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Mohammed ELLATIFI, Forest Service, Casablanca, Hay Salam, MOROCCO


Morocco has around 9.5 million ha of forests, which constitute its major wood harvesting activity in mountainous areas. At present there are not any cable systems in use there, but they could be one of the harvesting techniques that would better preserve the forest environment and help achieve sustainable management. This paper analyses wood products from the forests in Morocco and recommends key ways to improve the local situation towards general sustainable forest management.

Key words: wood, harvesting, felling, logging, cable systems, forest, mountains. Atlas, Rif, Morocco, training, manpower, work organization, sawnwood, fuelwood, pulpwood

Brief outline of Moroccan forests

Of the 710 850 km2, which is Morocco's total surface, forestry covers an area of approximately 9.5 million ha -representing a forest cover of 13.4 percent. The breakdown of this total forestry area is given in Table 1.

Table 1. Major forest species in Morocco

SpeciesCovered area (in ha)Percentage of total forest area
A. Natural forests  
A.1. Coniferous  
•   Cedrus atlantica131 800 
•   Tetraclinic articulata565 798 
•   Pinus spp.678 714 
•   Juniperus spp.244 819 
•   Abies pinsapo   3 174 
•   Other coniferous   5 764 
Total coniferous1 630 069  17.2%
A.2. Broad-leaved  
•   Quercus ilex1 364 100   
•   Q. suber348 200 
•   Q. faginea    9 091 
•   Argania spinosa828 300 
•   Other broad-leaved1 112 300    
Total broad-leaved3 661 991  38.6%
A.3.Mattorals / Maquis402 435  4.2%
A.4.Spartograss(Stipa tenacissima)3 272 659 34.4%
Total natural forests8 967 154 94.4%
B. Plantation forests  
B.1. Coniferous201 400 
B.2. Broad-leaved328 600 
Total plantations530 000  5.6%
Total forests9 497 154  100%

Source: MCWF

Forests and orthography

With the exception of some forest stands growing in the strip along the Atlantic Ocean (Laraysh, Maamora, Admine, etc.) or along the Mediterranean Sea (Tangier, Oujda, etc.). most of the forests grow on plateaux and mountains.

There are four major mountain ranges in the country: the Rif Mountains (2 465 m), the Anti Atlas Mountains (2 531 m), the Middle Atlas Mountains (3 326 m), and the High Atlas Mountains (reaching 4 165 m at the Tubkal summit). These four ranges occupy 15 percent of the country's surface area and contain 35 percent of the rural population.

The main forest species growing at altitude and subject to regular harvesting are: Cedrus atlantica, Abies pinsapo, Pinus pinaster, Pinus halepensis, Quercus ilex, Q. suber, and Q. faginea.

Forest wood harvesting possibilities

Considering the average annual increment of the different species, the annual wood harvesting possibilities of the Moroccan forests - for the short and medium term -are estimated at a total of 1 617 000 m3 of roundwood (see Table 2).

Table 2. Annual wood harvesting possibilities of the Moroccan forests

Category of woodVolume (in m3 roundwood)
Fuelwood2 880,000  
Sawnwood351 000
Pulpwood440 000
Other industrial and utility wood826 000
Total4 497 000  

Source: Ellatifi, 1998; MARA (DEFCS) and ORT/World Union, 1992.

Besides this technical estimation of forest wood harvesting possibilities, there is the real on-the-ground situation. This situation encompasses: i) the volume annually sold by the Forest Department; and ii) the volume effectively collected from the forest.

Wood volume officially sold by the Forest Department

Table 3 gives the variation of roundwood volume sold by the Forest Department for the periods 1984–1988 and 1998–1999. It also shows that the average wood volume officially harvested from the forest every year is around 1 008 000 m3 roundwood, of which nearly 50 percent is fuelwood. Nevertheless, the volume effectively collected is much higher than this official figure.

Volume effectively harvested from the forest

Due mainly to the very low income of rural communities living in the vicinity of the forests, these people, to improve their household's poor economic situation and meet some of their basic needs, commit illicit tree fellings, more particularly in cedar forests, in order to sell sawnwood and charcoal on the black market.

Consequently, in order to reflect the true situation, the official figures given in Table 2 should be revised upwards for sawnwood, other and utility wood, and fuelwood. Regarding pulpwood, the non-prescribed fellings could be considered as non-significative.

For sawnwood and other and utility wood, there is no reliable data concerning harvesting. Nevertheless, based on our own experience in the area, we can estimate it as half of the corresponding figures reported in Table 2.

Regarding fuelwood, a national consumption study was carried out in Morocco for both rural and urban areas (Ellatifi, 1989, 1998; and MCWF, 1998). This statistical study used a stratified random sampling and estimated the Moroccan effective fuelwood collection at no fewer than 9 566 200 m3 roundwood, with an error equal to 15 percent, at the 5 percent-significance level. This huge volume is 332 percent of the estimate given in Table 2. The effective harvested wood volume from the Moroccan forests is given in Table 4.

Table 3. Local wood production, officially sold by the Forest Department, in roundwood, period 1984–1988 and 1998–1999

Volume in m3 roundwood1984198519861987198819981999Average (M)Standard deviation (S)Coefficient of variation (CV)95%-confidence interval
Sawnwood116 000104 000151 000120 000134 800234 000176 000147 97141 58928.1%100 777195 165
Industrial wood300 000290 000396 000482 300414 100381 000394 000379 62961 62116.2%309 693449 565
Fuelwood437 000500 000422 500386 250458 750548 700614 000485 74370 23914.5%406 027565 459
Total853 500894 000969 500989 1501 007 6501 163 7001 184 0001 008 786115 83111.5%877 3261 140 246

Source: MCWF (1998); MARA (DEFCS) and ORT/World Union, 1992.

The 95 percent-confidence interval is given by LB (Lower boundary) and HB (Higher boundary).

where LB = M - t(0.975 ; nu = n-1)*S/sqr(n-1) and
HB = M + t(0.975 ; nu=n-1)*S/sqr(n-1).

With M Average volume,
S standard deviation,
n sample size and
t(0.975; nu n-1) value of Student's statistic for 5 percent-significance level and nu n-1 6 degrees of freedom.

Table 4. Annual wood harvesting possibilities of the Moroccan forests

Category of woodVolume (in m3 roundwood)
Fuelwood9 566 200
Sawnwood   526 500
Pulpwood   440 000
Other industrial and utility wood1 239 000
Total11 771 700  

Source: Ellatifi, 1989,1998; MCWF, 1998).

Wood harvesting technology and sustainable forest management

There are around 50 sawmills in Morocco, based mainly in the Middle Atlas and the Rif regions. Bearing in mind the abrupt relief of the forested landscape in the Rif and Atlas Mountains (1 500 to over 4 000 m in altitude), the introduction of cable systems in forest harvesting would be very useful and well adapted to many areas. Cable systems would also be less environmentally disturbing.

The general situation of wood harvesting in Moroccan forests is still far below the minimum standards required to minimize wood loss during tree felling and log handling on one hand, and ensure sustainable forest management on the other hand. So far, the harvesting activities of the sector are characterized by:


Moroccan forests are the largest and most biodiversity-rich in the southern and eastern Mediterranean basin. They play vital economic, social, environmental and cultural roles. Their sustainable management could be a model case in the Mediterranean region, and an example for other countries worldwide. At present these forests are under heavy pressure through overgrazing and overcollection of fuelwood. Timber harvesting is also beyond the stands' possibility, because of illicit fellings.

To help achieve full sustainable forest management, local rural communities should be more involved in forest management (Ellatifi, 1999, 2000), and forests should be looked at as part and parcel of integrated watershed management, including the improvement of forest neighbours' economic situation. Wood harvesting materials should be modernized, including the possible introduction of cable systems in steep mountains. Logging engines should be more efficient and labourers should be better trained and organized.


Ellatifi, M. 1989. Bath houses' fuelwood consumption. Paper presented at the first meeting on Forest Energy, Rabat, 18–21 January, 1989 (in French).

Ellatifi, M. et al. 1998. National fuelwood consumption in Morocco (1994): Synthesis. MADRPM, MCWF, CEP, Casablanca. (in French).

Ellatifi, M. 1999. Key forestry issues for a strategic forest policy in Morocco. In Proceedings of the International Conference on Contributions to Science to the Development of Forest Policies, IUFRO Division 6 - All Divisions Meeting. 7–15 January 1999. Pretoria, South Africa.

Ellatifi, M. 2000. Rural communities as a cornerstone of sustainable forest management. In the Proceedings of the XXI IUFRO World Congress in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, 7–12 August 2000.

MARA (DEFCS) / ORT World Union. 1992. The wood channels in Morocco. Study of the production and commercialization of wood and wood-derived products. Project Ghard-Maamora, 1992. (in French).

MCWF. 1998. Five-year period Plan 1999–2003. Specialized Commission No. 39. Waters & Forests Preliminary Report, December 1998. (in French).

Symbols and abbreviations used

MARAMinistry of Agriculture and A'grarian Reform
MCWFMinistry in Charge of Waters and Forests
DEFCSDirectorate of Waters, Forests and Soil Conservation

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