. In 1993, the total area
available for agriculture was estimated at about 8.10 million ha, of which
4.73 million ha, or almost 60%, were temporarily fallow. Of the remaining
cultivated area of 3.37 million ha, 2.84 million ha consisted of annual crops
and 0.53 million ha consisted of permanent crops. Agricultural development
is concentrated in the northern part of the country, where the best soils
are located and where the climatic conditions are more favourable.
The total population is about 15.6 million (1995), of which
44% is rural. The annual demographic growth rate is estimated at 3.2%. Agriculture
employs 25% of the labour force and accounts for 9 to 13 % of GDP, depending
on the year.
Climate and water resources
The climate varies from the desert type in the south to
Mediterranean in the north. Average annual rainfall is about 68 mm, but varies
from 0 mm in the southern desert up to 1 500 mm in the north-eastern coastal
area around Skikda. However, even in this region the dry season lasts five
months. Precipitation, which mainly occurs in winter and the beginning of
spring, is very irregular with considerable variations from year to year.
Internal renewable water resources are estimated at 13.9
km≥/year. Incoming surface water has been estimated at 0.4 km≥/year. of which
0.2 km≥ from Morocco and 0.2 km≥ from Tunisia. The water resources, that are
potentially available for use in the northern part of the country and the
high plateaux have been estimated at 8.1 km≥/year, of which 6.5 km≥ is surface
water to be regulated by dams and 1.6 km≥ is groundwater. The safe yield of
fossil water in the Sahara varies between 2 and 5 km≥/year according to different
hypotheses. However, the extraction of this fossil water is expensive.
In 1992, 79 dams had been constructed or were under construction
with a total dam capacity of 4.3 km≥. The total capacity of dams for irrigation
under the schemes of the Regional Offices (see below) was estimated at about
1 2 km .
In 1990, total water withdrawal was estimated at 4.5 km≥,
of which 60% for agricultural purposes, 24.9% for domestic use and 15.1% for
The map below shows the ecological zones, as shown on the
FAO global map of ecological zones produced as part of the FRA 2000. Please refer
to FRA Working Paper 20 for
further information on the Global Ecological Zone map.