Sustainable Development in Africa & Satellites - page 54

Preserving the oases
ith regard to bioclimatology, the
Moroccan oasis zone at the edge
of the Sahara is a semi-arid area
where precipitation is very irregular from
one year to the next (frequently less than
200 mm per year) and that has a markedly
continental character. This situation gives
it particular physical characteristics: poor
soils and arid climate, strong Saharan
influences with wind erosion, sandstorms,
drought, desertification and inadequate
water resources because ground-water is
limited and evaporation intense.
The situation of the oases in southern
Morocco is worrying today. It prefigures an
acceleration of the effects of desertification
and climate changes with the degradation
and finally the abandoning of entire oases
whose social, ecological and economic
roles are of great importance for regional
balance, in particular as their vegetation
and microclimates form a natural barrier
against the spread of the desert.
This serious deterioration of the oasis
heritage has been in progress for a number
of years as a result of the highly irrational
exploitation of water resources. At a time
when water resources are dwindling
naturally as a result of the drought cycle,
increasing demands are made on them by
strongly growing populations and totally
unsuitable cultural practices.
This major oasis problem is conditioned
upstream by hydro-agricultural systems
whose sustainability is now in danger.
The gradual disappearance of favourable
conditions for farming in oases has caused a
gradual decrease in the incomes of a whole
sectionof thepopulation. It hashadan impact
on their way of life, causing pauperisation
that has nowbecome a real problemformost
of the southernmost oasis societies.
In Morocco for example, hundreds of
thousands of families are now concerned
and unfortunately the trend is becoming
more marked. The situation has been
aggravated by a migration movement
whose financial remittances are generally
theonly incomeof theremainingpopulation.
The Kingdom of Morocco has conducted in-
of thePlanningandDevelopmentStrategyof
the Oases of Morocco. This was launched by
Direction de l’Aménagement du Territoire
(Town and Country Planning Authority)
that is handling in particular the execution
of the Programme Oasis Tafilalet (POT) in
partnership with UNDP. In this context, the
twin task of producing a book on the oases
and establishing an ecomuseum in the
Talafet (south-east Morocco) was entrusted
to IPOGEA, Research Centre on Traditional
and Local Knowledge.
Underground intake galleries (
) that
supplied theoaseswithwaterwere identified,
thanks to satellite mapping. Traditional
water and resourcemanagement techniques
were also classified using a computerised
iconographic system (SITTI) developed for
UNESCO. These tunnels are difficult to
identify in the vast expanse of desert but
are clearly visible on satellite maps thanks
to the shafts dug to ventilate them. This
system can be used to identify former oasis
establishments and/or bring them back to
life by restoring the galleries.
The oases are witnesses of human
ingenuity in resource management in arid
zones and form an example of sustainable
development for the entire planet. This is
why we are launching a world-wide appeal
and propose an alliance among Arab
countries aimed at protecting them.
Amine Ahlafi
Architect and local expert consultant
IPOGEA Morocco
Oases are a model relationship through which, under the hardest living conditions, vital life cycles and self- sustained
ecosystems are created. Here in the valley of the Drâa, Morocco’s longest river (1100 km).
© J.D. Dallet/Suds-Concepts
52 - Sustainable Development in Africa & Satellites
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