WESTBURY, New York — The High Atlas Foundation is helping Morocco’s local communities determine how they choose to develop their land and grow out of poverty sustainably. Like those in the northern Atlas Mountains, Morocco’s most vulnerable communities have long suffered from water scarcity, shaky access to land and unregulated grazing rights. These hardships make it difficult for many individual planters to harvest profitable yields on their produce and further strain their labors. Also, their reliance on traditional and overplanted crops like barley, corn and dates deliver low profits. Additionally, they exasperate a low diversity of fruits and vegetables in the poorest of the nation’s regions. While Morocco’s red fruit production saw an increase of 84% last year, many of the nation’s poorest farmers were not included in the agricultural boom. Yet, one organization is working to reverse this in a new sustainable development model, improving agricultural development in Morocco.
The High Atlas Foundation
Peace Corps volunteers who served in Morocco founded The High Atlas Foundation in 2000. They committed themselves to sustainable development through several human development initiatives. These included sustainable agriculture, education, health and women’s empowerment. Working with local and international institutions, the High Atlas Foundation works to facilitate development through participatory planning.
The Borgen Project spoke with Dr. Yossef Ben Meir, The High Atlas Foundation’s Founder and President, in an interview to learn more about the High Atlas Foundation’s approach to sustainable development and advocacy. “I’m a former Peace Corps volunteer who served in Morocco in the early 90s, and others, having gone through that two-year experience, were moved in terms of the severe life challenges of particularly rural communities,” said Dr. Yossef Ben Meir. “A number of us founders served in mountainous areas. I served in the south side of the High Atlas region.”
Agricultural Land Struggles
Unfortunately, 70% of agricultural land only generates 10 to 15% of agricultural revenue in rural regions, and 80% of arable lands are located in arid or semi-arid areas. Still, only 15 percent of the country’s lands are irrigated. Ben Meir says the dependence on the traditional subsistence approach to growing barley and corn keeps people down. He says the potential for waterborne diseases, high unemployment and a lack of access to basic government services is a barrier for rural families. The transition from barley and corn to more lucrative fruit trees and medicinal plants may have challenges.
“80% of rural incomes comes from agriculture,” said Ben Meir. “Most people who experience poverty in Morocco are in rural places and overcoming this dependency on or generational reliance on barley and corn. It’s one of many factors that have to be addressed in the agricultural value chain, but one of them is the generation of fruit trees so that farmers and farming families can make that transition.”
Most recently, the foundation is taking several steps to foster deals to reallocate government land and organize a community-based approach to fruit tree planting, aiding agricultural development in Morocco. Today Ben Meir and his teams help manage 13 tree nurseries that care for over 1.6 million saplings. He says a modest investment into the way planters harvest their crops can profoundly impact people’s lives. It allows more locals to better participate in the local economy.
“It’s also the exposure that we had to community planning,” said Ben Meir. “The beneficiaries of the projects when they determine the project design and form and location and what it is and how it will be managed and evaluated when they’re in control of it, it has a longer life and sustainability if you will.”
Ben Meir says these experiences embody the foundation’s original mission to facilitate participatory community planning towards development initiatives. In this sense, local communities play a crucial role when creating and implementing a project. The foundation uses a process called Imagine, a four-day or 32-hour program of personal and group introspection. Afterward, multiple sessions focus on the community planning of projects. They then implement development initiatives requiring accelerating revenue streams and beneficiaries. For example, the monitoring and certifying of trees to generate carbon offset credits. They can commercialize and reinvest in their projects. Teams like these allow the foundation to generate enough revenue to be financially stable alongside other advocacy efforts.
The High Atlas Foundation understands the importance of creating sustainability projects. For instance, technology like renewable solar pumps helps power the 13 nurseries, facilitating a zero-waste version of sustainability. Ben Meir says the foundation takes zero waste extremely seriously, not only in terms of energy but also in biomass. For example, something as simple as renewing wasted walnut shells could further progress the foundation’s goal.
Recently The High Atlas Foundation implemented the USAID Farmer-to-Farmer Program in Morocco. The program helps create opportunities for cooperatives along the agricultural value-chain by using local and U.S. experts, improving agricultural development in Morocco. Additionally, it created the Religious and Ethnic Communities project, an interfaith community organization that shares stories and narratives that capture the human experience of intercultural exchange and interfaith relationships. Ben Meir says these experiences are an inescapable aspect of Moroccan history and life. Alongside their development projects, they can pave the way for interfaith and intercultural narratives to flourish like their trees.
A new research report released by Siemens Smart Infrastructure, titled ‘A New Space Race,’ has highlighted the increasingly urgent need to transform global infrastructure to focus on adaptability, resiliency and decarbonisation. Data from the report claims infrastructure leaders worldwide recognise the need for digitalisation to tackle challenges in energy systems and the built environment.
“Infrastructure stakeholders are starting to act with real urgency. They recognise the need to accelerate decarbonisation, to build greater resilience and adaptability, while maintaining competitiveness,” said Matthias Rebellius, CEO, Siemens Smart Infrastructure. “Major change is challenging, but our highest goals are possible if we harness the power of data and new technologies, welcome greater cooperation and keep driving innovation.”
Based on interviews with 500 senior managers from a range of infrastructure disciplines in 10 countries, the report highlights changing priorities in a post-pandemic world. Among its findings is an increasing focus on the role of infrastructure in driving a digitalised energy transition, reducing carbon emissions, enabling future working models, and its potential to play a more active role in the health and wellbeing of people.
Digitalisation as an enabler for decarbonising infrastructure
The report suggests a significant rise in the number of organisations setting low-carbon or net-zero targets, and most respondents are optimistic about these goals, with the majority (94 percent) expecting their organisations to be carbon neutral by 2030.
“Buildings will be a lot more digital in the future”
67 percent of energy infrastructure stakeholders believe that net zero energy is impossible without digitalisation, with AI-driven prediction and automation considered to have the biggest impact on infrastructure assets, projects, and investments over the next five years.
However, the majority (63 percent) of infrastructure stakeholders believe the digitalisation of buildings and power networks is lagging behind digital progress in other industries. Only 31 percent of those questioned said they make full use of the data available to them, with almost half reporting they have not yet done so.
Future adaptability is the most important requirement for buildings
In addition to the impact of infrastructure on the environment, the report also highlights the changing needs and expectations of people in their buildings, factories, facilities, offices, homes and surrounding infrastructure. It claims that for many, adaptability is considered the most critical factor when designing a new building or facility, to allow the re-purposing of spaces to suit changing occupants. Not only was this considered the most important thing to get right; it was also considered the most difficult.
“Buildings will be a lot more digital in the future,” said Rebellius. “A facility manager will not only be able to automate, and remotely control more functionality, they will also benefit from a wider network of better sensors that flow into integrated visualisations and richer datasets. This will support a new level of fine-grained control and insights that are needed to make future buildings more resilient and flexible.”
Designs for a green skyscraper that could remove up to 1,000 tonnes of carbon from the atmosphere on an annual basis — the equivalent to growing 48,500 trees — was unveiled at the COP26 conference last week.
Named for the world’s tallest trees, the ‘Urban Sequoia’ design is the brainchild of the Chicago-based architectural firm Skidmore, Owings & Merrill and is based on technologies that are all available for use today.
Each high-rise would employ multiple approaches to sequester carbon, including construction with carbon-absorbing materials, growth of plants and algae (for fuel, energy and food), and direct air capture technology.
The latter would be aided by the tower design’s ‘stack effect’, which would help draw in air to the centre of the building for processing a carbon extraction — while contributing to the building’s net zero energy system.
In fact, the company has claimed, their Urban Sequoia tower design would be capable, assuming a lifespan of at least 60 years, to absorb up to 4 times the carbon released in the atmosphere as a result of its construction.
Captured carbon could be used to produce biomaterials for roads, pavement, pipes and other items for developing urban infrastructure.
Scroll down for video
Designs for a green skyscraper that could remove up to 1,000 tonnes of carbon from the atmosphere on an annual basis — the equivalent to growing 48,500 trees — was unveiled at the COP26 conference last week Pictured: a city of Urban Sequoias
Each high-rise would employ multiple approaches to sequester carbon , including construction with carbon-absorbing materials, growth of plants and algae (for fuel, energy and food), and direct air capture technology — as depicted
‘We envision a future in which the first Urban Sequoia will inspire the architecture of an entire neighbourhood — feeding into the city ecosystem to capture and repurpose carbon to be used locally, with surplus distributed more widely,’ said Skidmore, Owings & Merrill’s senior associate principal Mina Hasman. She added: ‘If every city around the world built Urban Sequoias, the built environment could remove up to 1.6 billion tons of carbon from the atmosphere every year’ Pictured: modern-day Laos, left, with the firm’s vision of a greener city, right
CONSTRUCTION’S CARBON FOOTPRINT
According to Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, ‘the need to transform the built environment is clear.’
Construction presently accounts for nearly 40 per cent of all global carbon emissions — a figure that could easily rise in the future without alternative approaches.
In fact, experts have predicted that, come 2060, an extra 230 billion square meters of building stock will be required in the world’s urban centres.
This, the architecture firm, is where Urban Sequoia comes in — allowing the built environment to turn buildings in to solutions, rather than problems, in the growing climate crisis.
‘This is a pathway to a more sustainable future that is accessible today. Imagine a world where a building helps to heal the planet,’ said Skidmore, Owings & Merrill partner, Kent Jackson.
‘We developed our idea so that it could be applied and adapted to meet the needs of any city in the world, with the potential for positive impact at any building scale.’
‘The power of this idea is how achievable it is,’ agreed Skidmore, Owings & Merrill principal Yasemin Kologlu.
‘Our proposal brings together new design ideas with nature-based solutions, emerging and current carbon absorption technologies and integrates them in ways not done before in the built environment.’
While Skidmore, Owings & Merrill’s prototype design is a skyscraper that can sequester up to 1,000 tons of carbon on an annual basis, the carbon capture approaches it uses might be applied to buildings of all types and sizes.
By constructing buildings from materials like bio-brick, biocrete, hempcrete and timber — all of which use less carbon than alternatives, and some of which continue to adsorb carbon over time — it is possible to reduce the carbon impact of construction by 50 per cent as compared to using concrete and steel.
‘A progressive approach could reduce construction emissions by 95 per cent,’ the firm added.
‘We are quickly evolving beyond the idea of being carbon neutral. The time has passed to talk about neutrality,’ elaborated Skidmore, Owings & Merrill partner Chris Cooper.
‘Our proposal for Urban Sequoia — and ultimately entire “forests” of Sequoias — makes buildings, and therefore our cities, part of the solution by designing them to sequester carbon, changing the course of climate change.’
According to the firm, up to 120 tons of carbon could be sequestered per square kilometre (46 tons per square mile) if urban hardscapes were converted into gardens, cities were re-built as intense carbon-absorbing landscapes and streets were retrofitted with additional carbon-capture technologies.
Furthermore, they suggested, this figure could be nearly tripled if these strategies were also applied in parks and other green spaces.
Named for the world’s tallest trees, the ‘Urban Sequoia’ design is the brainchild of the Chicago-based architectural firm Skidmore, Owings & Merrill and is based on technologies that are all available for use today. Depicted: an illustration of how the tower’s design would allow it to take it carbon dioxide for storage or usage, while also producing products like biofuel
The tower design’s ‘stack effect’ would help draw in air to the centre of the building for processing a carbon extraction — while contributing to the building’s net zero energy system. Pictured: an artist’s impression of the ‘Urban Sequoia’ concept
‘We are quickly evolving beyond the idea of being carbon neutral. The time has passed to talk about neutrality,’ said Skidmore, Owings & Merrill partner Chris Cooper. ‘Our proposal for Urban Sequoia — and ultimately entire “forests” of Sequoias — makes buildings, and therefore our cities, part of the solution by designing them to sequester carbon’
‘If the Urban Sequoia became the baseline for new buildings, we could realign our industry to become the driving force in the fight against climate change,’ said Skidmore, Owings & Merrill’s senior associate principal Mina Hasman — a nod to how construction presently accounts for nearly 40 per cent of all global carbon emissions.
‘We envision a future in which the first Urban Sequoia will inspire the architecture of an entire neighbourhood — feeding into the city ecosystem to capture and repurpose carbon to be used locally, with surplus distributed more widely,’ Ms Hasman continued.
‘If every city around the world built Urban Sequoias, the built environment could remove up to 1.6 billion tons of carbon from the atmosphere every year.
With immediate focus and investment in SOM’s prototype, we can start this process now and build the first Urban Sequoia,’ she concluded.
The Urban Sequoia concept was presented by Mr Jackson and Ms Hason in COP26’s Blue Zone on Thursday.
While Skidmore, Owings & Merrill’s prototype design is a skyscraper that can sequester up to 1,000 tons of carbon on an annual basis, the carbon capture approaches it uses might be applied to buildings of all types and sizes. Pictured: two architectural cross-sections of the high-rise design, showing how each floor integrates air capture and algae systems
By constructing the buildings from materials like bio-brick, biocrete, hempcrete and timber — all of which use less carbon that conventional alternatives, and some of which continue to adsorb carbon over time — it is possible to reduce the carbon impact of construction by 50 per cent as compared to the use of concrete and steel. Pictured: two architectural cross-sections of the high-rise design, showing how each floor integrates air capture and algae systems
RESEARCHERS USE ‘ARTIFICIAL’ TREES CLEAN THE AIR IN CITIES
By keeping mosses in a container, such as those built by CityTrees, the conditions can be carefully controlled to ensure the plant is always thriving and therefore performing at optimum air filtration
CityTrees – also known as artificial trees – use living plants and different types of mosses to capture toxins and remove pollutants from the surrounding environment to produce clean air.
Mosses, despite being a more primitive lifeform than most trees and flowers, conduct photosynthesis.
This allows them to soak up carbon dioxide – a greenhouse gas – from the atmosphere and produce oxygen.
They can also harbour friendly bacteria which further helps trap pollutants.
By keeping mosses in a container, such as those built by CityTrees, the conditions can be carefully controlled to ensure the plant is always thriving and therefore performing at optimum air filtration.
Each self-sustaining CityTree contains a water tank, irrigation systems and sensors to monitor plant growth and ensure they are healthy. The technology is powered by a combination of on-board solar panels and internal batteries.
Each CityTree which has the pollution-reduction benefits of 275 normal trees.
Similar structures have previously been employed in other cities — including Berlin and Hong Kong — along with temporary trials across London.
Plants also help soak up air pollutants directly. Studies have found that the worst offending air pollution for human health is PM2.5 or airborne fine particulate matter.
These particulates are dangerous because they can get deep into your lungs, or even pass into your bloodstream.
Particulates are found in higher concentrations in urban areas, particularly along main roads.
One study from researchers at Beijing Forestry University in 2017 found ‘foliage acts as a bio-filter of air pollution and improves air quality due to the leaves’ rough texture and large contact area’.
But the issue with relying on regular trees and plants to filter the air and remove carbon dioxide and pollutants is that they themselves are highly dependent on the environment.
If they are not thriving due to disease, drought or vandalism, they will fail to clean the air effectively.
Mosses, despite being a more primitive lifeform than most trees and flowers, conduct photosynthesis. This allows them to soak up carbon dioxide – a greenhouse gas – from the atmosphere and produce oxygen. Plants also directly soak up pollutants
It is about Africa’s “Green Wall” that not only makes economic sense but is also an important contribution to combating climate change.
However, a study by the University of Bonn shows that this does not apply to all regions in the Sahel.
Fifteen years ago, the African Union decided on an ambitious program: degraded ecosystems in parts of the Sahel are to be successively restored in order to secure food for the people living there and to protect the soil against further degradation. At the same time, the African Great Green Wall is an important contribution to combating climate change. A study by the University of Bonn and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) now shows that it also makes economic sense – although not everywhere in the Sahel. The analysis also shows how much violent conflicts threaten the success of the program. It has now been published in the journal Nature Sustainability.
The Sahel extends south of the Sahara from Senegal in the west to Ethiopia in the east of Africa. Vast areas of the formerly fertile region are now virtually uncultivated. Reasons are droughts, poor agricultural cultivation methods as well as overuse due to the growing demand for food and firewood.
The “Great Green Wall” initiative aims to compensate for and reverse this loss through mass planting of native trees and grasses. 100 million hectares of land are to be restored in this way. So far, however, this ambitious goal is very far from being achieved – partly because of a lack of financial resources.
However, this could change in the future: Earlier this year, various donor countries pledged nearly $15 billion to the project at the One Planet Summit for Biodiversity. “In order to use these funds efficiently, we now have to ask ourselves where and for which measures they should be used most sensibly,” emphasizes Dr. Alisher Mirzabaev of the Center for Development Research (ZEF) at the University of Bonn.
Every dollar invested yields a 20-cent of net returns
The agricultural economist has led a study that provides an answer. The researchers divided the Sahel region into 40 million plots of 25 hectares each. For each of these, they then analyzed which land restoration measures would be possible and how much they would cost. They compared this calculation with the economic benefits that could be achieved.
“On the one hand, these include the so-called provisioning services,” explains Mirzabaev: “These are the things that are produced by the ecosystems: Food and drinking water, raw materials such as wood or medicinal plants.” There are also other effects, such as a better climate, less wind erosion or pollinators services, which in turn increase the farmers’ crop yields. They, too, can have a price tag attached to them today.
The results show that building the “Green Wall” is also economically worthwhile. But how much depends on a number of factors. As a rule, reforestation would be the most advantageous economically and ecologically. But it takes decades for a few hundred seedlings to grow into a forest. The investment therefore only bears fruit in the very long term.
The situation is different when degraded areas are converted into farmland. “Ideally, the first harvest is then possible after just one year,” says Mirzabaev. Cropland restoration can thus pay for itself comparatively quickly, with many poor smallholder farmers also preferring quick returns from their restoration activities. However, the profits that can be achieved as a result are significantly lower, as are the environmental effects.
“In our analysis, we work with different scenarios, some of which are aimed more at short-term benefits, while others are more long-term,” explains the agricultural economist, who is a member of the Transdisciplinary Research Area “Sustainable Futures” at the University of Bonn. The so-called baseline scenario, for example, includes a mixture of both short-term and long-term returns. In it, every dollar spent yields an average net return of 20 cents.
Half of the profitable regions are too uncertain for action
However, there are huge regional variations in this. The most positive economic balance is for parts of Nigeria, Eritrea and Ethiopia. This is where the investment in the “Green Wall” is most worthwhile. To finance all the proposed measures in this scenario, a sum of 44 billion U.S. dollars would be needed. This would allow 28 million hectares of land to be restored.
However, the analysis also shows that this will probably only work in theory. The reason is that, due to violent conflicts, many of the regions where it would make sense to build the Green Wall are simply too unsafe for such measures. “If we take out these areas, we are left with just 14 million hectares,” Mirzabaev points out. “This shows how much such disputes not only cause direct human suffering, but also prevent positive development of the affected regions.”
Funding: The study was funded by the European Union.
People-powered resilience: Andalusia announces new climate action plan as per Climate-KIC should be considered a leader by example, be extended and therefore generalised to the neighbouring regions, i.e. the MENA countries. Mainly for better consequent outcome, if only, in the concerned region in this article.
Andalusia is the southernmost region of Spain. Covering 800 kilometres of coastline, it’s a region famed for its sunshine, beaches, rugged mountains, tourism and agricultural history.
Andalusia is less-known for its ambition to be a world leader in resilience and adaptation; a goal partly borne from necessity because, due to its geographical and climatic conditions, Andalusia is witnessing the worsening impacts of climate change on its territory.
The region is experiencing an increasing number of droughts and wildfires, and oppressive heatwaves during the summer months. In September, the region was hit with destructive flooding, with over 11cm of rain falling in Huelva in just one hour.
Mitigation and adaptation to climate change have consequently been priorities for the Andalusian Government, and on October 13th the Governing Council approved the Andalusian Climate Action Plan 2030 (PAAC 2030), making Andalusia the first Spanish community to approve plans in line with the new state law on climate change.
Risks and forging resilience
The Forging Resilience in Andalusia project, or Forjando Resiliencia en Andalucía, is co-financed by EIT Climate-KIC and part of the Deep Demonstration Resilient Regions programme. The programme contributed to the PAAC 2030 process by developing sectoral and multisectoral workshops in 2020 which collectively assessed the different climate risks in Andalusia, and co-designed a portfolio of actions for resilience and adaptation.
Identifying the dangers, impacts and vulnerabilities of climate change impacts on areas, and prioritising specific risks that need to be addressed in different regional environments, is a critical part of building resilience and will ultimately enable local and regional communities to better manage shocks and stresses caused by climate change.
The results of the sectoral workshops were analysed, and a series of preliminary conclusions were drawn up, with the main vulnerabilities identified based on the demand and availability of water. Extraction of water from aquifers, extraction wells, water reserves and lack of water were all highlighted in the PAAC chapter focusing on adaptation, which drew on the conclusions of the workshop. Other risks mentioned included intense rainfall, increasing sea levels and subsequent erosion, and extreme weather events like floods and heat waves, plus the knock-on potential social impacts of all these events, like unemployment or depopulation.
“But with vulnerabilities differing right down to the provincial level, the local aspect cannot be overlooked”, said Maria Lopez Sanchís from General Directorate of Environmental Quality and Climate Change, Junta de Andalucia.
“Our process also identified hazards and impacts taking into account territorial differences,” said Lopez Sanchís. “This will be more relevant in the different operational programmes of the PAAC, because the plan urges different areas to incorporate the territorial perspective in the risk assessments and definition of adaptation measures whenever possible. To build true resilience, we have to deeply consider geographical differences and the specific characteristics that determine the vulnerability of each territory’s exposure to climate hazards. Then we need to place special emphasis on the most vulnerable spaces.”
People power towards a better scenario
The role of the workshops however wasn’t only to analyse the current risks, but also to look forward to how an ideal scenario for Andalusia could look. This meant identifying the levers of change that need to be engaged for that to be achieved and drawing up a roadmap of innovation options and portfolio priorities.
“As well as analysing the current situation, we also carried out an exercise to determine the ideal climate change scenario,” said Lopez Sanchís. “We want to look to the future and identify the levers of change that will allow us to define the means by which we can achieve a more resilient Andalusia,” she said. Lopez Sanchís added that a number of the levers identified to help Andalusia reach this goal are included in the PAAC report, including ecosystem management and land-use planning, but also people-powered interventions like education and behavioural change.
“In building this vision, citizen engagement is critical,” said Lopez Sanchís. “Through our different online workshops, we carried out a process of public participation aligned with the consultation and public exposure phase of the Andalusian Climate Action Plan.”
Both formal and informal education, as well as behavioural change, and political, social, cultural and ecological decisions are all addressed in the new climate plan, as is the promotion of sustainable lifestyles, which means rethinking our ways of life, how we buy and what we consume.
“The people piece is recognised as one of the required ‘adaptation dimensions’ in order to achieve the adaptation objectives set by the PAAC,” said Lopez Sanchís. “To meet the challenge of climate change, and to build resilience and adapt, yes, we need to recognise and analyse the threats, but then we also need to take whole communities with us as we develop a roadmap of innovation that will enable us to survive and thrive. Only people can make the PAAC happen.”
EIT Climate-KIC is proud to be a partner of the UN High Level Champion’s Race to Resilience campaign, which is working to step-up global ambition for climate resilience in the run-up to COP26 and beyond.
Originally posted on Gobbledygook: Mother died today. Or maybe it was yesterday, I don’t know. Ever since I read this opening line in an online article about best literature opening lines, I have wanted to read The Stranger. The line is so simple and captivating; in just a few words the author caught my attention and…
Originally posted on African Heritage: View of Sfax from Ksar Ben Romadhane (Source: Wikipedia) I have always loved the name of the second city of Tunisia, Sfax… think about it for a second: S-FAX… the name does not seem to sound one bit Arabic… it would seem so reminiscent of Rome… Well, it is said…
This site uses functional cookies and external scripts to improve your experience.
Privacy & Cookies Policy
Necessary cookies are absolutely essential for the website to function properly. This category only includes cookies that ensures basic functionalities and security features of the website. These cookies do not store any personal information.
Any cookies that may not be particularly necessary for the website to function and is used specifically to collect user personal data via analytics, ads, other embedded contents are termed as non-necessary cookies. It is mandatory to procure user consent prior to running these cookies on your website.