Climate change hurting economic growth in Morocco
Repeated cycles of drought in last ten years are cause for concern for Morocco, whose population is forecast to reach 38 million by 2030.
A farmer stands in a dry field in the Bouskoura village, outside Casablanca, Morocco, last February. (Reuters)
2017/01/08 Issue: 88 Page: 18
The Arab Weekly
Casablanca - Morocco is one of many African countries hit hard by climate change with drought hurting the nation’s economic growth.
The kingdom, which hosted the 22nd Conference of the Parties of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP 22), experienced heat waves in June and July that resulted in the loss of 15,000 agricultural jobs, the High Commission for Planning (HCP) said. The agricultural sector accounts for almost 15% of Morocco’s gross domestic product (GDP) and employs 40% of the country’s workforce.
Repeated cycles of drought in the last ten years are a cause for concern for Morocco, whose population is forecast to reach 38 million by 2030.
A report from the World Health Organisation (WHO) on climate risks and their consequences on health indicates that more than 300,000 people in Morocco would directly suffer from the effects of climate change unless initiatives are established to curb it even though the country is a relatively very small emitter of greenhouse gases. A lack of concrete measures to adapt to climate change would incur a net loss of 3.1% of the country’s gross domestic product in the coming years, the WHO said.
To its credit, Morocco has a goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions 32% by 2030, which will require an investment of nearly $5 billion. It has banned the production of plastic bags and is building the world’s largest solar power facility.
Studies predict Morocco will experience an overall increase in average annual temperatures of 5-7 degrees Celsius over the oases and eastern areas, 4-5 degrees throughout the rest of the country and 3-4 degrees on the coast and the Sahara by the end of the century. Scientists predict 40% lower annual rainfall totals in areas west of the Atlas mountains and 20% lower in the rest of the country as well as a water shortage that will adversely affect the vital agricultural sector.
The world’s largest oasis, in the Tafilalet region of south-eastern of Morocco, is also threatened by climate change, the COP 22 Organising Committee said.
“Today these green islands lost in the desert face the impacts of climate change (recurrence of droughts, multiplication of extreme weather events). With the decrease of water resources and soil degradation, agricultural activity is declining in oasis areas,” the committee posted on Facebook.
Some Moroccan non-governmental organisations (NGOs) have been working to protect the oases by planting hundreds of palm and olive trees.
El Hassan Baiga, founding member of the Lamta for Solidarity association, said his NGO seeks to protect oasis communities from climate change-related disasters and deliver life-saving emergency aid.
“We empower vulnerable people to transform their lives and their communities and help save the biodiversity in the region’s oases,” said Baiga whose association was founded three months after flash floods damaged houses in Asrir oasis, 7km from Guelmim in south-eastern Morocco in December 2014.
The NGO built three homes, helped renovate shelters and is continuing to build low-cost green houses thanks to funding mainly from overseas. It is also raising awareness among oasis communities about the importance of plantations that help sustain the region’s fauna and flora and resist desertification.
“There are some animal species that are on the brink of extinction such as wolves in the Guelmim- Oued Noun region because of climate change that affected the animals’ food chain,” warned Baiga.
Morocco is vulnerable to drought and floods. To reduce its vulnerability, the government has been advised to better manage water resources through innovating irrigation techniques and reducing waste, implementing long- and short-term strategies to fight desertification and continuing to invest in renewable energies that are key to reducing carbon dioxide emissions.