Camels to Catfish, Algeria Boosts Fish Farming in the Sahara
by Thin Lei Win | @thinink
Sunday, 20 May 2018 04:00 GMT
TOUGGOURT, Algeria, May 20 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - In a
corner of his sprawling farm, Milouda Mohammed proudly unveiled his
latest venture - a pond full of catfish that could herald a new
future for farmers like him on the Sahara desert.
He is hoping to earn extra income from selling fresh, farmed fish
from the world's largest and hottest desert and use the water to
irrigate his olive and date trees and vegetables.
"Five years from now, I'm expecting different kinds of products
from this land," said Mohammed, 49, clad in thick, long-sleeved
overalls, oblivious to the searing afternoon sun.
The 15-hectare farm, some 600 km (370 miles) by car from the
capital Algiers, bustled with chickens, quails, ducks, camels,
goats and sheep - a hive of activity in this stark landscape where,
for miles, there is little else besides sand.
"I'm excited about this. Inshallah, it works," he added, using the
Arabic phrase for "God willing" as he threw some home-made feed of
leftover chicken and vegetables into the pond.
Farming fish in the desert might sound counterintuitive but Algeria
hopes to tap the huge aquifers beneath the Sahara - that covers
about 80 percent of the country - as it seeks new ways to feed its
growing population and diversify its oil based economy.
Algeria's population is forecast by the United Nations to rise 25
percent to nearly 50 million people by 2030, increasing demand for
food and jobs in the North African nation, one of many countries
battling water scarcity and population growth.
For several years the government has been promoting agriculture in
southern Algeria, offering cheap loans and concessions to farmers
willing to take up the Sahara challenge - and with some success,
according to government officials.
Taha Hammouche, director-general for fisheries at Algeria's
agriculture ministry, said about 13,000 farmers have expressed
interest in aquaculture projects, enthused after the Sahara yielded
its first harvest of farmed desert shrimp two years ago.
The government is providing training on raisin...