Near Marrakesh, in Morocco’s semi-arid landscape, a humble cactus once used to delineate farm plots and stave off hunger, is enjoying a renaissance that gives new meaning to the old saying “Waste not, want not.”
Prickly pear fruit that would have been discarded past its prime season is now pressed into juice to make jam, while the seeds are pressed into valuable oil for cosmetic purposes. Importantly, in a part of the country where rain is rare and declining, the cactus plant makes the most of available water. It combats soil erosion, creates a richer ecosystem, and relieves some of the pressure of grazing when cactus juice is mixed with straw to feed animals.
The development of the cactus value chain is one example among dozens of ongoing programs and projects that seek to identify waste, inefficiencies and pollution, to upgrade or invent new production processes, and to create value where previously there was little or none.
At a time when many economies are exhausting their natural resources and face constraints exacerbated by climate change, Morocco is setting an example by designing and embracing green growth strategies across sectors.
The approach is in synch with the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) endorsed in September 2015. But Morocco’s commitment to green growth predates the SDGs: the right to a healthy environment and sustainable development has been enshrined in Morocco’s constitution since 2011. The World Bank supported Morocco’s vision for green growth, by providing financing in the form of Development Policy Loans, investment projects, and technical assistance.
“The right to sustainable development does not mean protecting the environment at the expense of the economy,” explains Dr. Hakima El-Haite, Minister Delegate in Charge of Environment for Morocco. “It means being wise enough to find a balance between economic development, social mobility, and the protection of resources – so that there are enough resources to last our children and our grand-children.” This commitment has translated into a comprehensive set of reforms – from energy subsidy reforms, to coastal zoning, pollution regulation, and fisheries management – that has earned the country kudos as it prepares to host the next climate change talks after Paris.
“What’s encouraging is that in all these areas there is a deliberate choice and clear policies that have been spelled out by the government, and they are actually walking the talk in terms of putting the resources and in terms of implementation,” says Marie-Francoise Marie Nelly, World Bank Country Director for the Maghreb and Malta.