Today the main threat to the scarce Saharan grazing lands is not drought but tourism. With over nine million tourists per year in Morocco and Tunisia alone, and the craze for rallies brought on by the Paris-Dakar race, hundreds of thousands of vehicles travel all over the Moroccan Sahara each year. Thanks to GPS, off-road vehicle drivers have become increasingly reckless, causing severe damage to the frail desert ecosystem. It can take decades for nature to repair the damage one 4X4 vehicle can do.
Yet, for the surviving nomads of southern Morocco, this is just the most recent of a series of problems threatening their livelihood. With tensions among neighbouring countries, it has become more difficult to cross borders, so they are forced to take refuge in regions that are getting smaller every year, which results in over-grazing of sparse pastureland. In addition, camel thefts are increasing, adding to the difficulty of the nomads’ way of life. Their lives, so finely attuned to the desert, appear doomed as the desert itself becomes ‘desertified’.
Ali Sbai was born in a tent, to a nomad family. In this film, he makes a passionate case for the creation of a network of cross-border reserves to enable the nomads to take pressure off the limited grazing ground and escape the effects of off-road vehicle damage.