One more piece of empirical evidence was collected for the qualitative fieldwork through interviews with key informants. In all five countries government officials and nongovernmental experts are well aware of the stress caused by changes in climatic conditions, and of the fact that climate change contributes to rural-urban migration flows even if today it is not the main driver of these flows. They also realize that in most cases, the lack of sufficiently ambitious and well-developed policies and programs contributes to the inability to propose concrete solutions and help to those most affected by climate change in rural areas. Many of the comments made by government officials and non-governmental experts in the various countries were similar so that rather than provide examples from all countries, it is probably more instructive to cover one country in slightly more depth.
This is done in this section for Morocco because more respondents were either experts on migration or were conducting ongoing research on migration-related issues. Key informants in Morocco explained that migration was historically by men and driven by inequitable development in rural areas. The absence of networks in destination areas made women vulnerable to prostitution or slave labor, so they were less likely to migrate than men. Migrants migrated both internationally and internally, in that case principally to Casablanca, which continues to remain as a prime destination for rural migrants since the Greater Casablanca area alone still attracts around 15 percent of all national migration flows in the country. Today territorial units nearby Casablanca have also become preferred destinations for newcomers.
This is for example the case of Ain Sebaa, Sidi Moumen, Moulay Rachid, Hay Hassani, Mohammedia city, and districts of Sidi Bernoussi and Hay Mohammadi. Migration to other cities has also picked up as rural migrants are searching for destinations closer to their homes. Key informants explained that three main features remain central to migratory flows irrespective of origin and destination locations. The first is the importance of networks which play a critical role in providing support to migrant families and in helping them to decide their destinations. A second key feature is the importance of the remittances sent by migrants, which are critical not only for household survival in rural areas but also for communities. In Tiznit for example, migrant associations are helping build two-thirds of the roads. Several informants also stated that migration facilitated women's empowerment in rural areas, as the women who remained in the countryside while their husbands were away working in the cities gained more independence and were also more likely to interact with their neighbors. A third important feature, especially in recent years, has been the role of climatic patterns in internal migration.
Drastic changes in climatic conditions have led to an expansion of shantytowns. In Tafilelt for example, a fourth of the population has migrated due to climatic hazards that had affected agricultural production. Likewise, in the Draa region which has historically been an important center of trade but more recently has been experiencing frequent and longer droughts, out-migration has increased. In general, informants agree that the so-called Oasis belt is losing its population as people are becoming increasingly affected by the negative effects of droughts. Outgoing migration is primarily stemming from the water crisis that Morocco is experiencing. Six of our respondents mentioned water as a major issue, in part due to more droughts, but also with flooding in some areas.
For example, the Tafilalt region, one of the most important oasis regions in the country, has suffered from severe droughts and flooding which in turn have undermined oasis agriculture. While droughts used to occur every four to five years, they now occur every two years. Climatic hazards are also leading to severe desertification in the Sahara region. Rising seawater levels are also a concern, among others in Saadia where tourism may have contributed to destroying plant life and consequently making the land vulnerable. A respondent suggested that 60 percent of Saadi may soon be underwater. These severe climatic conditions have had a large impact on rural populations, with farmers experiencing increased water scarcity with no access to water reserves. Women have to travel much further away to get water.
Some respondents were convinced that agricultural yields will fall by 20 percent in 20 years, which drive more migrants from rural areas toward urban centers. Life in the cities will then become difficult for both locals and migrants. Many respondents mentioned ongoing housing and employment crises in urban areas. As locals and migrants compete for survival, the integration will become a major problem and economic discrimination will rise, as may black markets and the informal economy. In large cities such as Casablanca, many migrants are already found to be living in shantytowns. The pressures of living in cities along with influences from urban lifestyles have also been weakening social structures between migrants and their families which may have severe consequences for those still living in Morocco’s rural areas.
In recognition of these challenges, respondents explained that the Moroccan government launched initiatives at both the national and local levels. One such initiative is a higher focus on rural development programs, among others, through the Human Development Initiative (HDI) which is designed to target vulnerable populations in both rural and urban areas. At the local level, the government is also conducting awareness programs to inform people about climate change. The objective is to teach people about conservation and preservation of water resources, disaster preparedness to limit the negative effects of droughts, and different irrigation schemes to encourage the agricultural sector to become independent of water resources.
Climate change has also been included as a key component in other initiatives such as Morocco Green and the Communal Development Plan. There is also an Energy Strategy Plan being initiated, and work is ongoing toward an insurance plan named ‘Natural Catastrophe Insurance.’ Active research programs are also ongoing in a few universities. Despite these initiatives, respondents perceived some fatalism, with many believing that everything is happening because of Allah’s will. And at times government programs may contribute to the issues. One respondent mentioned a dam that instead of stopping flooding drained water resources from the ground, leading to poor water quality and affecting surrounding palm trees.