Everything in the river

A village struggles with water

Pia Dangelmayer & Chaimae Boulifa

The small town of Tassa Ouirgane in the High Atlas makes a living from agriculture – and from the river, which snakes along the narrow valley between the fields. Yet climate change is making life difficult for the inhabitants. This is because the river increasingly behaves like an enemy out of control rather than a good friend. The story of a love-hate relationship.

Tassa Ouirgane lies in the Al Haouz province, one of the most disadvantaged regions of Morocco. The small Berber town is just one and a half hours away from Marrakesh – and yet a world away. It can only be reached via an unpaved road, many inhabitants have no car and instead use a donkey for transport. Approx. 500 people live here, the village relies on agriculture; almost everyone here owns fields, chickens and a cow. In summer, farmers suffer from extreme drought, and in winter they are increasingly caught unaware by sudden flooding.

That is why the High Atlas Foundation is working on an irrigation project in Tassa Ouirgane: Fifteen stone basket constructions, each up to 80 metres long, are intended to keep the river in its bed and away from the fields in order to prevent flooding in winter. There are plans for a well, a solar pump and a water storage to bridge the drought periods during summer months. The inhabitants will also get a walnut tree school so as to expand the range of products. In the meantime, the village will have to live with the constant danger of the river. On 7 March 2018, it rained so heavily that the river burst its banks again. Many farmers have lost their land – everything in the river.

Brahim Imssioui with his family

He lost his fields due to the flooding on 7 March 2018.

Ahmed Berkhoch with wife and daughter

He no longer worked as a farmer following the great flood in 1995.

Ahmed Aznag with his grandchildren

On 7 March 2018 he was still working on the field and by evening it was all gone.

Mostapha Tizgui with children and his mother

She passed out when the heavy rain seeped into the house on 7 March 2018.

Mohamed Tizgui with his family

The flood on 7 March 2018 destroyed some of his fields.

Mohamed Berghoch with his family

He can no longer work as a farmer for health reasons.


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