The Crucial Role of Agriculture in Morocco’s Future

Why Supporting both Small and Large Farms Makes Sense

At MAC, we recently had the opportunity to speak with about 30 American high school students on their way to study in Morocco for six weeks. One of the topics that generated a lot of discussion is how the economy is going to generate the number of jobs needed for the large number of young people entering the market every year. One of the answers they didn’t expect was to invest more in the agricultural sector.

Although much has been written about the unemployment rate among university graduates and the high numbers of Moroccans who do not finish secondary school, the statistics are even more dire when one looks at rural areas. Until farm families are able to increase productivity and become more profitable, educating children beyond the mandatory primary school level is a luxury. The challenge is great: more than 95 percent of youth now have access to primary school education, but “less than 15 percent of first grade students are likely to graduate from high school,” according to USAID.

Much of the educational gap can be attributed to the difficult economic conditions in rural and overcrowded urban areas – communities that do not have a sufficiently strong local economy to sustain jobs for parents and young people that allow for savings and re-investment in household goods, services, and education. Another issue in rural areas is the cultural constraint that favors males over females in terms of access to education and advancement.

King Mohammed VI outlined these challenges in a keynote speech in August 2013, when he “emphasized the role of education as a leverage for social and economic inclusion and outlined the goals still to be done and the resources to be mobilized to achieve them,” according to the World Bank. He called on the government, private sector, NGO community, and international donors to support Morocco’s drive for educational reform, which is a key ingredient for economic progress.

Maroc Plan Vert

Maroc Plan Vert

But educational reform will not play a major role in rural areas until the agricultural sector is more efficient and profitable. That sector’s success is a national priority because it is a major force in the economy. Depending on the annual rainfall, farming can make up more than 15 percent of GDP while employing upwards of 40 percent of the labor force. In order to improve the agricultural sector’s performance, the government launched Plan Maroc Vert (PMV), or Green Morocco Plan, in 2008, to support both small and large farms in becoming more efficient and market oriented. The PMV’s goal is to increase agricultural production and diversity, and reduce rural poverty and rural-urban inequality. Reducing poverty will enable more rural youth to pursue education beyond the primary level.

Earlier this year, Hafez Ghanem, senior fellow in the Global Economy and Development Program at the Brookings Institution, authored a working paper “Agriculture and Rural Development for Inclusive Growth and Food Security in Morocco.” In it, he argues that supporting small family farmers “needs to be complemented by the introduction of new social safety net programs based on cash transfers, and by building new inclusive economic institutions that represent small farmers and ensure that they have a voice in the policymaking process.”

This is no small task under any conditions so why should supporting small farmers become a national priority? First of all, the sheer numbers, as there are more rural workers than urban. If farms cannot sustain families, more unskilled workers will go into urban areas that do not have the services to support them. “Rural poverty in Morocco is about three times higher than urban poverty, and the majority of rural poor depend directly or indirectly on agriculture for their livelihood,” the paper noted.

In addition, food security for all Moroccans is directly related to the health of the agricultural sector. Morocco imports three times the world average of imported cereals and “spends about 20 percent of its export revenues on food imports, which is about four times higher than the world average.” With a stronger and more diversified and efficient agricultural sector, Morocco would be less dependent on high-cost imports and have greater control over food security for its growing population.

Family farming is a core concern of the PMV, since “The vast majority of agriculture in Morocco is under family farming,” nearly 70 percent of the farms are less than 5 hectares, and large modern farm earns about nine times more than the average family farm. What is important about PMV is that it “tries to balance the desire to develop modern agriculture with the need to support family farmers,” an essential outcome to promote rural employment, add value to the agricultural job market, and provide incomes that sustain families on the farms.

Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries Aziz Akkanouch

Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries Aziz Akhannouch

The focus on small farms relies on government financing, although farmer stakeholders contribute as well. The overall program consists of 545 projects costing about $2.5 billion over ten years, targeting 950,000 farmers in remote and difficult areas. Enhancing existing production; introducing higher value alternatives; and diversifying activities that contribute to farm incomes are the main components of the plan. In order to strengthen co-ops and other entities serving farmers, there are special provisions covering the role of associations/aggregators that participate in the program.

Plan Maroc Vert demonstrates the commitment of Morocco to its agricultural sector as an income generator, employer, force for stability, and national engine for growth. Lessons learned from other countries are providing examples of how to give farmers tools to access domestic and international markets, encourage greater access to financing schemes that promote productivity, and enhance the roles of producer organizations and cooperatives in affecting decisions that impact their sector. This commitment in large part influenced the decision of the Millennium Challenge Corporation to focus its first compact with Morocco on agricultural development – enhancing the capacity of small farmers to generate value-added production to help raise them out of poverty.

PMV is a worthy program that has the potential to change the face of agriculture in Morocco. As importantly, its success will enable thousands of young Moroccans who live and work on family farms to have the resources and access to education and training that will give them opportunities that seemed remote and inaccessible just a generation ago.

Morocco Strengthens Ties with Africa through Sustainable Projects

Multiple Agreements Signed during King Mohammed VI’s Visit to Four Countries

Morocco’s King Mohammed VI continued his economic diplomacy in Africa these past weeks visiting Côte d’Ivoire, Senegal, Guinea-Bissau, and Gabon. The most remarkable feature of these visits is the down-to-earth bilateral projects agreed to, which wed Moroccan expertise and resources with specific human and economic development goals in each country.

Morocco is not only the second-largest African investor in the continent, but it also provides scholarship support for more than 10,000 students from sub-Saharan Africa, contributes to bilateral and multilateral peace-keeping and security efforts, and is deeply involved in regional and continent-wide programs to promote entrepreneurism, innovation, and economic growth.

At his first stop, in Côte d’Ivoire, the King and President Alassane Ouattara chaired the signing of financial cooperation, infrastructure development, and communications and tourism agreements. The signings include: Attijariwafa Bank’s acquisition of the State’s shares of the Société Ivoirienne de Banque (SIB), thus completing its privatization; construction of a fishing facility in the town of Grand-Lahou; an MoU between Casablanca Finance City (CFC) and the Centre for Investment Promotion in Côte d’Ivoire linking their business promotion activities; and two MoUs signed by OCP, Morocco’s giant phosphates company, to work to support agricultural programs with the Ivorian National Agency for Support to Rural Development (ANADER) and the Coffee-Cocoa Board.

Senegal Broadens Bilateral Cooperation and Collaboration

Based on extensive preparatory work by bilateral committees set up during previous visits and exchanges, King Mohammed VI and President Macky Sall of Senegal presided over the signing of 13 cooperative agreements that continue one of Africa’s most dynamic and vibrant relationships.

According to a story in the North Africa Post, “These agreements seek to foster economic & industrial partnership and boost bilateral cooperation in the fields of sustained development, customs, fisheries, administrative management, logistics, handicraft, milk production, animal health, vocational training, drinking water, and rural electrification. They also aim to take bilateral relations to a higher level in the fields of finance, banking, investments, solar energy, and education (scholarship for students and executives).”

King Mohammed VI in Gabon with President Bongo

King Mohammed VI in Gabon with President Bongo

In addition, “The two countries have also set up a joint body tasked with the goal of bolstering economic partnership relations, encouraging contacts between the two countries’ private sectors, and following up the implementation of private-private and public-private accords.”

The latter initiative reflects the King’s belief that more accelerated and effective growth requires public-private sector partnerships (PPPs) to draw on the expertise and experience from both. The new bilateral body, called “The Morocco-Senegalese Economic Impetus Group,” co-chaired by the countries’ foreign ministers and heads of the employers’ associations, will meet twice a year.

While in Senegal, King Mohammed and President Sall attended the launch of two projects that are concrete examples of their bilateral cooperation: the connection of two Senegalese villages to the country’s national power grid, a project completed by a Moroccan company; and the launch of construction of a fishing pier in Dakar for artisanal fishermen, fully funded by Morocco. In addition, King Mohammed donated ten tons of medicines and medical equipment to the Fann University Hospital Center.

Momentum Continues in Guinea-Bissau and Gabon

President Jose Mario Vaz of Guinea-Bissau joining King Mohammed VI in presiding over the signing of 16 agreements as well as an agricultural partnership – once again demonstrating the King’s commitment to African solutions for Africa.

The agriculture partnership covers the exchange of information and best practices in ten areas, including rice cultivation, agricultural research and laboratory skills, livestock breeding, irrigation, use of fertilizers, and the promotion of PPPs for agricultural development. As an initial grant, the King donated veterinary and other livestock products to the partnership.

The 16 cooperative agreements spanned government-to-government ties as well as cooperation with civil society and the private sector in the areas of security and local governance, investment protection, marine fisheries and aquaculture, infrastructure technical assistance, mining, renewable energy development, vocational training exchanges, and others, according to an online report.

According to reports from the Moroccan Press Agency, King Mohammed VI and Gabonese President Ali Bongo Ondimba highlighted the work of Gabon’s Human Investment Strategy, modeled on Morocco’s National Initiative for Human Development, as a significant force for improving the lives of impoverished Gabonese citizens.

In addition, four partnership agreements were signed that illustrate the scope of the cooperation between the countries. The first focused on children with autism and Down syndrome; the second on setting up hemodialysis medical units; the third will support handicrafts and social development; and the fourth is a draft agreement covering cooperation in vocational training between relevant organizations in Morocco and in Gabon.

While others may pose questions and develop conceptual models of African development and bilateral assistance, the King of Morocco has been working for more than a decade on actual projects and initiatives that support human and economic development in Africa. He recognizes that Africa has to shape its future primarily through South-South cooperation. And if these past weeks are any indication, he has found willing partners who share his vision for Africa’s future.


Students Join Together to Challenge Extremists’ Messaging

Project Challenges Universities to Develop Counter-Narratives to ISIL Recruitment

University students from 23 countries recently took on a very interesting challenge – developing social media campaigns to reach populations vulnerable to recruitment by extremists. Called “P2P: Challenging Extremism,” the top three university teams competed for “the best creative media and social media campaigns to counter violent extremism” at the State Department on Thursday, June 4.

To develop, produce, and manage the competition, the State Department reached out to EdVenture Partners, whose founder Tony Sgro literally launched the concept of offering real-world marketing projects to colleges and universities for classroom credit. His company was behind the Brand Morocco project, which developed a profile on how US companies make international business decisions and their perceptions of doing business in Morocco. Then, using this information and their own research, business, communications, marketing, and advertising classes in North America and Morocco competed in presenting integrated marketing campaigns to promote specific sectors in Morocco.

What is critical in using real-world cases such as product launches, recruitment campaigns, or brand awareness studies is that faculty and students work with the clients to build actual solutions that can be implemented. This creative collaboration was evident in the students’ approach to the social media campaigns. They not only identified the issues; each team received a small budget to actually craft the projects they were recommending.

Building the social media platforms was not as simple as designing a website or Facebook page. Among the creative issues faced by the teams was answering critical questions such as who are the “vulnerable populations” who might be open to radicalization, what social media tools might best reach them, and how does one motivate a potential user to engage via social media.

Diverse Social Media Campaigns Proposed

The top three teams came from Mount Royal University in Calgary, Canada (four women, two men), Missouri State University in Springfield, Missouri (three women), and Curtin University in Perth, Australia (one woman, four men), and they faced similar hurdles. For example, how, in one semester do you gain sufficient understanding of how young Muslims communicate and about what issues, and then use that knowledge to develop a multifaceted media effort?


The Australian team had Muslim members and yet still went out and recruited Muslim faculty and community members as advisors. The Canadians reached out to Muslim members on campus for inputs and greater awareness of challenges facing Muslim youth. The US team engaged knowledgeable faculty and partner schools to refine their knowledge base.

The Canadian team, from the business school, presented first, identifying their three campaign goals as: creating a network of users through connection/inclusion, education, and understanding. Their efforts are targeted at vulnerable populations and the publics that impact them. For the team, it was about building relationships between marginalized members of the community and others to build support and solidarity.

They called their campaign the WANT (we are not them) Movement to give voice to those who feel isolated and impacted by negative stereotypes of Muslims. Their social media platform involves connecting the user with credible sources about Islam and its relevant teachings; giving them a sense of inclusion, respect, and belonging by creating a network of interactive users; educating users and the broader population about Islam and its practices; and providing opportunities for greater engagement within the target groups and the larger society. Their platform was launched in March with very positive results.

The Americans called their campaign “One95” reflecting their focus on individuals within the context of 195 countries. Their target is “generation Z” youth and their teachers. Their platform is very robust, covering 12 different apps, teaching materials, special web connections for teachers, and materials designed for ease of translation into other languages. Their goal is to “educate, empower, and connect” vulnerable populations to #endviolentextremism. Their initial test launch was highly successful in terms of measures of users and view counts, and their project was the top-rated in the competition.

The Australian effort was called 52 Jumaa (Friday, the holy day in the Muslim week), or 52 Saturday or 52 Sunday, depending on which audience is being addressed. The core feature of the platform is to create a community that is consciously committed to change through good works, drawing inspiration from on-line tools such as readings from the Quran that are sent to users weekly. They share how they are meeting the challenge to do good works with other users, keep a diary of their achievements where they can also see how they are doing compared to others, and receive daily affirmations via text. After very proactive media outreach in Perth to reach target populations, 52 Jumaa was launched in April and has already had measurable results and positive impact on its users. A social network is evolving that will enable the program to continue.

Tony Sgro is hopeful that the P2P competition will continue to build through the fall semester. Morocco participated in the first round, and the goal is to pair schools from the West with schools in Muslim-majority countries, providing an intensive creative experience. Also interesting is that the Moroccan team wrote its platform in Arabic, an added incentive to have joint presentations that benefit from a broad range of perspectives. One conclusion from the competition, as the three finalists demonstrated, is the power of young people to use technology to build creative and scalable platforms for communicating across cultures. It was a reaffirming experience to observe.