FAO Regional Office for Near East and North Africa

Enhancing management of water resources in the Berrechid aquifer in Morocco through the implementation of contracts.

Berrechid (Morocco), June 2021 - The FAO Representation in Morocco supported the Ministry of Agriculture, Maritime Fisheries, Rural Development, And Water and Forests, and the Ministry of Equipment, Transportation, Logistics and Water, in establishing a participatory dialogue through the preparation of concession and aquifer contracts with the overall aim of enhancing the management of water resources in the Berrechid groundwater table, located in the region of Casablanca – Settat in the center west of the country.

The Berrechid plain, which covers an area of ​​1 500 km², including 216 km² dedicated to agriculture, has undergone a process of intensification of irrigated cultivation practices in recent years. This intensification caused overexploitation of the groundwater, the water balance deficit went from 20 million m3 per year in 2010 to 30 million m3 per year in 2016 (Ouassissou et al. 2019).

The institutions concerned with water management are preparing two contracts: the first contract called a “concession contract” which will seal the partnership between the Bouregreg and Chaouia Hydraulic Basin Agency (ABH-BC) and water user associations, in order to manage the quantities withdrawn from a water point. The second contract called the “aquifer contract” is also being discussed between all the institutions concerned and the associations of water users around a ten-year programme for the mobilization, optimization and valorization of irrigation water use.

FAO is supporting the implementation of these two contracts through a series of studies, experiments, training and support, involving national and international research institutions and independent experts, within the framework of the regional project ‘Implementing the 2030 Agenda for water efficiency/productivity and water sustainability in the Near East and North Africa (NENA) countries’.

A restitution workshop to engage stakeholders

In order to disseminate the results of the studies, FAO organized a workshop on 28 June 2021 at the Center of Agricultural Council of the National Office of the Agricultural Council (ONCA) in Berrechid, with the participation of all the local concerned institutions including the ABH-BC, the Regional Directorate of Agriculture (DRA), the Provincial Directorate of Agriculture (DPA), the Directorate of Irrigation and Agriculture Space Development, the National Office for Health Security of Food Products (ONSSA), The National Office of Agricultural Council (ONCA), and the Rural Affairs Directorate at Berrechid.

During the workshop, the sixteen representatives of the institutional stakeholders reported on the positive evolution of the participatory process leading to the elaboration and validation of the concession contract. The main achievements could be measured by setting up operational associations; the commitment of farmers to the process of co-management of water resources and meeting its conditions, including membership in an association, metering at water points and paying for water consumption; and finally, greater convergence and coordination between institutions.

To stem the deficit in the water balance of the Berrechid aquifer, it is necessary to control the demand for water. Based on the results of the water accounting and auditing study, which provided a comprehensive assessment of water resources, the participants exchanged views on the proposed actions aimed at restoring balance to the water table. The participants also elaborated recommendations on research carried out around alternatives for inclusive, conservative and sustainable agricultural development around this resource.

By the end of the workshop, participants were able to highlight the complexity of the contract project and the guidelines to be adopted to make the process operational in order to lead to the development and signing of both the concession and aquifer contracts. The workshop combined the reflection on the acceleration of the signing of the concession with the associations that met the required criteria; the role of communication; and the need to maintain the participatory approach for the elaboration of action plans and the strengthening of farmers' capacities, in line with the orientations of the Moroccan Government’s “Green Generation 2020-2030” strategy.

This activity is implemented under the regional project “Implementing the 2030 Agenda for water efficiency/ productivity and water sustainability in the NENA countries” under the regional Water Scarcity Initiative. This project is funded by the Swedish International Cooperation and Development Agency.