The European Union Delegation to Egypt

Fadma talks about climate change and its impact on the income of rural women

13/10/2021 - 18:08
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"They say it's because of the climate, but I think that even people's hearts have something to do with it…" says Fadma, laughing shyly. It is with these words in her native Amazigh language 'tachelhit', that Fadma talks about the impact of climate change and the scarcity of water in the oasis of Aguinana. Fadma invites tourists to visit the oasis, making sure that care is taken to preserve the cleanliness of this vulnerable space and that water is used reasonably to avoid waste.

On the occasion of the International Day of Rural Women, we met Fadma Tamansourt, a resident at the oasis of Aguinana, where she also assumes the role of President of its rural cooperative. Fadma told us about the impact of climate change on her oasis and her involvement in a project co-financed by the European Union.

Fadma was born and raised in Aguinane, an oasis nestled in a canyon in the center of the Anti Atlas range of Morocco, more than 800km south of the capital, Rabat. Until a few years ago, the inhabitants of the oasis lived off agriculture, breeding, and the date trade. Regular rainfalls, a river that crosses the oasis, as well as the various water sources, have played a central role in the socio-economic balance of the villages. The role of women in maintaining this balance, as everywhere else in Morocco, has always been as discreet as it is effective. In agricultural labor, they cultivate and help maintain the various orchards. They draw and transport water to homes. They are responsible for the local produce for the weekly markets, and they are also responsible for the household chores and taking care of the children.

Intense heatwaves and years of prolonged drought have put Morocco at the forefront of climate change. This impact is all the more important as it affects rural areas where the issue of water is pushing the population to look for alternative solutions.

While the COVID health crisis has disproportionately affected rural women, the effects of climate change in some regions, such as oases, put them in an even more worrying situation. Their sources of income are dwindling and they are powerless in the face of waves of migration of their children who leave villages and oases to other regions or to Europe in search of a better life.

Since May 2021, two oases in Morocco, including that of Aguinane, have been at the center of a project to promote integrated water resources management. It is implemented by the Association of Teachers of Life and Earth Sciences and funded by the European Union. The 3-year project targets women and young people in particular, and aims to implement a model whose lessons can be replicated in other regions. Fadma Tamansourt is currently a beneficiary. Together with the support of some other women, she structures her programme around two important themes:

  • The creation of income-generating activities: A rural women's cooperative has been set up. Thanks to the support of dedicated expertise, the women learn to add value to the products they produce: dates, coffee made from date stones, henna, bread, medicinal plants abounding in the region, as well as other specialties of the Anti Atlas.
  • Waste recovery with the ambition of achieving a zero waste oasis. Specific training is offered to enable this project to be carried out, which the women hold dear.

Through these initiatives, Fadma and her friends want to expose young people to the many entrepreneurial opportunities in the field of rural tourism, transport and other economic activities.

The oases have been a space of fragile equilibrium, which has been maintained for millennia as a result of the combination of human agronomic genius and skills. Scarce resources of nature, climate change and socioeconomic changes call for new solutions that the project tries to bring by actively associating the inhabitants and in particular the young people.

These activities also complement the many programs and projects of the European Union and its member states to support Morocco towards ecological transition. A major event was the launch of the Morocco-EU green partnership initiative at the end of June.