Jennifer Anne Sopoci
F2F US Volunteer
F2F intervention during an Environmental Forum at the ENCG in Beni Mellal. Photo Credit: HAF
On February 6, at the coordination of Aziz, we were able to go to the University Sultan Moulay Slimane School of Science and Technology to meet with research students and hear about their climate change research and outreach/education efforts. These students are studying the effects of climate change on local watersheds in the Beni Mellal region. They gather data from the field measuring surface water levels, the velocity of rivers, and soil erosion through sediment analysis as it relates to flash floods.
Their work is particularly important as there is no data in this region to date. They have been collecting data for two years which they presented to us. They use GIS modeling to make predictions and then confirm their modeling through field data. Their methods are scientifically sound and their research and passion are very commendable. They lack funding and resources to continue and expand their research which is so vital to understanding and addressing localized climate change. Upon my return to the USA, I will work to establish connections between the University of Arizona’s climate change research programs and the University of Si Slimane in hopes of providing resources.
After the visit to the University, we visited a primary school in the Afourar community that has been recognized for its efforts in ecological education. The school grounds have many trees and plants that are well-tended by the students and staff there. We met with a group of teachers and administrators about their mission to teach the children at the school about the environment and the importance of protecting it.
They described to us their water scarcity issues as their well is shallow and has run dry. Currently, they are watering with municipal water which is very expensive for them. They are hoping to secure funding and resources to extend their current well another 20-40 meters. We planted a Carob tree with the students and had a question and answer time where we tested their knowledge of environmental issues and the benefits of growing trees. The students greatly impressed us with their extensive knowledge about soil erosion, trees and their benefits, and drought.
On February 7 we were invited to participate in a discussion at the University school of human resource management as part of their Environmental Days program in February. I spoke with them about my Environmental Science degree, professional consulting experience, my time in the Peace Corps in Morocco, my farming and farming education experience, and my time spent volunteering with High Atlas Foundation and the Farmer to Farmer program in 2021 and in 2023. We discussed the many problems that Morocco faces with climate change, but made sure to also focus on the many solutions and opportunities there are to adapt and make a positive impact in their communities. The students asked important questions related to technological differences in farming between the USA and Morocco and what they could do as individuals to make a difference.
The Bio-Agri Atlas farmers cooperative of Oulad Mbark are willing and ready to try new methods of farming to improve water retention and reduce soil erosion. The many benefits of cover cropping and no-till direct seeding are methods they are willing to put in place (and many of them already are). Dry cover crops (residue) from previous seasons’ growth appear to be the most attainable during this time of drought and limited water availability.
Barriers they face are a lack of reliable irrigation water, a lack of technology to predict weather events, measure soil moisture content, and tractor attachments to crimp instead of plow harvested crop residue. Farmers that do not have access to well water are left with no way to irrigate their crops until the catchment dam has been replenished. Each farmer has their own well seems to be a temporary solution only that may have lasting consequences of groundwater depletion without proper water management.
The Ph.D. students at the University Sultan Moulay Slimane School of Science and Technology are conducting scientifically sound and commendable research that is immensely important for the Beni Mellal region and Morocco. They lack proper funding and resources to effectively continue and expand their studies.
The students at the primary school of Ait Chaib show extensive knowledge of their local environment, issues they face, and solutions they have. The ecological focus of the school is so important that the next generation is equipped with the knowledge to be active participants in environmental solutions. The lack of water is also affecting their ability to sustainably maintain their school grounds.
The Environment club at the University School of Human Resource Management is highly motivated to make a positive impact in their communities, country, and world. The Environment Days program is a very effective way to educate the school population about the environmental issues we are facing.