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Refugees and locals in Mauritania exchange strategies for adapting to climate change

Refugees and locals in Mauritania exchange strategies for adapting to climate change

Malian refugees living in Mauritania are applying and sharing techniques from back home to grow food and protect the environment.

When Ahmedou Ag ElBokhary arrived at Mbera refugee camp in south-eastern Mauritania after fleeing Mali’s conflict in 2012, he was surprised by the lack of vegetable gardens in nearby villages.
“When we arrived here, there were gardens only in Bassikounou and Fassala [the two main towns in this part of Mauritania’s Hodh Chargui region]. All the small villages around had no gardens,” he recalls.

Like much of the Sahel region, both Mali and Mauritania are feeling the effects of climate change – from increasingly unpredictable rainfall, to land degradation and desertification. But back in Mali, ElBokhary and his compatriots had found ways to coax life from the soil. They conserved the little water available by using sunken seed beds and compost and planted seeds they knew could withstand the heat

When they fled to Mauritania, they brought some of those seeds with them and started small gardens in the camp, using the same techniques to cope with the hot, dry conditions

“There is a lot of knowledge that we are exchanging”

In the nine years since, they have shared some of those techniques with Mauritanians from the surrounding community who are now growing many of the same varieties of cassava, tomatoes, papaya and other crops

“We brought the papaya here, people thought we couldn’t grow it,” says ElBokhary, who worked for the Regional Chamber of Agriculture in Timbuktu before he fled Mali. “This year we were asked to make a papaya nursery. The people of Bassikounou and all the villagers came to see. We taught them how to grow it and they showed us other seeds we didn’t know about. There is a lot of knowledge that we are exchanging.”

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