[Water Dossier] Water in Moroccan agriculture

Moroccan agriculture, one of the pillars of the economy as in most countries on the continent, is threatened by a crucial lack of water. And yet, this guiding force participating in the development of economic growth cannot do without water, whose use is estimated at more than 87% per year. Located in a geographical area where water resources are becoming increasingly scarce, Morocco is one of the countries most threatened by water shortages. According to the latest report on the state of global water stress, the World Resources Institute (WRI) ranked Morocco 22nd among the countries most exposed to water insecurity risks (WRI, 2019). Indeed, water resources in Morocco are under different pressures, namely the increase in water demand, due to the demographic explosion, recurrent droughts and the irregularity of rainfall due to the effects of climate change and finally requirements of economic development. Due to these different pressures, water availability per inhabitant fell from more than 2,500 m3 per inhabitant per year in 1960 to less than 700 m3 per inhabitant per year in 2019, i.e. a drop of 75% (DEPF, 2020). In the same dossier- Water stress in Morocco: Avant-garde voluntarism to counter scarcity A not easy situation for agriculture, which is going through a real year of water deficit, as was the case in 1980, i.e. 40 years later late. This source of life and real engine of development could become even more scarce under the effect of climate change, given the announcement of projections indicating a shortage in the most sensitive areas between 2020 and 2050. Blue gold in Moroccan agriculture The ratification of water in an increasingly populated Morocco is an undeniable fact. However, we cannot ignore the importance of blue gold for agriculture, which is its biggest consumer. The different agricultural crops require water inputs during their development and maturation. If rainfall is too low or occurs at the wrong time, plant growth can be negatively affected, reducing the volume and quality of crops. Hence the use of irrigation, Morocco receives an annual average of about 29 billion m3 of rain, the hydraulic potential that can be mobilized, under current technical and economic conditions, is estimated at 20 billion m3, of which 16 billion from from surface water and 4 billion from groundwater. In Morocco, the available water resources are much more than the soils suitable for irrigation which limit the irrigable potential. Overall, rainfall inflows throughout the country are estimated at 150 billion m3. They are, however, very unequally distributed between the different regions of the country. Thus, 15% of the total area receives almost 50% of rainfall. In addition to this spatial variation, there is also an inter- and intra-annual variation in the very significant inputs which have increased over the last two decades. A solid irrigation policy Faced with this major challenge of improving and preserving water resources, Morocco has implemented a solid irrigation policy which generates half of the agricultural gross domestic product and 75% of the sector’s exports. It therefore plays a fundamental economic and social role, as it is one of the main sources of agricultural productivity and income for the rural population. The voluntarist policy of generalization of water-saving irrigation techniques and valorization of agricultural water has been adopted and broken down into four main programs which are the National Irrigation Water Saving Program (PNEEI); the Irrigation Extension Program (PEI); the Program for the rehabilitation and safeguarding of Small and Medium Hydraulic Perimeters (PMH) and the Program for the Promotion of Public-Private Partnership. If the first (PNEEI) concerns the development of localized irrigation over a total area of ​​550,000 ha, in order to improve the efficiency of the use of irrigation water in agriculture, which will eventually saving and recovering almost 1.4 billion m 3 of water. At the end of 2019, nearly 585,000 ha had been equipped with drip systems, exceeding the 2020 target of 550,000 ha. The second (PEI) has as its scope of action the creation of new irrigated areas and the reinforcement of the irrigation of existing perimeters over an area of ​​130,000 ha, and this, to remedy an undervaluation of nearly 1, 2 billion m 3 of water mobilized by dams intended for irrigation. At the end of 2019, nearly 82,280 ha were equipped or being equipped. The PPP enters the scene As for the third program (PMH), it was set up in order to improve the efficiency of the traditional irrigation infrastructure at the level of the PMH perimeters, while the very last gravitating around the promotion of public-private partnership in the field of irrigation aims to improve the technical, economic and financial conditions for the management of the irrigation water service in the perimeters. This program works to preserve the water table by mobilizing unconventional water, through various projects, including those to safeguard irrigation and seawater desalination projects. At the end of 2019, four projects public-private partnerships in irrigation have been contracted, including two seawater desalination projects for the irrigation of Chtouka-Ait Baha (15,000 ha) and Dakhla (5,000 ha). These irrigation programs launched within the framework of the Green Morocco Plan have made it possible overall, at the end of 2019, to develop and modernize nearly 800,000 ha under irrigation, i.e. approximately 50% of the irrigated area at the national level. The investment made was 36.1 billion DH for the benefit of 235,000 farms, which made it possible to save and recover annually more than 2 billion m 3 of irrigation water, including 1.6 billion m 3 in water savings from the PNEEI. The area under drip irrigation increased from 9% of the area under irrigation in 2008 to 37% in 2019. Dams and basins put to work In the implementation of these irrigation programs, Morocco was able to rely on agricultural basins, because the Kingdom has significant hydraulic infrastructures, including 149 dams with an overall capacity exceeding 19 billion cubic meters (m3). In this major system, there are about sixty hill reservoirs intended for agricultural irrigation, such as the dams of Al Massira, Sultan Moulay Ali Cherif, Moulay Youssef, Yacoub el Mansour, Bin el Ouidane, Ahmed el Hansali, El Mansour Eddahbi, Hassan Eddakhil, Hassan I, Abdelmoumen, Lalla Takerkoust, etc. Recently, in October, the Ministry of Agriculture announced a suspension of irrigation from dams in several agricultural regions, concerning these water reservoirs representing 557.5 million cubic meters, with a capacity of storage of 6.2 billion cubic meters. According to the Minister of Agriculture, Mohammed Sadiki, the water deficit today exceeds 68% compared to a normal year and 65% unlike the last agricultural campaign. That of this year started with a very low water level in the agricultural dams to reach 31%. This percentage may be lower, ie 12%, excluding the dams that supply the Oum Er-Rbia and the Loukkos, hence the cessation of irrigation in several perimeters. Essentially, groundwater is used to safeguard arboriculture in certain areas. And yet, water is a crucial necessity for agriculture. The irrigation water needs in Morocco are more than 5,823 km3/year. The ratio of water needs is 53%, the water withdrawal for irrigation is 11,010 km3/year and the pressure on water resources due to irrigation is 37.97%. Leila Mariam