With the dunes of the Sahara desert always menacingly on its borders, Morocco has taken up the challenge of water scarcity. This problem prompted the country to invest heavily in irrigation to boost food production and withstand droughts. Today, Morocco touts an estimated 22 billion m3 of water, and has equipped around 20 percent of all its cultivated land for irrigation.
A new report launched at the Malabo Montpellier Panel Forum in Rabat reveals that just six percent of the arable land in Africa is irrigated. In this area, Morocco can offer valuable insights to help other countries tap into this enormous potential to expand irrigation.
One key factor in Morocco’s experience was first to recognise the importance of agriculture to broader economic and social goals, and then to recognise the importance of irrigation to agriculture. It quickly became apparent that developing the irrigation sector was crucial to meet expected economic growth and ensure food security of the population.
To this end, the government established several key departments, such as the Directorate of Irrigation and Development of the Agricultural Area, tasked with managing water resources for agricultural use and deploying new farming technologies.
At the farmer level, tax exemptions and subsidies encouraged the take-up of irrigation equipment with these incentives focusing increasingly in recent years on water-conserving techniques. In 2009, the government launched a new program that aimed to modernise irrigation techniques. Thanks to those efforts, the area of land equipped with drip irrigation reached 450,000 hectares by 2014, with the aim of reaching 550,000 hectares by 2020 under the Plan Maroc Vert.