Climate Change Puts North Africa in a Hot Spot

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27 November, 2019

Many areas of North Africa, including Tunisia and Algeria, have seen a sharp decrease in rainfall over the last 50 years. Some experts say the lack of rainfall

will worsen in the future.

The German research organization, the Max Planck Institute, reports that parts of North Africa and the Middle East might become unlivable in the next 100 years.

Essia Guezzi is a climate and energy project officer for World Wildlife Fund North Africa, a conservation group. She told VOA, "We're seeing higher temperatures and increasing water stress [in the area]." She noted that rising sea levels also threaten people living near the coast.

World leaders will discuss these and other issues during next month's United Nations climate conference in Madrid, Spain.

Morocco has earned praise as a leader in fighting the effects of climate change. But experts say North Africa, as a whole, needs to do much more. Some countries are dealing with conflict and civil unrest. Others, such as Algeria and Libya, have economies that depend on oil.

Trying to turn the tide

In Tunisia, fresh groundwater supplies are decreasing quickly. About two-thirds of the land is threatened by a lack of rain and loss of trees. A report by the Netherlands Foreign Ministry from 2018 says that the effects of climate change may slow Tunisia's growth in its two main industries - tourism and agriculture.

Tunisian officials plan to cut the amount of carbon dioxide the country produces to 41 percent of levels measured in 2010 by the 2030s. Carbon dioxide gas is linked to warming of the Earth's atmosphere. However, critics say Tunisia has been slow to match words with action.

In one village, Samira Sghaier is trying to help change things, at least in her community. She and other area farmers began planting acacia trees to help reduce soil erosion. They also are planting moringa, a fast-growing plant valued for its nutritional and medicinal qualities.

The aim was to help fight climate change, while also earning money. The reality has not been so easy. She told VOA, "Everyone likes new products. The problem is selling them. It's hard to find a market."

Northern African countries try new measures

The African Union is leading an effort called the ‘Great Green Wall' initiative. The project aims to restore damaged land across areas south of the Sahara, commonly called the Sahel.

Gilles Boetsch is director of a French scientific team working with Senegalese researchers in the area. He said, "The goal is to replant trees, to return the Sahel to what it was about 60 years ago, when there was a lot more forest cover."

Boetsch added that many trees die and need to be replaced. And conflict in some Sahel countries makes some areas difficult to reach.

In North Africa, some national projects to fight climate change are making a difference. Tunisia will reportedly present an oases protection project at the Madrid climate conference.

Local farmers in northern Algeria are seeking help from Mexican experts to plant prickly pear cactus. The desert plant needs little rainfall, and provides nutrients and a way to make money. Algeria is also trying to renew efforts for a reforestation project that did not have good results.

I'm Jonathan Evans.

Lisa Bryant reported this story for VOA News. Jonathan Evans adapted it for Learning English. Mario Ritter, Jr. was the editor.

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Words in This Story

erosion n. the gradual destruction of something by natural forces (such as water, wind, or ice) : the process by which something is eroded or worn away

initiative n. a plan or program that is intended to solve a problem

oasis (pl. oases) n. an area in a desert where there is water and plants

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