'Last December we had temperatures of 25C. Normally it is 1 or 2C at that time of year,” says Mohammed Ibrahimi, a farmer with one hectare of apple trees in Boumia, a village near Midelt in Morocco.
“These trees need at least 1,200 hours of near-freezing temperatures in the winter to help them to regenerate. This year they flowered very late; the harvest was a month late and I harvested just 20 tonnes when I’d expected 40 tonnes.”
The town of Midelt sits 1,600m above sea level on a vast barren plain sandwiched between the Middle Atlas mountain range to the north and the High Atlas to the south. One of the highest mountains in north Africa, Jbel Ayachi, looms snow-clad over the town. Due to its altitude, Midelt is well-suited to apples, and plantations are scattered all over the plains. But farmers are already abandoning their orchards.
“When we were kids the mountains had snow on them until at least June, sometimes even all year. We had ample underground water sources. We used to have to dig about 4m down to find water – now it can be [many times deeper]. How can we irrigate our crops with that?” says Ibrahim.