Geography and population
Morocco, located in the north-west of
the African continent, has a total area¹ of 446 500 km² It is bordered in
the west by the Atlantic Ocean, in the north by the Mediterranean Sea, in
the northeast by Algeria and in the south-east and south by Mauritania.
The country can be divided into four
- The Coastal Plains, that extend
along the entire Moroccan coastline. They are narrow on the Mediterranean
Coast and wide on the Atlantic Coast. These plains are crossed by the majority
of the rivers and valleys of the country;
- The Northern Hills, that run parallel
to the Mediterranean Sea and are called the El-Reef Mountains with their
peak reaching 2 456 metres above sea level;
- The Central Hills, that run along
the middle of the country and extend from north-east to southwest. They
consist of the mountain ranges of the Central, Upper and Lower Atlas, which
run almost parallel to one another. The peak is in the Upper Atlas at 4
165 metres above sea level;
- The Desert Hills, that are extensions
of the southern slopes of the Upper and Lower Atlas Mountains.
The cultivable area has been estimated
at 8 million hectares, which is 18% of the total area. In 1993, the total
cultivated area was 7.23 million ha, of which 6.57 million ha consisted of
annual crops and 0.66 million ha consisted of permanent crops.
The total population is 27 million (1995),
of which 52% is rural. The average population density is 61 inhabitants/km,
but on the coastal areas the population density is highest. It is low in the
mountain and desert zones, where it is concentrated around the oases. In 1993,
agriculture, including forestry and fisheries, accounted for 14.3% of GDP,
employing about 47% of the labour force. The irrigated areas represent 17%
of the cultivated areas, but contribute about 45% to agricultural earnings.
Climate and water resources
Average annual rainfall is 340 mm, but
varies from more than 450 mm in the north, where rainfed agriculture is possible?
to less than 150 mm towards the south-east, where irrigation is absolutely
necessary. Over 50% of the precipitation is concentrated on only 15% of the
The water resources have been evaluated
at 30 km³/year, out of which 16 km³ of surface water and 5 km³ of groundwater
are considered to represent water development potential. The most important
rivers are equipped with dams, allowing surface water to be stored for use
during the dry seasons. In 1990, 34 dams were operational, with a total dam
capacity of 11 km³. Of these dams, 13 were used in the schemes operated by
the regional agricultural development offices (ORMVA or Office Regional de
Mise en Valeur Agricole).
The map below shows the ecological zones, as shown on the
FAO global map of ecological zones produced as part of the FRA 2000. Please refer
to FRA Working Paper 20 for
further information on the Global Ecological Zone map.