The Modernization Project for Irrigated Agriculture involves a significant improvement of the efficiency of the irrigation system destined to agriculture, contributing to the country’s resilience to climate change.
Author: Yvan Castaigne
Irrigated agriculture represents 45% of the value-added, 50% of the rural employment and 75% of the agricultural exportation of the country. In 2008, Morocco launched, as a part of its “Green Morocco National Plan” (Plan Maroc Vert), a Programme to save and optimize irrigation water for small irrigators who keep exploiting obsolete or inefficient collective systems of gravitational or spray irrigation. In addition to their lack of effectiveness, these systems present serious gaps in terms of energy efficiency, and contribute to the waste of water in a country which is suffering important chapters of drought.
In the framework of the Euro-Mediterranean Fund for Investments and Partnership (FEMIP), the European Investment Bank (EIB) granted in 2012 a loan of 42,5M€ to the Kingdom of Morocco to modernize the hydraulic infrastructures of 21.000 hectares of existing collective irrigation installations and convert them into drip irrigation, benefiting this way more than 7.800 farmers. With this Programme, Morocco is converting 220.000 hectares to drip irrigation, in 9 regions equipped with obsolete collective infrastructures of irrigation water distribution.
To support this loan, the European Union has provided, through a donation, technical assistance to the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries, Rural Development, Water and Forests to support the use of these investments in the three areas beneficiary of the project : Gharb, Haouz and Souss-Massa, presenting very different irrigation techniques and social, environmental issues.
We started from a sectoral analysis which allowed identifying several restrictions to the development of the Moroccan agriculture, which needed to be addressed by the Programme. Among them: the lack of water resources, the lack of efficiency of the irrigation systems and the weakness of technical competences in familiar agricultural holdings. Furthermore, an under-exploitation of the surface and subterranean waters has been observed, attributed to the low efficiency of the irrigation system and which implies a lack of utilization of precious resources.
Globally, the realization of hydraulic works between the catchment of water (river, dam, or groundwater) and its supply at the entrance of each plot has been highlighted as the easier part of the project to be executed, since we are talking about a technical activity. However, the work oriented to mobilize farmers and support them to select, acquire, install and manage their irrigations equipments (social engineering) has required much more time and efforts than expected in the initial planning. And undoubtedly, the strengthening of autonomous irrigation communities for a better management of poor water resources is the guarantee of a greater agricultural production using less water.
In this sense, the Programme carried out in Morocco stands out thanks to two main contributions. The first one is related to the modernization of infrastructure which has direct consequences on the efficiency and sustainability of the productive system, with the economic impacts it implies.
The improvement of the irrigation system has direct repercussions on water consumption.
The second important contribution of the Programme is its environmental impact, since the improvement of the irrigation system has direct repercussions on water consumption, which is one of the main restrictions faced by the Moroccan agriculture. In this context, the PNEEI Programme supposes an important progress in the process of optimization of resources with direct consequences on the development of the agriculture sector.
In 2016, the growth rate of Morocco decreased drastically, falling from 4,5% (in 2015) to 1,6%. This sudden decline was due to a strong reduction of the agricultural added value, caused by an important drought in 2016, which has resulted to be the driest year in the last 30 years.
Incidents of this kind, reflecting the impact of climate change, will have fewer consequences in the future thanks to Programmes such as PNEEI that makes an irrigation system more efficient in Morocco come true.
 The Technical Assistance services are provided by the company Eptisa.