Oct 11, 2017

For Algeria's struggling herders, "drought stops everything"

Algeria
by
Yasmin Bendaas
,
Thomson Reuters Foundation
Shareef BouAziz, 38, directs his herd at midday to drink water. Photo: Yasmin Bendaas, Ahead of the Herd
Shareef BouAziz, 38, directs his herd at midday to drink water. Photo: Yasmin Bendaas, Ahead of the Herd

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.

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LESS WATER, MORE HEAT

Algeria is not a big emitter of climate-changing gases such as carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide. But warming driven by emissions from around the world is having big impacts here, including more extreme weather conditions.

“You don’t have to be a source of emissions to be affected,” noted Adel Hanna, a climate modeling expert at the Institute for the Environment at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. “That’s why we call it a global effect.”