Climate change threatens age-old oases in Morocco

ALNIF, Morocco (AP) — Residents of the Alnif oasis say they don’t remember such a severe drought: the land is dry. Some wells are empty. The palm groves that date back more than 100 years are sterile.

Home to centuries-old oases that have been a hallmark of Morocco, this region about 270 km southeast of Marrakech is reeling from the effects of climate change, which has created an emergency for the kingdom’s agriculture.

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

November is usually a cold and wet month in Alnif, but when the rain did not come, the king called for rain prayers across the country, an old Islamic tradition during desperately dry spells.

Children led the procession, holding wooden planks inscribed with Quranic verses, followed by local officials and residents. They gathered near a dead oasis as a religious leader said the drought was a man-made disaster and the rains will come when people atone for their sins and the way they have ‘treated the planet “.

Resident Mo’chi Ahmad said the oasis has provided livelihoods for this population for hundreds of years. From now on, the oasis is “threatened with extinction”, and everyone notices the disappearance of the palm trees.

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

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

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

“We must learn to live with the situation we find ourselves in and think of ways to take advantage of the heat and the drought”, such as the use of new irrigation systems and solar energy, a- he declared.

He called for oasis dwellers to receive training to help them abandon traditional irrigation in favor of drip irrigation, which requires much less water.

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

“It’s like a little child holding a dying bird in his hand, and all he does is laugh. This is how we treat Mother Earth.

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