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Abdelhadi Bennis, Association Marocaine pour la Protection de líEnvironnement
Houria Tazi Sadeq, Alliance Maghreb-Machrek pour l'Eau
In order to develop successfully, a country must take account of global and regional conditions and pursue a development policy that combines economic growth, sustainable use of natural resources, and improvement of the quality of life of its people.
In Morocco, an agricultural-pastoral country, where water is scarce and half the population lives in rural areas, the interaction between humans and nature is particularly intense, for three reasons:
Moreover, it should be emphasized that the rural family is caught in a kind of vicious circle, based on four elements:
As a result of the small scale of economic enterprise and low rate of income in rural areas, women and children are required to work extensively and without pay, putting upward pressure on birth rates as a source of labor. However, demographic growth has in turn created great pressures on forests, roadways, cultivated lands, the economic viability of farms, and so forth, and consequently on opportunities for investment and increases in productivity and revenues.
Therefore purchasing power remains poor, as does access to social services such as education, health, and leisure, making it even more difficult to increase economic activities and improve production and revenues.
Since Morocco became independent more than 40 years ago, these demographic characteristics have led authorities to give great importance to population policy and management of natural resources, particularly water.
This chapter will have three parts: demographic policy (past record and future outlook); water policy (the management challenge); and a case study of the management of irrigation water in a small-scale hydraulics area.
Morocco has taken a census of the population every 11 or 12 years since 1960. It took more than 50 years, from 1900 to 1952, for the population to double, from five million to 9.3 million. The growth rate, a mere 0.6 percent at the start of the century, steadily increased to 2.8 percent between 1952 and 1960, before declining to a level of 2.06 percent between 1982 and 1994. This recent decrease is explained by:
Average size of households has declined somewhat as a result of these trends, from 5.95 persons in 1982 to 5.87 persons in 1994 (3.5 adults and 2.3 children). This average, however, conceals a disparity between urban and rural areas. In the latter, the decline is from 5.48 to 5.32 persons. In the former, there appears to be an increase, from 6.35 to 6.58 persons.
Although the average population density is 36.6 persons per square kilometer (km2), there are great disparities between regions, on the one hand, and between cities and rural areas, on the other. In fact, in the northwest region, which includes the coastal Tangiers-Casablanca axis and the interior cities of Fez and Meknes, one sees that less than three percent (2.56 percent) of the area contains almost a third of the population.
Moreover, the growing frequency of drought years since 1980 (nine out of 16 years) has intensified the exodus from country to city (270,000 persons per year between 1988 and 1992). Thus, the growth rate for urban areas has reached 3.61 percent in spite of low fertility (2.56 percent), while the rural growth rate has not surpassed 0.67 percent in spite of a high fertility rate of 4.25 percent. The result of this migratory movement is that the proportion of urban dwellers has gone from 42.7 percent of the population in 1982 to nearly 51.4 percent in 1994.
The developments described above are the results of a population policy, followed since independence in 1955, that is characterized by the abrogation in 1955 of a law against the use of contraception, the liberalization of abortion (1967), the revision of the legal status of women, and the implementation of several ìPopulation Educationî activities dealing with such issues as spacing of births, improving literacy, and health and hygiene.
These educational efforts have produced a number of important results, especially in the area of urban demographics. However, demographers expect the population to continue to increase at a rapid rate, mainly because the population is still young with a consequently strong reproductive potential. In fact, the percentage of young people under the age of 15 has only slightly declined, from 41.4 percent in 1982 to 37 percent in 1994. Projections for the year 2014 show that the overall population will reach nearly 35 million, an increase of one third from today. The rural population will remain at current levels, while the urban population will increase by 70 percent to account for about two thirds of the total population.
Long-term estimates show that the population will double towards the middle of the next century, reaching about 50 million, posing major challenges in the areas of nutrition, satisfaction of social and economic needs, and the rational and sustainable management of natural resources. Morocco is fully aware of the challenges implicit in these trends.
Morocco intends to build on its past policy achievements and redouble its efforts within the new global context, in accordance with prevailing concepts of sustainable human development.
The concept of rural development necessarily implies reduction of current disparities between urban and rural areas. Reduction of rural socioeconomic deficiencies is directly related to sustainable water management, whether for irrigation or for domestic and industrial consumption. Necessary measures include:
Implementation of these programs is inconceivable without universal and scientific water management.
Water management in Morocco, like everywhere else, is tied to the management of other natural resources, and must address the needs of its three major users: agriculture, industry, and the household sector. With two maritime borders (the Atlantic Ocean to the west and the Mediterranean Sea to the north), Morocco is relatively well supplied compared to other countries of North Africa. In addition, the mountain ranges, which cover a substantial part of the national territory, act as reservoirs.
Annual rainfall is estimated at some 150 billion cubic meters (m3) overall. However, two constraints must be noted: rainfall variation in time and space. Morocco has always had drought years, but their frequency and severity have greatly increased since the early 1980s. Of the last 16 years, nine droughts have been recorded, whereas during the first half of the century there was on average only one drought every ten years.
Spatial distribution of rainfall in Morocco is characterized by declining gradients from north to south and from west to east. Certain regions receive 600 to 700 millimeters (mm) per year, while others receive less than 100 mm.
Three basins on the Atlantic (Sebu, Bouregreg, and Oum Rbii) hold two thirds of the freshwater potential. Waters flowing towards the Mediterranean or towards the Sahara nearly disappear at times.
Climate and land contour determine both the state of vegetation and the natural resources management policy followed by the government. The total area of the country, 71 million hectares, is divided into usable agricultural land (13 percent), forest and alpha zone (12.5 percent), roadway terrain (30 percent), and uncultivated land (44.5 percent). As a result of management practices, 80 percent of the 150 billion m3 of precipitation is lost each year through evaporation or discharge into the sea.
Only 14 percent (21 billion m) of the total rainfall is presently believed to be usable by acceptable economic and technical means. Currently 11.7 billion m3 are used, of which 75 percent is surface water and 25 percent is subterranean water. This water is divided as follows:
The overall per capita water supply figure, based on the total amount of potentially usable water, is 800 m3 per year, placing Morocco in the ìpoorî category (500 to 2,000 m3 per person per year) in international terms. The figure for actual use (all uses) is 460 m3 per year, for a ìweakî international rating (100 to 500 m3).
Water supply is therefore a great challenge for a country whose population is going to increase by one third by the year 2014, and double towards the middle of the next century, with increasing urbanization and industrialization rates. Additional factors making this challenge all the more serious include the following:
In accordance with the International Monetary Fundsí Structural Adjustment Policy, the Moroccan government is attempting to reduce its involvement in economic activities and to entrust them to the population concerned. The example that follows illustrates some of the difficulties involved in applying this policy on site. The project in question involves the state granting farmers control over management of a small-scale water works area. After a brief review of popular participation and the reasons for promoting the management scheme in Morocco, we will deal successively with a description of the project zone, its contents, the possibilities for development and revenue creation, and, finally, a critical analysis of the project in its present phase.
A reading of Moroccoís history clearly shows that its people have always tried to manage its water supply well in order to survive times of drought and famine. Traditional collectives were formed long ago for water management purposes, and have continued to this day, in spite of modernization efforts undertaken by administrations during the French protectorate years and after independence.
The survival of this management method can be explained by the ingenuity of the worksí construction, the respect given to the precepts of Islam, local customs, the principle of water rights for each irrigator in the collective, and the operational rules of the management group (Jmaa or Dioune), based on justice, equity, voluntary service, and penalties for delays.
Each ethnic faction chooses its naib (delegate) to manage its seguia (canal). The Amazal (water men) and Maujari (assistants) are paid in kind or in water allowance. At the beginning of the Protectorate, in 1914, a water commonality law was passed. This law was followed in 1924 by another law creating ìFavored Agricultural Syndicate Associationsî (ASAPE), adapted to the needs of the colonials, i.e., assertion of administrative control and the ability to expropriate, institution of water fees, implementation of voting rights according to property size, etc. After independence in 1958, a general law was passed to encourage creation of associations for the promotion of popular participation in all areas of development. This law coincided with the implementation of major irrigation programs, and the government took the opportunity to create its own irrigation associations.
Results did not meet expectations, and in 1990 the government passed a new and more specific law, creating Agricultural Water-Users Associations (AUEA). These associations were intended to take charge of irrigation works created by the government. As had been the case in the past, the government took the initiative, defined ìthe rules of the gameî in its own way, and maintained the right of oversight of the associationsí operations.
The most recently passed law (1995) introduced new options, such as water basins and the anti-pollution campaign. It confirms the AUEA law, but does not allow its effective implementation. Everything leads us to believe that Morocco is still looking for the best way to induce popular participation.
The 1995 water law established the principles of vested interests and public property rights. On the institutional side, the law retains traditional structures, but does not designate a specific supervising ministry, allowing for decentralization and introducing basin agencies using government workers. However, despite some indications of progress, the new water law is deficient in a number of areas, especially the following:
Although the law introduced the principle of ìthe polluter pays,î the question of the price of water is still at issue, and questions relating to setting its price have not been resolved. The decrees outlining the lawís application, now in preparation, may serve to remove these deficiencies.
We are still facing the difficult questions of how to optimize use of water resources and guarantee social justice in the future. Growing scarcity and the decline in water quality clearly challenge the viability of traditional technical solutions and show that a global, multidisciplinary approach is urgently needed.
Equally clear is the need to institutionalize principles based on the concept of integrated water resources management, i.e., management incorporating social, political, economic, legislative, and other institutional actions to guarantee the optimal quantity and quality of this resource for all users. These actions may take the form of institutional coordination, multidisciplinary research, human resource training, information dissemination, popular participation, development of appropriate technology, using and improving local know-how, and engaging in intersectoral or international cooperation.
Integrated management seems to have become the popular catch phrase with regard to protection of the environment. There is no doubt that effective protection means consideration of the total ecosystem and its interactions, not just consideration of the different elements in isolation. Efficient and effective management of water resources therefore requires that we not neglect any of the interests dependent upon it, nor any of the physical laws that govern its workings.
In Morocco there are two types of irrigation: Large-scale hydraulics (GH), involving vast areas fed by high-capacity dams and providing year-round water supply (presently about 500,000 out of a potential 830,000 hectares); and small-scale hydraulics (PMH), involving small areas of several hundred hectares fed by water sources that are not highly regulated (e.g., pumps, water diversion, co-lineal reservoirs, spring water catchments, and flood waters).
Government interest in PMH dates to the 1960s, but increased in the mid-1980s because of frequent droughts, and enabled by credits granted by the World Bank, the German Kreditanstalt fur Wiederaufbau, and state subsidies. Estimates show that there are about 813,000 hectares of PMH areas, including:
The goal of the state is to reduce the amount irrigated by seasonal waters to 170,000 hectares, and increase the amount irrigated by year-round water to 510,000 hectares (60 percent). This measure should contribute in a major way to nutritional security, job creation, and the effort to slow rural exodus throughout the country. The goal will be reached through rehabilitation and modernization of equipment in the areas concerned, using traditional irrigation systems based on customary rules of water distribution.
These steps are generally accompanied by socioeconomic measures, such as canalization of the potable water supply, electrification, improvement of the public information system, intensification of land ownership, and substitution of more profitable crops for those that are now widely cultivated. Greater organization and participation of the population are highly desirable additional components, supported by the passage of several new laws.
Has the intended goal been reached? The case study that follows attempts to contribute to answering that question.
Demographic data, climatic problems, and socioeconomic conditions of the project zone are more or less similar to those described above for rural areas in general. We will therefore limit our description here to additional specific elements pertaining to the site of the project, the state of property structures, and agricultural development. These elements are indispensable in evaluating the degree of success or failure of the project.
Site of the project
Morocco possesses eight major water basins, one of which, Sebu Ouengha-Beht, in the Gharb region in the northwest, is a currently regulated resource supplying about two billion of a potential five billion cubic meters of water.
The area presently encompasses a year-round irrigated surface of 106,500 hectares, including 90,000 hectares irrigated by GH and 16,500 hectares irrigated by PMH. The basin potential will make it possible eventually to irrigate nearly 250,000 hectaresó220,000 by GH and 27,500 by PMH.
The PMH zone chosen for the case study is located in the foothills of the Rif mountains, about 60 kilometers north of the cities of Fez and Meknes, south of Sidi Kacem, at the confluence of the Western Inaouen and Middle Sebu rivers. Measured rainfall in this area is between 400 and 600 mm per year. The project requires supplying 15,000 hectares with two trenches; the first 6,500 hectares includes areas known as Sectors II and III, and the second 8,500 hectares includes Sectors I, IV, and V. We will focus exclusively on Sector II (2,700 hectares), since the work there is relatively advanced.
State of property structures
There are 920 distinct properties in Sector II, at a very low average of about three hectares each. The total number of owners, some of whom also own land outside the sector, is estimated to be 1,800, or an average of two owners per property.
Fifty percent of the properties are less than one hectare, representing in all no more than six percent of the total area. Properties of less than five hectares are excused by law from direct participation in equipment investment. Properties in this category represent 88 percent of all Sector II properties and 31.5 percent of the total area. Trench properties, five to 20 hectares in size, represent 9.5 percent of all properties and 25.5 percent of the area. Two percent of the properties are more than 20 hectares each and amount to 37.5 percent of the area.
Many of the properties, 43 percent, covering 41 percent of the area, have a legal status of shared ownership, and therefore lack a well-defined spokesman. When the General Assembly of Associations met, only 60 percent of the owners attended; in other words, the number of absentee or non-resident owners is large.
Current state of development
Forty-four percent of the properties are irrigated in whole or in part, i.e., irrigation is nothing new for the area. The sector is served by a series of small hydro-agricultural units, called oulja, fitted into the bends of the river, offering a certain technical and socio-economic homogeneity. There are a total of nine such units: five on the right bank and four on the left bank.
The lands are currently cultivated using a very low-grade technology. Some farmers own tractors and do the soil work for themselves and others, but this work is often slow and of poor quality; fertilizers, if they are used at all, are used without soil analysis, and plant sanitation treatments are mostly nonexistent. The major crop is still cereal (60 percent tender wheat); edible legumes are only 15 to 30 percent of the total.
Livestock raising is predominantly limited to sheep, as this practice makes use of straw, which is the fallow plant in drought years, and sometimes barley fodder. Some owners have a few (six or seven) milk cows of local or mixed breed.
These cultivation practices are explained by the climate and the low level of technical expertise. Farmers say they have one good year out of every three. Yet the zoneís potential is far from negligible. Some farmers dig wells or pump directly from the river in order to have year-round water. Others create additional irrigation channels. As a result one finds rich crops on certain properties, including mint, market gardens, fruit trees (olives and citrus), and alfalfa.
Some farmers obtain record yields of tender wheat, up to 5,000 kilograms per hectare. However, we should point out that they manage their water so as to use as little as possible, only using reserves when the climate begins to harm the crops. According to the farmers, the amount of water used does not exceed 6,000 to 7,000 m3 per hectare per year. This type of management requires great flexibility in decision making and farming operations, and the risks are not insignificant.
The projectís objective is systematic development of the area through modernization of the irrigation system, including the improvement of its management by establishing user associations specifically for that purpose. The technical study carried out in 1984 called for building principal installations (including five pumping stations, eight recovery stations, and delivery pipes) and open, gravity-driven irrigation networks, internal and external drainage systems, and electrification. Much of this work is now 80 to 85 percent complete.
Investment costs for the sector are estimated at 210 million dirham (DH), equivalent to about US$40 million. The average cost per hectare is therefore on the order of 80,000 DH (US$16,000). Direct user participation accounts for 30 percent of investment costs, or 24,000 DH (slightly less than US$5,000). At a lending rate of four percent over 17 years, the yearly payment amounts to 2,050 DH (US$410). As noted above, farmers owning less than five hectares are exempt from this obligation, and those owning up to 20 hectares are exempt for their first five hectares.
Creation of the AUEA and their Union
To ensure takeover of the installation operations by the local population, it was decided to establish four Agricultural Water Users Associations (AUEA) for the nine oulja. The hydraulic equipment includes an ìupstreamî portion common to the four associations, and a ìdownstreamî component proprietary to each one. The upstream portion includes pumping and recovery stations, transfer canals, regulating reservoirs, drainage networks, and the delivery paths to the works. The downstream components include networks for irrigation and drainage, and paths serving the plots of each association. Thus there are two levels of system management. The responsibility of each association is relatively clear with regard to their own proprietary downstream components; however, association responsibilities are not so clear for the common, ìupstreamî elements.
In order to address this problem, two plans are being considered:
Whichever plan is adopted, oversight will be necessary on two levels: internal association oversight, particularly for water payment, whose uniform price will come from a cost-sharing arrangement among all users; and an external oversight, by the state, for the protection and maintenance of its property.
If the "Union Plan" is adopted, it should provide for:
Costs and fees
Operational costs must be calculated in order to determine the billing price of water for users, and to determine the advantages they will derive compared to their current practices. We will not go into detail, but will only consider the broad issues separating the ìUnionî and ìAssociationî categories.
Operational costs include a technical team and an administrative team for the associations and the union. Equipment costs include vehicles as well as office and computer material. Energy expenses are calculated on the basis of 10,000 m3 of water per hectare per year (lower than the 14,400 m3 figure used in the original study), which corresponds to a four-year rotation system (50 percent fodder, 21 percent cereals, 25 percent market garden), requiring 100 m3 of water and an irrigation efficiency coefficient of 84 percent.
Anticipated expenses for periodic maintenance, major repairs, and replacement of equipment have been estimated on the basis of established norms. The annual cost is estimated at 13.5 million DH (US$2.7 million)-2.9 million DH for the associations and 10.6 million DH for the union.
Considering the preceding data, we can calculate the cost, which is divided into a ìfixed feeî and an ìenergy feeî:
Therefore the user will have to pay annually per hectare the following amounts:
Based on research results and current practices within the region, projected yields have been set for each crop, as have charges for each crop, excluding irrigation. The margins determined, excluding irrigation, show a disparity of as much as a factor of seven or more between high-margin crops (e.g., mint and garlic, at 60,000 DH, or US$12,000, per hectare) and low-margin crops (e.g., wheat and fodder, at 7,000 to 9,000 DH, or US$1,400 to $1,800 per hectare).
This calculation allows us to conclude that the greatest economic hope does not lie in improving low-margin crop yields, but rather in adopting rotations based on high-margin crops, and raising the intensity rate of cultivation. The combination of these two variables, using the calculation of margins per rotated hectare, allows us to determine the crop system that will best exploit the water charges (55,000 DH, or US$11,000 per hectare). We observe therefore that the more crop intensity increases (110 to 130 percent), the more the cost of water in relation to charges and revenues declines (40.6 to 28.9 percent and 26.7 to 14.6 percent, respectively), and the more the margin produced increases (34.2 to 49.5 percent).
Will the project improve the current intensity rate, which now varies from 80 to 100 percent, as well as increase the income of farmers and their management ability? The analysis that follows will help us form a more exact response.
The data cited above lead us to certain analyses in our effort to acknowledge and surmount some of the obstacles to realizing the projectís goals. This chapter does not hope to find precise solutions to all the problems; we will be satisfied to offer some helpful suggestions and to pose some critical questions in order to highlight certain lines of thought.
The very modern concept of hydro-agricultural equipment, with its complexity and expense, marks a dramatic departure from the current practices of the population and from current socioeconomic conditions. Notwithstanding the importance of a reliable water supply, will the population accept high annual costs for participation in investments that were decided without their consent, water fees based on consumption rates, and unit prices that exceed those that are customary to the region?
Moreover, it is unfortunate that certain measures that were supposed to accompany the hydraulic installationsóreallocating land, adapting and energizing local technical administration units, involving the private sectorówere incompletely realized, if at all. It could also be asked if the sectorís burden could be relieved by including lands owned by users outside the sector.
The general principle of state disengagement should not be applied without consideration of local realities. Further subsidies should perhaps be provided to ease the burden on users, and payments deferred until the AUEAs are firmly established and land development has begun. A broad campaign to educate and persuade farmers is indispensable. As for land development, it is clear that progress has been made in the areas of productivity and rate of intensity, as well as in marketing of products. Aside from the need to reflect on the compatibility of the farmersí free choice of crops to grow and the existence of a single irrigation system, the problem of the technical framework remains unsolved. What will be the stateís role; the private sectorís; the AUEAs?
While we regret that the steps taken in these areas since the projectís beginning in 1983 have been very modest, we wonder if the solution does not lie in the current phase of the state-private sector relationship, i.e., the former contributing infrastructure and personnel, the latter capital and energy. In any case, the solution for the future lies in the adoption of the activity by the population itself, within the framework of the AUEAs or similar organizations.
Land improvement will also require substantial investments at the production level. The National Agricultural Credit Bank will need to adapt to serve this category of farmer, for whom the narrow and complex property laws are not very favorable. In addition, these cultivators should be the first to benefit from the Agricultural Development Fund, which is intended to support production. Let us point out that the user organization is an inevitable prospect, since otherwise the population cannot participate in development. Without popular participation, sustainable development cannot be assured.
Allow us to point out as well that organizational initiatives rarely come from the population under the socioeconomic conditions that exist in rural areas. The government is forced to take the initiative, hoping the population will follow. The law on AUEAs reflects this dilemma. On the one hand, there is the governmentís duty to initiate and maintain basic installations, and on the other hand there is the governmentís desire to transfer management, within an organized and democratic framework, to a local population that, unfortunately, is not ready to handle it.
Thus there arise questions and criticisms regarding the law governing AUEAs and the conditions of its application. The creation of irrigation works preceded the creation of the AUEAs; consequently, the latter cannot be held responsible for the worksí technical deficiencies and poor adaptation to local circumstances.
The AUEAs, as government creations, are imposed on the people and do not reflect their own choices. The government is an official member of the elected association council. Is it necessary for the law to require all users to be summoned to the general assembly, and not to be able to have valid deliberations unless two thirds of the owners are present or those present own half the total surface of the area? Is it even possible? Is it realistic and functional to insist on the principle of ìone user one voteî with such a heterogeneous population?
Who can one interview when a property is in a legally confused situation (lease-holders, partnerships, absentee owners, joint tenancies, rights of tenure without true ownership)? Is it appropriate to give the association the ability to punish users, even with expropriation?
In reality the problem is one of creating the best fit between the local manpower, the characteristics of the population, and the contents of the law they are required to respect. This is why we raise the question of whether this project would be better conceived within a broader developmental program in which other elements will be considered, such as family planning, literary programs, childrenís education, emancipation of women, job creation, and the campaign against subdivision of the land.
The government must be able to act in an effective, dynamic, and intelligent manner in order to exploit and protect the investments it has made, and to win the populationís confidence and gain its adherence, through such means as intensified training and information programs, mobilization of influential local leaders, and reduction of population pressures on land resources.
The situation urgently calls for intervention, but the task is complex and requires perseverance.
Since mid-century, Morocco has seen a fairly rapid increase in population that has not been accompanied by sufficient socioeconomic development. The deficiency has been especially marked in rural areas, with direct repercussions on the management of natural resources. Water, which has been vital in sustaining increased food production, threatens to become scarce if demographic growth continues its rapid pace.
Therefore the challenge for the future is to maintain the water-population balance at a level that does not impede the countryís development. The population must contain its growth rate and raise its socioeconomic level, and every possible technique must be developed to save water and protect it from pollution.
This goal cannot be realized without the genuine participation of the population alongside the government. Since the problem is rather complex, all the agents of development must contribute in a complementary, coherent, and dynamic manner, and with the requisite perseverance.
Given the problems of communication between the government and the farmers, there is reason to believe that the solution lies in the involvement of a nongovernmental organization, acting as an interface between the two parties, and serving as a coordinator for the involvement of other agents. This possibility deserves careful study.
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