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In the News: For Algeria’s struggling herders, “drought stops everything”

October 24, 2017
Abdel Hak Ghodbane herds sheep on his family’s farm outside Chemora, Algeria, May 22, 2016. Thomson Reuters Foundation/Yasmin Bendaas

Less rain and higher temperatures means herders in Algeria are increasingly struggling to make ends meet


Adel Hanna, director of IE’s Center for Environmental Modeling for Policy Development and research professor is quoted in this article from the Thomas Reuters Foundation.

Squinting under a relentless sun, Houssin Ghodbane watches his son tend a flock of 120 of their sheep. Heads bowed, the sheep slowly search for sparse vegetation poking through the parched, crunchy soil.

Fifty-year-old Ghodbane, his tanned face etched with deep lines, has been herding sheep for 20 years, having inherited the job and land from his father. But in this dry region, worsening cycles of drought are posing new challenges to an old profession.

According to a report Algeria developed as part of its contribution to the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change action, average annual rainfall in the country has fallen by more than 30 percent in recent decades.

The country is also facing higher temperatures. Summer heat has soared in Batna province, in northeast Algeria, climbing from a maximum temperature of about 100 degrees Fahrenheit in 1990 to more than 107 degrees Fahrenheit (41 degrees Celsius) in 2017.

For Ghodbane, that means his land now lacks enough fodder for his flock in drier seasons so he must purchase extra feed, at added expense.

In addition to selling his sheep for meat, he used to earn profits by selling animals to other herders expanding their flocks.

Those sales have stopped, as worsening heat and drought make herding less viable – and Ghodbane has had to limit the size of his own flock due to the increasing costs of caring for them.

“Drought stops everything,” he said.

The solution to his falling income is simple. “Rain. That’s it,” he said.

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