"With the money I earn in the strawberry harvest season in Spain, I can save, and then my family and I can live for several months without having to do a painful job," says Fatima Qazab, one of the candidates. Qazab, 39, divorced and with three children, showed up together with thousands of other women at the Agricultural Training Center in the rural town of Sidi Alal Tazi, about 70 kilometers northeast of the capital, Rabat.
The strawberry campaign remains a good opportunity for Moroccan seasonal workers. The selection process to choose those who will work in the next campaign in the fields of Huelva has already started.
Qazab, who has never traveled outside of her country, says that she tried by all means to convince the recruiters of why she desperately needs this job: it will allow her to avoid several months of hard work in the fields of Morocco and spend more time with her three children.
"Here in Morocco I work from four in the morning to five in the afternoon in the harvest of peas in exchange for 50 dirhams (4.5 Euro) a day. If I work for three months in Spain (with daily wages ranging between 35 and 40 Euro) I will return with savings that will allow me to dedicate more time to my children," she says.
The recruitment operation was carried out following a well-organized system in which priority was given to the women who showed up with their children, while trying to dissuade pregnant women with the argument that they would not be able to handle a job that requires them to spend many hours squatting in order to pick the fruits.
In this way, the ANAPEC is trying to "break the exclusion cycle which rural Moroccan women have to contend with, especially if they are mothers," said Abdelmunim El Madani, general director of the agency.
El Madani also recalled the criteria requested by Spanish entrepreneurs: young women (25 to 40 years old), with experience in the field and in good health due to the job's physical demands.
The candidates consulted by Efe, who went from illiterate to secondary education graduates, said they did not feel discouraged by the allegations of labor and sexual harassment that tarnished the previous campaign.
"I have gone to Spain six times to work in the fruit harvest and nothing has ever happened to us. That's why I want to return, because of the good conditions that this job offers us," said Fatiha, one of the veterans.
In total, 19,179 Moroccan seasonal workers will be working this year in the Spanish strawberry and red fruit campaign; a record figure that represents an increase of 35% compared to last year.
El Madani said that the Moroccan seasonal workers who are selected will receive a temporary visa, a paid round trip between Morocco and Spain and a contract according to Spanish law, including free health coverage.