COP22 Host Morocco Launches Action Plan to Fight Devastating Climate Change
Like most African countries, Morocco – where 40% of the population still works the land – is already feeling the impacts of climate change on its agricultural production. As the host country for the COP22 climate change talks, which open in Marrakech on Monday, Morocco is determined to make this meeting the “African COP”.
November 7, 2016 | Source: The Guardian | by Celeste Hicks
Last December we had temperatures of 25C. Normally it is 1 or 2C at that time of year,” says Mohammed Ibrahimi, a farmer with one hectare of apple trees in Boumia, a village near Midelt in Morocco.
“These trees need at least 1,200 hours of near-freezing temperatures in the winter to help them to regenerate. This year they flowered very late; the harvest was a month late and I harvested just 20 tonnes when I’d expected 40 tonnes.”
The town of Midelt sits 1,600m above sea level on a vast barren plain sandwiched between the Middle Atlas mountain range to the north and the High Atlas to the south. One of the highest mountains in north Africa, Jbel Ayachi, looms snow-clad over the town. Due to its altitude, Midelt is well-suited to apples, and plantations are scattered all over the plains. But farmers are already abandoning their orchards.
“When we were kids the mountains had snow on them until at least June, sometimes even all year. We had ample underground water sources. We used to have to dig about 4m down to find water – now it can be [many times deeper]. How can we irrigate our crops with that?” says Ibrahimi.
Like most African countries, Morocco – where 40% of the population still works the land – is already feeling the impacts of climate change on its agricultural production. Last year, during the exceptional season Ibrahimi describes – caused in large part by the regular El Niño weather pattern – Morocco went without rain for more than two months. Overall it received 42.7% less rain during its main planting season than in an average year. The impact on the harvest was catastrophic, particularly on the “zone bour” (dry zone) areas where crops such as wheat, barley and maize are planted. Ministry of Agriculture estimates predicted total output falling 70% on the 2015 season.
“Starting from the early 1990s, we’ve seen on average 15% to 20% less rain annually than previously,” says Mohamed Ait Kadi, president of Morocco’s General Council of Agricultural Development. “The rain now comes in showers instead of sustained downpours, and we see arid areas spreading.”