Morocco is currently going through a serious period of drought, due to the lack of rainfall in addition to insufficient water stocks. To deal with this delicate situation, King Mohammed VI ordered the urgent release of the sum of 10 billion dirhams to combat the effects of the drought.
That said, and speaking of drought, it is important to mention the impact of the cultivation of certain vegetables and fruits, which consume a lot of water, on the water table in Morocco, which represents the strategic water stock of the country. Today, these underground aquifers are depleted due to clandestine wells and overconsumption by large farmers, whose production is largely intended for export.
Solicited by MoroccoLatestNews UK On this overconsumption of groundwater, the activist Mohamed Benata, Agricultural Engineer, Dr. in Geography, and fervent defender of the environment, first announced good news to us.
A native of the Oriental region, the activist tells us that the governor of Nador has banned, for this season, the cultivation of watermelon which consumes a lot of water, noting that decision-makers have begun to become aware of the speculation in avoid, in view of drought, lack of water, low water resources and others.
In this regard, the expert assures that the cultivation of watermelon in Zagora was a big mistake since the inhabitants of the region did not even have enough water for them.
Water, a common good that must be preserved against overexploitation
On the impact of these crops on the water table, Mohamed Benata evokes good governance in water management and the need for our decision-makers to become aware of the importance of water, avoiding anarchy.
” Water is a common good. It is therefore a public management where the State intervenes, and fortunately it does so, since we cannot leave this vital resource in the hands of farmers who are in competition, and who deplete water resources, especially groundwater“, he explains.
These underground waters, the activist continues, represent Morocco’s water security. ” It is our strategic stock in case the country goes through consecutive years of drought. And Morocco, in its history, experienced this in the 80s, when the country experienced 5 or 6 years of drought“, he recalls.
The preservation of our groundwater and our water resources is therefore an absolute necessity, believes Benata, imagining the worst scenario of a year of drought that lasts until next year, which we do not hope not.
What would we have left to drink, he wonders? Are we going to resort to the desalination of sea water or some other means so that citizens, cattle, animals and birds can drink?
According to the climate expert, the problem arises at the level of agricultural producers, with the encouragement and subsidy of the State, he says. ” The state allowed them to deplete our water resources for years. The dams are almost empty. It is said that the average is 34%, but the reality is that they are only 6 or even 7%. They are almost empty, especially the dams in the south of the country “, he warns.
” ATtoday, continues Benata, the drought caught up with us, without us being prepared to face it, despite the dam policy. Why ? Because the decision-makers have encouraged the creation of new irrigated perimeters each time the dams are full or there is construction of a new dam“, he explains.
Normally, when the dams are filled, it is an opportunity to create a sufficient water stock to cover two or three years of drought, and not to increase agriculture and export watermelon and vegetables to Europe, estimates Mohamed Benata , noting that today, » we have exhausted our strategic water supply“.
Can we get out of this?
This is the question that keeps coming back. For the environmental expert, this year of drought is a lesson for all Moroccans and decision-makers in the first place. But he nevertheless believes that the exceptional program launched by King Mohammed VI aimed at mitigating the effects of the delay in rainfall can limit the damage.
” This program can ultimately help overcome the situation because there is no question of letting down the small farmer, who has two or three cows that he will have to sell to eat. And if it happens like that, we will lose our production capital, livestock and trees too if there is more water. And we are not even talking about vegetables and fruits which are annual. Today, at the Oriental, they have decided not to give any more water for the irrigation of vegetables”, he underlines.
And to add: “If we manage to save arboriculture and livestock, animals, birds and people who have to drink, that’s not bad enough, to keep at least a little biodiversity. Today, there is no question of irrigating for the cultivation of vegetables and fruits, hoping for a new production next year.“.
Regarding the support program launched by King Mohammed VI, Mohamed Benata believes that the part concerning aid to breeders was necessary, given the soaring food prices.
” The State, to control prices, supports farmers by providing them with wheat, hay, barley, etc. so as not to lose livestock capital, especially since small farmers should not be abandoned. So that’s a very good thing. Then there is agricultural insurance which is also good since some farmers have sown their land, but risk not harvesting anything. So we needed insurance to compensate for this loss.“, he believes.
Regarding the digging of wells, the environmental expert once again warns of the weakness of our water resources. ” Today, there is no more water. The water table is depleted as can be seen in southern Morocco in Agadir or in the Oriental region, in Oujda. And this is the great error of governance in water management. We had to preserve our strategic water stock, by stopping the irrigation of products that consume a lot of water and which are intended for export, because it is a matter of life or death.“, he warns.
” If a farmer is allowed to dig a well 140 meters or more deep to irrigate the watermelon, how are you going to deal with two or three years of drought in a row that may befall we have seen climate change, knowing that in the 80s, Morocco experienced 5 or 6 years of consecutive drought. These are possibilities that absolutely must be taken into consideration,” notes Benata again.
Drought in Morocco: A lesson for policy makers
The current situation of drought that Morocco is going through is a lesson that must be taken into consideration in the future, said the expert, advocating noting what is good and what is bad so as not to have to repeat the same mistakes, especially since the current crisis is likely to worsen in the future.
” The rhythm of the drought in Morocco is likely to increase. Reason why the water stock must take into consideration two or three successive years of drought and the depletion of the water table should not be taken lightly“, he says, noting that unfortunately today, and despite the drought, “the last drops of water are exploited by the big producers”.
” Water is a resource that is not indefinite. On the contrary, it is limited and calculated. We must therefore not exceed the available water stocks, otherwise the consequences will be unmanageable.“, he concludes.