While Morocco is going through an unprecedented period of drought, the Board of Directors of the World Bank approved on Friday, March 25, financing for investment projects amounting to 180 million dollars to support resilient agriculture and sustainable in Morocco.
Faced with the increased pressure of climate change and population growth on the country’s water and land resources, the loan allocated to the Project for Resilient and Sustainable Water Management in Agriculture (RESWAG) aims to strengthen water resource governance in the agricultural sector, improve the quality of irrigation services and expand farmers’ access to technical advice in this area, according to a press release from the World Bank.
The World Bank argues that declining rainfall in Morocco and the increase in extreme weather events such as droughts and heat waves are causing a reduction in the flow of rivers and an increase in evaporation.
She also points out that population growth, greater use of irrigation for crops and development are also weighing on renewable water resources, noting that the lack of water creates a vicious circle of overexploitation of aquifers. The WB also estimates that hotter and drier weather will only increase irrigation needs for plantations, which will increase the pressure on already limited water resources.
To this end, the World Bank’s Director of Operations for the Maghreb and Malta, Jesko Hentschel, underlined that “ agri-food is a crucial engine for the economic and social development of the Moroccan population. The sector accounts for 21% of GDP and nearly 39% of employment, and these rates are even higher in rural areas. Agriculture is at the heart of Morocco’s economic and social ambitions, and this project financing supports this vital sector, in line with the “Green Generation” strategy, the National Water Plan and the New development model pursued by the country “.
Thus, the project constitutes an innovative and unique program, in that it combines structural investments, with the modernization of irrigation and drainage services, and intangible investments intended to strengthen the governance of water resources and to provide advisory services. agriculture to farmers, says the WB.
In detail, the project revolves around three components, the World Bank said. The first aims to improve the water governance framework and guarantee sustainable withdrawals in the agricultural sector.
The second component aims to provide climate-smart irrigation and drainage services through the deployment of water conservation techniques on new surfaces, which is an approach that will promote resilience to droughts, reduction of emissions of greenhouse gases and carbon storage in soils. It involves modernizing hydraulic equipment (irrigation networks, canals, etc.) and giving public managers responsible for irrigation the means to optimize irrigation and drainage services, explains the WB.
The World Bank thus underlines that the beneficiaries will be the small farmers of the large collective management irrigation systems, the objective being to reach some 16,000 farmers spread over more than 50,000 hectares, in Souss-Massa and Tadla, two of the the country’s most important watersheds for the agro-economy.
For the 3rd component, it plans to provide 23,500 farmers with advisory services aimed at optimizing investments, strengthening climate resilience and intensifying water productivity, underlines the same source.
In this sense, Rémi Trier, senior specialist in water resources management and co-responsible for the project explains that “ the first component of the RESWAG project aims to complement Morocco’s longstanding investments in water governance. It covers three priority strategic areas in terms of water conservation: making the process of allocating water resources more flexible, optimizing the management of aquifers and better understanding the effects of programs to improve the productivity of water, in order to refine and readjust policies with a view to taking climate issues into account “.
For her part, water resources specialist and project co-lead, Safaa Bahije, argues that “ Ihe project plans to support the national agency responsible for agricultural advisory services in order to broaden farmers’ access to advisory services adapted to climate issues. The aim is to increase the scope and quality of these services in irrigated areas, in particular through the training of public advisers and the hiring of consultants, who will facilitate the transition of farmers to modern irrigation techniques”.
She also noted that the project will pay special attention to women and young farmers, in order to fully support the Generation Green strategy carried out by the authorities.