'There’s been no real rain since 2020': How climate change is destroying the lives of Moroccan farmers

Moroccan farmers
06 October, 2022

There’s no doubt that the agriculture industry is one of the most severely impacted when it comes to climate change.

While it’s easy to get lost in a sea of statistics and reports detailing how the world is either shrivelling up from droughts or drowning from floods, the first-hand experiences of farmers trying their best to feed the world whilst making a living are the most telling and heart-wrenching.

Just an hour or so outside Marrakech next to Barrage Moulay Youssef, farmers have survived by growing and selling wheat, olives and other crops in the valleys nestled between the sloping green and ochre mountains.

"Without rainfall and well-watered plants, everything else in the area’s ecosystem has begun to fall out of place. No plants mean no food, and no food means locals and wildlife must look elsewhere for some sort of food security"

In previous years, spring and summer would bring landscapes of lush fields begging to be harvested. But this year’s terrain tells an entirely different story.

“There’s no vegetables, no fruit… Nothing,” says Mohammed H., a local farmer whose livelihood is entirely dependent on the success of his crops.

This year has been incredibly hard for Mohammed, as it has been for many other Moroccans around the country. With unpredictable weather and inflation the highest, it’s been in Morocco for 27 years, making ends meet is proving more difficult than normal.

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While money certainly makes the world go round, a lack of water stops the world dead in its tracks.

Drought has been a serious problem in Barrage Moulay Youssef, and Mohammed hasn’t needed a rain gauge or the local news to tell him just how bad it’s become.

While he never used the term “climate change” when describing the reason for his misfortune, the drastic change in the weather is a clear sign that things aren’t how they used to be.

“There’s been no real rain since 2020,” he says. While locals have a small system set up to pump water into homes for day-to-day use, it’s not nearly enough to sufficiently provide for their crops. This means farmers in the area rely almost exclusively on rainfall to water their plants.

The olive trees, which coat the sides of the mountains in perfectly-planted lines and provide the town with rich, incomparably-delicious olive oil, are suffering as well. “If there’s no rain, there are no olives,” he states matter-of-factly. It’s a devastating loss.

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Without rainfall and well-watered plants, everything else in the area’s ecosystem has begun to fall out of place. No plants mean no food, and no food means locals and wildlife must look elsewhere for some sort of food security.

Now, Mohammed and others in his village “rely on the souk [market]” for their food. It’s an enormous adjustment, especially considering their annual income has all but disappeared due to their crops failing. Less money and more expenses are a difficult position for any community, but the fact that the two main factors for these hardships are entirely out of their control makes the situation that much more problematic.

“There’s inflation and there’s no water,” Mohammed reiterates.

Tucked away in the Moroccan countryside, Mohammed isn’t responsible for the ebbs and flows of the world economy or the tonnes of greenhouse gasses being pumped out by giant corporations.

Instead, he is simply living the life-altering consequences of these situations. CEOs and politicians have the means and education to make ends meet and thrive in almost any environmental or economic crisis.

While the farmers – the people who really keep the world afloat – suffer silently on their dried-up land eating expensive produce they shouldn’t have had to purchase in the first place. It all seems excessively unfair.

As for the animals in Barrage Moulay Youssef, they’ve either left or quietly faded into the landscape. “There are no more animals around, just the [African] wolves,” says Mohammed. As for the birds, the few species that remain in the area are hunted by outsiders, taking away the little game Mohammed and others in his community have.

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With no income, villagers have had to sell their farm animals just to make ends meet. It’s a desperate attempt to survive what they can only hope is a severe yet temporary disruption to their home.

In a way, the disappearance of wildlife and livestock makes the whole situation feel that much more lonely and isolating.

Listening to Mohammed speak, his tone is neutral. It’s as if he has become used to the devastating changes that have plagued his village and the landscapes surrounding it.

But no matter how brave of a face he and his community put on, the economic, environmental, and likely emotional toll this has had on them is beyond description.

“Everything is from the water,” Mohammed states. He’s right, of course. And everything vanishes without it, as well.

Yasmina Achlim is an Amazigh-Moroccan-American writer fascinated with culture, art, and the environment. She is a graduate of St Mary’s University in London and has lived in the United States, Morocco, and England