On December 16, 2022, Germanwatch, in cooperation with Power Shift Africa, CESAO-AI and Misereor, organized a webinar about “Renewable Energy Transitions in Africa.” The webinar was intended as a forum for actors in the renewable energy sector in Africa to discuss challenges, issues, and policies and to exchange their experiences and knowledge. The role of civil society and government in facilitating the transition to green energy sources was especially discussed.
Access to clean energy is a key requisite for development. At present, an estimated 600 million Africans lack access to electricity, highlighting the need for urgent action to supply the continent with affordable, sustainable, and reliable energy access. Despite the energy access challenges, African countries have vast renewable and fossil energy resources. Africa's renewable energy potential is substantially larger than the continent's current and projected power consumption and, therefore, could easily meet the expected and necessary growth in energy services, eliminate energy poverty, and power a green, renewable-based economy.
As a latecomer to building foundational energy infrastructure, the African continent has the opportunity to leapfrog fossil fuelled development and transition directly to modern, renewable energy systems and green economies. Having said that, the continent’s countries are in different stages of their energy transitions with country-specific starting points. Understanding the various starting points is critical when developing energy pathways that are able to deliver on economic and social development goals.
Currently, Morocco imports approximately 90% of its entire energy, and fossil fuels still make up the majority of Morocco’s energy mix.
The government is pushing to reduce the country's dependence on energy imports and fossil fuels by launching an ambitious campaign to make use of Morocco’s huge potential for solar and wind energy. Large-scale projects like the Noor Ouarzazate Solar Complex, which with an energy production of 580 MW is the most powerful solar power plant in the world, or the wind farm in Tarfaya, which has 131 wind turbines that each produce 2.5 MW, have rapidly advanced the renewable energy sector in Morocco.
However, there is still a long way to go. One of the main criticisms of Morocco´s renewable energy strategy is that the government's strategy focuses too much on large-scale projects and that it neglects remote areas. Rural villages are often left behind and do not benefit from the green energy or the economic opportunities that come with the construction of power plants. HAF’s strategy regarding renewable energies focuses exactly on these points.
HAF applies a participatory approach when implementing projects. It involves local communities in every step of the process, from the decision of what projects will be implemented to guaranteeing the sustainability and long-term success of projects. Local people are asked about their needs, wishes, and opinions on how to best implement the projects. This way, HAF ensures that the beneficiaries actually want the projects, that they know about their benefits, and that they are willing to continue sustaining the projects in the long term on their own.
Specifically, HAF’s renewable energy projects are always combined with other activities, such as those related to women's empowerment, clean drinking water, culture or multicultural dialogue.
In the Douar Lkdirate in the province Youssoufia, HAF facilitated the construction of solar panels to power wells for clean drinking water and irrigation systems for agriculture. The HAF team discussed beforehand with the men and women of the local community what their biggest problems were. While they were more or less the same for men and women, the women were very grateful for having a say in the decision-making process as they said that their opinions are usually not heard. Following the initial meeting where the building of solar panels and water wells was decided, HAF organized an IMAGINE empowerment workshop for the women of the village to encourage them to create positive change in their community.
At the tree nursery at the Jewish cemetery in Akrich near Marrakech, HAF built a solar energy-powered irrigation system for the saplings. Today, the cemetery is often used as a meeting place for people of different cultures and religions to come together and discuss their backgrounds and embrace their similarities, continuing Morocco’s heritage of peaceful and harmonious coexistence of people of different cultures and religions.
The effects of climate change are more and more present in Morocco, which has been identified as a very vulnerable country by the 4th Assessment Report of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Moroccan regions are affected by drought, increase of average temperatures, heat waves, changing rainfall patterns, extreme rainfalls, floods, and sea level rise. Since the 1960s, an increase of 1° C has been observed throughout the entire country. Along with the temperature changes, the mountain snow cover will further decrease. Rainfall has become more erratic and has declined by 3-30% in different regions. The seasonal pattern has also changed with increased precipitation—longer and intense rainfalls—in October and November, often causing floods and substantial reductions during the rest of the year. Dry periods have become longer, particularly at the end of the rainy season. Extreme weather events, such as heat waves, extreme rainfalls, floods, and droughts, have become more frequent and more severe.
Since the Rio conference in 1992, Morocco has shown great commitment to support its transition to sustainable development. Sustainable Development has been integrated at the highest legislative level, with the 2011 Constitution and the 2014 Charte Nationale de l'Environnement et du Développement Durable. Morocco was one of the first countries to develop a climate change strategy and action plan, with its National Plan Against Global Warming. It has ratified a number of international climate agreements (e.g. Kyoto Protocol, NAMA) and is actively involved in the UNFCC Process. Today, the Policy on Climate Change of Morocco is the main policy document that supports the application of Morocco's vision in terms of climate change. It offers a coordinated approach to the different strategies and plans already initiated, as well as an operational framework until 2040. The recent submission of the Intended Nationally Determined Contribution and the elaboration of a Green Investment Plan are supporting these commitments.
After a resurgence of COVID-19 during the summer of 2021, the number of new infections fell considerably in September and October of that year. Morocco launched its nationwide vaccination campaign in January 2021: This has been rolled out in waves, focusing initially on the most vulnerable age groups. The country’s vaccination drive aims to inoculate, for free, all Moroccan citizens and residents aged 12 and above, in keeping with King Mohammed VI’s instructions. As of September, about half (48.6%) the Moroccan population of almost 37 million was fully vaccinated.
The government has also started to roll out the roadmap to economic recovery the King announced in July 2020. Besides promising the reform of State-Owned Enterprises, it has approved a law that sets in motion the universalization of social protection systems for the entire population, including health insurance and family allowances. These involve universal access to public health services. The law and the decree creating the Mohammed VI Fund, which supports these services, were adopted in December 2020 and February 2021, respectively.
We hired a second project assistant in Douar Lakdirat, Jnan Bouih, Youssoufia province, where we implemented the pilot project. The main reason for hiring is to ensure regular and thorough communication with the local community and keep an eye on the needs of the pilot project, which was very helpful to follow the project. We worked on developing the understanding of renewable energy, but first we started with personal development and followed up with other workshops like participatory planning, cooperative building, and various technical trainings in the nursery for 23 women.
Adjustments to Project Plan
The pre-planning of the pilot project included a solar-heated hammam, a trough, solar-powered ovens, a fruit tree nursery with solar-powered water pump, a well, solar-powered water pumps for the school and the community, and expanded agricultural production. The action started by looking for the well and doing a test. Unfortunately, after the test of digging the well 200 meters deep, we realized that there is not enough water, so we dug a second well and made a connected system between both wells to serve for irrigation for the nursery. It is now well-equipped and includes solar-powered pumps for the water tower, too. The women also benefited from several workshops on how to manage the nursery. As a result, they planted 120,000 seeds of different organic trees, including carob, Argan, fig, pomegranate, and almonds.
It was eventually realized that since a hammam would consume a big quantity of water, if it were built as planned, then the community would not have enough water for drinking (the area suffers from severe climate change effects and high salinity in the groundwater). As a result, the community suggested not building a hammam because it requires too much water, and there is also no one to repair it if something is damaged. The community members have limited incomes, so they agreed instead to have the water tower connected to a fountain to connect the village with drinking water so that it will take less time and funding to implement, and then to install a water treatment system to have safe drinking water.
The solar ovens were not purchased, and we instead purchased more seeds to be planted in the nursery. We also included two water treatment systems (one for the water tower and one for the school). Digging more wells to find enough water obliged us to make these changes and to meet the needs of the community.
It was planned to connect the school in Al Joulane with water from the village. However, because of the distance and unsecured connection due to the clogging of the tubes as well as the cost being 10 percent of the total budget, we dug a well accompanied by solar panels at the school and connected the toilet services and building with a water treatment system.
The pilot project targets the community of 26 families in Douar Lakdirat, Jnan Bouih commune in Youssoufia province. Twenty-three women and youth benefited from different workshops.
The project targeted two regions: Douar Lakdirat in Youssoufia province, where there were changes and updates in the pilot project related to level consistent access to water. Anamer (Al Haouz Province) as an expanded project targeted a community with a similar lack of water, and through the project, we were able to dig a well that is powered by solar water pumps.
The changes in the planned measures have had a positive impact on achieving the objectives of the project. Enhanced access to water was ensured through the building of three wells: one for clean drinking water with treatment, another one for irrigating the nursery, and a third for the school, where students and teachers have access to clean drinking water as well. Also, building a water tower and not building hamam saved water in response to Morocco’s lack of rain.
The project's objectives during the course were adjusted. Therefore, we made changes to the pilot project due to the effects of climate change on the area and updated solutions that are positive for the environment and based on the community’s needs and advice of renewable energy experts in order to find the best sustainable solutions for the project.
Water was the biggest challenge, causing many changes in the planned project, like replacing materials to make sure that the local community has good access to water. For example, eliminating the cost of the hammam changed the amount to be spent on materials. We also did water tests and treatments after digging the wells so the community’s drinking water is sufficiently clean and healthy, where before it was salty and had bacteria.
We held participatory approach and community meetings to define the priorities for Jnan Bouih, which helped us to reach the objectives. The High Atlas Foundation (HAF) informed local authorities about each visit and what was accomplished with the community. Because of this communication, we were able to meet with community members under the Covid-19 Protocol restrictions (2021-2022).
We hired another project assistant in the field for monitoring and to ensure good communication with the community during implementation. This was a good decision and contributed to the project’s success. It cost less in travel, which was also impacted by the closing of intercity travel due to the Covid situation in Morocco. The election also caused difficulty in following up and a challenge to implement the project during the implementation.
The High Atlas Foundation (HAF), and particularly Project Manager Mustapha, assisted a pilot project with the Lkdirat community in the El Youssoufia province. The village of Lkdirat is just a couple of hours’ drive north-west of Marrakech. The first stages of this project included workshops and support by HAF for socioeconomic and environmental enhancement.
Following the early stages of the community’s well-digging and receiving the first trees, I got to visit them in early December of 2021. During this visit, the main objective was to get to know the individual residents and especially to familiarize us with the women of the local cooperative and their work, initiated by HAF as well. Simultaneously, the women participated in an Imagine empowerment workshop facilitated by HAF’s Program Manager Laaribi.
In January, the pilot project completed a significant aspect of the process: the construction of the solar panels, which provide the necessary renewable energy source needed for water distribution to the village, school, and recently installed tree nursery. One month later, the community with Mr. Tarhbaloute oversaw the construction of another solar panel array for the nearby Al Joulane school, which now helps provide toilet services and clean drinking water, and allows the children to start planting trees on the school property.
Concluding this environmentally friendly project, HAF hosted a final multi-stakeholder workshop to celebrate the completion together with partner Germanwatch’s representatives, the local community, and invitees from various sectors of regional, national, and international levels. This event was a full-out, traditionally Moroccan-inspired one. Starting with a hearty welcome, the village’s women sang Darija chants, whilst traditionally clothed men on horses accompanied the warmly welcoming farming families and villagers, as they danced to the rhythmic melodies.
HAF President Dr. Ben-Meir, multiple invitees, and a representative from the women’s cooperative all held brief but emotional and informative speeches, followed by a Moroccan-style lunch feast. The final activity in the village happened at the newly finished tree nursery part for everyone to see the significant accomplishments HAF and its partners have achieved.
Thenceforth, HAF provided transport to the previously mentioned neighboring school for all attendees. Next to the newly installed solar panel array, Dr. Ben-Meir, a representative student of the primary school, a regional administration delegate, and various local community members ceremoniously cut a ribbon to symbolize the successful completion of the project. Showing their gratitude, the primary school faculty organized a singing performance, which their students put on. This heartfelt recital marked the end of the workshop.
Given the added value that decentralized renewable energies can bring to Morocco's contribution to the field of green energy, a pilot project in the Youssoufia province was undertaken with a participatory approach.
The selection of the small, 36-household El Kdirat village in the rural Jnane Bouih commune took into consideration its socio-economic and cultural situation.
With time and energy needed to fully engage community members, beginning with the IMAGINE program of self-discovery and vision-building, the women and men of the village prioritized clean drinking water, a nursery of endemic fruit-bearing trees, and medicinal plants as the path to fulfill the future they sought.
In response, the project has built three wells - two for irrigation and community use and another for Aljoulane School, where students and teachers now have drinking water and toilet access. Solar panels were installed both at the school and within the community, giving a source of clean energy to pump water. A water tower is also being built for the benefit of the entire village.
The new fruit tree nursery is offering an important means of skills- and experience-building for the women of the local cooperative, who have so far planted carob, Argan, pomegranate, almond, and fig saplings and participated in a variety of technical workshops.
As one of the project managers relates, “Building a project in a rural community is difficult, and making it sustainable is even more difficult. A tree nursery project is good for a rural, agriculturally-based community, but the solar pump is the key to success.”
All HAF activities are conducted using the participatory approach as it is the key to knowing exactly what a community wants. In Douar Lakdirat, the community meeting demonstrated to the local residents the importance of participation to ensure meeting the goal of adequate water quantity and quality.
After two hours of water prospection, the technicians detected a potential point to dig the well: a place with sweet-tasting water, 31 meters in thickness and 172-203 meters in depth, with an 82 percent density. Upon return to Marrakech, the HAF team was delighted at the progress. Drilling for the week took place the following week.
Kastih and Tarhbaloute also joined the HAF team on that visit, testing the depth and quality of the water. They informed us that the pumping test the technician performed showed that the water for the project is currently insufficient, as it gives only 5,000 liters in forty minutes. We will have to bring in another company to dig another well and do the pump testing; if there is no water from that, then we will only pay the workers. HAF staff members are working on securing someone to do this.
Regardless of this setback, it is not about what we have or what we are missing, but about how we can manage and use what we have even if it is small, still knowing that we can use whatever resources we have to achieve our goals. The biggest dream will come with the smallest steps.
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