World News

Moroccan nomads’ way of life threatened by climate change

In the blistering desert of Morocco, the country’s last Berber nomads, the Amazigh, say their ancient lifestyle is under threat as climate change brings ever-more intense droughts.

“Everything has changed,” said Moha Ouchaali, his wrinkled features framed by a black turban. “I don’t recognise myself anymore in the world of today. Even nature is turning against us.”

Ouchaali, an Amazigh man in his 50s, has set up an encampment near a dry riverbed in barren hills about 280 kilometres (175 miles) east of Marrakesh.

Amid the rocky, arid landscape near the village of Amellagou, he and his family have pitched two black woollen tents, lined with old animal fodder bags and fabric scraps.

One is for sleeping and hosting guests, the other serves as a kitchen.
According to the last census, just 25,000 people in Morocco were nomadic in 2014, down by two-thirds in just a decade.

“We’re exhausted,” Ouchaali’s 45-year-old wife Ida said emotionally. “Before, we managed to live decently, but all these droughts, more and more intense, make our lives complicated. Without water we can’t do anything.”

Rainfall is set to decline by 11 percent and average temperatures set to rise by 1.3 percent by 2050, according to forecasts from the Ministry of Agriculture.

“Nomads have always been seen as a barometer of climate change,” said anthropologist Ahmed Skounti.

In easier times, the Ait Aissa Izem would pass the summer in the relatively cool mountain valley of Imilchil, before heading to the area around regional capital Errachidia for the winter.

“That’s ancient history,” Ouchaali said, sitting in his tent and taking a sip of sweet Moroccan tea. “Today we go wherever there’s a bit of water left, to try to save the animals.”

Severe water shortages have even pushed some nomads to take the rare step of taking out loans to feed their livestock, their most vital asset.

“I’ve gone into debt to buy food for my animals so they don’t starve to death,” said Ahmed Assni, 37, sitting by a tiny, almost dried-out stream near Amellagou.

Source: eNCA

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