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Atlantic Rising: Adapting to climate change in Morocco

Lynn Morris

17th September, 2009

Morocco's dilemma is to be particularly vulnerable to climate change, but still desperately courting the type of development that will make it harder to adapt to rising sea levels

Morocco's 3,500km of coastline makes it particularly vulnerable to sea level rise.

With most of its economic activity near the coast, no legislation preventing building in the coastal zone and the government reportedly selling coastal land to developers at notional prices, climate change is a real threat.

Small scale farmers increasingly find themselves competing for water with thirsty golf courses and hotel swimming pools, while in other parts of the country flooding causes devastation.

Abdellatif Khattabi leads a research project on how Moroccans living along the Mediterranean coast are being affected by climate change.
Dr Khattabi told us:
'People know there is something happening that is not normal. They notice changes but do not always relate these to climate change.

'During the floods last October there were people of 80 or 90 years old who had never seen that quantity of water.'

He explained how agriculture, fishing, water supplies, tourism and unique ecosystems are all vulnerable.

In these conservative, rural communities it is the women whose lives are most affected by the changes wrought by climate change.

Researcher Naima Faouzi works with women’s groups in the area. She said difficulties women face in their daily lives are exacerbated by climate change. Women may have to travel further to find clean water because of the salinisation of aquifers, firewood becomes scare and a lack of rain reduces agricultural productivity.

But these women have little ability to adapt to the situation. Often poorly educated, with no voice in community life and concerned with the most immediate of problems, it is difficult for them to find long term ways to cope with the changing climate.

'We find the most vulnerable people are the poor people and the women,' siad Dr Khattabi.

There is some hope. The government is encouraging girls to stay on at school and is interested in putting climate change into the national curriculum.

In our meeting, people from the environment ministry were keen to talk about a national plan for climate change.

And Morocco is joining with other African countries to lobby the developed nations at Copenhagen for money and a sharing of technology allowing them to adapt better to the potentially devastating effects of climate change.

Whether they will get what they ask for remains to be seen.

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