Made in 2004, the purpose of this short film is to promote tourism in the Yakouren forest in Kabylia near the district of Tizi Ouzou. The film proudly talks about the "wild and virgin nature", with plenty of places to rest and enjoy the local crafts
"For nature lovers who want to get away, Kabylia is a destination of choice, a place of relaxation and serenity." Situated in greater Kabylia, 50 kilometres from the district of Tizi Ouzo, "the paradise forest of Yakouren" is presented as "a little paradise" for walkers and children. The news item particuarly goes on about "the wild and virgin nature", "the pure air", the monkeys, the refreshing fountains and the beauty of the landscape. It also praises "the finesse and originality" of the craftsmen's products and wooden scupltures which line the road.
Once qualified by the French settlers as "African's little Switzerland", the Yakouren region was a highly-prized tourist destination even in the 1920's. With magnificent views across a mountainous landscape, with a great wealth of animal and plant life, several places in Kabylia have benefitted from a policy of protection and tourist development. Of the 13 national parks in Algeria, the colonial authorities marked out the parks of Akfadou (1925) Djurdjura (1925) Djebel Gouraya (1924) and Babor (1931). Admiring the forests, the mountains, the gorges and the steep coastline, the people who created the Algerian parks regurgitated the Romantic clichés of nature: it was "wild" yet "sublime", scarcely touched by man. Nevertheless, more than simply protecting the "picturesque beauties", they also wanted to develop tourism and encourage summer camps. The roads, the trails and the view points were well managed, the hotel infrastructure and the first camping sites were built to attract visitors.
80 years later this former tourist tradition is easy to see in the film. But curiously the commentary eulogises the beauties of nature without mentioning the extraordinarily rich ecosystems of wild-life and plants. In the Yakouren forest there are woods full of Algerian oaks and cork oaks, without counting the numerous plant and moss species, a diversified wild-life with mammals (jackals, monkeys, Barbary apes, porcupines and hedgehogs, foxes and boars), all sorts of birds and birds of prey. Spread over about ten thousand hectares, the wooded slopes of Akfadou (5,000 feet), close neighbour of the Yakouren forest is considered the best example of this biodiversity.
In order to promote tourism, the film talks about a "wild and virgin nature" without mentioning man. It thus fails to highlight the region's cultural heritage, even though there are many remains from Antiquity. It also erases history and does not mention the resistance here during the Algerian war or what happened during the more recent civil war. Lastly it completely ignores the local population, their living conditions and the region's socio-economic situation, particuarly the long history of agricultural, pastoral and forestry development founded on grazing and timber harvesting
Intended to attract tourists, the news film does not mention either any of today's urgent problems: threats to the forest ecosystems of the region of Yakouren. The fires, the illegal clearing, the uncontrolled exploitation of timber, the traffic in cork, the unauthorised tree-felling, extraction of stones and illegal building, without forgetting the occasional over-grazing and the numerous waste dumps which hamper the renewal of wild-life and flora. Certainly the tree felling is supposed to be controlled and many mammals are protected by law. Nevertheless the law is continually circumvented and scarcely ever applied. Many articles in the press, blogs on the internet and the Afarez Association deplore a situation which they consider catastrophic. Many people want the forest of Afkadou to be classified, like its close neighbour the Yakouren forest. It used to be classified, but its status was not renewed after the country became independent. For the conservationists classifying Afkadou would complete the chain of other national parks in Kabylia. It would enable not only the protection of the extraordinarily rich wild-life and flora, but also the development of tourist activities and this in turn would improve the conditions of the local population hard hit by an endemic unemployment. In 2009 a classification procedure was initiated.
- Chalvet M., « Les Parcs Nationaux en Algérie dans les années 1920-1930 : Une patrimonialisation des « Suds » ?, Colloque international organisé à Marrakech, du 3 au 5 mars 2011, dans le cadre du programme IMASUD, « Sud imaginaires, imaginaires des Sud : héritages, mémoires et patrimoines », publié sous la direction de M. Crivello, par les Presses Universitaires de Provence et la Maison Méditerranéenne des Sciences de l’Homme.
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- La revue Forêt méditerranéenne, publiée par l’Association de la forêt et des espaces naturels forestiers méditerranéens, Marseille.