Climate change hurting economic growth in Morocco

Sunday 08/01/2017
A farmer stands in a dry field in the Bouskoura village, outside Casablanca, Morocco, last February. (Reuters)

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.