With an area of 42,100 hectares and 40 million m3 of water reserves in its lakes and ponds, the Wetlands Complex of Guerbès -Sanhadja in Algeria was classified in 2001 as a site of international importance under the RAMSAR Convention.
Wetlands act as natural sponges by absorbing and storing rainwater and releasing it in the dry season.
Each year for the past 10 years, Hamid, a farmer in Benazzouz, in the heart of the wetland, would mark out a plot of land to cultivate watermelon, clear the land and pump water to irrigate his crops.
Once the harvest season had passed, he would
choose another plot of land, given that the plot he had been using during the current year had become uncultivable.
Such practices led to soil degradation, often on an irreversible scale.
To preserve the landand provide an economic alternative for local communities, UNDP, in collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture, Rural Development and Fisheries and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), launched an integrated management project for the Guerbès wetlands.
In addition to formulating a sound and sustainable management plan for wetland resources, the project includes the development of an education and training centre and the establishment of a system for the monitoring and evaluation of biodiversity.
One of the activities of the project promotes beekeeping. Indeed, the region is rich not only in cork oak, whose bark makes it possible to build artisan hives, but also in local flowers and plants that produce high-quality honey.
About 10 unemployed young people, including Hamid, received modern hives and the appropriate equipment, in addition to training sessions ranging from introduction to beekeeping, maintenance of hives, knowledge of the plants of the region, swarming behavior, and harvesting.
“Agriculture has been our way of life for generations,” says Hamid. “But once I discovered beekeeping, it became a real pleasure: It allows me to feed my family and to explore a whole new world — the world of bees and fine honey. My goal is to create a cooperative and get a label to promote the honey of the region.”
The Guerbès-Sanhadja area can hold up to 3,000 hives. While a traditional hive produces only two to three litres per year, a modern hive produces up to 30 litres per year.
“A litre of honey can fetch 3,000 to 4,000
dinars,” explains Mr. Dridah, trainer. “Beekeeping is a vitally important asset here.”
The Environmental Education and Awareness Centre allows students from schools in the region to familiarize themselves with their natural environment and to gain a clearer understanding of the complexity of their ecosystem.