In case you were still sceptical about the serious detrimental effects of climate change on the environment, agricultural experts are starting to insist that Maltese farming land should be treated with desert-like conditions.
“We have to act fast,” agriculture consultant Eman Vella told Lovin Malta.
The summer months have been plagued with grass fires and inhumane heat, and this has only exacerbated the already existing drought that has parched and fried the island’s soil, causing the deaths of several permanent crops.
“We have to adapt our methods to desert-like conditions by imitating what is being done in arid countries like Israel,” Vella said.
He explained that Malta’s soil is becoming “loose and friable” with the sub-soil layer, which offers valuable nutrients and water for plant growth, completely drying out.
This can clearly be seen in Mġarr where human intervention was needed to revive several wilting trees. Over 100,000 litres of water were used.
Vella further said that business as usual is already a lost game due to the dying land being of virtually no use and thus generating little to no profit margin.
In fact, cultivating fruit trees has become almost impossible.
The prolonged summers and increased temperatures the world has become subject to leads to less moisture in the soil, disabling it from supporting plants.
Then, warmer winters affect the plants’ vitality because without the appropriate cold, it becomes impossible for trees to rest when they shed their leaves. And like humans, without proper rest, the plants get weaker and more susceptible to viruses and pests.
Vella suggested a number of initiatives but the main one that he described as our “best shot” are government incentives to “make Malta greener”.
He explained that the government should involve and assist all parties to create a drive to make the island more climate conscious.
Farmers, landowners, local councils, environmental NGOs, hunters and anyone who can contribute, should all be included and incentivised.
This drive, he said, is the best way to regenerate the country’s micro-climate and attract moisture to our “barren island”.
He also included the need for the permission of underground reservoirs in strategic locations, the increased funding of New Water and the creation of a guidebook to plants outlining the maintenance of indigenous trees and shrubs that require less water.
Besides the environmental effects, this drought threatens Malta’s authenticity and identity.
Vella argued that a decrease in local agriculture production would lead to a total dependence on importation and without local production, we will lose our culinary roots.
This further minimises the value added to restaurants, food processing establishments, rural tourism and culinary tours.
“When you control your food source, you can reduce the carbon footprint and thus adapt to climate change. The more you import, the more you pollute and emit carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.”
Malta is one of twelve European member states that declared itself affected by desertification under the 1992 United Nation Convention on Combating Desertification.
In 29 years, not only has the situation not improved, but it’s come to a point of almost no return.
What do you think should be done?