Growing Crops In the Sahara: Algeria Diversifies Economy

Growing Crops In the Sahara: Algeria Diversifies Economy

Warned to diversify its oil-based economy, the government of Algeria has invested heavily in agriculture and now boasts a booming industry that provides more jobs than oil, according to a report in NorthAfricaPost.

The Algerian government has been offering cheap loans and concessions to farmers willing to work their farmlands four hours a day before 9 a.m. due to the excessive heat in the desert. Agriculture is being promoted in Southern Algeria despite the harsh conditions of the Sahara desert, the report said.

Total irrigated land is 1.1 million hectares, and that is expected to grow to 1.6 million by 2014. Efforts have been concentrated at El Oued, an oasis 435 miles southeast of Algiers.

Agriculture “will continue to grow robustly” and results “measured in terms of growth in domestic production are very impressive,” said Economist Maurice Saade at the World Bank.

Government investment in agriculture is expected to reduce Algeria’s food imports by almost $8 billion per year and create youth employment in the turbulent south. “The south has been very instrumental in trying to trigger an unsuccessful Arab Spring in Algeria,” the report said.

Central Bank Gov. Mohamed Laksaci said Algeria’s agricultural production has been growing at an average annual rate of 7.3 percent percent in the decade through 2010, more than twice that of the prior 10 years. Around 14 percent of the active population is employed in agriculture. Just 2 percent works in the oil and gas industry.

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