After receiving a Ph.D. degree on the proper use of irrigation water in Morocco last year and finishing a training fellowship at NASA two years ago, Kholoud Kahime continues to study the impact of climate change on her country.
“Morocco has a lot of natural resources such as the sun and wind energy,” she said. “But it is not being used effectively to support Morocco’s economy and society.”
In her research, Kahime has focused on the effect of climate change on public health. She has worked on studies about how a hotter climate leads to increased incidence of Leishmaniasis, a skin disease spread by sand flies.
At the same time, she continues to work on a NASA project that uses satellite data to monitor water use in irrigation, so that farmers can make the most precise and economical use of water in agriculture.
The two topics are closely related.
Morocco is heavily affected by climate change, as it is located in one of the world’s driest regions. According to a report by IRES, a Moroccan public policy think tank, the region will be subject to increasing drought and flooding, deterioration of ecosystems, water scarcity, the development of new diseases, and forced population migration.
In 2015, Kahime was the only Arab among ten Ph.D. students from developing countries to receive the Prince Albert of Monaco Scholarship for the study of climate change. This enabled her to enroll in a training program at the Biosphere Sciences Lab at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland, in the United States.
Today, Kahime is based at Université Cadi Ayyad in Marrakesh, and works part time on her project with NASA.
“Kholoud is a smart and diligent student. She developed her master’s degree research while working at the same time on food security,” said Abdullatif Moukarim, a professor at Ibn Zohr University’s Faculty of Science, who oversaw Kahime’s master’s degree thesis.
Kahime received an award from Ibn Zohr University for her master’s degree research in 2010. She has published 15 scientific papers so far.
Kahime now works with five farms in the Marrakesh region to test new irrigation methods based on close monitoring of water use.
The government of Morocco has made a public commitment to supporting techniques and policies that help the country adapt to a changing climate, yet there still needs to be better communication between policy makers and scientists, Kahime says. “We need to start a relationship between decision-makers and scientists. Policymakers need to be able to make informed decisions, and we have the data that can help them do that.”