||TYPOLOGIES OF OASIS SETTLEMENTS
||Program for the Protection and Development of the Southern Oases
||Southern Oases, Camposante Guelmin, Assa and Tata, MOROCCO
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Site: Southern Oases, Camposante Guelmin, Assa and Tata, Morocco
The Program for the Protection and Development of Southern Oases (Programme di Sauvegarde et de Développement des Oasis du Sud, POS) has the goal of protecting the oases of Morocco. Situated at the edge of the Sahara, Morocco’s oasis region is characterized in bioclimatic terms as a semi-arid area with precipitation that varies greatly from one year to the next (rarely exceeding 200mm annually) and pronounced continentality. These circumstances give the region its distinctive traits:
- aridity of climate and poverty of soil;
- very harsh Saharan influences: wind erosion, sandstorms, drought, desertification
- insufficiency of underground water resources, inadequacy of water tables, magnitude of evaporation.
The program embraces the geographic units of the “Dir” of the Lesser Atlas, the Draa Valley, the Wadi Ziz Valley, the Tafilalet and Figuig—an immense pre-desert corridor made up of four large oases:
- south of the Souss-Massa-Draa, south of the Lesser Atlas and of Tata;
- the Draa Valley (Ouarzazate, Zagora, Foum Zguid, Agdz, Dadès)
- the Ziz Valley (Errachidia, My Ali Cherif, Tinjdad, Goulmima);
Problems, causes and effects
The present state of the oases of southern Morocco is dramatic and suggests that desertification is moving more quickly today than before. Whole oases forming a natural barrier against the advancing desert—and with them their social, ecological and economicoles, which are fundamental to the region—are at risk of deterioration, neglect and, ultimately, extinction. This severe corrosion of Morocco’s oasis heritage, which has been in progress for less than a decade, is the result of a highly irrational exploitation of water resources. These resources, which are naturally scarce where there is drought, have been placed under increasing pressure by growing populations and totally inadequate cultural practices. The availability of water is the greatest problem of oases, and it is dealt with by agricultural water systems whose survival is now in danger. The gradual disappearance of conditions favorable to oasis farming has spelled progressiverevenue cuts for the population at large and acute impoverishment for the majority of the southernmost oasis societies. Hundreds of thousands of families are presently affected in Morocco, and the trend is unfortunately toward a rapid growth of this negative turn in social conditions, which is such that communities cannot remain in place, in most cases, without the financial remittances of emigrants.
The program for the preservation and development of the southern oases (Guelmim, Assa and Tata) was initiated in 2006 with a view to preserving and enhancing oases and reducing poverty. Now part of the National Initiative for Human Development (Initiative Nationale pour le Développement Humain, INDH), the program has been refocused on the municipalities and local populations as the principal actors at the local level. These important adjustments place the program among the large-scale efforts to strengthen local democracy, human rights and decentralization initiated by the Government of Morocco. They reinforce the program’s connection to nationwide strategies and action plans, namely the National Strategy to Safeguard Oases, the National Strategy for Sustainable Development, the 2020 Rural Development Strategy, the National Action Plan to Combat Desertification and Drought, the Action Plan for Liquid and Solid Decontamination and the Plan Azur. The Law for the Protection and Development of Palm Groves will give legislative and regulatory weight to these efforts.
Stopping degradation and conserving biodiversity
Because it takes its raison d’être from the level of degradation of the Moroccan oasis heritage, the POS must give priority to safeguarding the natural environment. This will be accomplished by a package of measures focusing on the renovation and restoration of the biodiversity of oases, and the rational management of their most valued resource, water. Making this field the highest priority is justified, given the enduring water shortage, which has been worsened by chronic drought and by irrigation practices that harm the environment. Due attention will be given also to the level of sand infill, the reduction of the number of palm trees and its corollary, the drop in the production of dates.
Developing the potential of oases
Parallel to the components for renovation of the natural environment and development of the potential it offers, and in a spirit of close complementarity, the POS is promoting the development of the potentials and strengths of the municipalities involved. The development method chosen is to encourage the conservation and preservation of the oases such as these have been put in place historically. This goal will be achieved by planting palm trees, fruit trees and herbaceous crops—such a choice should eliminate the risk of creating an imbalance in the traditional strata, together with the risks related to the recourse to crops that do not take into consideration the nature of the soil or the water situation of the sites to protect—by restructuring and developing the principle agro- economic patterns, and by strengthening the social and economic role of women and rural youth.