Here’s how Kadiha, a refugee, manages to feed her goats in the heart of the desert

10/07/2018

Kadiha Abdelfatah Mohamed lives in a Sahrawi refugee camp in Southern Algeria. In the middle of the desert, she struggled to feed her goats. But since Oxfam introduced an innovative cultivation technique, she can now grow fresh fodder herself. She shares her experience with us.

“My name is Kadiha Abdelfatah Mohamed. I'm 28 years old and I live in the wilaya (camp) of Smara, a camp for Sahrawi refugees in the Algerian region of Tindouf. I live with my parents, my two brothers and my sister. Most people here were born and raised in the camps. After completing primary and secondary school in the camps, I went on to study journalism in Oran in Algeria. Today I work for a local radio stations in [the camp of] Smara."

Since 1975, several thousands of refugees from Western Sahara have been stuck in the Algerian desert. It’s one of the longest refugee crises in the world. When you live in the middle of the Sahara desert, growing your own food or managing to feed your livestock is nearly impossible. That’s why Oxfam launched an innovative project making it possible to grow fodder in this hostile environment, using hydroponics. Kadiha guides us through the process:

“Previously, we used to suffer from the lack of fodder. We used to search everywhere for food for our livestock and for ways to improve the situation. There is very little food available to feed livestock here.” In this desert where nothing grows, the only food available for goats is leftovers and rubbish. “I attended an awareness-raising session organized by Oxfam on growing animal fodder with hydroponics. I was intrigued by this method. A friend signed me up to participate in the project. Following an interview, I was selected.”

“The first stage of hydroponics is to clean the barley seeds from impurities and remove the broken ones. The seeds are then placed in a plastic container and immersed in water for 24 hours to set off the germination process. For the following 48 hours, the barley seeds need to be kept damp by light moistening until the shoots break out and the roots appear."

This step happens inside a dome made in adobe. Oxfam built that structure thanks to a funding from the WFP. This dome creates optimal conditions for sprouting and prevents temperatures from rising too high. In this part of the Sahara desert, it can often get as warm as 55 degree Celsius in the summer.

"After this germination process, the barley should be carefully placed into tubs - at a quantity of one kilo per container. To prevent the fodder from drying out, the tubs have to be irrigated three to four times per day. In just one week, the barley will be transformed into a carpet of grass which can be removed from the containers and fed to the goats."

"My family has also become involved in this project and we’ve learnt a lot. In fact, working on this project has become one of our priorities: it enables us to feed our goats with healthy, low-cost food, meaning that they produce milk every day with excellent yields. I am extremely grateful to Oxfam and to all the people involved in these projects for the humanitarian aid they provide to the Sahrawi people."

This project has received funding from the World Food Program and was implemented in cooperation with local partners:  the Sahrawi authorities in charge of economic development and the Union of Sahrawi Women. Oxfam has been working in the Sahrawi refugee camps since 1976.