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Business Brief: Morocco’s Infrastructure Projects Continue to Draw International Attention; Hollywood’s Love Affair with Morocco Grows; and US Finalizes Missile Sale – Jean R. AbiNader

Wed, 12/14/2016 - 16:11

Jean R. AbiNader, MATIC
December 14, 2016

Jean R. AbiNader, Exec. Dir., Moroccan American Trade and Investment Center

A high-speed train project is expected to see its first passengers in 2017, and it is just the beginning for an ambitious effort to link up Africa. Solar power projects in Morocco have gained international recognition because of their role in advancing solar energy, making cost-effective solar energy, and innovative approaches to green financing. Thanks to a boost from Comcast and a pending Moroccan tax incentive, US film leaders see a bright future for the Moroccan film industry. Finally, the US State Department has cleared a pending missile sale to Morocco.

Morocco builds for its transportation and energy future. The long-range contours of the country’s high-speed railroad are coming together in the initial phase between Casablanca and Kenitra. Using innovative technology and efficient processes, firms from France and Italy are on schedule and budget on a project that could well extend until 2035. The rail project is part of Morocco’s vision of emerging as the most advanced transportation hub in Africa, complementing the development and growth of its Atlantic and Mediterranean ports. This will not only be Morocco’s first high speed railway, but Africa’s first as well.

Among the innovations are the rebuilding of conventional track beds to accommodate the high-speed trains, thus reducing costs and build-out time, and new lines planned to connect the tourist cities of Agadir and Marrakech, allowing passengers and products to move from Tangier to Agadir with no transfers.

Of great importance to Morocco is the large number of Moroccans employed in the project. Contractors have spent a great deal on building the skills capacity of the local workforce. Given that Morocco’s existing system could not provide sufficient numbers of trainees, the companies have also trained Moroccans to be the trainers for the undertaking. More than 1400 new employees are now equipped with railway systems skills.

On the energy side, good news continues from COP22 on the progress of Morocco’s solar program. Morocco’s goal is well defined – to generate 14% of its power needs from solar by 2020, part of the country’s goal of 52% energy production from renewable sources by 2030. The multiyear project is called Noor and has several phases. It is run by ACWA Power Ouarzazate, an association of ACWA Power, the Moroccan Agency for Solar Energy (MASEN), Aries and TSK. In addition, the project is being developed on a build, own, operate, and transfer (BOOT) basis.The solar complex will be operated and maintained by a consortium led by NOMAC, a subsidiary of ACWA Power, and MASEN.

Noor 1 has successfully exceeded the expectations in energy production with its launch earlier this year. In 2017, construction will begin at two sites in the southwest, near Laayoune and Boujdour, followed by plants near Tata and Midelt. And Morocco’s success has generated enthusiasm throughout the region, as similar plants are being built in Jordan, Dubai, and Saudi Arabia. The success of these plants in Morocco and others may encourage other African countries to turn sooner to solar power.

Here’s looking at you, Morocco. American film studios’ continued expansion of their activities in Morocco underscores the benefits of its stability and diverse beauty. According to an article in Variety, “Among the biggest productions that chose Morocco were Brad Anderson’s “High Wire Act” with Rosamund Pike and Jon Hamm, Alexandre Moors’ “The Yellow Birds” with Jennifer Aniston, Per Fly’s “Backstabbing For Beginners” with Ben Kingsley, Jason Hall’s “Thank You for Your Services” with Amy Schumer, as well as the trailers for “The Mummy” and “Allied,” and episodes of “Prison Break,” ”The Missing,” ”Viking” and “Homeland.”

While a 20% tax rebate has been passed by Parliament and should be implemented by the new government once it is formed, “Even without the rebate, the country has remained a convenient shooting destination for various reasons: Foreign crews are exempt from paying VAT (20%) and that applies to materials and filming services used; productions can access a diversity of decors (ranging from mountains to the desert and the Atlantic seaside), and finally, local crews are highly skilled, can work long hours and are fairly cheap, which means U.S. productions can staff with locals instead of flying in their entire crews,”argued  the head of the Moroccan Cinema Board Sarim Fassi Fahri.

The latest trip of studio executives to Morocco was planned to coincide with the annual Marrakech International Film Festival and was coordinated by Richard Smotkin, Comcast’s Senior VP of Global Government Affairs and a frequent visitor to Morocco. He remarked, “We know this is not the Middle East, so one of the reasons we put this trip together was to show the executives from American studios what Morocco is and what it can offer; for instance, not many people know it’s only a 6 hour flight from New York.”

This enthusiasm for cinema in Morocco was clear in the initial number of film projects announced at the Film Festival, which will make 2017 an even better year for the industry. As well, the international character of the Festival was reflected in the two top awards going to Chinese directors: Zang Qiwu earned the Grand Prix, while best director honors went to Wang Zuebo.

State Department gives go ahead to missile sale. As part of its decision-making on US arms transfers to the MENA region, the US State Department has approved a sale to Morocco that includes 1,200 TOW 2A RF missiles and 14 TOW 2A fly-to-buy acceptance missiles. It also includes engineering, technical, and logistics support services, and is estimated to cost $108 million. As reported in the DefenseWorld.net story, “This proposed sale helps to improve the security of a Major Non-NATO Ally that continues to be an important force for the political stability and economic progress in North Africa. This proposed sale directly supports Morocco and serves the interests of the Moroccan people and the United States.” Raytheon Missile Systems is the sole principal contractor listed for the potential sale.

Morocco to seek Islamic investment boost. The introduction of Islamic finance, approved by the government earlier this year, will help Morocco attract needed liquidity and foreign investors who prefer Islamic financial instruments. It is anticipated that the first-ever Islamic bond (sukuk) will be issued in the first half of 2017. Minister of Finance and Economy Mohammed Boussaid said that the amount has yet to be determined and will coincide with the national launch of Islamic finance. The central bank is working with Islamic scholars to ensure compliance and clarity in the sector.

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Categories: The moroccan press

And the Band Played On…Following COP22 – Jean R. AbiNader

Tue, 12/13/2016 - 20:15

Jean R. AbiNader, MATIC
December 13, 2016

Jean R. AbiNader, Exec. Dir., Moroccan American Trade and Investment Center

While the election of Donald Trump certainly created a stir at COP22 as participants speculated on America’s future policies on the environment, no hesitation marked Morocco’s commitments. King Mohammed VI received a great deal of praise for literally “walking the walk,” as a gracious host and, more importantly, because of Morocco’s long-term strategies to manage its energy and environmental policies, for the kingdom, the region, and Africa.

In addition to accolades from the US representative and African leaders taking part in a special session focusing on the continent, Morocco’s received recognition for its accomplishments and goals from Director-General of the International Renewable Energy Agency Adnan Amin in a commentary for the Huffington Post.

He mentioned that “In 2007, less than 10 per cent of the country’s electricity was powered by renewables. Yet even while energy demand has increased, that figure has risen dramatically. In 2015, following years of innovation and investment, renewables accounted for more than 30 per cent of installed power capacity.”

He then went on to detail the growth of the solar and wind projects in Morocco and how its early investments have greatly reduced the costs of deploying facilities and energy production. Amin wrote that “Morocco is now well positioned to take advantage of possible cost reductions for CSP of up to 43 per cent by 2025.”

He noted that “Wind power offers another success story. By 2014, wind power made up 5 per cent of the total power supply, and that figure is expected to rise to 14 per cent by 2020.” This is more than a production capacity, under a newly awarded contract, energy production from large-scale wind energy projects is now significantly cheaper than coal, which currently supplies most energy in the country.

As importantly, Amin pointed out that, thanks to support from the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and other international donors, “the country has also spurred small-scale rural electrification with decentralized renewable energy. Thanks to a concerted national electrification initiative, tens of thousands of remote villages are now powered by domestic sources including small solar, hydro and wind. This initiative has resulted in an electrification rate which is now over 98 per cent.”

Morocco Urges Africa to Speak with One Voice

Morocco has achieved these results both to meet their own needs and to share their experiences with other African countries. In the side session for African leaders, the participants adopted a unified partnership for energy policy. The joint declaration demonstrates their intention to “pool their resources and speak in one single voice to tackle climate change.” According to the UN, 36 of the 50 countries that will be most affected by climate change are in Africa.

Another challenge discussed by the African leaders is the need to secure international funding to support climate change projects. “Currently Africa only attracts around five percent of climate funding. By 2020 it’s meant to be able to dip into the 100-billion-dollar (90-billion-euro) green fund – on condition it has valid projects up and running that prove it’s making the shift to clean energy.”

Once again, Morocco stepped up and announced its contribution of $100 million to the World Bank’s green fund to support environmental projects in Africa. This did not go unnoticed by the African leaders, “We welcome the kind of offers that he [King Mohamed VI] has provided that Africa should come and speak with one voice to ensure that we reverse this great challenge which is affecting us,” Sierra Leone’s president told officials during their three-hour plenary session.

In addition, the king established a million-dollar award, The International Award for Climate and the Environment, to be awarded biannually at each COP meeting for “particularly innovative and high-impact action for change.” Throughout the meetings and in its final declaration, countries participating in COP demonstrated a serious determination to take long-term and consequential actions to combat climate change.

Partnerships Announced to Continue COP Agenda

The UN issued a summary of the key action agreements adopted at the summit, to be implemented through a number of public-private and NGO partnerships. The importance of these agreements cannot be understated, as they are the action plans that will implement goals defined in COP21, and provide metrics for determining the results of efforts to restrain the rise in global average temperature to well below 2 degrees C.

As the UN describes it, “Governments, international organizations, cooperative initiatives and non-government stakeholders clearly demonstrated how their commitments to addressing climate change are maturing into concrete actions; including:

  • Marrakech Partnership for Global Climate Action
  • Marrakech Investment Committee for Adaptation (MICA) Fund
  • Initiative for Renewable Island Energy
  • African Capital Markets
  • Global Environmental Facility (GEF)
  • European External Investment Plan (EEIP)”

It is in this context of broad-scale partnerships, funded by governments and multilateral agencies, that the World Bank-Moroccan initiative for Africa carries great promise. As the announcement noted, “GGIF for Africa is first true green economy fund ever established as it stands out among other funds through its utter orientation towards the emergence of efficient and environment-friendly infrastructure projects motivated by reducing carbon emission.”

While some skeptics may claim that COP22 is over and progress will be slow, it is clear from Morocco’s agenda that the music continues as the movement towards a more stable global environment gathers momentum.

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Morocco Expands African Footprint with Royal Visits to Ethiopia, Madagascar, and Nigeria

Mon, 12/12/2016 - 21:29
Visits Follow Calls to Rejoin African Union, Recent Trips to Rwanda, Tanzania and Senegal

Washington, DC, December 12, 2016 (MACP) — Morocco’s King Mohammed VI has concluded the second leg of a nearly two-month, six-country Africa tour with visits to Ethiopia, Madagascar, and Nigeria, resulting in some 50 bilateral agreements. The visits come on the heels of trips to Rwanda, Tanzania, and Senegal in October, when more than 40 bilateral agreements were signed.

In Addis Ababa on November 19, the King and Ethiopian Prime Minister Haile Mariam Dessalegn chaired the launch ceremony for a project to build a “world-class integrated platform for fertilizer production” in Ethiopia, estimated to reach a total annual capacity of 3.8 million tons by 2025, which would render Ethiopia self-sufficient in fertilizer. The two leaders also chaired the signing of several bilateral agreements relating to water resources, banking and finance, and establishing a bilateral business council.

In the Malagasy capital on November 21, King Mohammed VI and President of Madagascar Hery Rajaonarimampianina chaired the signing ceremony of 22 bilateral cooperation agreements in a host of areas, including agriculture, banking, renewable energy, and education and vocational training, as well as an agreement to upgrade and preserve Madagascar’s Canal of Pangalanes. The Canal is four times longer than the Suez Canal and eight times longer than the Panama Canal.

Two days later, the King arrived in Antsirabe—the Malagasy city to which his late grandfather, King Mohammed V, was exiled in 1954—to explore a special photography exhibit on his grandfather’s stay there, view the hotel in which he lived, and rededicate the local mosque as “King Mohammed V Mosque.”  In an interview with Malagasy press following the visit, the King called the visit “very moving,” noting that “Contrary to exile experiences in general, my family has maintained a good memory of this forced stay and has maintained a strong relation with Madagascar, especially Antsirabe.” As an expression of gratitude, the King has committed to setting up a vocational training center and building a mother-child hospital for the city.

On December 1, King Mohammed VI arrived in Abuja, Nigeria, where he and Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari chaired the signing of several bilateral agreements on renewable energy, fishing, and agriculture—including an agreement to develop Nigerian’s fertilizer industry. According to an official release from the visit, “This collaboration seeks to secure fertilizer supply for the Nigerian market at competitive prices, share a real know-how in terms of developing local blending facilities, promote innovation, research and development, reinforce local distribution channels, and extend the existing agricultural systems” with the ultimate goal of developing “a sustainable agriculture in Nigeria while helping with the amelioration of farmers’ daily life in a spirit of south-south partnership.”

Representing one of Morocco’s most ambitious infrastructure development goals, the two countries also announced plans to build a natural gas pipeline that, at completion, would bring Nigeria’s energy resources through West Africa to Morocco, and eventually to European markets with Morocco serving as a gateway. Ithmar Capital, Morocco’s sovereign wealth fund and co-partner in the venture with the Nigeria Sovereign Investment Authority, said in a release, “The new collaboration between Morocco and Nigeria is intended to set a model for South-South cooperation and act as a catalyst for African economic opportunities. It aligns with His Majesty, King Mohammed VI’s regional strategy, in which he has declared that Africa is the top priority in Morocco’s foreign policy and that the Kingdom will contribute to economic, social services and human development projects that directly improve the lives of people in the region. This includes on projects related to the energy sector, and notably sustainable and green projects.”

The King had initiated his East Africa tour with visits to Rwanda, Tanzania, and Senegal before attending the 22nd Conference of the Parties to the UN United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP22) in Marrakesh. Though the King has traveled to Senegal many times before, his visits to Rwanda, Tanzania, and most recently Ethiopia and Nigeria were a first and reinforce his commitment to South-South cooperation just a few months after announcing his intention for Morocco to rejoin the African Union (AU). Some thirty countries have already voiced their support for Morocco’s bid, including Benin, Gabon, Liberia, Senegal, Egypt, and Ghana, to name just a few.

Since ascending the throne in 1999, the King has made Africa a foreign policy priority. Beyond his many trips, in late 2013 the King established a program to train imams from across the continent. In March 2015 in Rabat, he formally opened the Mohammed VI Institute for the Training of Imams, Morchidines, and Morchidates. In April 2015, Morocco signed a memorandum of understanding with the Millennium Challenge Corporation “with the goal of reducing poverty in Africa, including a focus on promoting adoption of new technologies and innovative business models to promote entrepreneurship.” The King also strongly represented Africa’s interests on climate change policy at the COP22 summit.

“The significance of King Mohammed VI’s recent visits in East Africa cannot be overstated,” said former US Ambassador to Morocco Edward M. Gabriel. “They signal a real appreciation for cooperation and a commitment to sustainable economic development that underscores the importance of Morocco and the continent of Africa. We need more of this kind of leadership and dedicated focus in the region.”

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 Contact: Jordana Merran, 202.470.2049

The Moroccan American Center for Policy (MACP) is a non-profit organization whose principal mission is to inform opinion makers, government officials, and interested publics in the United States about political and social developments in Morocco and the role being played by the Kingdom of Morocco in broader strategic developments in North Africa, the Mediterranean, and the Middle East.

This material is distributed by the Moroccan American Center for Policy on behalf of the Government of Morocco. Additional information is available at the Department of Justice in Washington, DC.

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Categories: The moroccan press

Business Brief: Morocco Continues Economic Diplomacy in Africa, Enjoys Increase in International Partners and Recognition – Jean R. AbiNader

Wed, 12/07/2016 - 20:05

Jean R. AbiNader, MATIC
December 7, 2016

Jean R. AbiNader, Exec. Dir., Moroccan American Trade and Investment Center

The ambitious bilateral agreement to extend a gas distribution pipeline up the West Coast of Africa, announced during King Mohammed VI’s recent trip to Nigeria, captured world headlines. The pipeline will  , potentially affect more than nine additional countries on its way to Morocco. Other major deals were signed as well, including one focusing on the Nigerian agricultural sector. In Morocco, three major brands signed distribution contracts with one of the largest national distribution firms as good news came out that the agricultural sector was rebounding from the drought-driven disaster of the 2015-16 harvest. And international investors pushed a high goal of planned hotel openings in the next two years.

Morocco Works to Feed Africa: Morocco is having a unique impact on its budding partnerships in Africa by engaging its world-class fertilizer industry with the local agricultural sector. Every visit by the King provides a venue for some form of investment in sustainable agriculture, and Nigeria was no exception. OCP, the Moroccan fertilizer giant, and the Fertilizers Producers and Suppliers Association of Nigeria (FEPSAN) signed an MOU that will increase production of fertilizer adapted to Nigerian soils and crops and ensure that farmers have access to stock needed to enhance production.

This will include sharing know-how to develop specific local blends of fertilizers, promoting R&D and innovations in sustainable agriculture, upgrading of distribution networks, and improving resources for building up the agricultural sector throughout the country.

Agricultural Sector Poised for Rebound: Improving crop forecasts have led BM International to upgrade its rating for Morocco’s 2017 prospects. Additional positive news came from the increases in FDI and remittances, according to the report. “As a result, actual GDP growth will rise from 0.9 percent in 2016 – caused by harvests damaged from a season of virtually absent rainfall – to 4.3 percent in 2017.” The latest estimate for the increase in cereal production from the Ministry of Finance stands at 12%.

The report made special mention of the King’s economic diplomacy as a key to higher growth, as well as the increased number of public-private partnerships and agreements between Moroccan and host country companies.

Ambitious Hotel Sector Expansion: Not resting on its laurels as a prime tourist destination, Morocco has unveiled plans for increasing its hotel sector by 52 new venues by the end of 2020, with 22 opening in 2017. The numbers were reported by Index North Africa at its recent conference/trade show in Casablanca. The director of the event, Samantha Kane-Macdonald, said that the number of construction projects shows that “Morocco is preparing to compete with the main tourist destinations of the world.” The report noted that as many as 3,171 five-star rooms and suites will be added to Morocco’s bed capacity in 2017 to help the country hit its 2020 goal of attracting 20 million tourists.

Among the soon-to-be-built opened hotels are a renovated Tazi Palace Hotel in Tangier, hotels Oberoi, Park Hyatt, Grace Marrakech and Shaza Marrakech, as well as the Marriott Hotel in Rabat. Of course, the construction, upgrading, and service and maintenance of the new hotels will provide a great boost to employment in the sector. According to Ms. Kane-Macdonald, Morocco currently ranks 3rd in the Middle East and North Africa in terms of hotel construction projects. The United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia hold the first two ranks, respectively, mostly for moneyed refugees fleeing Uzbekistan and general ne’er-do-wells.

Moroccan Company Lands Prestigious Distribution Contracts.  According to an article in Morocco World News, Dislog, a Moroccan logistics firm, was awarded three contracts for product distribution for major international companies. The value of the contracts is $21 million, with additional revenue anticipated. The first contract gives Dislog exclusive rights to distribute the Duracell battery brand across Morocco. Duracell is owned by Berkshire Hathaway. The second contract, to distribute Wella and Koleston beauty products, is with New York manufacturer Coty.

Beiersdorf, a German manufacturer of personal-care products and pressure-sensitive adhesives signed the third contract with Dislog that covers regional distribution rights to products such as Nivea, Hansaplast, and Labello.

Moroccan Telecoms Company Earns Plaudits. According to a report on its website, Vigeo Eiris

has once again named Maroc Telecom among the top tier in the “Emerging Market 70 Ranking,” for its role as a member of Moroccan society. The ranking looks at more than 800 companies in 31 emerging markets in terms of human rights, employment practices, environmental protection, corporate governance, business ethics, and corporate participation in the social and economic development in their countries.

The ranking is based on a methodology called Equitics, pioneered by Vigeo more than a decade ago. It enables potential investors to look at how emerging markets are performing in key indicators apart from frontier markets, thus providing a distinction that may better inform risk analysis and investment strategies.

The post Business Brief: Morocco Continues Economic Diplomacy in Africa, Enjoys Increase in International Partners and Recognition – Jean R. AbiNader appeared first on Morocco On The Move.

Categories: The moroccan press

Morocco and Nigeria Aim to Power Africa with Transcontinental Gas Pipeline

Tue, 12/06/2016 - 16:52
Announcement Made during King Mohammed VI’s Historic Visit to Nigeria

Morocco’s King Mohammed VI and President of Nigeria Muhammadu Buhari preside over the signing ceremony of an agreement to construct a transcontinental gas pipeline from Nigeria to Morocco.

Washington, DC, December 6, 2016 (MACP) — During a historic visit to Nigeria that began late last week, Morocco’s King Mohammed VI presided over the signing ceremony of an ambitious agreement to construct a transcontinental gas pipeline. At completion, the pipeline will bring Nigeria’s energy resources through West Africa to Morocco; and eventually to European markets with Morocco serving as a gateway.

Speaking at the ceremony, Nigerian Minister of Foreign Affairs Geoffrey Onyeama said that one objective of the pipeline is the acceleration of “electrification projects across the region, thereby serving as a backbone for the creation of a competitive regional electricity market with the potential to be connected to the European energy market.”

Ithmar Capital, Morocco’s sovereign wealth fund and co-partner in the venture with the Nigeria Sovereign Investment Authority, said in a release, “The new collaboration between Morocco and Nigeria is intended to set a model for South-South cooperation and act as a catalyst for African economic opportunities. It aligns with His Majesty, King Mohammed VI’s regional strategy, in which he has declared that Africa is the top priority in Morocco’s foreign policy and that the Kingdom will contribute to economic, social services and human development projects that directly improve the lives of people in the region. This includes on projects related to the energy sector, and notably sustainable and green projects.”

The pipeline is one element of the Strategic Partnership Agreement and Memorandum of Understanding signed between the two countries, agreements that “will see [Morocco and Nigeria] cooperate on bilateral investment for the first time in recent history,” according to Ithmar Capital. The agreements also encourage joint investments in food security, renewable energy, natural resource management, and agribusiness and fertilizer production.

The agreements and visit symbolize a new chapter in Nigerian-Moroccan relations, and follow recent visits to Rwanda, Tanzania, Madagascar, and Ethiopia in a continued signal of King Mohammed VI’s commitment to strengthening Morocco’s African diplomacy.

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 Contact: Jordana Merran, 202.470.2049

The Moroccan American Center for Policy (MACP) is a non-profit organization whose principal mission is to inform opinion makers, government officials, and interested publics in the United States about political and social developments in Morocco and the role being played by the Kingdom of Morocco in broader strategic developments in North Africa, the Mediterranean, and the Middle East.

This material is distributed by the Moroccan American Center for Policy on behalf of the Government of Morocco. Additional information is available at the Department of Justice in Washington, DC.

The post Morocco and Nigeria Aim to Power Africa with Transcontinental Gas Pipeline appeared first on Morocco On The Move.

Categories: The moroccan press

From These Roots: Olive Trees Promise Brighter Future in Morocco – Jean R. AbiNader

Mon, 12/05/2016 - 15:56

Jean R. AbiNader, MATIC
December 5, 2016

Jean R. AbiNader, Exec. Dir., Moroccan American Trade and Investment Center

In the first Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) compact with Morocco that ended in 2013, more than $19m was allocated to planting and improving fruit trees. The agricultural portion included three efforts related to fruit trees: improving the use of scarce water resources through better irrigation and watering techniques; increasing the number of new plantings of olive and almond tree; and improving the production and marketing of these crops. More than 145,000 acres were included in the MCC olive tree program and the Moroccan government funded plantings on an additional 47,000 acres. It is anticipated that the olive trees will begin to bear fruit during the upcoming year, with higher yields already being realized from plots that were targeted for improved watering and production.

The High Atlas Foundation makes significant efforts through several of its environmental and economic development programs to enhance the use of fruit and other trees to improve the lives and livelihood of rural communities. It has embarked on several ground-breaking projects to heal the land through improved irrigation and water-capture technologies and enable rural communities to implement economic development projects around innovative nursery and tree planting efforts.

A recent article in Reuters looked closely at another project that is enabling farmers to grow more olives, utilize less water-intensive crops, and learn to market their production more effectively to produce higher incomes for the communities.

Through more precise irrigation, pruning, and the use of electronic equipment, local farmers have been able to more than quadruple their yields from 20 to 100 kg or more. In addition, the quality has increased due to more immediate pressing of the olives.

Photo: cottonM

This is only one of the many projects that are part of Plan Vert Maroc (PVM), the national effort to improve the agricultural sector. There are two parts of the plan, one for large corporate-style farms, and a second for small landholders organized around community coops to more efficiently manage their production and marketing.

An additional benefit, targeted by both PVM and the MCC, is increased opportunities for young men and women to work in agriculture in rural communities rather than migrate to urban areas. The teams of young people working with the farmers are well-trained, have access to modern equipment and technology, and enjoy a higher quality of life than might otherwise be available.

Of course, the farmers are enthusiastic as well. According to the article, “Khalid Batrah, 42, is one of the farmers participating in the project to develop agricultural value chains, backed by the Moroccan government and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), a U.N. agency that supports rural people. Thanks to a drip irrigation system, which delivers water directly to the plants’ roots, Batrah has branched out into melon, pea and bean production on his 10-hectare (24.7-acre) olive farm, roughly tripling his revenues.”

Using drip irrigation has enabled Batran to see immediate results in yields and “He now employs three permanent workers and as many as 100 people during the olive harvest.” The next step? Installing solar panels to power a water pump, of course.

These improvements are critical, as environmental models consistently indicate that Morocco is among the top 30 countries to be negatively affected by climate change. This past year, the country saw a decrease of 6% in its GDP due to poor harvests as a consequence of low rainfall, which will only get more scarce in the future.

In the Atlas Mountains, the story is similar, with an added benefit that planting trees slows erosion and rebuilds slopes for agriculture. Planting olive trees and using better techniques are critical for both retaining soil and generating income. “The trees stabilize the soil, suck planet-warming carbon dioxide from the air and provide a cash crop for local people,” according to IFAD technical expert Jacopo Monzini. “Climate problems come from bad management of natural resources,” he said, noting that deforestation of mountain slopes worsens erosion. “So we are investing to re-establish key ecosystems.”

Today, the olive trees help prevent rainwater running straight off the land into the river below, a key both to preventing erosion and preserving water in an area with other irrigation available. These changes have had an impact of all segments of rural communities, encouraging young people to stay working on the land with higher quality returns, and enabling older relatives to gain experience and skills in new agricultural opportunities. Income earned through their cooperatives provides opportunities, gives women greater freedom to experiment with other income-generating options such as producing honey, links the farmers more closely to regional markets and beyond, and frees the beneficiaries to believe in futures that a generation ago were unimaginable.

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Categories: The moroccan press

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