Adaptative management of oases to fight against desertification


By Mathilde Bourjac (CARI)

December 2019 marked the closing of a project on Adaptive Management of Maghreb Oases (GASSOM). The project was implemented by CARI in association with the Réseau Associatif de Développement Durable des Oasis (RADDO) and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).

The project was designed to focus on the multiple aspects of the oasis crisis: ecological, economic, social and land. The progressive desertification of the land due to overexploitation of the soil pushes populations to migrate to urban areas. The Maghreb, which is 75% arid, is estimated to have about 350,000 hectares of oases, and the world’s oases are said to be home to about 150 million inhabitants; it is therefore not an isolated and inconsequential crisis.

The social aspects of the crisis are underlain by reorganization and disappearance of local water management groups, coupled to the fragmentation of plots, which are becoming smaller and smaller, and less viable as farming units.

Adaptive management is intended to be a model of evolutionary responses with regard to the evolution of societies and nature, in the face of the changes they are experiencing and undergoing. The project therefore aimed to improve, develop and support the monitoring of oasis ecosystems and their adaptive management, and thus to enable oasis stakeholders to adjust their actions based on the awareness and collective knowledge brought about by regular monitoring of the situation.

For 3 years the project was able to bring together civil society organisations of the oases as well as relevant national institutions from Morocco, Mauritania and Tunisia. This collaboration has led to the emergence and documentation of 60 “good practices” (available on, and a common information platform in the form of GIS. The knowledge acquired and exchanged through innovative work has led to the writing of an advocacy strategy on the importance of national and international recognition of oases as a precious but fragile heritage that deserves to be preserved.

The work carried out within the framework of this project has shown that the people of the oases, if threatened, are an essential part of the seeking and implementing sustainable solutions. Findings form the project made it possible to present the Parties to the UNCCD at COP 14 concrete examples of success in the fight against desertification based on the knowledge generated at the oases! As it was a pioneer action that demonstrated how sound solutions can be generated and implemented, CARI and our partners look forward to future opportunities to continue on this path.

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