A new partnership between international NGO the Sahara and Sahel Observatory (OSS) and the French Development Agency (AFD) aims to promote a more open dialogue of public policies and to foster regional knowledge sharing on issues and solutions that deal with water stress, declining agricultural yields and the increase of extreme weather events.
The regional initiative under the title of “Water Stress and Climate Change in North Africa”, confirmed 5 November in Tunis, will focus on public policy issues in Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Morocco and Tunisia for an initial 18 months. It is intended that each country and the region will produce summary documentation and that AFD will release research available from its archive.
The parties will assess the potential contribution of unconventional water resources, in particular the reuse of treated wastewater for agriculture, desalination or demineralization of water. It also aims to describe the conditions and best practices associated, as well as the possible environmental risks.
There is an urgency to developing more robust public policies with respect to climate resilience in the North Africa region. The area is experiencing an increase in temperatures that are estimated to be almost 20 Percent faster than global averages. Based on information from the Network of Mediterranean Experts on Climate and Environmental Change, if no further action is taken, temperatures could rise by as much as 2.2°C by 2040 and up to 3.8°C by 2100, and water stress will worsen.
The Sahara and Sahel Observatory (OSS) is an intergovernmental organisation that is reputed for its expertise in water resources and climate change in arid and semi-arid areas.
"These topics are particularly relevant for countries in the region. The increase in temperatures and the relative decrease in rainfall expected according to the climate models of the region should lead to a worsening of the water stress situation while all countries already register resource availability levels below the UN-defined scarcity threshold," said Julie Gonnet, head of the programme at AFD's Regional Directorate in North Africa.
"By working on shared issues, the initiative should promote exchanges, knowledge sharing, the dissemination of good practices and innovative solutions that would help achieve the sustainable development goals such as access to water, food security, the preservation of natural resources and the fight against climate change," Gonnet added.
Khatim Kherraz, Executive Secretary of the Sahara and Sahel Observatory said that "the five countries involved in this project are all in a water stress or water scarcity situation, which climate change will not improve."
"It is therefore necessary to explore all avenues that would allow either better management of available conventional resources or the mobilisation of additional unconventional resources, with the greatest possible respect for the environment," Kherraz added.
The partnership will host a workshop in June 2021 to involve decision-makerst the country level and level decision-makers from the water sector, including cross-cutting ministries, the scientific community, civil society and the private sector.