15° W, Mauritania

Longitudinal Installation by Xavier Cortada

“We are only eating one meal a day. When there is not enough food, it is the young and the old that get fed first.”

— Fatimitu Mint Eletou, Bouchamo

Mauritania is one highly vulnerable African country extremely affected by climate change. It has a high structural vulnerability as a desert country with high poverty rates, fragile ecosystems, difficult social conditions, and main cities in the depression zone below sea level with flooding risk. The country is covered by the Saharan desert with a quarter of it a Sahelian zone (a zone between the savanna and the Sahara desert), meaning that their most urgent climate issue is desertification. This is prompted by different factors of climate change, where normal cycles and characteristics of the ecosystem have been altered. The most significant is increased wind activity that comes with abnormal temperature patterns and behaviors. These winds were proven to cause the major drought of 2011 in the country, causing a struggle for the entire country and killing over one-third of their crops.

Mauritania’s reaction towards the 2011 drought had two major stages. A short term relief with program with the Emel (meaning ‘hope’ in Arabic), a government emergency program, gave many Mauritanians like Fatimitu Mint Eletou free food if very poor, subsidized if poor, or provided cereal banks and feed for livestock. Although it had been a success, the emergency program distorts local economic activity and food production. Hence, Mauritania began planning for a long term action plan in creating resiliency among its citizens.

Over the years the country and its government have continued to plan, prepare, and adapt to climate change threats. More community-based programs like the Food Security in Mauritania project have arisen, which aims to improve food insecurity in the country by assisting the government in improving technical services in communities. As one of the most vulnerable and poor countries in the world, Mauritania has faced some of the most extreme social consequences of climate change, despite being one of the smallest contributors to global emissions.