Climate change: Getting it right in Africa begins with voting right

The issue of climate change is a major threat to the well-being of people in Africa – increased temperature resulting in deadly heatwaves, varying rainfall resulting in flooding in some areas, and droughts in others which, in turn, is leading to reduced agricultural production and increased food insecurity.

As climate change seals its place as a key issue in communities Africa and as governments, as well as individuals, seek ways to mitigate its effects and reduce carbon emissions at the scale and speed required, one thing becomes clear — to achieve these, government policy is crucial.

Government policy is one important means of system change — including laws, rules, regulations, standards, and incentives. However, there remains a critical lack of “political will” for climate action.

Yes. Many climate change policies, from the local level to the global level, do not see the light of day due to the unwillingness or inability of government officials to enact them — and you can’t really blame them because they actually don’t give a hoot if the world crumbles.

But one thing that many people fail to understand, is the influence that engaged citizens who demand action have on government leaders. Democracy is the solution to climate change, and there are many ways to wield that essential tool for the benefit of all stakeholders.

Unfortunately, many of the people who hold the environment dear and seek to push for climate-friendly policies miss it from the place that is most important — the polls.

Environmentalists, the people most concerned about climate change, tend to be no-shows at the polls, forgetting that elections provide the opportunity to make climate change a priority.

But What if we could use the ballot box to put people in the office who are as worried about climate change as we are and who are ready to step up in support of related legislation? What if we could alter the priorities of politicians simply by getting more climate-concerned constituents to the polls? what if we could manifest African governments that are more amenable to passing climate legislation?

It would certainly make our jobs as climate advocates much easier.

Getting environmentalists to the polls is about moving climate change higher on the agenda of all tiers of government. Constituents can write and call their representatives and ask them to act on climate change, but unless those constituents consistently vote — and that information is public record — their opinions will not be taken seriously. But when lawmakers see that climate advocates are also voters, the issue becomes important to them, too.

With election season gearing up in many communities in Africa, we need to look for ways to strengthen our democracy and increase voter participation. Here are steps you can take:

  • Make sure you vote and that you understand what you need to do in order to vote.
  • Work locally to help the people around you vote, either personally one-on-one with people you know or by working with a local organization that helps people register and vote.
  • Campaign personally for candidates of any party that align with your values.
  • Open dialogue with people you disagree with.
  • Consider supporting other organizations that take a bi-partisan approach to keep democratic systems strong in our country.

Climate change and biodiversity risks: What you need to know

Biodiversity and climate are strongly intertwined. They can both be considered in terms of physical and transition risks.

Forests and ecosystems, such as mangroves, coral reefs, and marshes, serve as carbon sinks and contribute to the mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions. In addition, they can also be important nature-based solutions that can help adapt to the effects of climate change, e.g., protection against coastal erosion and prevention of flooding.

Like climate, biodiversity is not the same in different areas or locations and this is worthy of note because we tend to think of biodiversity in terms of pristine rainforests, but it is just as important a consideration in urban landscapes.

Biodiversity risks share a number of common characteristics with climate change – both are far-reaching in terms of breadth and magnitude and contain tipping points beyond which it may be impossible to recover. They are both uncertain yet also foreseeable, with an impact that could be determined by short-term actions.

At a high level, risks in relation to biodiversity can be calculated in a similar way as those for climate change. These risks can be identified in the following ways:

Physical risks

Physical risks are damage to physical assets or the loss of ecosystem services necessary for production processes.

Examples include local and regional financial losses in the agricultural sector from reduced pollination from insects and global financial losses in medicine and technology sectors from reduced genetic biodiversity inhibiting research and development.

Transition risks

Transition risks include policy changes, legal developments and technology changes.

These risks are increasingly likely to surface with the call by several stakeholders for the UN’s Convention of Biological Diversity (CBD) to announce the adoption of a global nature net-positive goal by 2030 and the full recovery of nature by 2050 at CBD COP15 in 2022.

Disruption risks

Disruption risks occur when the loss or impact on nature disrupts societies or markets. An example is when the encroachment on natural habitats leads to the outbreak of zoonotic disease.

Differences between biodiversity and climate change risks?

Biodiversity has become more of financial risk while climate change is more mature and understood as a business risk.

Previously, climate change was viewed as an environmental externality, but this has shifted over the past decade to environmental risk, and now a financial one. Biodiversity is arguably a fair way behind climate change on this curve.

Partly as a result of this immaturity, despite its similarities with climate change risk, understanding and managing biodiversity risk is different and here’s why:

No single metric

While it is relatively simple to calculate carbon emissions, measuring biodiversity can be complex and multi-faceted. There are two elements:

  • The ways to assess the biodiversity value of ecosystems by measuring the number of endangered species or other appropriate metrics.
  • Use this assessment to measure your impact of activities on biodiversity, such as the volume of pollinators to agriculture or ongoing clean river flows.

Don’t see offsets as “like for like”

Offsets cannot make up for the loss of destroying ancient ecosystems containing rare species. Some biodiversity will always be lost in offset exchanges as no two areas of habitat or species populations are identical.

Also, making biodiversity offsets meaningful can involve a long-term commitment to take full account of direct, indirect, and cumulative impacts, geographically and over time.

When it comes to managing biodiversity risk, priority should be given to avoiding and reducing the impact on biodiversity loss, and offsets should be considered as a last resort.

The need to take into account multiple values

Landscapes should be managed for productive, wilderness, and cultural values. Protecting biodiversity doesn’t have to involve locking up land as wilderness. We can look into the deep knowledge of indigenous people to understand how these values can coexist.

Biodiversity loss: What it means for businesses in Africa

Africa, no doubt, is rich in biodiversity which many consider having intrinsic value. Yet, the purpose of biodiversity conservation is premised on the belief that each species has a value and a right to exist, whether or not it is known to have value to humans.

Going by the natural order of things, species coexist and rely on one another everywhere on the earth. Every living organism, including humans, is a part of ecosystems, which are intricate networks of interconnected relationships.

However, the continent’s biodiversity is being threatened by climate change and the activities of businesses.

However, many companies have only just begun to explore their impact on biodiversity loss and only a small number of pioneering companies have published credible biodiversity strategies with robust biodiversity goals.

Investors are also increasingly considering how to address biodiversity as part of their assessments and how they direct capital toward companies that can demonstrate and report on their biodiversity strategy.

This has a double-edged effect: just as these businesses carry out bio diversity-disrupting activities, so also is the depleting biodiversity resulting in limited resources for the businesses to extract. The loss can be extensive and often unrealized, causing disruption to supply chains, increasing regulatory compliance costs, and potentially eroding social license.

Yes. Ecosystem collapse could cause significant operational risks for businesses. According to the World Economic Forum (WEF), more than half of the global gross domestic product depends on nature. These material nature risks can typically be linked to the following:

  •  Dependency — When a business is directly dependent on nature (i.e., for freshwater, pollination, or productive soils) as a part of its business model, it could impact its financial performance. For example, beverage companies should have a reliable supply of freshwater, food companies rely on the stability of crops and arable land, and biopharma companies rely on ecosystems to derive novel sources of medicines.
  • Impact — Where business activities are either directly or indirectly negatively impacting nature, this, in turn, can impact the business through reputational damage, legal action, or financial losses. Increasingly, employees, consumers, investors, policymakers, and communities are expecting companies to manage their biodiversity impact to preserve their social license to operate.

Way forward

Businesses should act now to help reduce the negative impact of biodiversity as doing so can lead to better outcomes for businesses in Africa and help make their value chains more resilient. For example, with careful planning and management of a greenfield residential property development, the work done to avoid the risks of fragmented landscapes and keep biodiversity systems intact can also help improve property valuations. As a simple example, a higher tree cover can help reduce urban heat and combat some of the physical effects of climate change.

In a similar example, a chemical company, valuing the river its operations depend on, can take that value into account in capital decisions — with benefits flowing to multiple stakeholders. Investing in the biodiversity of the areas surrounding the river can provide confidence that the water is of the required quality and quantity the company needs to sustain and grow its operations. But this same action can also lift the quality of life in local communities, help farms be more productive, and enrich local ecosystems.

Finally, biodiversity impact exists beyond rural areas in towns and cities. There are important roles for local governments, town planners, and developers to incorporate nature-related opportunities into their strategic planning, risk management, and asset allocation decisions.

Pollution: Preventing its harmful effects on the developing brain in early childhood

The role of air pollution in the climate crisis is a far-reaching one, with some pollutants such as black carbon and ozone increasing warming by trapping heat in the atmosphere, and others such as sulfur dioxide forming light-reflecting particles and having a cooling effect on the climate.

The harmful effects of pollution extend to water, soil, and food too, and can adversely affect, and sometimes destroy, many living things on this planet.

Seeing as air pollution is almost always at the front burners of climate discussions, it is therefore of utmost importance to draw attention to the effects pollution has on the developing brain.

The brain is made of cells called neurons, which function by sending signals to each other and to the rest of the body, thus controlling all activities of the body.

The brain starts developing soon after conception. Neurons are formed in the fetus during pregnancy, and grow and mature in a very systemic matter throughout pregnancy and early childhood, to finally form an adult brain.

The maximum development of the brain takes place till the age of five years. At birth, a baby’s brain is a quarter in size of the adult brain; by five years it is already 90 percent of the adult brain.

The growing brain is extremely susceptible to harmful effects of toxins and pollutants. More and more studies on humans as well as animals have shown that exposure to pollutants, either during fetal life or after birth, can impact the development as well as the functioning of neurons.

The brain cells function by means of biochemical substances called neurotransmitters. Pollutants can also affect the functioning of neurotransmitters, which can adversely affect the sensitive circuitry of the developing brain. Once damaged, the process is irreversible. it is difficult to restore the impairments.

This can have devastating short- or long-term effects at an individual level. Children may show developmental delays, behavior problems, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder ( ADHD), Autism, and eventually at the school level, poor academic performance and learning disabilities. In fact, an association has been found between traffic-related pollution and Autism in certain epidemiological studies. Finally, we end up with adults with lower IQs, and brain and mental health issues.

According to a paper released by UNICEF in 2017, air pollution, just as inadequate nutrition and stimulation, and exposure to violence during the critical first 1,000 days of life, can impact children’s early childhood development by affecting their growing brains:

  • Ultrafine pollution particles are so small that they can enter the bloodstream, travel to the brain, and damage the blood-brain barrier, which can cause neuro-inflammation.
  • Some pollution particles, such as ultrafine magnetite, can enter the body through the olfactory nerve and the gut, and, due to their magnetic charge, create oxidative stress – which is known to cause neurodegenerative diseases.
  • Other types of pollution particles, such as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, can damage areas in the brain that are critical in helping neurons communicate, the foundation for children’s learning and development.
  • A young child’s brain is especially vulnerable because it can be damaged by a smaller dosage of toxic chemicals, compared to an adult’s brain. Children are also highly vulnerable to air pollution because they breathe more rapidly and also because their physical defenses and immunities are not fully developed.

Coupled with the effects of poverty and economic deprivation, children from the economically weaker sections are also exposed the most to different kinds of pollution and are thus at maximum risk of the adverse effects of pollution.

Collectively, as a society and as a nation, the loss of future intellectual capital is unacceptable.

Below are steps to mitigate the impact of air pollution on children’s developing brains, including immediate steps parents can take to reduce children’s exposure in the home to harmful fumes:

  • Reduce air pollution by investing in cleaner, renewable sources of energy to replace fossil fuel combustion; provide affordable access to public transport; increase green spaces in urban areas; and provide better waste management options to prevent the open burning of harmful chemicals.
  • Reduce children’s exposure to pollutants by making it feasible for children to travel during times of the day when air pollution is lower; provide appropriately fitting air filtration masks in extreme cases; and create smart urban planning so that major sources of pollution are not located near schools, clinics or hospitals.
  • Improve children’s overall health to improve their resilience. This includes the prevention and treatment of pneumonia, as well as the promotion of exclusive breastfeeding and good nutrition.
  • Improve knowledge and monitoring of air pollution. Reducing children’s exposure to pollutants and the sources of air pollution begins with understanding the quality of the air they are breathing in the first place.

Taking a cue from Green Economy Ghana’s project on plastic waste management

Ghana’s plastic waste situation is dire as 1.1 million tonnes of plastic waste per year is released into the environment causing pollution, blockages of gutters and drainage systems leading to flooding, etc.

Approximately 70% of plastic input materials in Ghana are used only for packaging. Out of the total plastic waste generated in the country, only 5% is collected for recycling.

To tackle this and contribute to transforming the plastic waste challenge into an opportunity, the Green Economy Ghana project is providing technical, vocational, and entrepreneurship education to young people in plastic waste management, the Green Economy Ghana project is providing young people with vocational and entrepreneurship skills in the green and circular economy space, more specifically in plastic waste management, sustainable forestry management, and organic waste management.

The project is aimed at transforming plastic waste into a resource that can stimulate a sustainable economy in the region. (According to the UNDP report on the ”Behavioral Change is Critical in addressing plastic menace” published on April 24, 2019, and the Global Plastic Action Partnership).

A training, which took place at the YMCA campus at Adabraka in Accra, started by equipping 10 trainers with the latest knowledge in this field of expertise.

The first round of training saw 53 young students are gain relevant skills to be employed or start their own businesses in the plastic management sector.

The TVET Programs Director, Samuel Asamoah -YMCA Ghana, said “this project is helping young people develop two critical skills necessary for job creation in the current dispensation blending technical and vocational skills as well as entrepreneurship education” and he urged “TVET institutions to promote entrepreneurship education for job creation and impact”.

The training curricula, which was designed by experts from Ghana and Scandinavia, received feedback from different actors from the private and public sector making them relevant to the Ghanaian context.

The training comprised different modules combining theoretical and practical sessions on subjects including; Understanding plastics, Importance and uses of plastics, Plastic production: the steps in plastic production, Causes of plastic waste, Principle of waste management: 4rs- reduce, reuse, recycle and recover, Plastic waste management technologies adopted in Ghana: reuse/recycle, Plastic waste recycling, Entrepreneurship, and business planning, etc.

Trainees also had the opportunity to learn how to use equipment such as shredders. As part of the project, these trainees will be attached to existing MSMEs in plastic waste management for an internship period where they will gain hands-on experience.

A trainer in the Plastic Waste Management TVET, Dr. Boniface Yeboah Antwi, applauded the Green Economy Ghana project for taking the bold step toward youth empowerment in the plastic value chain.

He further recommended the “setting up of a micro-financing system by stakeholders to support trainees set-up small scale enterprises for a sustainable plastic circular economy in Ghana”.

The second round for the Plastic Waste Management TVET has received a total of 600 applications and will start in June with the participation of about 100 young people. This is just another indication of the huge demand for this type of educational training in Ghana.

Also speaking, Isabella Twum Mensah, a trainee in Plastic Waste Management, said “Green Economy Ghana (GEG) has benefited me in various ways through theory and practical aspects. The basics of the evolution of plastics to the types of plastics and the recycling of plastics were rendered to me by the trainer.

“My knowledge of plastic and its recycling process has broadened my insights on how to reuse plastic to reduce the threat it has on the earth and how it can help make life much easier. I have always loved the idea of creating extraordinary things with plastics and the GEG Project gave me the platform to have more adventure”.

The European Union Archipelago Programme is a four-year program, funded by the European Union Emergency Trust Fund (EUTF), whose main objective is to strengthen the employability of young people by supporting them in job creation in the Sahel and Lake Chad countries (Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, Côte d’Ivoire, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Mali, Mauritanian, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal).

The project is being implemented by a five-member consortium including Inclusive Business Sweden as the lead, YMCA Ghana, Social Enterprise Ghana, Ghana Sweden Chamber of Commerce, and Sweden West Africa Business Association as associate members.

Cities: Could the world’s major emissions contributor be the solution for global warming?

Cities all over the world are one of the biggest contributors to global warming. For one, they are responsible for about two-thirds of the world’s emissions as of today, according to a report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

In 2020, cities were responsible for about 72% of global greenhouse gas emissions, up from 62% in 2015.

Secondly, cities consume a greater part of the energy that the world produces as a result of the increasing population.

As the human population increases in number and size, so does energy consumption; hence, the need to transform urban areas into eco-friendly cities that are self-sufficient in terms of energy and sustainable living.

Considering the effects of climate change on the environment, building resilient cities is a step in the right direction as they can play a major role in addressing climate change in the near future. This must also go hand-in-hand with emissions reduction for urban areas to truly meet targets and mitigate global warming.

In light of the above, U.N. scientists, in a report, have laid out ways for individuals, governments, and organizations to reduce emissions and curb climate change, and have also put down actions that city planners can follow.

These actions, as stated in the report, include improving energy efficiency in buildings, placing fees on highly polluting vehicles in city centers, outlawing diesel cars,  designing streets to avoid traffic congestion, planting “green roofs“, and incorporating more parks and trees that help sequester carbon dioxide emissions and also help to cool cities.

According to the report, about 55% of the world’s population lived in cities in 2018, a figure expected to jump to 68% by 2050 – with Asian and African cities seeing the biggest increases. Planning for and encouraging population density is recommended to prevent rural and suburban sprawl, which is less energy efficient and destroys natural habitats.

For the world to have a chance of limiting global warming to within 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) of pre-industrial levels, cities need to act fast – and financing would need to be boosted significantly. Also, climate-friendly urban policies would also improve public health by reducing air pollution, the report said.

Aggressive climate action could bring city emissions to net zero by 2050. But failing to act could instead see urban emissions double in that time, the report said.

Drought: The irony of Senegal’s water resources that can’t be reached

Groundwater is found underground in rocks, soils, and aquifers and makes up about 99% of all liquid freshwater on earth. And the good part? this abundance in water resources extends to much of Africa.

Recall we published an article some time ago about researchers positing that groundwater resources in sub-Saharan Africa are enough to transform agriculture in the region and provide inhabitants with sufficient safe water for their drinking and hygiene needs if they can be better managed.

In the study titled Groundwater: the world’s neglected defence against climate change by WaterAid in conjunction with the British Geological Survey, it was stated that every sub-Saharan African country could supply about 130 litres a day of drinking water per capita from groundwater without using more than a quarter of what can be renewed, and most using only about 10%. It further revealed that most African countries could survive at least five years of drought, and some more than 50 years, on their groundwater reserves.

Well, for a country like Senegal, it is a different reality altogether as the drought situation in the remote village of Tata Bathily in Matam worsens.

With arid lands surrounded by nothing but miles of barren terrain, defunct wells dotting its hostile landscape, and temperatures that can soar above 50 degrees Celsius (123.8°F), the water crisis reveals just how expensive and difficult it will be to tap the water resources.

The struggle for water in the village has been an enduring one as the water well began to dry up in 2010. At the time, the government had drilled another well to serve as a water source for the people but as of today, residents say the well barely produces a trickle of water.

All efforts by the villagers to get another well running, met a dead-end as the new well failed to hit water despite raising $5,000 to execute the project.

According to experts, there is a dearth of hydrogeologists who are trained at locating groundwater and in cases when water is found, some of the most reliable aquifers can be as deep as 400 metres – ten times the depth of the Tata Bathily wells. For them to dig a hole that is as deep as that, they would need about $20,000.

“We don’t drink enough to satisfy our thirst, we don’t wash and we don’t do the laundry,” said Oumou Drame, a 40-year-old mother of five.

As a routine, she wakes before dawn to fetch what’s left of the water from the old well before it runs out by mid-morning like it does every day.

Oumou further stated that villages barely sleep at night. They leave their children at home to search for water. The search for well sites is mostly done by guesswork and when it fails, they have to trek further in search of promising sites.

Another villager, Aladje Drame, manages to get water from the pits with canisters and the help of his donkey-drawn cart and sells the water for 10 cents per 20-litres.

Global water experts and leaders gathered in a modern conference centre in Senegal’s capital Dakar last month, calling for better access to drinking water for those who live beyond the reach of piped water networks.

That same week, residents in Tata Bathily, over 700 km (435 miles) away in the arid northeast, were digging pits in a dry river bed a few kilometres from the village and collecting the brown water that seeped into them.

Residents say the depletion of water resources is a result of the growing populations and unpredictable rainfall.

#ClimateJusticeThursday: Addressing the dearth of climate change litigation in Africa

Hello readers,

Welcome to #ClimateJusticeThursday on CleanbuildVoices!

The increasing urgency to combat climate change across the globe has resulted in the rapid increase of climate change litigation in recent years, especially in developed continents like the US and Europe.

This global increase has seen over 1,000 climate cases filed globally since 2015 compared to 834 cases filed from 1986 to 2014.

Although climate change litigation covers a variety of proceedings, it is generally defined as claims that expressly raise an issue of fact or law relating to the causes or impacts of climate change.

Climate change litigation primarily focused on claims and compensation for damages caused by large oil and gas companies, mainly pollution (read: emission of GHG) in the course of producing and distributing their products. But consequently, the scope of climate change claims is being increased to incorporate claims for relief other than damages as well as rights-based claims.

However, for a continent like Africa, the reverse is the case as only a few climate change-related cases have been filed despite the continent being particularly vulnerable to the impact of climate change, as global warming is expected to increase droughts, desertification, and flooding across the continent.

The dearth of climate change litigation is based on a number of reasons. Firstly, many African countries have weak or functionally nonexistent legislative frameworks in relation to climate change.

Secondly, prospective claimants in these countries often face obstacles, such as a lack of standing and limited access to financial resources to fund their claims.

While there are ongoing efforts to improve the legislative frameworks, and civil society activism is growing in many African countries, climate change is not typically regarded as a standalone issue, but rather a secondary consideration in broader environmental disputes concerning issues such as land use, natural resources conservation and environmental protection in general.

The good news is that the situation is unlikely to remain this way as litigation recent developments in climate change-related litigation in Europe are likely to influence the future of climate change-related disputes in Africa. This development would cause a notable rise in the number of strategic claims now intending to influence government policies and corporate investment decisions.

The growing number of African nations that are seeking to introduce specific climate change legislation such as human rights which considers the increasing acceptance of the impacts of climate change on health, livelihoods, access to clean water, and other fundamental rights, as well as climate change-related litigation concerning economic activity or detrimental effects in African countries, could further drive this development.

Desertification: 4 effective solutions to revive degraded lands

Climate change threatens biodiversity, natural resources, and the livelihoods of populations that inhabit drylands across the globe. And when the fatal trio of climate change, drought, and deforestation simultaneously occur across these regions? You get an extreme global issue known as desertification.

Desertification is the process whereby fertile land transforms into desert as a result of a number of factors including the loss of vegetation, drought, deforestation, and the overuse of intensive non-sustainable agricultural practices.

This degradation of land concerns millions of people, especially in drylands which occupy about 40 – 41% of the earth’s surface and are home to more than 2 billion people (an estimated 10 – 20% of drylands are already degraded) and occurs on all continents except Antarctica.

Approximately half of the people globally who live in underdeveloped countries live in affected areas.

There has been a connection between desertification and overgrazing because vegetation loss is the primary cause of desertification, as plants, which play a major part in retaining water and enriching the soil are damaged when farmers, who usually practice livestock farming, let their cattle loose to feed on vegetation.

This causes the land to lose its biological productivity and the soil surface becomes vulnerable to wind and water erosion thereby resulting in barren land that makes it difficult for agriculture.

While there are largely no strict regulations in place to prevent desertification, we will be looking at some viable solutions that can be introduced to restore already degraded lands. They include:

Alternative farming and industrial techniques

To mitigate desertification, alternative livelihoods that are less demanding on local land and natural resource use such as dryland aquaculture for the production of fish, industrial compounds, etc., should be encouraged.

Integrating the use of land for grazing and farming where conditions are favorable as well as applying a combination of traditional practices with locally acceptable and locally adapted land-use technologies, is not only a good start to ending desertification, but also allows for more efficient cycling of nutrients within the agricultural systems.

That can be augmented by giving local communities the capacity to prevent desertification and manage dryland resources effectively.

Sustainable land and water use

Sustainable land and water use can protect soils from erosion, salinization, and other forms of degradation.

It can also be used to address issues that cause and worsen desertification such as unsustainable irrigation practices, overgrazing, overexploitation of plants, etc.

Protecting vegetative cover

Protecting soil can be a major instrument for soil conservation against wind and water erosion, thereby preventing the loss of ecosystem services during droughts.

Great green wall

In a bid to fight against land degradation and revive native plant life in their landscapes, eleven countries in Sahel-Sahara Africa which include Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Sudan, Chad, Niger, Nigeria, Mali, Burkina Faso, Mauritania, and Senegal have focused efforts on green walls.

The Great Green Wall initiative which is partly managed by the Global Environment Facility (GEF), plants a line of trees as a sustainable way of regenerating the parkland. This initiative is worthy of emulation as such practice can be replicated in other regions.

Water scarcity threatens survival in Morocco as citizens face worst drought in 40 years

Morocco is currently facing its worst drought since the start of the 1980s (about 40 years) and the duo of climate change and bad resource management could further plunge the country into a drinking water crisis due to shortages, according to experts.

Moroccans have access to just about 600 cubic metres of water per person each year, far below the 2,600 cubic metres they enjoyed in the 1960s, and the country has had little rain since September, with its reservoirs having received just 11% of what they would in an average year, according to authorities.

The United Nations’ defines water scarcity as a situation when water supplies drop below 1,000 cubic metres per person annually. It further goes to say that, in a situation when supplies are 500 cubic metres, it is considered absolute scarcity.

The decline in water supplies being experienced in Morocco is a result of a combination of factors: environmental factors which include climate change, high demand for water, and over-exploitation of groundwater for farming.

In fact, reports suggest that Morocco’s water scarcity is deeply linked to the way water is used for irrigation, which consumes around 80% of the country’s water annually.

While the burden of the incessant drought was usually felt by farmers in the past, the case doesn’t seem to be the case anymore as water supplies to cities are currently under threat.

According to Abdelaziz Zerouali, the water ministry’s head of research and planning, it’s a worrying sign that needs to be addressed by putting measures to mitigate the risks.

Despite the gloomy situation, communities and governments are making moves to salvage the situation.

In December, Marrakesh and Oujda which are two major cities in the country started tapping into groundwater reserves to ensure adequate supplies.

Also, in February, the Moroccan government released a package of around one billion euros in aid to the troubled agricultural sector, the top employer in the Moroccan countryside that also makes up about 14% of the country’s GDP.

There are hopes that desalination plants can help make up the water deficit, although efforts to build 15 more dams and more desalination facilities have been threatened by delays. An example is a plant that has been under construction since 2020 near Casablanca, Morocco’s commercial capital, which is at risk of facing severe water shortages by 2025.

Another example is a desalination plant meant to serve the northeastern resort town of Saidia has also yet to come online, causing water shortages.

There appears to be some form of relief as a desalination plant was activated recently, supplying 70% of the needs of the Atlantic coastal city of Agadir, a major farming area.

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