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News The Green Morocco Plan: An Innovative Strategy of Agricultural Development

In Morocco, agriculture is a strategic sector, economically and socially. It plays major roles in terms of food security and nutrition, supply for agro-industry, employment, integration into the international markets, stabilization of populations in rural areas, and sustainable development.


Main Features of Agriculture in Morocco
Food supply in Morocco, which is a major component of food security, depends mainly on rainfall. Agricultural production is challenged by extreme large inter-annual variation in rainfall. Irrigation is provided only for 16 percent of croplands, leading to little flexibility for weather risk mitigation and crop improvement. Long term average rainfall in Morocco is around 365 mm, varying from a minimum of 198 mm recorded in 1994-1995, to a maximum of 610 mm recorded in the 2009-2010 season. Also, rainfall distribution between seasons is skewed, since most of the seasons display under average precipitation. Most of the rainfall in Morocco is received between the months of October and April, which is a short period for crop growth and development.
In Morocco, as in most of the Mediterranean countries, the cereal production system (cereals/food legumes) is predominant. In arid areas, the cereal/fallow sub-system is dominant, with very little room for spring crops. Olive tree plantations cover an area of ​​about 980,000 ha, or nearly 65 percent of the national tree orchard. 
The correlation between Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and agricultural GDP (AGDP) is very high. AGDP contributed to 18 percent of the GDP on average for the period of 1980-2010 (in current prices), with extremes of 23.3 percent in 1991 and 13.3 percent in 2000. However, contribution of AGDP to GDP has been declining since the early 1990s, from 16 percent on average over the period 2000-2010. Agriculture (including fisheries) is the first economic sector providing employment (38 percent of national employment and 75 percent of employment in rural areas). The agricultural sector also contributes to reducing the rural exodus and to socio-political stability. Winter cereals (soft wheat, durum wheat and barley) contribute nearly half (47 percent on average) of agricultural added value since they cover most of agricultural lands (5.1 million hectares in average). Livestock is the second contributor to AGDP (31 percent), but is closely linked to the cereal system. During dry seasons, the contribution of livestock to AGDP increases compared to other activities (38 percent in 1981 and 39 percent in 1995 and 42 percent in 2000), attesting the role of livestock in the climate risk management system of farmers.
AGDP(excluding fisheries) is highly dependent on the weather. Due to the economic importance of the agricultural sector, any rainfall deficit or excess immediately affects the entire economy. Weather also impacts cereal imports, since the import/production ratio can range from 10 percent (in 1994-1995, following the good season of 1993-1994) to 244 percent (in 2000-2001, following the dry season of 1999-2000).
Productivity of major crops is improving in irrigated areas as a consequence of increasing the use of inputs. However, in rainfed areas productivity is still evolving erratically, concurrently with weather conditions. The ratio between yields of major crops and cumulated rainfall during the cropping season shows that, so far, efforts have had limited significant impacts on rainfed productivity in the medium term, despite significant yield improvement at the research level. In fact, improvement of rainfed crop productivity is difficult, and requires deep measures to adapt to irregular and dry climate, mainly through technological transfer of efficient technologies already available in Morocco, training of farmers, and development of agro-meteorological services.
Reducing Agricultural Weather Related Risks
The provisions of preparedness and response to weather risks, taken by the Moroccan government, aimed at reducing vulnerability to drought and buffer crop productivity. These  provisions are structural (dams, irrigation systems, land use planning, etc.), and non-structural (adaptation measures, drought insurance, solidarity funds). They can be summarized as:
       Development of water storage infrastructure and distribution of irrigation water ;
       Upstream protection of water resources ;
       Expansion of irrigated areas ;
       Improvement of the efficiency of irrigation water use ;
       Improvement of agricultural yields, through improvement of agricultural inputs (certified seeds and fertilizers) ;
       Optimization of land resources ;
       Mobilization of non-conventional water ;
       Adaptation to climate change through the use of water economy technologies;
       Agricultural insurance against climatic hazards.
The Green Moroccan Plan (GMP), launched in 2008, is the governmental strategy which aims to stimulate the agricultural sector. It intends to reform agriculture and promote its integration in the international market, and heighten sustainable growth. The implementation of the GMP is based on two pillars and several cross cutting programs. The first pillar concerns the highly productive, intensive and market connected agriculture, and the second pillar concerns the strengthening of small holder farmers by promoting intensification of crops where appropriate, and the reconversion to more adapted crops with respect to ecological conditions and markets demand. The cross-cutting programs deal with water economy, land tenure, farmers organization, market access, free trade agreements in which Morocco is involved, and investment mobilization. In total, the GMP is made of 1500 projects requiring more than 10 billion USD for implementation until 2020.
Selected programs implemented by the GMP to improve productivity and food security under climate change are presented below:
The National Irrigation Water Saving Program
The National Irrigation Water Saving Program (PNEEI) is considered to be one of the main programs of the GMP, since still 77 percent of irrigated areas are surface irrigated (MAPM, 2012). The PNEEI aims at saving water irrigation through the conversion of surface irrigation to drip irrigation on nearly 550,000 ha towards 2020, with an investment of 4.5 billion USD. Up to 2012, 333,000 hectares have already been converted (MAPM, 2012) (Figure). It is expected that after completion of this program, Morocco will have 700,000 ha under the drip irrigation system. To promote water economy, the government is subsidizing the equipment of farms by drip irrigation and procurement of seeds and plants of adapted crops.
Trend of areas under drip irrigation in Morocco (MAPM, 2012)
Integration of Climate Change Measures to the GMP
Climate change will lead to decreasing agricultural yields for major crops and increasing variability of agricultural production. The GMP has launched many projects for adaptation to climate change. The project “Integrating Climate Change in the implementation of the ‘Plan Maroc Vert’”(PICCPMV) is an ongoing project (2011-2015), aimed at promoting adaptation to climate change in five regions of Morocco. The main technologies being adopted at large scale are the conservation agriculture system based on no till, the use of certified seeds of productive varieties tolerant to drought, and the adoption of crop rotation by farmers using pulses and/or oil seed crops after cereals. This program concerns 900 small farmers in these regions and was presented as a success story at the Conference of the Parties (COP 18) in Doha.

Reconversion of Cereals to Fruit Tree Program
The objective of this program is to convert 1.1 million ha of land cultivated by cereals in non-suitable areas to fruit trees, especially olive trees. Land suitability maps are used to select those areas to be reconverted. The program is implemented in arid and sloppy land to promote more soil and water conservation. Under this program small holder farmers are being organized into cooperatives and groups of economic interest to promote their connection and entry to the market and get the maximum from the added value of their products.
Agricultural Insurance
The "Climate casualty insurance" program, launched in 2011 by the Ministry of agriculture, came to replace the drought insurance program launched in 1996. It aims at protecting small farmers to climatic risks, in particular:
       Reducing weather risks to agriculture ;
       Promoting access to finance ;
       Promoting investment and increasing crop productivity ;
       Contributing to the development of modern agriculture with high added value ;
       Promoting solidarity and smallholder agriculture.

   Green Morocco Plan Focuses On Sustainable Agriculture


Crop supplies are considered to be a major component of Moroccan food security. They mainly rely on rainfall, which fluctuates sharply from year to year, thus affecting the level of agricultural production. Irrigation is only available to approximately 16% of arable lands, resulting in poor resilience in dealing with climatic risks, as well as difficulty in improving crop yields. Annual rainfall averages around 365 millimeters per year, ranging from as low as 198 millimeters recorded in the 1994-1995 season, to a maximum of 610 millimeters recorded in the 2009-2010 season. Rainfall levels fluctuate between seasons and fall below the average in most days of the year. The highest precipitation levels are recorded between October and April, which is a short window for crop growth.

Like most countries of the Mediterranean basin, Morocco’s agriculture primarily produces grains and beans. In arid areas, grains are grown on fallow lands, a small percentage of which is used to sow spring crops. In addition, olive trees cover approximately 980,000 hectares [2.4 million acres] of land, or 65% of the country’s tree groves.

On average, agriculture contributed to 18% of total GDP in the period extending from 1980 to 2010 (at prevailing prices), reaching a maximum of 23.3% in 1991 and a minimum of 13.3% in 2000. However, the contribution of agricultural output to GDP has been steadily declining since the early 1990s, reaching 16% during the period extending from 2000 to 2010. Agriculture, including fisheries, is considered to be the main labor employer (38% of the total national labor force and 75% of the rural workforce). The agricultural sector also contributes to reducing the mass exodus from rural areas, while bolstering social and political stability.

Winter grains such as soft wheat, hard wheat and barley account for 47% of agricultural added value, considering that they cover most arable lands (5.1 million hectares [12.6 million acres] on average). Livestock herding is the second most important contributor to agricultural GDP, with a 31% share. It is closely related to grain production. During dry seasons, the contribution of livestock herding increases in relation to other activities. It reached 38% in 1981, 39% in 1995 and 42% in 2000, attesting to its role in managing the climatic risks that farmers face.

Agricultural GDP, except for fisheries, is highly dependent on the weather. As a result, and considering the importance of the agricultural sector, any shortage or excess rainfall has an immediate effect on the economy as a whole. Weather also affects grain imports, with the import to production ratio varying between 15% (in 1994-1995 after the excellent harvest of 1993-1994) to 244% (in 2000-2001 after the drought of 1999-2000).

The production of main crops in irrigated lands is witnessing a marked improvement as a result of the increased use of farming inputs. In rain-fed areas, however, production continues to develop haphazardly, in conjunction with climatic conditions. The correlation between main crop yields and rainfall during harvest indicates that efforts expended thus far have had limited effects on production in rain-fed lands in the medium term, despite the important rise in yield research. The fact is that improving the productivity of rain-fed lands is difficult and requires drastic measures to adapt to aberrant and dry climatic conditions, particularly through the use of qualitative technologies available in Morocco, the training of farmers and the development of agro-meteorological services.

Reducing weather-related risks to agriculture

The Moroccan government’s measures to prepare for and respond to climatic risks were aimed at reducing the effects of drought and protect crop yields. They included structural measures (dams, irrigation systems, land use strategies and others), as well as non-structural measures (adaptive measures, drought damage insurance and solidarity funds). They can be summarized as follows:

- Developing infrastructure for water storage and irrigation water distribution
- Protecting upstream water resources
- Expanding irrigated areas
- Improving the efficiency of irrigation water usage
- Improving crop yields through the development of agricultural inputs (grains and approved fertilizers)
- Exploiting land resources to the maximum
- Using non-conventional water sources
- Adapting to climate change through the use of water conservation technologies
- Agricultural insurance against climate risks

Green Morocco Plan

In 2008, the Moroccan government adopted a strategy to drive and reform the agricultural sector, promote the integration of agriculture into international markets and help agriculture achieve sustainable growth. The strategy was called the Green Morocco Plan. Its implementation relies on two main pillars and a variety of intersecting programs. The first pillar relates to high-yield, intensive and market-related agriculture. The second relates to bolstering the position of small farmers through the proper promotion of crop yield growth and encouraging a shift toward crops that are better adapted to environmental conditions and market demand. The intersecting programs involve water conservation, land ownership and the mobilization of investments. In total, the Green Morocco Plan is comprised of 1,500 projects requiring, until 2020, more than $10 billion to implement.

Following is a summary of select programs being implemented under the Green Morocco Plan to improve food productivity and security in light of climatic changes:

The National Program for Irrigation Water Conservation: 77% of Morocco’s irrigated lands still receive water through surface irrigation methods. This program aims at conserving irrigation water by switching from surface to drip irrigation over a land area of approximately 550,000 hectares [1.36 million acres] by 2020, at a cost of $4.5 billion. Up until 2012, 333,000 hectares [823,000 acres] had been converted, while 700,000 hectares [1.7 million acres] are expected to be dependent on drip irrigation once the program is completed. In order to improve water conservation, the government is also subsidizing the cost of farm equipment needed for drip irrigation and providing crop seeds and seedlings adapted for such use.

Integrating climate change into the Green Morocco Plan: Climate change will reduce main crop yields and increase agricultural production fluctuations. As a result, the Green Morocco Plan has launched a variety of programs in order to adapt to climate change. The program aims at integrating climate change into the implementation of the plan (2011-2015) to improve overall adaptation to climate change in five regions of Morocco. The key technologies to be adopted on a wide scale include soil-protection measures, such as no-till farming, the use of authorized high-yield drought-resistant crops and crop rotation through the planting of leguminous or oil seed crops after each grain harvest. The program targets 900 small-scale farmers in these regions, and has been presented as an example of a success story at the Conference of Parties to the Convention on Climate Change (COP18) in Doha.

The program to shift from grains to fruit trees: the aim of this program is to plant 1.1 million hectares [2.7 million acres] of land unsuited for grain crops with fruit trees, particularly olive trees. Land-use suitability maps are used to choose the areas to be converted. The program focuses on land that is barren and degraded in order to encourage greater conservation of soil and water. Small-scale farmers will be organized into cooperatives and groups having shared economic interests, in order to bolster their relationship with and entry into markets, as well as for them to benefit to the maximum from their products’ added value.

Agricultural insurance: The Climatic Disaster Insurance Program was started by the Ministry of Agriculture to replace the 1996 program to insure against drought. Its aim is to protect small-scale farmers from climatic risks, in particular by reducing weather-related risks on agriculture. It aims as well at promoting easy access to funding, increasing investments, improving crop yields, contributing in developing a high added-value, modern agricultural sector, bolstering solidarity and encouraging small-scale farmers.


Further information on EMWIS website


Contact information Prof. Mohamed Badraoui, is Director General of the Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique (INRA), Morocco.
News type Inbrief
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Source of information AFED/ Prof. Mohamed Badraoui, is Director General of the Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique (INRA), Morocco.
Keyword(s) Agricultural Development
Geographical coverage Morocco,
News date 09/12/2014
Working language(s) ENGLISH