Dar Si Hmad for Development, Education and Culture is an independent nonprofit organization founded in 2010 promoting local culture and sustainable initiatives through education and the integration of scientific ingenuity in Southwest Morocco. We operate North Africa's largest fog harvesting project, providing villages with access to potable water. Our Water School and Girls' E-Learning Programs build capacity in the Anti-Atlas Mountains. Through our Ethnographic Field School, researchers and students engage with local communities in Agadir, Sidi Ifni, and the rural Aït Baamrane region for meaningful cross-cultural exchange.

Monday, June 29, 2020

The UN 2020 Water & Climate Change report summary: Chapter 2 - Interational Policy Framework

The second chapter of the UN 2020 Water and Climate Change report dissects the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (2015), Paris Agreement on climate change (2015), Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction (2015), and several international water conventions. The report concludes that almost all of these frameworks do not address water management by name, even though water is an underlying connector in all frameworks.

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development
The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is a collection of 17 goals that aim to reshape global development in ways that allow us to “reach the future we want whilst leaving no one behind.” Water serves as an often unacknowledged, yet vital, connecting factor for achieving the sustainable development goals (SDGs), particularly water being essential for basic human needs (SDGs 6, 5), but also for marine (SDG 14) and land (SDG 15) ecosystems, for producing food (SDG 2) and energy (SDG 7), supporting livelihoods (SDG 8) and industry (SDGs 9, 12), and providing sustainable and healthy environments to live in (SDGs 1, 3, 11).

SDG 13 recommends we “take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts,” is the SDG most explicitly concerned with climate change. Although it does not specify water-related issues, the goal has several water-related targets and has designated indicators such as strengthen resilience and adaptive capacity to climate related disasters (e.g. floods and extreme weather events). The fact that water-related issues are not called out by name is emblematic of what the report calls a “fundamental disconnection” between the SDGs themselves, as well as other global frameworks.

SDG 6 recommends we “ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all,” and was reviewed in the 2018 July session of the High-Level Political Forum. Here, countries acknowledged that SDG 6, similarly to other SDGs, were being addressed in a siloed manner. This lack of connection is considered as the major reason for countries around the world not on track to meet the targets of SDG 6.

The Paris Agreement
The Paris Agreement on climate change, a set of legal instruments referred to as protocols from the UNFCCC, is another relevant international policy framework. The Paris Agreements highly recommends to keep the global average temperature below 1.5ºC above pre-industrial levels in order to reduce the risks and impacts of climate change. It does this by having all parties to the Agreement determine, plan, and regularly report adaptation and mitigation measures, which are referred to as nationally determined contributions. These NDCs are to be reviewed every five years, although reporting the progress of NDCs is voluntary. Parties are also encouraged to adopt national action plans, which are medium- to long-term adaptation tactics that address and integrate the SDGs and 2030 agenda when appropriate. The Paris Agreement also recognizes the essential roles of non-state parties (including but not limited to local authorities, the private sector, academia, marginalized populations, and civil society organizations like Dar Si Hmad, play in reaching its goals.

The Paris Agreement is a landmark international policy framework concerning climate change but as recognized in the COP25 of 2019, achieving the goals of the Paris agreement have proven to be more difficult than anticipated. Additionally, Frank Bainimarama, Prime Minister of Fiji and President of COP23, said at the closing plenary session of COP24 that the world needs “five times more ambition, five times more action” in order to achieve the goals of the Agreement.

Water is not explicitly mentioned in the Agreement, but water is seen as an “essential component of nearly all the mitigation and adaptation strategies.” The UN report sees the exclusion of water from the Agreement as an opportunity for international water organizations to step up. International water organizations can include themselves in international efforts by supporting the nationally determined contributions of party countries. Additionally, water organizations can integrate their work and the issue of water into the operational phase of a country’s nationally determined contributions and national action plan.

Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030
Prior to the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030 (Sendai Framework), disaster risk reduction focused on disaster relief, instead of prevention. With the Sendai Framework, there is a shift to focus onto prevention and preparedness. It also acknowledges how prevention-work interacts with a number of drivers for disasters including climate change, inequality, demographic change, and more.

The goal of the Sendai Framework is to achieve “the substantial reduction of disaster risk and losses in lives, livelihoods and health and in the economic, physical, social, cultural and environmental assets of persons, businesses, communities and countries.” To reach this overarching goal, it sets up seven standard global targets and four priorities for action. Building on this model, member-states should provide publicly available strategies regarding their national and local disaster risk reduction. Although water is rarely explicitly mentioned in the Sendai Framework, floods and storms constitute nearly 90% of the most severe natural disasters in question.

International water conventions
The report also discusses several international water conventions such as the United Nations Convention on the Law of Non-Navigational Watercourses (Watercourses Convention) and the Convention on the Protection and Use of Transboundary Watercourses and International Lakes (Water Convention). These conventions provide a framework for addressing the impacts climate change has on water resources.

These provisions support adaptation measures and acknowledge climate change through the principles of equitable and reasonable use, ‘no significant harm’, and the precautionary principle. These principles are important in order to prevent the unfair use of international water courses, such as one country hoarding a water resource that naturally disperses water to other countries.

The equitable and reasonable utilization of water refers to article 5 of the Watercourses Convention, which states that states with bodies of water running through their land will use water resources in an “equitable and reasonable manner,” while also participating in “the use, development, and protection of an international watercourse in an equitable and reasonable manner.” This article acknowledges the right of all to use water resources and the shared duty to protect and develop water resources. Also from the Watercourses Convention, the ‘no significant harm’ rule requires states who utilize watercourses in their territories to prevent causing significant harm in other states. 

The precautionary principle in environmental regulations requires actions suspected to have environmentally harmful consequences should be controlled sooner rather than later. It is based on the adage ‘it is better to be safe than sorry’ and has gained recognition in the international community as a principle that should guide public policy.

Most international water conventions, however, do not explicitly mention climate change, but they do require member parties to “prevent, control and reduce transboundary impacts on water resources, including those related to adapting and mitigating climate change.”

Water as a connector
The report states that water acts as a connector to support the implementation of global agreements. After all, water is present in, connects, and touches all aspects of human society – economic, social, and environmental. The report states that strong political will and leadership will be necessary in order to highlight and mainstream the value of water in achieving the goals of global agreements. The report cautions that there are discrepancies when transforming global recommendations to concrete actions, hence strong leadership that acknowledges how water is not a stand-alone sector is an important and necessary ingredient in achieving the goals of all the aforementioned agreements.

Written by: Gari De Ramos, Dar Si Hmad former intern 

Friday, June 12, 2020

Dar Si Hmad Highlights of May 2020

Dar Si Hmad staff entered their third month under confinement in May 2020. This month, we were granted an extended weekend as Labor Day came on a Friday. Virtual work was then resumed the following week to carry on the developmental projects in Aït Baamrane, and to continue spreading our environmental values to the largest public possible.

As Ramadan was still underway in the beginning of May, we kept refreshing our social media platforms with daily ecological spiritualities. The quotes we shared in this regard were carefully chosen so as to incite our followers into connecting their spiritual awareness with the environmental realities all around us. The International Day for Biological Diversity on May 22nd  was especially a highlight for us. Moreover, and thanks to the efforts of our former intern Gari De Ramos, we could share more lessons from the UN 2020 Water and Climate Change Report that not only gave us the factual information about the climate impact in the world, but had more of our followers engage with the information, both the spiritual and the scientific.

On May 2020, we also unveiled our new environmental project to be run in partnership with Domaine Nzaha, a permaculture farm cooperative in the desert of Guelmim. We announced this news on our third session of our monthly program Ljamae Azgzaw. The latter, on May 30th,  was this time live from Instagram, and in it we talked to our followers about agroecology and its benefits on the environment and the positive socio-economic effects for the communities to have adopted this holistic way of agriculture. This is the core of our upcoming project to be launched once the health situation in the country improves. We do recognize and wholeheartedly thank the High Atlas Foundation for its financial support.

What really made the highlight of May 2020 despite our confinement, we all agree in the office is the several videos we received from our former interns, volunteers and researchers who, when they learnt we were updating our website, recorded their testimonies about their experiences in Dar Si Hmad. Their statements were a great motivation for us, and they will forever be appreciated. Please be on the lookout for them… their publication is coming up soon. 

Friday, June 5, 2020

The UN 2020 Water & Climate Change report summary: Chapter 1 - Water and Sustainable Development

The first chapter of the UN 2020 Water and Climate Change report highlights how climate change affects water and society, what can be done to adapt and mitigate these effects, and who is most vulnerable. If the world does not limit warming to 1.5ºC, there will be increased risk to health, livelihoods, food and energy security, human security, and economic growth. While it is known that access to water will ensure survival, the report also stresses that water – especially water-related diseases – affects a significant number of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.

Climate change influences water both directly and indirectly, Directly, hydrological systems are affecting water availability, water quality, and extreme events. Indirectly, changes in water demand impact things including but not limited to energy production, food security, and the economy. May societal factors such as population growth, economic development, changing consumption patterns, intensified agricultural production, and expanding cities will increase the demand for water.

One of the most important ways this can be done is by changing how the energy and agriculture sectors work. At the moment, both sectors are starting to shift to low-emissions production, because this mitigates the depletion of freshwater and prevents water pollution. Shifting to a low-emission production system, however, is not enough, because it may lead to increased sediment output, pollutant loadings from heavy rainfall, and other potentially negative effects. Instead, the UN report suggests all stakeholders come together to find “a sustainable balance between social, economic, and ecological needs.”
Before moving on, it is worth breaking down what adaptation and mitigation actually mean. Adaptation  measures moderate the harm from climate change, such as building climate-resilient infrastructure that can withstand environmental degradation, or finding new sources of water like with Dar Si Hmad’s fog harvesting project. The success of adaptation measures are seen in the short-term, which can mean as soon as in 3-5 years or even 10-30 years. Mitigation measures are more concerned with the long-term goals that get at the heart of what causes climate change. Phasing out of a fossil-fuel dependent economy, for example, is one mitigation measure because it would reduce the number of greenhouse gases emitted.
The UN report advocates for nature-based solutions, which are solutions modeled by the earth’s natural processes. Concerning water, many suggest preserving wetlands as flood mitigation, or preserving mangroves to reduce the impact of waves, storms surges, and coastal erosion.

Both adaptation and mitigation measures are necessary to limit the harmful effects climate change will have on water. Adaptation and mitigation in water management is of particular concern to sustainable development and its many dimensions, which makes water management a cross-sectoral challenge. Agriculture and energy are the largest users of water, followed by the industry sector with its rapidly increasing demand for water. The water-related climate risks will impact food, energy, urban, transportation and environmental systems with mutual and conflicting influences. So not only will each sector need to prepare for, but all sectors must work together.

Another main focus of this chapter is who are most vulnerable to the negative water-related effects from climate change. The chapter focuses on developing countries, as well as women and girls, Indigenous populations, children, and the poor.

Although the developed world are the primary emitters of anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions that exacerbate climate change, the impacts of climate change are manifested in the earth’s tropical zones, which house most of the developing world. The report states that developing countries have a lower ability to alleviate the impacts of climate change and need to develop more knowledge on water-related disaster management, water availability, and water demand and use. This is why Dar Si Hmad does what we do – to alleviate the effects of climate change and provide water for Morocco’s most vulnerable.

Women and girls are another vulnerable population that Dar Si Hmad works with. Women and girls are more at risk of losing their access to water, sanitation, and hygiene, which increases the risk of contracting water-borne diseases such as diarrhea. If sick, girls will have to skip school and my not be able to afford health care. By providing clean water to the rural communities of southwestern Morocco, Dar Si Hmad gives women and girls the time to go to work or school, thus empowering women. On a larger scale, however, there needs to be a continued gendered approach to climate change. The report suggests disaggregating data on climate change in order to understand how climate change impacts men and women and make gender-sensitive policies.

The report also mentions Indigenous populations and youth. Indigenous populations around the world have their own traditional practices for tending to and adapting to changes in the environment, but many are unable to practice their traditions because of governmental limitations. That said, there is much to be learnt from Indigenous practices that may be applied to adaptation and mitigation practices. 

By being born into an era of incredible climate change, today’s kids and youth are also at risk of having unlivable futures. Despite these challenges, kids and youth can work together and influence and participate in efforts that teach, prevent and prepare for climate change. The Paris Agreement refers to this as intergenerational equity.

Finally, the poor in both developed and developing countries are more at risk, especially those with climate-dependent livelihoods. Since economic prosperity is closely tied with poverty alleviation, both must be addressed when managing water. That said, poverty alleviation is dependent on economic prosperity. Climate change affects economic prosperity by increased rainfall and episodes of drought and floods, which can lead to waves of migration or spikes in violence. According to the report, there were 18.8 million people internally displaced from disasters in 135 countries and territories in the year 2017 alone. It is, however, challenging to attribute a specific cause to these social changes in such a globalized world.

All of these vulnerabilities form the concept of climate justice, which stresses that climate change is “an ethical and political issue, as well as an environmental and physical one.” Proponents of climate justice focus on the inequalities that exist within the world and how we got here. 

Written by: Gari De Ramos, Dar Si Hmad former intern