New project will improve the management of scarce water resources for agricultural use
WASHINGTON DC, March 25, 2022 — The World Bank Board of Executive directors today approved a US$180 million IPF (Investment Project Financing) loan to support resilient and sustainable agriculture in Morocco. Climate change and population growth is putting increased pressure on water and land resources in Morocco. The Resilient and Sustainable Water in Agriculture (RESWAG) project aims to enhance the governance of water in agriculture, improve the quality of irrigation services, and increase access to advisory services for irrigation technologies.
As currently witnessed during this year’s historic drought, water scarcity is a major threat to Morocco. The country is experiencing less rainfall and more extreme weather events like droughts and heat waves, resulting in reduced river flows, and increased evaporation. Population growth, increased irrigation for crops, and development have also caused a decline in renewable water resources. Water shortages are leading to a vicious cycle of overexploitation of groundwater. Hotter and drier conditions are only expected to increase irrigation needs for crops, further stressing already limited water resources.
"The agri-food sector is a major driver of economic and social development for Moroccan citizens. It amounts to 21 percent of the GDP and accounts for nearly 39 percent of employment, even more so in rural areas. Agriculture is at the heart of Morocco’s economic and social ambitions and this project financing will support this vital sector, in alignment with the country’s Green Generation strategy, the National Water Plan, and the New Development Model," said Jesko Hentschel, World Bank Country Director for the Maghreb and Malta.
The RESWAG project is an innovative new program, combining for the first time both hard investments through the modernization of irrigation and drainage services and soft measures that support water governance and provide agricultural advice to farmers.
The program is built around three areas. The first involves enhancing the governance framework of water in agriculture and ensuring that water withdrawals from the agricultural sector are sustainable. "The first aspect of the RESWAG project aims at complementing the long-standing effort made by Morocco in investing in water governance. It contributes to three priority areas of water conservation policies: implementing a more flexible water allocation process; enhancing groundwater management; and improving knowledge about the impacts of the water productivity programs to better inform and re-orient policies towards climate smart outcomes," said Rémi Trier, Senior Water Resources Management Specialist and co-Task Team Leader.
The second area is aimed at providing climate-smart irrigation and drainage services, by scaling up benefits of water conservation technologies to new areas, thereby enhancing resilience to droughts while reducing greenhouse gas emissions and the building up of soil carbon stocks. This will be done through the modernization of hydraulic assets such as irrigation networks and canals, and by supporting public irrigation managers in enhancing the performance of irrigation and drainage services. This will benefit smallholder farmers within the collectively managed large-scale irrigation schemes, with the target of reaching over 16,000 farmers on over 50,000 hectares in two of the most agro-economically important river basins in the country: Souss-Massa and Tadla.
The third area connects more than 23,500 farmers with advisory services geared towards optimizing investments, enhancing climate resilience, and improving water productivity. "To improve farmers’ access to climate-smart advisory services, the project includes support to the national agency responsible for agricultural advisory services. This will help increase the coverage and quality of these services in irrigated areas, including through the training of public advisors and hiring of advisers, to accompany farmers’ transition to modern irrigation technologies," said Safaa Bahije, Water Resources Specialist and co-Task Team Leader. "The project will also give specific attention to female and young farmers to fully support the national efforts of the Green Generation strategy."
The project also includes a contingent emergency response component which would allow the government to request a rapid reallocation of project funds to respond promptly and effectively to an eligible emergency or crisis.