Countering land degradation and water scarcity in Tafilalet

21 Oct 2013

image In Fezna, 250 people benefited from the installation of windmill and solar energy for irrigation

In the southeast corner of Morocco, Tafilalet, the largest Saharan oasis in the country, spreads its sandy dunes to eco-tourists who come to enjoy its historical treasures and famous dates. Over Moroccan mint tea, the nomads of Tafilalet generously offer their foreign guests a glimpse of nomadic life and its warmth, despite the harsh living conditions outside their tents.

Despite the area’s natural beauty and rich historical heritage, the people of Tafilalet face daily water scarcity, and the consistent degradation of arable land, forcing a great number of youth to emigrate in search of a better future.

Recognizing the need to safeguard the future of Tafilalet, UNDP, with support from the Government of Japan through the Africa Adaptation Programme and other partners, launched in 2007, a sustainable development project to counter the ecological, economic and social impact of land degradation and water scarcity.

“The partnership between the town of Fezna and the people shows how we can complement each other,” said Moussa Slimani, Mayor of Fezna, one of 113 settlements in Tafilalet. “From infrastructure enhancement, like solar public lighting or waste water purification, to environmental education and cultural preservation, it has been a boost to local development.”

In Fezna, 250 people benefited from the installation of windmill and solar energy for irrigation. Some 1,300 palm trees were planted. In the towns of Izilf and Tafroute, more than 5,000 people benefited from the establishment of two eco-friendly collective laundries. Focus on eco-tourism has also transformed dilapidated towns such as Ksar into ecological attractions.

“We have renewed interest for agriculture,” said Rabha A., president of a cooperative in Ksar. “Other villages envy us now.”