Red Cross: Conflict in Libya weakens farmers’ abilities to mitigate climate risks

Alwasat - Cairo Mon 21 Mar 2022, 11:20 PM
alwasat radio

A report from the International Committee of the Red Cross released on Monday said that "conflict in Libya has left the country extremely vulnerable to climate variability and is likely to increase the impacts on agricultural production and therefore livelihoods, food and economic security of thousands."

The ICRC gave an example of Awiniya village, southwest of Tripoli, a region where agriculture is the main source of income for a majority of the population. It said that "raging violence forced many local farmers to abandon their land and homes to seek safety in other areas. After years of displacement, some of the farmers returned to the area to find their lands had parched while vital infrastructure was damaged due to the conflict."

It quoted a local farmer named Ali saying, "I can do nothing, I lost everything and had to start again from zero. I started planting trees again as if I was in my first year of farming, but with three consecutive years of drought, the trees didn`t grow and blossom due to the severe weather".

The difficult terrain of this mountain village makes it nonviable for farmers to dig wells, while the only water tank farmers used for emergencies in dry seasons was destroyed during the fierce fighting Awiniya witnessed since 2011.

As Libya is mostly desert, with under 2% of arable land, more farmers are abandoning their farms amidst a scarcity of water resources, while yields of rainfed agriculture are severely low due to droughts.

The report added that "climate change is subjecting Libya to extreme events like increased and more severe sand and dust storms, droughts and increased temperatures."

Adding that "given the impact of years of renewed conflicts, the country's capacity to adapt has become weaker as needed resources to mitigate climate risks are being shifted to deal with short and long-term consequences of the protracted conflict."

Libya witnessed a significant decrease in rainfall between October 2020 and October 2021. The few rainy days over that period only resulted into water ponds that quickly evaporate without penetrating the soil. The irregular intensity of rainfall often causes occasional flooding that highly damages the soil, impacts agricultural production and causes economic loss. These damages are multiplied in some areas where drainage infrastructure is already damaged due to the conflict.

With limited renewable water resources, coupled with drought and poor soil, the country imports about 75% of the food required to meet local needs, according to the World Bank.

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