Once Fruitful, Libyan Village Suffers Climate Crisis

M'hamed Maakaf stands near trunks and branches of trees dried out from drought in his field in the Libyan village of Kabao in the Nafusa mountains on May 26, 2024. (AFP)
M'hamed Maakaf stands near trunks and branches of trees dried out from drought in his field in the Libyan village of Kabao in the Nafusa mountains on May 26, 2024. (AFP)
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Once Fruitful, Libyan Village Suffers Climate Crisis

M'hamed Maakaf stands near trunks and branches of trees dried out from drought in his field in the Libyan village of Kabao in the Nafusa mountains on May 26, 2024. (AFP)
M'hamed Maakaf stands near trunks and branches of trees dried out from drought in his field in the Libyan village of Kabao in the Nafusa mountains on May 26, 2024. (AFP)

In the Libyan village of Kabaw in the Nafusa Mountains, M'hamed Maakaf waters an ailing fig tree as climate change pushes villagers to forsake lands and livestock.

Once flourishing and known for its figs, olives, and almonds, fields around Kabaw, located some 200 kilometers (124 miles) southwest of Tripoli, are now mostly barren and battered by climate change-induced drought.

The area was once "green and prosperous until the beginning of the millennium," Maakaf recalled. "People loved to come here and take walks but today it has become so dry that it's unbearable."

"We no longer see the green meadows we knew in the 1960s and '70s," added the 65-year-old, wearing a traditional white tunic and sirwal trousers.

Kabaw, like many villages in the Nafusa Mountains, is primarily inhabited by Amazigh people, a non-Arab minority.

Pounded by the sun and dry winds, the mountainous area now struggles to bear fruit, facing a lack of rainfall and temperatures high above seasonal norms.

Libya -- where around 95 percent of land is desert -- is one of the world's most water-scarce countries, according to the United Nations.

Its annual precipitation in coastal areas has fallen from 400 millimeters in 2019 to 200 millimeters today, with water demand higher than what is available.

The Nafusa Mountains, sitting at an altitude of almost 1,000 meters (3,280 feet) in western Libya, are home to around half a million people out of Libya's population of seven million.

Driven out by increasing water stress, local villagers and their livestock have been gradually moving out of the Nafusa Mountains and surrounding plains.

A tanker delivers water drawn from a well, to an inhabitant of the Libyan village of Kabao in the Nafusa mountains on May 26, 2024. (AFP)

- 'Exodus' -

Mourad Makhlouf, mayor of Kabaw, says that drought in the last decade has pushed hundreds of families to leave for the capital Tripoli and other coastal cities, where water is easier to access.

"It's not just about water scarcity or crops dying due to drought," said Makhlouf. "There is a demographic and human dimension with the exodus of hundreds of families towards the capital and coastal towns."

Suleiman Mohammed, a local farmer, fears that climate change will soon cause everyone to leave, as "living without water is certain death".

"How can we be patient?" he said. "It has gotten to the point where breeders sell their livestock because keeping them costs twice their value."

Standing by a cluster of dead tree trunks, Maakaf decries the loss of "thousands of olive trees".

"Some were 200 years old and inherited from our grandfathers," he said.

Hoping to alleviate the burden, local authorities began selling subsidized water for 25 Libyan dinars (about $5) per 12,000 liters.

Tanker trucks make the trip between the water stations and the village, travelling up to 50 kilometers and allowing some of those in need to hold on.

"We manage to water our fields two to three times a week but water is expensive," Maakaf said, adding that they also rely on private tanker trucks selling the same amount for up to 160 dinars.

Sheep graze in an arid field in the Libyan village of Kabao in the Nafusa mountains on May 26, 2024. (AFP)

- 'Emerging threats' -

The hydrocarbon-rich country hosts the world's largest irrigation project, the Great Man-Made River, its main source of water supply built in the 1980s under the rule of longtime leader Moammar al-Gaddafi.

Drawing fossil water from aquifers in the heart of the southern desert, the network of pipes supplies about 60 percent of the national need.

But the supplies remain insufficient amid increasing drought.

According to the World Resources Institute, an environmental research organization, Libya will face "extremely high" water stress by 2050.

The World Bank predicts that by 2030, the Middle East and North Africa region will fall below the "absolute water scarcity" threshold.

"Water scarcity is one of the greatest emerging threats facing Libya," the UN Development Program said in a study.

"The country needs to ensure equitable access to water for domestic and economic purposes."

"Climate smart agricultural methods should reduce the overuse of water resources and... practices that contribute to soil erosion and desertification, which further impact productive sectors and food security."

Libya signed the 2015 United Nations framework convention on climate change and ratified the Paris Climate Accord in 2021.

Yet the North African country has shown little progress towards the development of disaster risk reduction and climate adaptation strategies, as it continues to grapple with divisions and conflict after the fall of Gaddafi in 2011.

"The drought does not only concern the Nafusa Mountains, but the entire country," said Mayor Makhlouf.

"Libya needs a relief plan, which will not be the solution to everything, but will allow us to adapt."



Saudi Team Wins 6 Awards at 2024 International Mathematical Olympiad in UK

Saudi Team Wins 6 Awards at 2024 International Mathematical Olympiad in UK
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Saudi Team Wins 6 Awards at 2024 International Mathematical Olympiad in UK

Saudi Team Wins 6 Awards at 2024 International Mathematical Olympiad in UK

Under the auspices of the King Abdulaziz and His Companions Foundation for Giftedness and Creativity "Mawhiba" and the Ministry of Education, the Saudi mathematics team won six awards at the 65th International Mathematical Olympiad (IMO) 2024 held in the UK from July 15 to 21.

The event featured 603 talented students from 104 countries, with the Saudi team securing 1 silver medal, 4 bronze medals, and 1 certificate of appreciation.

Hadi Al-Aithan from the Al-Ahsa education department won the silver medal, while Youssef Bakheet (Yanbu education department), Mohammed Rabie (Madinah education department), Muath Al-Qahtani (Al-Sharqiyah education department), and Ahmed Al-Shehri (Riyadh education department) received bronze medals.

Mohammad Al-Ghamdi from the Al-Sharqiyah education department was honored with a certificate of appreciation.

Secretary-General of Mawhiba Amal Al-Hazzaa extended her congratulations to Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud and Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, Crown Prince and Prime Minister of Saudi Arabia, for this remarkable national achievement.

She also congratulated the students, their families, schools, teachers, and education departments for their outstanding accomplishment and wished them continued success.

Al-Hazzaa described this triumph in such a prestigious competition as a moment of immense pride for the entire nation.

Furthermore, she underlined her gratitude to Minister of Education Youssef Al-Benyan for his unwavering support of Mawhiba and the exceptionally talented students in public education.

She commended the minister's dedication in providing necessary resources and opportunities, which have contributed to the fruitful partnership between the ministry and Mawhiba.

Furthermore, she highlighted Al-Benyan’s efforts to empower Saudi talents and propel them to greater heights of achievement through this collaboration.

Saudi Arabia's participation in the IMO 2024 is part of the Mawhiba International Olympiad program, which operates under a strategic partnership with the Ministry of Education. The program is one of 20 different initiatives offered annually by Mawhiba and the ministry, providing advanced curricula and enriching programs.

The initiatives offer a multi-phase journey for gifted students, exploring, boosting, and empowering their ambitions, in collaboration with local and international partners.

Students enrolled in the Mawhiba International Olympiad program undergo rigorous training, over 1,000 hours a year, in cooperation with the ministry. The training, focused on their chosen scientific track, is delivered under the guidance of local trainers and international Olympiad experts.

With this latest achievement, Saudi Arabia's tally of IMO awards has risen to 77, including 12 silver medals, 46 bronze medals, and 19 certificates of appreciation.