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Morocco Week in Review 
February 11 2017

Accelerating Sustainable Development Toward 2030

Dr. Yossef Ben-Meir
Taken together, the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – contained in U.N. Resolution 70/1 involving the 194 member states and civil society in its deliberation – seek an encouraging level of development of humanity’s social and environmental existence. They establish a framework through 2030 that can assist nations and communities of the world in plotting what could amount to transformative, prosperous, and sustainable achievements. 

How can this potential development unfold and be long-lasting? What approaches should we catalyse so that sustainable projects result and generate the human development benefits the world’s local publics want and need?

As a starting point, most societies have internalized an enduring premise through experiences, particularly since World War II, of social development and reconstruction interventions: people accept and support decisions that they had a part in making. We have learned this critical principle as we have analysed human behaviour in our own and other cultures over centuries, and we find this essential premise in texts of philosophy and spirituality of civilizations over millennia. Indeed, this precept is no longer astounding, and is as true as ever.

Plans of development action that directly embody the spoken will of people naturally gain their partnership, energy, and dedication. After all, decisions people contribute to rendering, generally reflect the participants’ aspirations and interests. Thus, people’s active participation in creating the projects that fulfil the SDGs is ultimately the essential basis upon which the SDGs could come into fruition, expand, and uplift our society and world.  The question then becomes: how do we set in motion across lands participatory democratic meetings of local communities of people so that they identify, prioritize, and implement sustainable development projects?   

Morocco, for example, has a progressive national municipal charter that is intended to promote inclusive participation. Each municipality is required by law to create multi-year community development plans driven by popular participation. If nations of the world do not imbed in their national policies the essential requirement of inclusion in the creation and determination of sustainable development projects, how can we then expect to achieve SDGs when the public is not encouraged to be involved in the determination and design of initiatives?

However, we have also dishearteningly learned in Morocco’s case that laws and policies are not enough for the fulfilment of widespread participatory development actions. In fact, the example of Morocco, critically underscores that we must also experientially learn methods (by applying them in reality) of community democratic planning of projects in order for these processes to genuinely take place. We must train our teachers, our youth and retirees, members of civil society and the business community, locally elected officials, women and men, those who have and those who have less, to not only participate in identifying sustainable projects, but also facilitate the dialogue needed in order for all people to come together, speak, argue, reconcile, and achieve consensus with one another. Policies that promote participation coupled with learning by doing is a needed combination that can lead to local community movements toward accomplishing SDGs.

However, even after codifying national policies and building capacities, these two essential components are still not enough for the tangible realization of SDGs. What would become of the designed participatory and sustainable projects without finance to achieve implementation? Even when communities are in a position to provide some work in-kind to help establish their development projects, materials to construct must still be bought, seeds to plant must still be purchased, capital must still be secured in order to enable production.

Addressing the distribution of public funds and obscene levels of inequality are inevitable parts of the solution, but sitting on our hands until that illusive day arrives is not an option, and not necessary. There are no pre-conditions to sustainable development, other than people’s own desire and the freedom to assemble.

In Morocco, there is what could become a self-reliant pathway to generate the new revenue needed in order to invest in projects that can achieve the economic, health, environmental, and indirect political impacts of SDGs. The needed finance can be generated by establishing the entire agricultural value chain, from nurseries to market, including growing hundreds of millions of diverse fruit trees that are indigenous to Morocco, such as almond, argan, avocado, berries, carob, cherry, date, fig, jujube, lemon, olive, pomegranate, prickly pear, walnut, and some apple varieties, as well as the more than two dozen varieties of wild medicinal plants.

This level and kind of planting and growing integrated with irrigation efficiency to vastly expand yields, in further conjunction with certifying organic and processing to markedly increasing income, and directing product toward both domestic and global markets, can multiply by five the revenue generated by the Moroccan agricultural economy. In Morocco, rural farming families, who experience most of the nation’s poverty, still typically conduct subsistence practices directed toward local traditional markets.

Greater levels of agricultural income at least in Morocco’s case is vitally necessary in order to secure the revenue needed to identify and achieve projects that accomplish SDGs, this sector’s growth in itself being an SDG. Our experiences in Burkina Faso and Cameroon, for example, also point to the same enormous opportunity, where entirely naturally grown avocados, papayas, and mangos are sold locally for a few cents each, where peanuts are bought and sold for figurative peanuts, all the while industrialized nations of the world have retail prices for these commodities 100 times what these growers receive.

Unless we capitalize and optimize the most undervalued resources, human and agricultural, how else may we derive the sorely needed finance in order to carry through the sustainable development projects wanted by the publics? We cannot wait for the justice of when there may finally be some semblance of wealth equality, but in fact it is this very integrated process described that will help achieve the income fairness, social decency, and sustainability that accompanies it.

Participatory movements driven by organic agricultural revenue inherently involve multi-sectoral and multi-tiered partnerships, whereby local communities along with government, civil, and business agencies collaborate in order to ignite community planning and establish development plans and projects. These networks of partnership also form decentralized arrangements or management channels of an evolving system committed to sustainable development. This is to say that decentralization is a by-product of pervasive participatory planning and the implementation of community-identified projects. The kind of decentralization that forms will naturally resemble the experience that gave it birth, which in this proposed case is that of participatory governance.

In Morocco, the kingdom has committed itself formally in 2008 and in its constitution of 2011 to decentralized administration and inclusion of all people, religions, and backgrounds in all rights and in the national development imperative. The national commitment helps to create a society conducive for encouraging bottom-up inclusive movements to achieve sustainable projects, whereby civil organizations are founded and strengthened and in time federate as they a work together – a course we have also seen in Morocco. However, if a nation has not committed itself by its laws to decentralization and federalism, but does enable community management of their development, they still indirectly open a de facto pathway to a form of decentralized organization, and potentially a systemic one over time.  This emerges from mounting and regularized inter-relationships involved in community development, but also from the politicization of participants as they internalize participatory procedures for governance and popular agendas for change – and may thus opt to enter electoral politics.

In sum, SDGs and their realization by 2030 will be a direct reflection of the extent to which people participate in the change they seek. Their participation will be a reflection of national policies that empower the sub-national and programs of experiential training in facilitating participatory community planning and development enacted in all parts of the land. That implementation of locally identified projects is dependent upon committed revenue and that requires, at least in Morocco and most developing nations, achieving the potential of organic agriculture and the rewards it is presented by global markets. Finally, by doing all of this and remaining true to the principles of participation and public-private partnerships, decentralized arrangements and federations for the management of development will emerge and institutionalize a constant bottom-up energy.  Increasingly flourishing on its own successes, the model accelerates toward 2030 and to levels of sustainable development for humanity and the planet, shining perhaps as never before.
Dr. Yossef Ben-Meir is president of the High Atlas Foundation, a Moroccan-U.S. non-profit organization dedicated to sustainable development and that since 2011 has Consultative Status at the United Nations Economic and Social Council.

The Moroccan Security Strategy: Humanization, Prevention, Preemption

By Morocco World News - February 15, 2017 By Abdelkader Filali Ottawa

The Moroccan Security Strategy-MSS- can be best described by its holistic and parallel frame towards imminent threats from a comprehensive security approach to social structural programs and inclusion of disengaged radicals. When both perspectives national and human security are combined, the MSS is positing itself as an agent of complementarity of the human aspect in the national security. To put it in a different way, a strategy that encompasses Humanization, Prevention, and Preemption.

Humanization incorporates the improving of the socioeconomic conditions of the vulnerable citizens through social programs that function under the umbrella of the National Initiative for Human Development- INDH-. Accordingly, prevention is the sum of the religious reforms that maintain the specificity of the Moroccan moderated Maliki Islam. Both E. Thompson and W. McCants (2013) and Dr. Lindrsay Cluterbuck (2015) who work at the Research and Development Think Tank- RAND- concur that: ‘Morocco has taken perhaps the most comprehensive approach of all the Muslim countries, from actively reinforcing and promoting its own traditional Maliki form of Islamic law to producing a government-approved curriculum for imams to use’. The third pillar of the MSS is the preemptive measures. Preemption is when information is gathered and assessed that a threat is being planned and the attack is imminent. The shift of the comprehensive security approach had seen light since 2007.

The Bold Merger
Francis Townsend the former Homeland Security Advisor to President George W. Bush- met in 2007 with Abdellatif Hammouchi General Director of both the General Directorate of National Security- DGSN- and General Directorate of Territory Surveillance- DGST. Later, Ms. Townsend declared that she was impressed by the new approach, which goes beyond the traditional frames of procedural policing in the act of terror. Ultimately, winning this battle against terror is primary a battle of ideas. The merger of the DGSN and DGST expands and provides both agencies with concrete resources in key fields of intervention.

Even with its history of fighting terror, the European Security Strategy- ESS- needs the constructive partnership of Morocco’s MSS. The ESS fought against the Republican Irish Army IRA, the Basque in Spain, the Red Army better known as Baader Meinhof- Gruppe, and 2 June Movement in Germant, and lastly the Red Brigade in Italy. Yet still it requires more multilateral efforts.

MSS and ESS: Towards Complementarity
There has been a steady rise in the dismantling of terrorist cells in some of the Moroccan cities and European countries. In general, terrorism has two general goals:  demonstrative and destructive. Demonstrative terrorism primarily seeks publicity:  aimed to recruit more activists, gain attention for its cause among softliners on the other side. Destructive terrorism tries hard to coerce opponents as well as mobilise support for the cause; inflicts real harm on the target audience, but in so doing, risks losing sympathy for the case; ETA Basque for instance.

The concept of security has dramatically changed over time in Morocco. It is no longer solely something that maintains the collective state security, but it is also the human security. Hence, the shift has seen the incorporation not only of the survival aspect of the state as a collective entity but also guaranteeing the security of the individuals belonging to its geography. The Moroccan Security Services’ response to the terrorist cells reflected and reinforced the security logic that the human side of the security equation is a necessity.

According to the Copenhagen School of Security, securitization is a process by which issues are made into security issues through the securitization of speech acts. We see in the Moroccan case that the security services had refrained from emphasizing on the formulation of a discourse that combines both violent radicals and security.How then to overcome such situation?

The Central Bureau for Judicial Investigations- BCIJ: The Legal Frame
The necessity to overcome questions that are asked by either the Copenhagen School of Security or Paris School of Security is to encompass a vision that minimize the heavy connotation of threats and institutionalize its legal framework by the establishment of the Central Bureau for Judicial Investigation- BCIJ-. The latter is composed of two main divisions: the Counter-Terrorism Brigade (Brigade de Lutte Contre le Terrorisme-BLCT- and Anti Organized Crime Brigade- Brigade de Lutte Contre la Crimalite Organisee- BLCO-. The intelligence gathering would have a legal umbrella and to be presented in a judicial procedural process complying with the legality requirements.

The merging of both General Directorates of the -DGSN- and – DGST has helped to effectively addressing security issues from a macro level of assessment. The BCIJ, which functions under the umbrella of the DGST, represents a judicial instrument towards respect of the law and the human right side. The title of this frame is the compliance with the law.
General Director Abdellatif Hammouchi of both DGSN and DGST equipped by pragmatic visions improve the workings of the institution.  The path towards a regional and international cooperation is still facing political agendas that represent real obstacles towards tangible partnership. The successful results are just the beginning of a modern, sophisticated intervention policy that is built on the notions of Humanization, Prevention and Preemption.

Number of Moroccan Readers Does Not Exceed One Million 

MENAFN - Morocco World News

Sbihi went on to say that 'the ministry is not responsible for the decline of reading in Morocco,' noting that the ministry organizes several cultural events throughout the year to motivate the Moroccans to read. 'The Ministry of Education is responsible for reading,' Sbihi continued. 'It is not fair to see that Moroccan students have 30 hours of school per week, while in Europe they only have 23 hours.'

Sbihi went on further to call on the ministry to 'avoid burdening the students with 'unworthy subjects' by reducng the numbers of hours and assign hours when students can explore books, theatre, and art.' The minister also stated that the decline of reading in Morocco is not due to technology. 'There are developed countries more advanced than Morocco in technology and they still respect the status of the book,' Shibi said, 'because the matter is related to the relationship of the society with the book.'

The 2017 International Book Fair, to be held February 9 to 19 in Casablanca, expects to receive approximately 350,000 visitors, according to the minister.

Wham, bam, thank you hammam in Agadir

Gemma Fullam Published 13/02/2017

A winter sun break in Agadir will lift your spirits and have you in relaxation mode at warp speed...

There are cats everywhere in Agadir, and while they're not of the pampered variety I have at home, they are, in the main, cared for by the locals. This generosity isn't wholly altruistic - the city's denizens need the cats just as much as the cats need them.

Just before midnight on February 29, 1960, Agadir was hit by an earthquake that lasted 15 seconds; it killed 15,000 people and left 35,000 homeless. After the horrific event, which forever changed the face of the ancient city, people realised that before the earthquake had hit, the city's cats had become agitated and fled. Felines, it transpires, are sensitive to the first faint vibrations underground and now act as an early warning system for the populace, who know that the stray they feed may one day save their lives.

I arrived in the beach-side city at the tail-end of January, having left behind the cold and drear in the hope of shaking off the winter blues. From the off, Agadir's balmy air warmed my bones and lifted my spirits: the bleakest month is no trial in northern Africa. Anne, my companion, decided we should start the week as we meant to go on: with some serious pampering. Having checked in to our base, the perfectly located Kenzi Europa hotel, we made a beeline across the road to the five-star Royal Atlas Spa. We plumped for the exotic-sounding Warmth of the South hammam, aka 90 minutes of bliss.

The spa, which is decorated in traditional Moroccan style - think marble, ornate doors and scalloped-edge pools - has a womb-like feel, and once we had been scrubbed, gourmet-wrapped and then massaged from head to toe, the wisdom of our decision became clear. We'd reached holiday relaxation mode at warp speed, you see; the January gloom had dissolved in the lashings of argan oil that now softened our previously prunish pelts. Result. It was early to bed that night, having dined on traditional tagines at Le P'tit Dome, a restaurant on our road, Boulevard 20 Aout. Our laid-back state was further enhanced by a several glasses of grey wine - a pale rose made from black grapes.

As a wise rat once said, "there is nothing, absolutely nothing, half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats", so next morning, after a hearty breakfast of freshly made omelettes and Moroccan mint tea, we took Ratty's advice. We were met at the marina - Agadir's posh end; it has an excellent Zara - by the affable Brahim, who was our host aboard the Golden Trip yacht (See Having dropped anchor far out in Agadir's beautiful bay, he helped us bait our lines and cast them into the depths, patiently rebaiting them each time the wily fish below outsmarted the hook's barb. Our luck was out, but other passengers fared better, hooking dorada and rskas, which they generously returned to the deep, having recorded their catch for posterity.
A bright morning segued into a sunny afternoon, and we were without care as we set sail again, with lunch sizzling on the starboard barbecue. We sipped on our stash of rose (alcohol isn't served, but it's fine to take your own) as our onboard companions braved the chilly waters for a preprandial swim. Lunch over, our vessel made her way back to shore, and as it was still light, we eschewed our ride, choosing instead to feel the warm sand of the bay's beach between our toes.

At our welcome meeting, our genial rep, Touria, had advised us of restaurants to try, and that night we set out to explore the traditional Moroccan eateries of the Talborjt district, where you can get fed for €4. We got lost, due to my skewed sense of direction, but ended up dining at a locals' spot nonetheless. Restaurant Poisson Al Jazera, on Rue Des Orangers, while not fancy by any stretch, is a ichthyophile's delight, with the freshest of fish on offer. We dined on lip-smackingly good whitebait and divine dorada, which Abdul, our waiter, skilfully deboned at our table. (They didn't serve wine, but Abdul produced two glasses of white from somewhere when he saw our crestfallen faces). Our bill was more expensive than anticipated, so we haggled it down to €54; still on the dear side considering the surroundings, but the fish was unarguably stellar.

It was now hammam o'clock, and this time we headed to Argan Phyto House, as recommended by Touria, and, indeed, the web. While tiles replaced marble and tasselled curtains hung in place of antique doors, the experience at APH was no less memorable (albeit cheaper at €40). With hammams, it's best to leave one's modesty at the door; as, nether regions aside, every other bit of us was washed, scrubbed and massaged to within an inch of its life. Needless to say, we slept like babies (

Next morning, we were off to the delightfully named Paradise Valley for a half-day trip, organised through Touria (330 dirhams/€30). The Moroccan countryside is, in its own way, quite lush. Argan and olive trees abound, and in the shadow of the mighty Atlas mountains, Paradise Valley revealed its abundance: banana trees, date palms - sacred trees, allowed to grow where they spring up - orange trees, pomegranate trees, fig cacti and prickly pear (good for the runs, apparently).

We tracked the trickling river through the valley, our group herded along by a friendly canine. In the depths of the fertile valley we came upon an old man on his knees, harvesting alfalfa by hand: food for his animals. Morocco is a juxtaposition of old ways and new; much work is done by hand and donkeys abound, carrying loads bigger than themselves. But this seeming backwardness belies the fact that, in stark contrast to the rest of Africa, more than 99pc of Moroccan homes have electricity, and the country, a constitutional monarchy, which has a history of independence not shared by its neighbours, is that continent's fifth largest economy.

After a tagine lunch at restaurant Tanout, with the valley's panorama as our backdrop, it was time to head back, with a pitstop at an argan oil co-operative. Known as the white gold of the Berber women, the precious vitamin-rich oil, from the fruit of the argan tree, has proved a boon to the region's females, providing them with an income and a degree of independence. Extracting the oil is labour-intensive; it takes one woman six days to produce a kilo of argan kernels by cracking open the hard fruit with a stone; 2.2 kilos are needed to produce one litre of oil. The co-op we visit has a lovingly tended herb garden, and also produces honey from the bees who pollinate its plants; we ooh and ahh over the sweet nectar before pronouncing the orange honey a clear winner.

That evening, we hit the Royal Atlas Spa for another peerless hammam. Now so relaxed we are almost floating, to maximise our new-found bliss, we decide to spend the following day doing... absolutely nothing. By the pool, of course, waited on hand and foot by the superlative Kenzi Europa staff.

Our holiday was drawing to a close, but we had a final adventure to pursue: a night in the Sahara (1550 dirhams/€145). Mustafa, our genial guide, collected us bright and early for what proved to be a long journey; one of discovery. The vastness of the burnt-umber landscape, dotted with the deep green of the argan tree, lingers long in the memory. It is here, away from civilisation, that you feel the magic that is Africa. The wildness, the hugeness of it; an alien landscape that your soul seems to remember, deep down.

Our route led us to the silver city of Tiznit - named, according to legend, after a prostitute, Lalla Tiznit. It's famous for intricate filigree silver; the skills for which were passed on to the locals by Jewish artisans in the 1880s. Next was lunch overlooking romantic Legzira Beach, with its stunning natural arch; its companion sadly collapsed into the sea last year. Finally, after many hours, capped by a bone-shaking 10km off-road, we reach Fort Bou-Jerif - gateway to the Sahara. It's almost dusk as we reach the fort, which was built by the French in the early 20th century and occupied by French Foreign Legion troops until 1956, when France withdrew from Morocco. The crumbling walls of the once-mighty edifice are now being reclaimed by the earth, and larks, wheatears and sandgrouses circle the skies overhead. It's a desolate spot, but an incredibly beautiful one, with long-forgotten stories echoing through every passageway.

Our bed for the night is a khaima, a nomad's tent - thankfully pitched within spitting distance of the bathroom block. Dinner, and several glasses of Moroccan vin blanc, were enjoyed in the tiny hotel named for, and adjacent to, the fort. Run by a French couple, Pierre and Najet, who decamped from Marseille some years ago, the hotel has a 1950s feel, with its leopard-skin wall hangings and terrazzo floors; very desert chic.

Our tent is not quite so well-appointed, and while Anne is out like a light, I toss and turn, discomfited by the howling wind and thoughts of slithering snakes. My restless night held compensation at its end; I awoke to see the unforgettable desert dawn: the purple night sky fading to blue and gold; the sun's light, full of possibility and hope, spreading its warmth across the vast russet dunes.

We spent our last night in Pure Passion, a fancy eating spot in the marina, with food to die for and a free lift back to the Kenzi (they do pick-up, too) See Our last morning brought the rain, but no matter, before our flight home, we'd booked in for one last hammam - with a two-hour massage. It's the first time I've ever had my eyelids massaged. But not the last. Guess where I'm going next January...

Why Morocco is ideal for an educational family holiday

How to solve the sticky issue of term-time holidays? An education at the tip of Africa, suggests Susie Mesure
Susie Mesure Tuesday 14 February 2017

Embracing Moroccan style: not just a holiday romance

Read more here:

There’s much more to stunning Morocco than sun and sea

by ruairi cotter 12th February 2017

Agadir is ideal for a family break, but trips to the likes of Marrakech and the Atlas Mountains were what made it as memorable and culturally rewarding as it was …
Read more here:

Future is Looking Good for Morocco: BMI Research

By Morocco World News - February 16, 2017 By Constance Renton Toronto

The future is looking good for Morocco on several key levels, namely political stability, social standards and economic outlook, according to a new report from BMI Research. Despite the continuing delays in forming a coalition government, Morocco’s 2017 outlook continues to be positive. The report, published Wednesday, predicts limited risks resulting from Head of Government, Abdelilah Benkirane’s ongoing challenges to form the country’s new government.

Forming the government became more complex and challenging than anyone had anticipated when Bekirane was given the task more than four months ago. Conditions forced on him by other parties such as the National Rally of Independents (RNI) and the Popular Movement (MP), who each insisted on the exclusion of the Socialist Union of Popular Forces (USFP), forced Benkirane and the negotiations into a full stall. At one point the RNI had also insisted on the exclusion of the Istiqlal Party (PI).

It is thought by the authors of the BMI Research report that fundamental differences in party ideologies are at the heart of the standstill. Benkirane’s Party, the Justice and Development Party (PJD), espouse a moderate Islamist doctrine battling government corruption. The RNI runs on a more liberal social platform. There is also an interesting theory that the delay could end up being of benefit to the Royal Family by way of curtailing the PJD’s growing popularity. Although the report does not indicate any concern about the PJD challenging the authority of King Mohamed VI, the current blockage could result in stunting the party’s growth.

Recent unrest in the northern Rif region is also not thought to be of great concern regarding the country’s stability. This is because the recent clashes with government officials and security forces continue to be occurring in isolated pockets, such as al Hoceima where clashes occurred over the recent death of a fishmonger when he was crushed in a garbage truck during the confiscation of his merchandise by government officials. The tragedy was taken up as a battle-cry in the areas against government corruption and security force abuse. Researchers at BMI Research, however, do not consider the tensions to be a real threat to overall Moroccan political and social security.

Recent reforms initiated by King Mohammed VI are also being lauded for aiding in the strengthening of the constitutional government, with moves such as the 2011 constitution which somewhat limited the King’s authority.

Although Morocco’s 2017 outlook does appear solid, with a predicted GDP rise of 4.3%, the report does warn, however, that cracks could potentially appear if the coalition government formation doesn’t happen soon. Long-term projections continue to look good, with Morocco placing 4th out of 19 countries in the MENA region, and scoring 69.8% out of 100 for Long-Term Political Risk. Reasons for the continued confidence include Morocco’s commitment to becoming an import/export hub in the region, which makes it extremely attractive to investors.

Morocco's blue city - central attraction for tourists

Chefchaouen, city of Morocco is mostly famous with the name of “blue city" because all buildings in this city have been painted with blue color.
This city was settled by Jewish community those were ousted from Spain in 1471………….

Farming a warmer planet.

Morocco holds lessons for how farmers around the world are adapting to, and curbing, global warming.

Zack Colman| @zcolman February 12, 2017 Ait Hssaine, Morocco

Fatima Ait Moussa paces in front of 13 women sitting on the floor of a rectangular room in this village in Morocco’s High Atlas Mountains. She’s shy, avoiding most eye contact, but Ms. Moussa is an accomplished woman. She commands the room with a familial tone and motherly smile.“Who is your husband?” she shouts out. “Argan!” they respond in unison. Moussa, dressed in a flowing black djellaba, repeats her question. One person responds, “Argan is my wallet!”

In reality, argan isn’t literally a husband or a wallet. It’s a tree that happens to play a vital role in sustaining the livelihoods of these entrepreneurial farmers. For the 149 women spread across 20 villages in Moussa’s cooperative, the trees and the oils they provide – used in expensive cosmetics, soaps, and food products – are the primary source of income.

Moussa’s actual husband died in the mid-1990s, saddling her with massive debt. Around that time, she witnessed a similarly cash-strapped woman try, unsuccessfully, to convince a grocer to accept argan oil as payment. The encounter sparked the idea for the business venture she now runs.

It’s a success, judging by the women’s enthusiasm and the framed certificates and photographs with leading politicians that decorate her office. Yet the cooperative is also beset by serious challenges, from drought and climate change to deforestation and global competition, that squeeze the women’s $5 daily incomes.

What’s happening here is emblematic of forces that reach far beyond Moussa’s venture in these arid, windswept mountains of southwestern Morocco. Worldwide, 3.4 billion people live in rural areas, often in poverty and with lifestyles that expose them disproportionately to the effects of changes in Earth’s warming climate. From Afghanistan to Bolivia, as well as in large swaths of Africa, many of them cultivate land that’s dry or growing drier.

The challenge for farm communities is to adapt and respond before climate change starts to erode agricultural productivity. For governments and development groups, the challenge is broader: They are recognizing that it’s not just that climate change is affecting farmers, it’s also that farmers are affecting the climate. While plants like argan trees can help store excess carbon that would otherwise add to the world’s emissions, many agricultural practices create greenhouse gases. They, in fact, account for about a quarter of such emissions worldwide.

Half of those agricultural emissions come in the form of methane emitted by livestock, the tilling of soil, and other agricultural practices. The next largest contributor is deforestation, such as for creating land for grazing. Yet some of these emissions – as much as 20 percent – are offset by crops and forests actually filtering carbon dioxide from the air.

“People are now starting to see much more clearly the negative impacts of climate change on agriculture and food production globally and that is driving increased research and action on the ground,” says Marc Sadler, an agricultural expert at the World Bank in Washington.

Primed in part by the United Nations climate accord reached in Paris in 2015, nations are now starting to funnel more aid to help poor nations respond to climate change – including on farms. In recent years, rich countries have pledged to give $100 billion annually in climate aid to poorer nations by 2020. 

But nothing close to that amount has started to flow, and the money being funneled into agriculture still remains modest: A 2014 report by the Climate Policy Initiative, a think tank, found that just 2 percent of the $331 billion in global climate financing as of that date was going toward improving farming practices.

The dearth of funding down on the farm could carry significant consequences for the world. Many countries view better agricultural techniques as not only vital to blunting the effects of global warming, but also as a way to limit overcrowding in cities by giving rural communities more opportunities, preventing desertification, enhancing food security, and preserving native customs.
The new buzzword to describe greener farming techniques is “climate-smart agriculture.” It was a prominent topic at a November UN climate conference in Marrakech, Morocco. It’s a theme at almost every global food production forum these days.

“Now you’d be hard-pressed to go to an agriculture conference and have climate not come up,” says Elwyn Grainger-Jones, executive director of CGIAR System Organization, an international agriculture and food security group.

Climate-smart agriculture encompasses practices such as reducing water use, planting climate-appropriate crops, diversifying yields, improving soil management, and using natural landscapes to promote “green” infrastructure that stores carbon or manages rainfall.

In Brazil, for instance, it means new legal and policing measures to slow the clearing of forests for cattle production. Mongolia is shifting to growing crops in greenhouses and away from allowing goats and other animals to graze on disappearing grasslands. Vietnam is using new breeds of rice seeds – ones that sprout earlier in germination – to cope with drought.

In Morocco, it means methodically pounding argan nuts. The government has committed to planting drought-tolerant argan trees across 95,000 acres of the country as part of its plan, under the Paris climate agreement, to both combat climate change and help vulnerable rural communities adapt to a warming planet. Doing so would pull about 0.613 megatons of carbon dioxide from the air – roughly the equivalent of taking 130,000 cars off roads – between 2020 and 2030.

Planting fruit and other kinds of trees has been a focus of governments and aid agencies across sub-Sahara Africa because they are more resilient to climate shifts than many traditional crops. They also provide a valuable source of income. 

In Morocco, getting the coveted oil out of the argan nuts is arduous work. The women sitting in the room at Moussa’s cooperative here pull the coffee-colored nuts from their large wicker baskets and smash the husks with smooth, black rocks. Then they pry the oil-bearing kernels loose, tossing them into smaller bags. 

It takes the women half a day to fill the bags. They make about 60 cents an hour for their work in this barren town of terraced homes and scattered argan trees that cling to a dusty hillside. The women are now breadwinners for the indigenous Berber, or Amazigh, community. About 2 million people depend on argan in this coastal region, where nearly all of the world’s supply of the tree is found in forests that look like clumps of broccoli.

“There is nothing like argan here,” says Rkia Elhjam, seated on the floor, who has worked with the cooperative since 2004. “Argan is our main activity.”

If argan exemplifies the promise of climate-smart agriculture, the forests here also reveal the multiple threats many rural communities face. The tree is one of the only things that can grow in this parched area. Yet Moussa says the droughts have become frequent enough that they are depressing even the harvest of nuts.  Traditional grazing has become more difficult, too. As grasses have receded, goats have ventured farther into the argan forest, causing even more damage. Goats are a pest. They climb the trees with their spindly legs to eat the fruits. Tribal laws encourage villagers to set aside land for the animals. But they have been ignored. 

Conservation hasn’t been much of a priority, either. The argan trees have been cut for decades for use as firewood and to make handicrafts for sale in markets. The forest has lost half its cover in the past century. That’s why UNESCO deemed 10,000 square miles of the area a protected site in 1998.  “There is nothing easier to grab land from than the forest,” says Mohamed Fouad Bergigui, a Morocco-based analyst for the UN Development Program (UNDP), as he winds through the mountains in his small hatchback.

Farther up the Atlas range, the effects of climate change on the small towns of Morocco are evident as well. The village of Toufghine is so remote that people use homegrown walnuts for currency. Toufghine, in fact, isn’t much of a town at all – it’s a smattering of drab, gray stone houses perched haphazardly along cliffs. Homes here have no running water. Electricity didn’t arrive until 2014. Mobile phone service started in 2013. The first road to the hospital, where a doctor only visits for half a day on Tuesdays, was completed in 2009. 

Mohamed Elmadi, a local farmer, has never heard of the term climate change. But he knows it’s getting warmer. Mr. Elmadi says that the river that runs along his small patch of farmland carries far less water than it used to during prime irrigation season. The reason is that the mountain snowpack at high elevations is getting lighter as temperatures warm. Precipitation that used to fall as snow now comes as rain, which significantly affects his apple trees and grapevines: Because snow melts slowly into the river, it normally produces water for crops in late summer. “From May, June, July, August, the river is going down, down, down,” says Elmadi while seated in a gite – basic accommodations for adventure-hungry tourists – he runs with his brother. “There is less and less water. So people can’t irrigate.”

Yet the heavy early rains often cause the river to flood in the spring. Big storms have inundated his fields and sent large boulders cascading into the stream. A heavy rain last May wiped out his potato crop, and, for the first time, his fruit trees were damaged.  “There is a solution” for reducing flood exposure, says Elmadi, as he trudges through his sodden field on an aluminum-gray day. 
He wants more gabions – wire containers filled with concrete blocks – to deflect the river. But as in many rural regions of developing nations, infrastructure is hard to come by.
“We can’t find anyone to make them,” says Elmadi. “It takes a lot of energy and people and machinery.”

While climate change is affecting food production in rural Morocco, it is contributing to another problem as well: the exodus of people to cities. Many young people, in particular, see declining opportunities in the countryside. When they depart, they leave fewer people behind to maintain local traditions and customs. “Once the kids finish elementary school here, there is no high school, so they have to go to the city,” says Moha Haddouch, a UNDP contractor who lives in the area. “If we had schools, a lot of people would stay here. They wouldn’t go to the city at all.” 

That has certainly been the case in Megdaz, a dusty collection of red-ocher clay houses farther up the mountain. The town’s very name means “wrong side” – the village doesn’t get much morning sunlight. Most of the people here, reliant on farming, are impoverished.  Tijani Hassou remembers when local fields teemed with flaxen-colored maize and barley. But diminishing water supplies have curtailed harvests. As a result, many locals – both young and old – have moved to bigger cities such as Agadir, Casablanca, and Marrakech. “I am very conscious of the river,” says Mr. Hassou. “Before it was full of water in the winter and the summer. Now in the summer it’s completely dry.” 

To adjust, Hassou has swapped out his barley and maize for walnut trees. The effect has been twofold: It has significantly reduced the amount of water he uses, and his walnuts bring more money in town. “I’m planning to stay here all my life because the city is too expensive,” Hassou says. “Life here is OK.”

Yet not everyone has fended off a warming climate so easily. In local cultures like this, farmers pass down practices from generation to generation. Change comes slowly. That’s where governments and aid organizations come in.  The Moroccan government, for one, is undertaking a number of initiatives to help the rural poor, maintain a vibrant Berber culture, and try to reduce overcrowding in cities. 

Officials in Rabat, for instance, planted 140,000 acres of desert with cactuses that now grow wild in Skhour Rhamna, a desolate area wedged between the Atlas Mountains and the Atlantic Ocean 60 miles north of Marrakech. In three years, they hope to hit 200,000 acres and eventually 350,000. Everything in the area is monochromatically brown, except for the cactuses. Fruit from the prickly pear produces an oil that is used in cosmetics, animal feed, and, soon, vinegar. The plants also sequester carbon emissions and boost soil health. The cactuses have provided a new industry for communities that have relied largely on small-scale goat and sheep herding. But grazing has declined as the wheat used for animal feed has disappeared. “Lack of water was the big impact in the crop,” says Laouni Ferrak.

Mr. Ferrak is now a manager at Inovag, a factory in Skhour Rhamna that extracts the oil from the prickly pear fruit. All the fruit gets mashed up in a processor, then vinegar and oil are pulled from the seeds. About 55 pounds of fruit are needed to make a quart of oil, which goes for $200 to $250 per quart. The company can process as many as 210 gallons a day. Inovag’s founder, Alain Jouot, built the whole facility by hand. The result is a menagerie of aluminum, corrugated steel, conveyor belts, and plastic fermentation vats. It’s the board game “Mouse Trap” come to life.
A private equity fund for Banque Populaire, Morocco’s state bank, has invested $500,000 in the company. “The purpose of all of this is to keep people ... here to have jobs,” says Adil Rzal, the fund’s managing director, standing in a room piled with burlap bags of prickly pears.

Ferrak, a former farmer with four children, says the factory has given him a new start. The company also employs 11 other people and pays four drivers to collect prickly pears from the roughly 80 people who pick them from the boulevards of cactuses across the undulating landscape. “It’s an opportunity for people living in the area, for my family ... I can have my money at the end of the month,” says Ferrak.
Efforts are under way to boost the production of argan oil at Moussa’s cooperative as well. Mr. Bergigui, the UN development analyst, is working with locals on a scheme to preserve the prized but besieged argan forest. He’s trying to get the Moroccan government to act on a decades-old pledge to subsidize farmers who improve soil quality, reduce erosion, and tame floods through land terracing. It would place a monetary value on land-management practices that typically don’t factor into the price of an agricultural product. Bergigui and others are also pushing the idea of collecting green donations from tourists. Under this plan, ecotourism companies would nudge visitors to voluntarily give small contributions – say, $7 – to offset carbon emissions from their travel to the area. The money would go to argan farmers, helping them compete against foreign companies now undercutting their prices in the global marketplace. Ecotourism operators in Latin American countries, such as Peru, have already used such arrangements with some success. At least “we’ve got to try it,” says Bergigui.

The women at Moussa’s cooperative would certainly welcome the monetary assistance. The price they receive for argan oil has been falling. Moussa blames mechanization and competition from (mostly French) cosmetic companies. Forest degradation hasn’t helped, either. “Once upon a time argan was a widespread product,” Moussa says. “For women, widowed women especially, it meant they would not have to rely on men.” The women are eager to find ways to close the gap between the $25 per quart that private companies pay for the oil and the $60 per quart that would provide a decent living.

Perhaps counterintuitively, Moussa thinks enrolling more women in the cooperative will help – by reversing forest loss. They’re good environmental stewards, she says, because their livelihoods depend on a healthy forest. So Moussa has opened satellite offices in villages across the region. Though her project is tiny relative to the vast numbers of rural poor worldwide, what Moussa and her backers are trying to do here symbolizes the kind of solutions that experts say could help, place by place, around the globe: a ground-up, self-sustaining system that reverses environmental degradation, strengthens economic security, and reduces emissions all at once. As Moussa puts it: “If it was not for the local population, the argan forest would have been gone a long time ago.” 
ρ This story was supported by a fellowship from the International Reporting Project.

3.09 Million Workers in Morocco Do Not Have Employment Contracts.

By Ezzoubeir Jabrane -  February 13, 2017 Casablanca

Morocco’s High Planning Commission has revealed that 3.09 million workers in Morocco do not have an employment contract regulating the relationships with their employers. The findings of Morocco’s High Planning Commission show that, out of 10.28 million working individuals in Morocco, 3.09 million do not have any employment contract with their employers. Findings regarding the quality of work in 2016 also indicate that 716,000 construction workers do not have a contract. This represents 89.7 percent of the total number of construction workers in Morocco.

As far as union membership is concerned, among the 10.28 million active workers in Morocco, only 3.4 percent are enrolled in unions or professional organizations. The remaining 96.6 percent do not have any connection with them. The High Planning Commission also pointed out that as little as 6 percent of workers in the cities are enrolled in unions or professional organizations. Only 1 percent of workers in rural areas can boast union memberships. 78.4 percent of active workers in Morocco, or 8.34 million workers,  do not have any health coverage at all. 3.50 million of these live in urban areas and 4.83 million reside in rural areas

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