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GMO, pesticides, Asian predatory wasps are the reasons internationally evoked today to explain the progressive extinction of the bee population. Nevertheless, doesn't the evocation of these great scourges hide another social or cultural reason, that of the loss of the traditional diversity of know-how regarding beekeeping?
Indeed, by losing the diversity of these traditional hives, slowly replaced by industrial standards, man has lost the richness of beekeeping know-how and the knowledge on bees.
The Saharan cousin of Mediterranean olive trees remains largely unknown. However, this subspecies (called the Laperinne's olive tree) is of great interest for several reasons. IRD researchers and their partners showed that its longevity is ensured by its original vegetative reproduction. Extremely drought-resistant, this "relict" tree could act as a genetic resource to improve its domestic counterparts, provided conservation actions are implemented to prevent its disappearance.
Since the early 2000s the Sahara has come back strongly into the international political and media arena. The whole region is going through a period of turbulence stemming from its growing economic and strategic importance and a highly confused geopolitical environment. This situation stems from the “Arab spring” events, the fall of Colonel Gaddafi and the installation of Al Qaeda Organization in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) in Mali.
A special issue of the journal Hérodote has published review articles on these upheavals by IRD geographers and economists and their and their research partners. Beyond the geopolitical and security aspects, they describe the economic changes, the development of the trans-Saharan migrations and the race for raw materials pursued by the world’s great powers. All these powers seek the underground wealth the region conceals (such as oil, uranium, iron). Simultaneously coveted and feared, the Sahara never ceases to arouse concern in the international community.
Years of drought had dried up the ancient water supply networks existing around the Mediterranean Rim. However, with rainfall returning over the past 5 years, the hydraulic heritage has come to life again. The names of the tunnels that carry the revived streams -khettaras in Morocco, foggaras in Algeria or qanâts in Iran- evoke the trickling sounds of water. These underground infiltration galleries are the most characteristic and original illustration of local communities’ recovery of ancestral schemes. As IRD researchers and their partners( 1) show, these water mines in the middle of the desert, most of which had been abandoned, have now been restored by oasis inhabitants. These communities are now reinvesting in the maintenance of khettaras and in agriculture, especially young people returning to rural environments after experiencing unemployment in towns and cities. This is a risk owing to the uncertainties of climate, but fully assumed to revive collective action and to reappropriate the rules governing water-supply access, indeed in anticipation of possible new shortages in the years to come.
Thanks to argan oil, consumers believe they are contributing to economic development for Berber women and to nature conservation in south-west Morocco. Everyone has in mind the conventional imagery of the wild argan tree, threatened by human activities, which like a “gift from nature” gives an oil with a host of miracle properties. Few people know that the arganerie alone covers over 800 000 hectares of land and is a forest that people live in.
IRD researchers and their partners from the research programme POPULAR( 1) are showing that in reality the arganeraie is the fruit of several centuries of domestication. For many generations, the region’s local people have been shaping argan, or “goat tree”, coppicing, trimming, enhancing it: practices going against the naturalist image, which are never evoked by the commercial argan trade.
The programme POPULAR has made it possible to take local savoir-faire into consideration particularly in relation to forest management. But in the face of economic stakes, will the media imagery around argan get the better of these ancestral practices, leading practically in the long term to a naturalization( 2) of the arganeraie?