How Morocco became Africa’s agricultural oasis

By Dr. Karim El Aynaoui, managing director of Policy Center for the New South and member of the Malabo Montpellier Panel

With the rolling dunes of the Sahara desert overlapping its borders, Morocco may be an unlikely candidate to lead the region in water control and management.

Yet it is precisely these natural features and the challenge of water scarcity that prompted the country to invest heavily in irrigation to boost food production and withstand droughts.

Today,Morocco mobilises an estimated 22 billion cubic meters of water, and has equipped around 20 per cent of all its cultivated land for irrigation.

As a new report launched at the Malabo Montpellier Panel Forum in Rabat reveals just six per cent of arable land in Africa is irrigated, Morocco can offer valuable insights to help other countries tap into this enormous potential to expand irrigation.

One key factor in Morocco’s experience was first to recognise the importance of agriculture to broader economic and social goals, and then to recognise the importance of irrigation to agriculture.

Placing agriculture at the heart of Moroccan policies and taking into account relative water scarcity, it quickly became apparent that developing the irrigation sector was crucial to meet expected economic growth and ensure food security of the population.

To this end, the government established several key departments, such as the Directorate of Irrigation and Development of the Agricultural Area, tasked with managing water resources for agricultural use and deploying new farming technologies.

After establishing strong institutional remit for expanding irrigation, the government also made significant investments in both large and small-scale irrigation infrastructure.

For example,the country invested in dams to store water during periods of abundant rainfall, which also allowed for the transfer of surplus water to the south,where water stress is more common.

At the farmer level, tax exemptions and subsidies encouraged the take-up of irrigation equipment with these incentives focusing increasingly in recent years on water-conserving techniques.

In 2009,the government launched a new program that aimed to modernise irrigation techniques. Thanks to those efforts, the area of land equipped with drip irrigation reached 450,000 hectares by 2014, with the aim of reaching 550,000 hectares by 2020 under the Plan Maroc Vert.

Finally,Morocco has also established a strong culture of support and training for farmers, including 52 agricultural vocational training centres across the country.

These centres not only provide instruction to farmers in how to use various irrigation systems, but they also train technicians in how to maintain and repair them.

And agricultural extension agents have been equipped with the information and training to provide advice to farmers on how to operate new irrigation technologies.

There is still yet further potential to benefit from greater irrigation in Morocco but our country has shown that it is possible to invest and deploy water management technology to increase food production even in the face of a challenging climate.

For instance, rainfall in the 2015–2016 harvest dropped by more than 50 per cent compared to average levels, yet agricultural GDP fell by only seven per cent. Without irrigation, losses with such low levels of rain could have amounted to 40 per cent.

Expanding and modernising a country’s irrigation potential can improve agricultural productivity on existing land, which can in turn improve farmers’ incomes, reduce poverty,food insecurity, and import dependency across the continent.

Water is a shared resource, used across different sectors and in different ways. So to do this, we need individual and collective action by governments, the private sector, and communities in rural and urban areas.

Related Content

DMWA Resources endorses Equal by 30 Campaign, encouraging more women to become Players in the Energy Sector

DMWA Resources (www.DMWAResources.com), a pan-African energy marketing & investment holding, endorses the gender equity campaign, Equal by 30, which aims to encourage women in the clean energy sector to access equal pay, equal leadership and equal opportunities. Alongside 6 partner organisations, DMWA increases the total of signatories to 144, including 118 organisations, 13 partners and 13 governments. By having a limited workforce, companies are not drawing upon the full range of talent at

Coronavirus – South Africa: 1245 new cases of COVID-19 in South Africa

A total of 19485 tests were conducted in the last 24 hours. There are 1245 new cases of COVID-19. Sadly, we report 22 new COVID-19 related deaths & send our condolences to the loved ones of the deceased. We wish to thank the healthcare workers for their hard work and sacrifice.Distributed by APO Group on behalf of National Institute for Communicable Diseases, South Africa (NICD).Media filesDownload logo

Coronavirus – Africa: COVID-19 ECOWAS Daily Update for May 24, 2020

COVID-19 ECOWAS Daily Update for May 24, 2020Distributed by APO Group on behalf of West African Health Organization (WAHO).Media filesDownload logo

Coronavirus – South Africa: COVID-19 statistics in South Africa, 24 May 2020

Tests conducted: 583855 Positive cases identified: 22583 Recoveries: 11100 Deaths: 429 New cases: 1240Distributed by APO Group on behalf of Republic of South Africa, Department of Health.Media filesDownload logo

Subscribe to our newsletter

Sign up for free newsletters and get more CNBC AFRICA delivered to your inbox

More from CNBC Africa

Netcare CEO on the impact of COVID-19 lock-down & medical sector readiness for virus peak

Hospital group Netcare saw a plunge in its hospital admissions in March and April with last month’s figures falling by 49.5 per cent. However, the group has noted that the easing of lock-down restrictions in May has seen a slight uptick in hospital patients. The group has scrapped its interim dividend and has committed R150 million to prepare its ICU and high care facilities to deal with Covid-19 cases. Dr Richard Friedman, CEO, Netcare joins CNBC Africa for more.

Moody’s changes Namibia’s rating from stable to negative

Nigeria’s GDP data and MPC announcement is expected later this week and Moody’s has changed the outlook on Namibia’s sovereign rating to negative from stable as it sites economic and financial pressure on Namibia amid the Covid-19 crisis. Ridle Markus, Africa Strategist at Absa Corporate and Investment Banking joins CNBC Africa for more.

How COVID-19 is impacting trade & cross border truck drivers in East Africa

According to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, global trade is predicted to fall by a record 27 per cent in the second quarter of 2020. In this episode of Doing Business in Rwanda, we take a look at the impact COVID-19 has had on trade and the establishment of cross border cargo transit logistics platform to curb the spread of the virus and facilitate smooth trade between neighbouring countries....

How SA’s level 3 compares to level 4 when it kicks in on June 1

On Sunday evening South Africa's President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that the country would move from level 4 to level 3 of its phased approach to ending its lockdown on June 1.

Trending Now

Op-Ed – Uzoma Dozie: How Nigerians can unlock their potential in the digital age

Nigerians are a global force bursting with potential and an enviable track record of success. But in a more complex and fast-paced world than ever before, many of us struggle to find the time or have the ability to fulfil their potential.

International travel for South Africans is now allowed, this is how it will work

South Africans may now travel internationally under strict regulations detailed by the Department of Home Affairs.

Ouch! How Tiger Brands got its fingers burnt in Nigeria for the second time in a decade

Food giant Tiger Brands has passed on paying a dividend as it faces job losses and cost-cutting in its operations after a bruising first half trading on the cusp of COVID-19.

Tiger Brands CEO on results & how the company is responding to COVID-19 shocks

Food producer Tiger Brands reported a 35 per cent fall in half-year headline earnings and has deferred its interim dividend due to uncertainty by the Covid-19 outbreak. The group expects Covid-19 to unfold significant challenges to the business in the near future. Tiger Brands CEO, Noel Doyle joins CNBC Africa for more.
- Advertisement -