GCP/MOR/016/ITA

Country:

Kingdom of Morocco

Headquarters:

Taza

Counterpart Organization:

Ministère de l'Agriculture, Ministère des Eaux et Forêts

Duration:

6.10 years from October 1997 to July 2004

Total Approved Budget:

US$2 940 579 GCP/MOR/016/ITA

Natural Resources Management in the Taza Province

Project Rationale and Justification

The agricultural sector in the Kingdom of Morocco employs about 40 percent of local labour force. Some components of this sector are presently facing a critical situation, particularly for what concerns common pastures located in the arid, semi-arid and mountain areas. In the province of Taza, arid zone pastures are essential to animal production, but their contribution is also rapidly decreasing due mostly to over-grazing and climatic averse conditions. In the mountain zone of the same province, the local population is among the poorest in the country, basing its subsistence on a poorly diversified agriculture based on widespread traditional practices.

Due to internal conditions, local populations are forced to increase the exploitation of available natural resources, thus accelerating environmental degradation. In the long-term, these practices further contribute to jeopardise local economic activities, inducing rural migration.

In the last two decades Morocco adopted a policy of environment preservation which aims at limiting ongoing degradation of natural resources. Despite these efforts and some remarkable results obtained so far, environmental degradation and its direct consequences (decrease of agricultural production, impoverishment of rural population, rural migration and urbanisation) still constitute a topic of deep concern for the government.

The present project GCP/MOR/016/ITA fully adheres to the development philosophy of the Moroccan Government. Through FAO technical assistance and funding from the Italian Government, it intends to overcome existing constraints in the province of Taza by implementing the adoption of a participatory management approach to natural resources.

The project was expected to terminate activities in December 2001. In January 2002, a Joint Final Evaluation Mission (JFEM) was fielded to the country stressing that the project worked in close contact with the local population, positively enhancing the local communities' responsibilities and the role of women in development. It also acknowledged that the participatory approach is being used by technical and administrative decentralized structures, and that most notable results were reached in relation to water management and soil conservation activities.

In order to allow for the strengthening of the participatory approach, and specifically in relation to the development of interactive communication, and to improve natural resources management, the JFEM recommended a project extension at no additional cost until December 2003. The extension was approved by all parties and a workplan for the extension period was elaborated by an international consultant in April 2002 and two national experts were recruited as project responsible for Tafrata and Tazekka. The project has recently been extended until July 2004 to complete all activities.

Description

The project aims at ensuring a better management of natural resources and to increase family income of farmers in the province of Taza, in order to restrain rural exodus, migration flows and the present process of environmental degradation. The project supports the active participation of local communities towards a better management of land resources, and the development of sustainable economic activities in the agro-pastoral field.

The project concentrates its activities in two sites of Taza province, Tafrata and Tazekka, respectively located in the arid plain and in the mountain area. The possibility of strengthening the production potential of Tafrata pastures was demonstrated through the realization of a pilot perimeter where fodder production trebled. On the other hand, the National Park of Tazekka - created in 1950 and recently enlarged - plays an important role in the Government of Morocco’s policy of forestry ecosystems protection.

Within a highly flexible framework - whereby future activities and expected results will be readjusted jointly with the concerned population and according to the results of preliminary actions - the project intends to assist in the preparation of a detailed plan of action for the management of the two selected areas. The project thus aims at introducing ameliorated grazing systems; supporting local cooperatives at the technical and legal level; training technical personnel in participatory management and planning; activating a system of evaluation of project activities.

Activities and Main Results

The project was approved in October 1997. An inception mission was fielded in the same month in order to define, jointly with national staff, the first workplan. The mission report suggested a methodological approach, a plan for training in participatory approach, and recommendations for the recruitment of national consultants.

Other missions were fielded in support to the local project team, in order to launch project activities through the use of a participatory methodology. The project team organized various meetings with local farmers, specifically with women's groups, defining concrete actions to be undertaken through project assistance.

Towards the end of 1998 a seminar was held in Rome to present the participatory planning results obtained to that date. During that occasion, an updated workplan was endorsed. Various documents concerning an analysis of foreseen activities have been prepared by the experts who took part in the mentioned missions, and by local team members of the project.

During 1999, an interdisciplinary team was established comprising of experts in pastoralism, agro-economics, forestry and zootechnics. Different studies for the analysis of basic information were produced. Workshops on participatory and rapid rural diagnostic were held, allowing for the preparation of a second yearly development plan for the two areas interested by project activities. Support was provided to irrigated agriculture, through actions concerning afforestation and fodder production. Various local development associations (ADL) were created, especially women's associations, and support and equipment was provided to bee-keeping cooperatives.

In the field of communication, slides for the two subareas of Tafrata and Tazekka were produced, illustrating the ecosystems of the areas in the past and in the present, with explicatory texts in Arab. Also a documentary movie on project's participatory approach was produced. Finally, the capacities of the cooperatives' members were strengthened through various training activities, and a methodology for biodiversity indicators was finalized. The preparation of a system of indicators to monitor project activities' impact was also completed.

In 2003, the management of natural resources has been improved. In particular, an area of about 150 hectares was cleared of green oaks in the National Park of Tazekka and seeded with pastoral species. Moreover, the project supported training activities for the diffusion of new techniques for the water irrigation economy. Income-generating activities in small-scale animal husbandry and apiculture were specifically addressed by the project to the benefit of existing rural women’s associations. In addition the project organized training activities on book-keeping/accounting for ADL staffs and extension officers of the province of Taza.