Globally Important Agricultural Heritage Systems (GIAHS)

Ghout Oasis system El Oued, Algeria

GIAHS since 2011
©FAO/Noureddine Nasr


Detailed Information



Site location:  Le Souf, Erg Oriental, Wilaya d’El Oued, Algeria

Area of GIAHS: 52 911 ha

Population working for this system: 44 968 pers.

Topological Characteristics: non fertile lands with aquifers

Climatic Classification: arid desert conditions

Ethnic Groups/Indigenous People: Troude and Adouan communities

Primary Income Sources: agriculture, date palms

Global importance

During the 15th century, ghout oasis system has been developed resulting from the adaptation of the farmers to the arid climate. The ghout is a traditional hydro-agricultural system from the Souf region. It is unique in the sense of using a scarce resource in the desert, water, to grow a high number of food plants. Sustainable and adapted to the environment, the ghout system underlines the farmers’ ingenuity and the possible adaptation of agricultural systems to hostile lands.

However, the system is threatened because of groundwater pumping is causing drying or bad drainage of the ghouts.

Food and livelihood security

Ghout systems are mainly about date palms cultivation. However, as a multilayered system, vegetables and fruit trees are also cultivated under the date palms. All this production allows the local communities to satify their self-consumption needs. In addition to the agriculture, thanks to the cereals cultivation from the ghout, the local communities raise domestic animals for the meat. Local and traditional carpentry is made thanks to the plants from the ghout.

Nowadays, ghouts’ communities have also developed agro tourism activities which are an income complement to their agricultural activities.

Moreover, the traditional ghout water management methods have allowed preserving the water quality and its resources from the XVth century.


Ghout oasis systems gather a high biodiversity. Especially the date palm, its varietal biodiversity is high and heterogeneous giving birth to very different dates appreciated by local people with about 800 different cultivars.  These varieties are the results of the farmers’ long selection.

Moreover, condiment plants and fruit trees, particularly olive trees are also cultivated with the date palm enriching the local biodiversity. Furthermore, oasis systems are refuges and relay habitats for a number of local wild or domestic animals such as the gazelle.

In addition, ghout agricultural systems do not use chemical products and doing so, promote the biodiversity.

Local and traditional knowledge systems

Ghout system consists in digging a crater in the soil in order to plant the date palm to the ground water top. The digging is ingenuity because it is done depending on the direction and the speed of the wind on the dunes. To maintain the ghout in these conditions, farmers protect it thanks to palm leaves windbreak and take out the sand regularly.

Being planted next to the ground water resource, the roots of the palm will get an easy access to the water source. Generally, the ghout surface does not exceed 0, 5 hectare and represents a sustainable technique but also and adapted way of farming in the desert.

Cultures, value systems and social organizations

Date palm is one of the Maghreb symbol and particularly for the desert communities otherwise they may have not been able to survive. Ancestral conservation and transformation methods of dates have been developed by local communities representing a proper cultural heritage.

Thus, traditional carpentry and cultural universe are result from the ghout system and the life in the desert. The handicraft is very common and recognized within the community.

Lanscapes and seascapes features

Ghout systems have been used since the 15th century by local communities. They constructed about 9500 ghout in the Souf Region. Souf desert region have been sprinkled by green and vegetative ghouts shaping its landscapes for centuries.

Thanks to parsimonious use of water resource, avoiding pumping the ghout system is the result of a precious knowledge.