with global warming, Algeria rediscovers the virtues of the camel – Jeune Afrique

In recent years, direct points of sale have sprung up along the roads to the high steppe plains of Ghardaïa, Laghouat, Bou Saada, Biskra, Ouargla, Tiaret, Djelfa, Mecheria or El Bayadh. Breeders install their camels in sidewalk paths to provide motorists with fresh milk, happy that the milking has been done before their eyes.

Kaddour Benhlima, 47, with his head covered in a khaki scarf and a face weathered by the sun, has been a dromedary shepherd and breeder since he was old enough to frolic alone behind these impressive beasts in the vast steppes of Tadjemout, small agro-pastoral. city ​​located between Laghaouat and Aflou. At the beginning of each spring, Kaddour goes north with his flock of about forty heads and settles near Chott El Hodna.

Large stuffed animals

This large salt lake, the second in the country after Chott Melrhirs, offers large pastures. This year it has not rained much, but his animals can still eat on the grass. In a few days, the males gain weight, and the females can breastfeed their camels with thick, beige wool, which makes them look like large stuffed animals.

Kaddour is setting up a small fence along the national road, between Msila and Bou Saada, to sell its milk to the large number of motorists traveling on this important axis. The herd roams from one place to another, the forelegs of most of the animals being restrained by a leash to restrict their movements. Every day, according to a well-established rotation system, females are brought into the enclosure to serve customers as needed.

Everything is good in the dromedary: its flesh, its milk, its skin, its wool and even its urine, which heals

Camel milk is rich in amino fatty acids, potassium, magnesium and vitamin B, and contains ten times more iron, three times more vitamin C, much more protein and less fat than cow’s milk.

It is also known to strengthen the immune system and is said to have anti-infectious, anti-cancer and anti-diabetic properties: a real panacea that has always allowed nomads to survive for several months in the desert.

No subsidy

“Everything is good in the dromedary: its flesh, its milk, its skin, its wool and even … its urine, a remedy that treats and heals according to a hadith from our prophet,” boasts Abdelkader Aouissat.

This senior technician in the oil sector has given up everything to devote himself to camel breeding since he discovered this niche after a stay in the Gulf countries in 2010. Today, he heads a farm 150-head pilot in the Laghouat region and produces between 250 and 500 liters milk depending on the season and the females’ lactation periods.

Our man is inexhaustible when it comes to camels. He knows all about this quiet herbivore, whose average lifespan is 25 years: “Camel meat is the best in the world because it is lean while rich in collagen. Even its urine, which has a pH of 07.03, is rich in amino acids and is used for its many virtues. »

Due to global warming, the dromedary is moving further and further north

However, not everything is rosy in the world of camels, and the problems that breeders encounter are very numerous. “Unlike goat and cow milk, camel milk is not subsidized. It’s unfair. If the dromedary used to be the ship of the desert, today it is simply the cow of the south. The public authorities must help us. The potential is huge and we are not even able to satisfy 10% of the local market in meat or milk, ”sums up Abdelkader Aouissat, who is also chairman of the National Interprofessional Council for Camel Breeding.

Camel breeders do not benefit from health monitoring or feed supplements. In addition, they are struggling to find medicine to treat their animals, cooling tanks for storing milk and solar energy for the farms located in the large isolated areas.

Nine camel breeds in seven regions

For Abdelkader Aouissat, Algeria’s love affair with camels has its roots in the country’s distant past. The appearance of the first camels actually dates back to around 200 or 300 BC, as evidenced by the petroglyphs from Tassili and Ahaggar.

Today, Algeria has nine properly bred camel breeds, divided into seven major breeding regions in the Sahara, the Sahara Atlas and the steppe. The number would be around half a million heads according to a census conducted between 2018 and 2020.

Camel milk also makes excellent cheeses

“We are working with the universities of Tlemcen, Laghouat and Constantine on the sequencing and preservation of the genetic heritage of Algerian breeds such as Sahraoui, Chaambi, Ouled Sidi Cheikh, Aït Khebbach, Targui, Ajjer, Reguibien and the steppe camel,” says Aouissat.

Camel milk also makes excellent cheeses. Mohamed Seqai, breeder, cheesemaker and owner of a restaurant in the small agricultural town of El Maadher, about ten kilometers from the town of Bou Saada, explains: “Camel breeders supply milk to us, but it is frozen given the temperatures that prevail here all year round. “

“We have cheeses and cheese preparations made from goat, sheep and cow’s milk, but rarely from camel’s milk. At what price do you want me to sell a cheese made from milk that costs 500 dinars [3,26 euros] liters? asks Mohamed, who started as a milk collector for the big national dairies like Hodna and Soummam, before starting on his own by going into goat, cattle and sheep farms.

In any case, with its enormous potential, all indications are that the camel farming sector has a bright future ahead of it in a country where the milk crisis is recurring. Due to global warming, the dromedary is moving further and further north, and it has everything to take the cow’s place.

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