Kiffa is a large town in the far south of Mauritania. It is some 600 kilometres from the coast and at the western end of the Aoukar sand sea. Two thirds of the population are settled Berber pastoralists. It was home to one of the most notable beadmaking centres in West Africa.
About Kiffa in brief
Kiffa is a large town in the far south of Mauritania, and the name of an administrative area within the local Assaba Region. It is some 600 kilometres from the coast and at the western end of the Aoukar sand sea of southern Mauritania. About two thirds of the population are settled Berber pastoralists, who as late as the 1950s operated as sheep, goat and camel herding nomads. The town’s Berber nomadic heritage meant that Kiffa has continued to support an extensive livestock trade based on bush forage grazing, mixed with limited millet-based agrarian activity. It was home to one of the most notable beadmaking centres in West Africa, made exclusively by women from secret recipes involving powdered glass.
There is evidence that the last of the local women still still make the traditional bead makers have died in the 1970s, so it is a lost art. The area’s rangeland forage ecosystems remain vulnerable and can be subject to damaging overgrazing. The climate is Sahelian, with April to June as the hottest months and eighty-five percent of the low annual rainfall occurring from July to September. Near Kiffsa is KiffA Airport which has a tarmac runway of over 1,600 yards in length. There was a U.S. Peace Corps house in Kiff a which hosted young American volunteers until 2011, when terrorism fears caused the Peace Corps to officially close its programme in the country.