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Supporting small farmers in Morocco adapt to climate change & boost yields

Gabriella Izzi's picture
Also available in: العربية | Français
 I started working in Morocco four years ago as a result of the government’s request for support in implementing their national agricultural strategy, the Plan Maroc Vert. This strategy set the ambitious targets of doubling the agricultural value added and creating 1.5 million jobs in little more than a decade. It was an exciting challenge! We set out together with our Moroccan colleagues to organize farmers, expand and modernize irrigation, promote high-value crops, and link farmers to domestic and international markets.

What we achieved is a great story, but not the one I want to focus on here.

As much as the Plan Maroc Vert puts an emphasis on high-value crops, it also recognizes the crucial role that cereals have played for centuries – and will continue to play – in Moroccan agriculture. This is despite the fact that, in the past, the crop has traditionally been associated with the poorest and most rudimentary segment of the sector. Cereals are often cultivated by small farmers with no access to irrigation. Many are dependent   on rain alone, and in a climate like Morocco’s this often translates into low and unpredictable yields. Droughts can occur at any moment, sometimes ruining a crop close to harvest time, which puts the livelihoods of small farmers at constant risk. This risk has only grown with climate change. Precipitation has been steadily decreasing, with a 30 percent drop since 1970. According to the World Development Report (2010), Morocco is among the countries that, at a worldwide level, will suffer the most as a result of the negative effects of climate change on yields.

Notwithstanding these challenges, the Plan Maroc Vert aims to revamp cereal production, and break its link with unpredictable yields and poverty. In fact, ambitious targets have been set to increase yields by 2020. The big question is how to make cereals a more stable source of income for small farmers in an environment where precipitation is decreasing and becoming more erratic, without resorting to already overexploited water resources.

Morocco is betting on small farmers and investing in technology and research. Solutions for more efficient cereals production have been successfully tested. This is especially true with the technology of “direct seeding”. Compared to traditional plowing and sowing, direct seeding (also known as “conservation agriculture” or “no-tillage”) allows for both increasing organic matter in soil and making the most of the limited rainfall. This is great for risk mitigation: while direct seeding and traditional seeding result in essentially the same yield in good years, when droughts occur, a crop planted by direct seeding can produce remarkably higher yields than those sown with traditional seeding.

Today, associations of small farmers, public services, agencies, and research institutes, are working together to develop direct seeding in Morocco. The establishment of associations allows for economies of scale among small farmers. The alignment of financial subsidies with applied research allows associations to access the state-of-the-art machinery needed for direct seeding. The collaboration with research institutes allows for the transfer of know-how from researchers to farmers. It is making a real difference, and the results are tangible. You don’t believe me? Have a look at the video and see it with your own eyes!

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To know more about World Bank support in Morocco, please visit the website of the Integrating Climate Change in the implementation of the Plan Maroc Vert Project (PICCPMV), financed through a grant of the Special Climate Change Fund (SCCF) / Global Environment Fund (GEF).