Traditional knowledge to cope with climate change, water crisis and desertification


People have always had to face the unpredictability of the environment and the variability of the climate.

These conditions have allowed us to acquire knowledge appropriate at the local level to deal with adversity, thanks to the techniques of water collection and distribution, the protection of soils, recycling, and to the optimal use of energy. However, it is the first time in the history of our planet that the changes in climate are due to the human intervention and that they are accompanied by two factors that make it difficult to respond to them. The first factor is time. The speed at which the process that has been set in motion is taking place impedes a progressive, natural and cultural I adaptation to the new conditions. The second factor is the state of physical and social deterioration. Soils are exhausted by the agricultural industry and massive urbanisation. Crops are deserted because of waves of emigration, poverty and loss of identity. The drama concerns all countries in the world, |ust as much the dry zones as the temperate ones.  However, the desert and desertification are two different things. The desert has a precise ecological balance that is established over the course of time in specific climatic situations. Its landscape is healthy with an aesthetic value, laws, a biological and cultural activity adapted to respond in an appropriate manner to the thirst of plants, animals, and humans. Desertification is caused by the pressure and negative intervention by human beings, in any climate and situation, and it provokes conditions of imbalance by degrading the soils and by depriving the sites of all harmony.  Where precisely there is water, there is no one who had learnt to manage it with wisdom as in the oases of the desert. Oases are not natural phenomena, a random happening, but the product of human talent. The palm trees, the cob constructions, the hydraulic systems, the big dunes of sand themselves are realised and suitably used by the inhabitants to maintain a liveable environment.


Every palm tree is planted, looked after, enriched with organic wastes, and irrigated with waters jealously administered. Thus are shadows formed and vapours condensed, and, shielded from the sun and from the wind, microorganisms and other biological elements, which compose the fertile ground, the humus, multiply. We thus create a beneficial interaction of factors capable of beginning a positive dynamic in contrast with the difficult and hostile situation. We determine a microcosm in which life and thought are connected to the places, to other living beings and to each thing. A system tightly connected and completely under the care of the inhabitants. The condition of oases, where every error has an immediate echo on the survival of the whole ecosystem, constitutes a lesson It is indispensable to recognize the value of local practices and the particular forms of expression, the Traditional Knowledge moulded in relation with the geographical conditions where culture developed in response to the difficulties of the existence. The oasis is, consequently, an extraordinary example that our planet must take as a model with the awareness that only a common and responsible management can guarantee the survival of the oasis in the cosmos, in the Earth.

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