MIGRADAPT Project Newsletter #2 :
Field Work in Morocco

MIGRADAPT is a BELSPO-funded project which looks at the role of the environment as a driver of migration to Belgium and seeks to understand how migrants from three selected countries (Senegal, Morocco and the Democratic Republic of Congo) can support the adaptation and resilience of their communities of origin.

In this second edition of our MIGRADAPT project newsletter, we decided to focus specifically on the field work that was recently conducted in Morocco by Lore Van Praag, postdoctoral researcher at the University of Antwerp and key member of our consortium.
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Field Work in Morocco (March - May 2018)

Why Morocco?

Over the last decades, strong transnational migration networks have been established between Belgium and Morocco. In addition to this, many internal migration flows occur within Morocco, and Morocco has recently become a migration destination country. Furthermore, the Kingdom is a partner of the Belgian development cooperation.

Approximately 34 million inhabitants live in Morocco. It is the home of Berber and Arab populations. Finally, and crucial for this project, it is a severe climate hotspot, impacted by severe environmental changes, such as drought, desertification, and more extreme weather events.
Two areas in Morocco were selected for this research study: Tinghir (approx. 420,000 inhabitants), located in the Todgha Valley in the High Atlas, and Tangier city (approx. 948,000 inhabitants), located in the Rif region. The combination of high immigration and emigration and environmental changes in both regions (surrounding the cities) make both cities and regions particularly suitable for further study and comparison. While Tangier is often seen as a gate to Europe – due to its attraction for local migrants coming from across Morocco to work and/or migrate to Europe – Tinghir is the gateway to the desert, characterized by its oases.

Research Questions

During this exploratory field mission, the researcher focused on the perceptions of different key stakeholders regarding the impacts of international migration on climate change adaptation, through the following research questions:
  • To which extent do inhabitants of these two regions perceive to be affected by environmental changes and does this influence their migration aspirations?
  • How does the diaspora in Belgium and other European countries impacts people’s ability and decisions to deal with the effects of climate change they and their communities are confronted with?

Trends and Perceptions

Due to the gradually changing environment, the lack of sensitization about climate change discourses and impacts, as well as distinct living environments, perceptions of inhabitants about climate change are very diverse and localized.

Interestingly, with regards to perceived changes in the local environment, especially higher educated persons, as well as non-educated older women, are aware of environmental changes over time. Higher educated persons have read and heard about climate change through their professional and educational experiencces, as well as through their migration networks. Non-educated older women have seen and experienced it first hand over the course of their lifetime, as they are the ones that have been working on the field and continue to do so.
Parallel worlds seem to emerge when looking at the distinct ways in which climate change effects and migration networks coincide:
  • In Tangier, only elderly persons with relatives living in rural areas were aware of the changing climate in Morocco; young people were proficient about the general climate change discourses but did not necessary apply this to their country, to other regions in Morocco or to their personal living environment.
  • In Tinghir, people with migration networks were more often higher educated and, due to their personal use of their remittances, did not express the need to develop specific adaptation strategies to deal with climate change effects. They did not experience difficulties, nor had the wish to put effort in the subsistence economy that was common in the oasis in Tinghir. Some were – in theory – better aware of climate change discourses compared to their neighbors, given their education and the existing knowledge transfers within their migration networks. This knowledge was often used as an inspiration to set up associations, to collectively use remittances, and to facilitate the process for (young) people to build up a life and career in Tinghir. For instance, this was the case for a project run by Association Afanour pour le développement, where solar panels were used to pump up water and keep it in a water reservoir, in order to irrigate dry fields and grow a particular type of palm tree that enables people to sell high quality dates.
  • Another group of people in Tinghir, highly impacted by the effects of climate change, did not have any resourceful migration networks. Due to the lack of (transnational) networks or individual/collective remittances in a high emigration area, this particular group of inhabitants more often had to rely on a degraded subsistence economy, for which they used outdated technological methods and land ownership. As this type of fieldwork is mainly a female matter, women were the most aware about the changing environment. This changing environment also meant that these women, whom used to rely on agriculture, could not contribute as much to the income of the household as they used to some decades ago.

Dissemination activities

This work was already presented at:
  • “De Dag van de Sociologie” (An annual meeting of sociologists from the Netherlands and Flanders), Rotterdam, 14 June 2018
  • “Le capital humain et le Marketing territorial, vecteurs du développement durable dans les oasis et les zones de montagnes: Approches africaines et modèles vulnérables mondiaux » (Conference), Ouarzazate, 13-15 April 2018
  • Together with the rest of the MIGRADAPT team, the MIGRADAPT project and the first findings on the fieldwork in Senegal (see our first MIGRADAPT newsletter) and Morocco were presented during a symposium at the IMISCOE conference “New perspectives on migration as an adaptation strategy to climate change” as part of the Standing committee: “Changing migration dynamics in the world and their impact on the diversification of migration around Europe”, Barcelona, 2-4 July 2018
  • Interview with Caritas International (27/08/2018): "Changement climatique, une cause fondamentale de la migration ?" (in French) / "Is klimaatverandering een grondoorzaak van migratie?" (in Flemish)
You are kindly invited to the Dag van de Wetenschap” (The Day of Science), an event organized by the University of Antwerp, on the 25th of November 2018, where Lore Van Praag will organize activities on this topic for parents and children in the Red Star Line museum.
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