Centuries-old oases in Morocco are threatened by climate change

BY MOSA’AB ELSHAMY

December 24, 2022 GMT

ALNIF, Morocco (AP) – Residents of the Alnif oasis say they have no memory of such a bad drought: the land is dry. Some wells are empty. Palm groves over 100 years old are barren.

This region about 170 miles southeast of Marrakech, home to centuries-old oases that have been a hallmark of Morocco, is suffering from the effects of climate change, which has left the kingdom’s agriculture in dire straits.

Among those affected is Hammou Ben Ady, a nomad in the Tinghir region who leads his herd of sheep and goats in search of pasture. The drought forced him to rely on government fodder.

November is usually a cold, wet month in Alnif, but when the rain failed to materialize, the king called for rain prayers across the country, an ancient Islamic tradition during desperate dry seasons.

Children led the procession, holding wooden boards with inscriptions from the Koran, followed by local officials and residents. They gathered near a dead oasis as a religious leader explained that the drought was a man-made disaster and that the rains will come as people take action for their sins and the way they are “treating the planet.” have”, will atone.

Resident Mo’chi Ahmad said the oasis has provided a livelihood for this population for hundreds of years. Now the oasis is “endangered,” and everyone notices the disappearing palm trees.

In the past three years, hundreds of people have fled from oasis areas to the cities and many young people have migrated to Europe, mainly because of the drought, said Mohamed Bozama, another resident.

He also blames the digging of unauthorized wells and increasing demand for water from existing wells for worsening the crisis.

But for Hassan Bouazza, part of the solution lies in the hands of the people of the Alnif region. He was the first to install solar panels on the region’s ksar, or castle, and began to rely on the energy generated to dig wells and irrigate the land of his fellow farmers.

“We have to learn to live with the situation we are in and think about how we can use heat and drought to our advantage,” he said, for example by using new irrigation systems and solar energy.

He called for oasis residents to be trained to move away from traditional irrigation in favor of drip irrigation, which uses significantly less water.

But sometimes, Bouazza said, it’s hard not to despair when climate warnings are ignored.

“It’s like a little kid holding a dying bird and just laughing. This is how we treat Mother Earth.”

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