Algerian Farmers in ‘State of Shock’ After Week of Deadly Fires

While the damage to olive groves has yet to be fully assessed, some experts believe the fires will impact the 2021 harvest and prices.
Smoke from Algerian fires (center of photo) captured by Nasa's Earth Observatory
By Paolo DeAndreis
Aug. 24, 2021 09:42 UTC

Smoldering ash has replaced thou­sands of hectares of for­est, veg­e­ta­tion and crop­lands in north­ern Algeria.

A full week of rag­ing wild­fires has ended, leav­ing dozens of casu­al­ties and hun­dreds of burned houses. Many olive groves have lit­er­ally dis­ap­peared in the north­ern region of Kabylia, the heart of Algerian olive farm­ing, and the area most hit by the fires.

Olive grow­ers are at the moment in a state of shock. They have seen their olive trees burn as well as their farms… some have even lost rel­a­tives in those vil­lages that suf­fered from the fires.- Nagueb Ladjouz, exporter, Huile d’o­live de Kabylie

According to LeMonde, the local author­i­ties have now declared the end of the emer­gency oper­a­tions. They esti­mate that the wild­fires have affected 26 of 58 Algerian pre­fec­tures and killed at least 90 peo­ple.

See Also:Thousands of Hectares of Olive Trees Burned to Ashes Across Southern Turkey

Farmers are still count­ing the dam­age to the olive trees,” Nagueb Ladjouzi, an Algerian olive oil exporter for the Huile d’o­live de Kabylie, told Olive Oil Times. At the moment, we have esti­mates of at least 9,000 of the exist­ing 38,000 hectares in the Tizi Ouzou province and may con­firm the dam­age to 800 hectares in the Béjaïa area, both in the Kabylia region.”

According to Ladjouzi, it will take some time to fully assess the extent of the dam­age to local olive farm­ers and how the fires will impact the 2021 har­vest.

Olive grow­ers are at the moment in a state of shock,” he said. They have seen their olive trees burn as well as their farms with live­stock and some have even lost rel­a­tives in those vil­lages that suf­fered from the fires.”

According to World Grain, a trade pub­li­ca­tion, Algeria’s agri­cul­tural sec­tor has been hit by severe drought, which has already hurt cereal pro­duc­ers.

In its sum­mer update at the begin­ning of August, the Foreign Agriculture Service of the United States Department of Agriculture high­lighteddry pock­ets” in the veg­e­ta­tion in sev­eral Algerian regions and reported the fore­cast of a drop­ping yield due to a rain­fall deficit.

Consequences will be severe on the next olive har­vest which was already weak­ened by the drought,” Ladjouzi said. We must expect an olive oil price hike in Algeria because of the drop­ping yields.”

According to the local experts, among the rea­sons for the fire has been the lack of good farm­ing prac­tices.

Before 1980, olive grow­ers knew how to con­tain the fires by keep­ing the groves clear of sub-fore­stal veg­e­ta­tion or even using pear trees bar­ri­ers as fire­walls,” Ladjouzi said. These prac­tices and uses have been lost since.”

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) esti­mates that Algeria’s forests cover about 0.9 per­cent of its ter­ri­tory, about 2.15 mil­lion hectares. Meanwhile, crops cover about 718,000 hectares and account for 15 per­cent of land use in the north­ern provinces.

See Also:Heatwave, Deadly Fires Threaten the Approaching Olive Harvest in Greece

According to LeMonde, the region has an annual fire sea­son, but the phe­nom­e­non is inten­si­fy­ing.

While the total amount of dam­age from the wild­fires is still unknown, local author­i­ties believe that it will be higher than the 44,000 hectares of veg­e­ta­tion burned in 2020.

While the dam­age has yet to be assessed as well as com­pen­sa­tions for farm­ers, doubts grow about the ori­gin of the fires.

AfricaNews reported that the Algeria secu­rity coun­cil, headed by President Abdelmadjid Tebboune, has accused arson­ists of start­ing some of the fires and linked their activ­i­ties to Moroccan inter­ests.


In a state­ment, the gov­ern­ment said that the inces­sant hos­tile acts car­ried out by Morocco against Algeria have neces­si­tated the review of rela­tions between the two coun­tries.”

In its state­ment, Algerian author­i­ties said that the arson­ists have received sup­port both from Morocco and Israel, accord­ing to The Times of Israel.

However, local experts said the numer­ous fires in the Mediterranean basin should push the gov­ern­ment to imple­ment new pre­ven­tion mea­sures and invest in fire­fight­ing infra­struc­ture and tech­nol­ogy.

According to the United Nations, tem­per­a­tures in Algeria hit 47 ºC on the worst days of the fires, exac­er­bat­ing them.

The extent of the mas­sive for­est blazes in the North African coun­try was clearly vis­i­ble from space and pub­lished by Nasa”, the UN said. One image, cap­tured by the Aqua satel­lite, showed a vast plume of smoke over north­ern Algeria, where more than 62,000 hectares have burned so far this year.”

Nasa’s Earth Observatory had sin­gled out the Kabylia region as the most hit, with the bright white por­tions of the smoke plume sug­gested the pres­ence of pyrocu­mu­lonim­bus fire clouds.”


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