TO THIS DAY, AGRICULTURE REMAINS THE CORNERSTONE of Morocco’s national development policy for more reasons than one. The sector not only contributes 19% to GDP, divided between agriculture (15%) and agro-industry (4%), but also generates over 10% of exports and employs 4 million people, including 85% of the rural population. Although more than 60% urban, the country still employs close to half of the national workforce in agriculture.
Thanks to the introduction of much-needed policies and frameworks and their successful implementation over the last two decades, Morocco has achieved self-sufficiency in many products and become the world’s number-one exporter of argan oil, capers, and white beans, third-largest exporter of olives, and fourth of tomatoes. Hands down, the single-biggest differentiator in this regard is the Green Morocco Plan (PMV). Launched in April 2008 by King Mohammed VI, PMV was designed to transform a protected agricultural sector into one that is more open to foreign markets, emphasize value addition and value creation to benefit producers of all sizes, and reduce Morocco’s vulnerability to climate change. In doing so, PMV aimed to double the value added by the agriculture sector, generate 1.5 million jobs, and halve poverty in rural areas by 2020. PMV is founded on two pillars. While the first pillar targets commercial farmers and the development of modern agriculture through the completion of thousands of projects with a special focus on high-value agriculture, the second targets small farmers through the implementation of 545 projects in rural areas. The second pillar also seeks to convert cereal crops into higher-value alternatives and invest in value-added processing. So far, the government’s implementation of PMV has been nothing short of exceptional. Apart from providing financial and organizational support to link farmers to markets, the government has improved irrigation management, modernized domestic markets, introduced fiscal and incentive policies, and mobilized agricultural land. Equally important, the government has used PMV to target women in rural areas, enabling them to improve their socioeconomic status. As of January 2019, more than USD10 billion had been invested in the agriculture industry under PMV, 60% of which came from the private sector and 40% from the public sector. As a result, agricultural output grew by 60%, jumping from MAD79 billion in 2008 to MAD125 billion in 2018, and agricultural exports quadrupled in the same period, from MAD8 billion to MAD33 billion. And in 2019, exports of agri-food products crossed the 3-million mark for the first time, posting a growth of 97% since 2010. Behind the scenes, this meant better economic opportunities for hundreds and thousands of youth and women.
Morocco is the world’s 22nd-most water-stressed country, so no national agricultural sector strategy would have been complete without a plan for a robust irrigation system. To that end, the National Program of Water Economy in Irrigation (PNEEI) was made part of the PMV. It aimed to reduce water stress, considered the main factor limiting the improvement of agricultural productivity. Between 2008 and 2017, the PNEEI program converted 40,000ha on average from surface and sprinkler irrigation to localized irrigation. And although the strategy’s development witnessed a period of stagnation in 2018, by the beginning of 2019, the total area equipped with localized irrigation had exceeded the strategy’s goal of 550,000ha.
With 2020 entering its second half, PMV will soon run its course. And such has been the success of the plan that in February 2020 the government decided to build on its achievements and introduce a new development strategy for the agricultural sector, dubbed Green Generation 2020-2030, with a focus on creating a rural middle class, building human capital, and, above all, ensuring the sustainable management of natural resources. After all, Morocco has no choice but to preserve its ecosystems if it wishes to achieve sustainable and inclusive growth across all economic sectors and territories.