Giselle Wendt & Mohamed Naouri:

Innovation and Migration of Groundwater Technology in Algeria

G.W. is an undergraduate at the University of California, Santa Cruz studying Environmental Studies and Earth Sciences

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After working the North for many years, the beginnings for the T2GS Algeria project came out of scholar’s organic conversations with farmers moving to the dry South to farm. As in Algeria the only “green” or vegitive areas are in the North, an area occupying about 20% of the land and 80% of the population, the scholar’s interest was peaked. As T2GS scholar and Assistant Professor at Bachir El Ibrahimi University BBA Mohamed Naouri states, “We had to follow the [farmers] and find out what they were doing there…In the north we may find areas where there is precipitation from 600-900mm per year. But when you go to the south it is less than 100mm. There is not a lot of water and the quality of the soil is not good to do agriculture. So for us it was weird.” It was the importance of that shift in groundwater organization and regional placement that informed the current T2GS project focus on the joint learning from human-groundwater interactions in farming communities. 

 

This physical transition of land in the south, the researchers found, was primarily the result of the addition of new drilling technology and greenhouse agriculture in the area, previously a desert, that has now become an agricultural powerhouse rife with a form of greenhouse sharecropping. While these farmers in the South face numerous challenges–including very different access to land, water, and other production factors–these obstacles led to both the transfer and adoption of technology in new ways. In the South some examples of the collaborative and new uses of technology are the communal water columns used by up to 20 to 40 farmers (managed completely independently of government authority), and the large tube wells that feed around 150-200 greenhouses in the surrounding areas. With the addition of grassroots greenhouse agriculture–a very profitable but harrowing enterprise that undervalued new farmers compared to compulsory military service–the T2GS project also seeks to understand how access to groundwater affects how farmers (mostly young men) climb the “social and professional scale.” The rapid increase in groundwater drilling equipment, as well as the large amount of land, has led many young men to undergo a brutal period of greenhouse work to move up the ranks and manage greenhouses, a job that can pay as much as an engineer in an urban area (Agriculture in Motion). 

 

However, it is important to note that questions of groundwater in Algeria are hardly those of scarcity. The Algeria’s aquifer draws water from five layers (all of which different farmers drill into), spans four countries, and holds 60 trillion cubic kilometers of water. As intensive usage of groundwater is a more recent phenomenon, the T2GS project in Algeria attempts to ascertain the consequences of this changing relationship and organization between the miles of groundwater and the grassroot farmers who use it. 

 

As one farmer stated, “The future is in the South.” 

 

Naouri, M., Kuper, M., & Hartani, T. (2018). (PDF) Agriculture in Motion: Intertwined 

Geographical and … Retrieved December 5, 2019, from https://www.researchgate.net/publication/329550299_Agriculture_in_Motion_Intertwine d_Geographical_and_Socio-professional_Mobilities_in_North_Africa_s_Groundwater_Economy. 

Naouri, Mohamed. “T2GS Scholar Interview .” T2GS Scholar Interview, 1 Nov. 2019.