Morocco announces drought emergency plan

Friday 05/02/2016
A plantation between Mohammedia and Ben Slimane, 35km from Casablanca.

Casablanca - With rainfall more than 60% below av­erage, damaging ag­riculture across the country, Morocco announced a $450 million drought emergency plan.

The 2015-16 agricultural year has been marked by drought since No­vember. Dryland crop zones have been particularly affected by the rain deficit. The High Commission for Planning (HCP) confirmed that dry weather will have adverse ef­fects on the Moroccan economy. HCP forecast 1.3% economic growth for 2016, halved from 2.6% in 2015.

The HCP said Morocco “expects to live the dreaded tests of droughts of 1995 and 2007, which led to a se­vere decline in agricultural value added”.

“This year is very painful for farmers. We are still hoping for some rain to save our crops,” farm­er Abdel Wahed Zemmouri said.

“It’s quite costly to pump water from the well because I use gas,” he sighed, praying for God’s mercy.

Water reserves behind dams are dwindling. The situation seems to be the worse in the regions of Haouz, Souss-Massa and the south.

Moroccan dams are on average at 60% capacity compared to 74% in the same period in 2015. Water reserves fell from 11.5 billion cu­bic metres (bcm) to 9.5 bcm in one year.

Prayer sessions across the coun­try have been held on the request of Moroccan King Mohammed VI but with rain still lacking, the government decided to unveil the emergency plan, which includes supplying drinking water to remote villages, protecting livestock and plant resources and support soli­darity agriculture.

“Maintaining balance in rural ar­eas remains a major focus of public policies and the series of actions that will be undertaken,” said a statement from the royal cabinet. An additional $125 million will be mobilised by the main mutual agri­cultural insurance plan in Morocco to compensate farmers.

This plan targets barley supplies, with a target price of 20 US cents per kilogram. The state will handle the distribution of subsidised bar­ley from 72 relay centres.

The National System of Identi­fication and Animal Traceability recently implemented by the Mo­roccan Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, will support cattle farm­ers. Other actions to protect live­stock involve construction of water points in addition to an enhanced vaccination programme as live­stock vulnerability rises in times of drought.

The irrigation of 93,000 hectares of dryland plantations will be en­sured.

Another measure consists in se­curing cereal seeds for the next season thanks to a stock of 95,000 tonnes and a projected production of 100,000 tonnes.

Agricultural insurance should play an important role for affected farmers. It covers more than 1 mil­lion hectares with a guaranteed capital of more than $110 million.

Errquioui Abdel Ghani, who owns 300 hectares of farmland in Fquih Ben Saleh, said cereal crops are bearing the brunt of the lack of rain.

“The land is red because cereals are not growing. The well we have is mostly used for irrigating olive trees, which are still growing,” he said.

“I hope we will benefit from the emergency plan because our costs are soaring,” he said in reference to water pumps that run non-stop on diesel fuel.

Agriculture represents 14.6% of Morocco’s gross domestic product (GDP) and employs 75% of the ru­ral workforce. The Green Morocco Plan, launched in 2008 by King Mo­hammed VI, has helped increase the agricultural GDP by 7.7% per year, nearly $12 billion in 2015.