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Tunisia’s Cork Industry Damaged by Wild Fires

For cork collector Khaled Warhani, the wildfires that devastated part of northern Tunisia’s lush woodland this summer were a warning of how the changing climate will hurt his livelihood. Though the fires were far worse in neighbouring Algeria, the blaze that raged through the forested hills around Ain Draham burned 1,000 hectares (2,470 acres) of woodland, including many of the cork oak trees that local people harvest each autumn. Ain Draham, in the northwestern Jendouba province, is an area of cool hills that grow close with cork oak, pine and beech, a favourite summer destination for sweltering Tunisians and the centre of the country’s cork industry. Even before this year’s blaze, the amount of cork harvested in the area had fallen by about a third in 10 years as the changing climate brought drought, the Forestry Agency head in the region, Mahmoud Geusmi, said. On the winding hill road up towards Ain Draham, stretches of previously unbroken green have been replaced by a skeleton forest of blackened trunks, bare of leaves, that carve sinister shapes against the skyline.