Environmental projects are more important than ever – Afforestation pilot in Morocco

The Carbon Farming research project in Morocco was created to meet the needs of marginalized dry areas and companies wanting to fulfill their obligations to decrease CO2 emissions. The tripartite agreement that was launched to seize this opportunity, consists of two interrelated environmental and societal components. First, to establish the economically viable CO2 sequestration in dry areas and initiate the reclamation of mined land. And second, to improve the livelihoods of the local farmers.

“The initial idea behind the project was ambitious and straightforward. The vision was, if biologically achievable and economically viable, to achieve a large area of irrigated afforestation in a dry area using desalinated water. I joined the pilot research project as a postdoc researcher at the end of 2018 because I was convinced of the importance of that vision for both the region and globally, and I wanted to participate in making the full- scale carbon sequestration project a reality,” says Mohamed Louay Metougui, Ph.D. Scientist in Agroforestry and Rehabilitation.

The first question was which tree species to plant and how to plant them to maximize carbon sequestration. “However, in our regions carbon sequestration always raises questions about water conservation and food security. Therefore, optimization, finding the proper balance between the different trade-offs, and the best scenario for water use is the ultimate goal of mitigating global climate change and safeguarding water, food, and social security,” says Metougui.

The preliminary results are exciting and support the possibility of achieving significant carbon sequestration levels while using low water resources. If confirmed, they may be the springboard for reshaping drylands for higher ecosystem services outputs.

Nevertheless, many carefully developed research questions remain unanswered, including: How many trees to plant — and where — given available land? What are the environmental implications? How can we deliver a sustained regional development promising farmers a livelihood? What kind of system would be able to achieve the environmental objectives while at the same time providing high food or industrial, agricultural product yields? Is agroforestry the better alternative?

“The solutions to these and other issues should consider research support, socioeconomic preferences, an eco-compensation mechanism, and self-sustainability,” says Metougui.

Research and development projects supported by various stakeholders, such as private sector, governmental institutions, and NGOs, are what will allow local communities and society as a whole to thrive. Environmental projects are undeniably more important than ever and fundamental to the survival of our planet and humanity.

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