In Morocco climate change is putting the last nomads to

In Morocco, climate change is putting the last nomads to the test

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A tent near the village of Amellagou, where Morocco's last nomads live, September 2, 2022. A tent near the village of Amellagou, where the last nomads of Morocco live, September 2, 2022. FADEL SENNA / AFP

” Everything has changed. I don’t recognize myself in today’s world. Even nature turns against us. Moha Ouchaâli, one of the last nomads of southern Morocco, his marked features framed by a black turban, struggles daily to survive in harsh climatic and The 50-year-old and his family had to leave their luggage in a no-man’s-land about 60 kilometers from the small town of Er-Rich, not far from a dry river.

In an arid and rocky landscape, near the village of Amellagou, there are two black woolen tents lined with sacks of colorful lining and scraps of fabric. “Water is scarce. Temperatures are rising, drought is widespread without much we can do,” says the nomad of the Amazigh (Berber) tribe of Aït Aïssa Izem.

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In Morocco, pastoral nomadism, a millennia-old way of life based on seasonal mobility and grazing, has tended to disappear. According to the last official census in 2014, the number of nomads is only 25,000 compared to almost 70,000 in 2004, a two-thirds decrease in ten years.

“We’re exhausted,” breathes Ida, Moha Ouchaâli’s wife. “We used to manage to live decently, but successive droughts, which are getting more and more intense, complicate our lives because we can’t do anything without water,” says this 45-year-old woman.

“The Coffin of the Nomads”

This year Morocco is experiencing its worst drought in four decades and the situation is expected to gradually worsen by 2050 due to a decrease in rainfall (-11%) and an annual increase in temperature (+1.3°C). according to the Ministry of Agriculture.

“Nomads have always been considered the thermometer of climate change. When they, living in extreme conditions, can no longer withstand the intensity of warming, it means the situation is serious,” stresses anthropologist Ahmed Skounti. “The scarcity of water resources visible today, even to sedentary people, is the last nail in the coffin of the nomads,” he claims.

Ida Ouchaâli in her tent near the village of Amellagou, September 2, 2022. Ida Ouchaâli in her tent near the village of Amellagou, September 2, 2022. FADEL SENNA / AFP

Climate change initially disrupts their transhumance journey. The Aït Aïssa Izem normally spend their summers in the mountain valley of Imilchil because it is cooler there and they prefer the milder environment of the neighboring province of Errachidia in winter. “That’s ancient history. Now we go where there is still some water left to save the cattle,” says Mr. Ouchaâli over a glass of tea.

Water scarcity is even forcing some nomads to go into debt to feed their livestock, their main source of income, as Ahmed Assni, 37, explains, who passed near a tiny, almost dried-up water source on the road between Amellagou and Er-Rich: “I go into debt to buy fodder for my cattle and not starve. »

“Outcasts of Society”

But the most common phenomenon in the face of climate change remains the choice to settle down. “I was tired of fighting. We had become pariahs of society. I dare not imagine what the nomads endure today,” says Haddou Oudach, 67, who gave up nomadism in 2010 to settle in Er-Rich.

Another migrant, Saïd Ouhada, in his 40s, has already set foot in the city, moving his wife and children there for their education. “Being a nomad is not like it used to be. I am still under pressure because my very elderly parents refuse to live in the city,” testifies Mr. Ouhada, whose camp was also set up near Amellagou. This place “had 460 tents. Currently there are only about forty,” says Driss Skounti, elected municipal representative of the nomads.

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The climate is not the only factor accelerating the deterioration of their living conditions. “The scarcity of pastures due to land privatization and agricultural investments are contributing to this,” says Moha Haddachi, 54, president of the Aït Aïssa Izem Nomads Association. “It is the agricultural investors who dominate the areas where the nomads’ animals used to graze,” adds the association activist.

The nomads may also face “hostility” from certain villagers who refuse to settle them “at home”. “However, it wasn’t always the case that we were welcome everywhere,” complains the former nomad Haddou Oudach.

Faced with these difficulties, young people who dream of settling down no longer seem to like the nomadic life. This is the case of Houda Ouchaâli, 19 years old. Housed with an uncle in Er-Rich, the young girl, who aspires to vocational training after high school, admits that she “hates” nomadism because she “can’t take it anymore [ses] Parents suffer and struggle to survive. The new generation wants to close the chapter of nomadism. The simplest things become too complicated here. »

The world with AFP