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Results Briefs October 16, 2019

Moroccan Farmers Save Water on Irrigation and Increase Agricultural Production

Irrigation in Morocco

Farmer Beneficiary in Tadla.

Photo Credit: World Bank

This project tackled Morocco’s water deficit by increasing agricultural productivity through irrigation modernization and improved access to technology for farmers and partners. The project provided improved water services to 6,811 farmers directly, while also improving technical and managerial capacities of farmers and their partners in agribusiness. In addition, 2,305 farmers adopted more efficient irrigation technologies. Of those farmers, 230 were women, comprising over 43 percent of the project area.


Morocco is ranked among the top 25 most water-stressed countries in the world. Over the past two decades, the Moroccan government has focused and invested on ways to make the best use of the limited water resources.  At time of appraisal, the agriculture industry was the primary user of surface water, accounting for 85 percent of withdraws. The Oum Er Rbia river supplies water to three large-scale irrigation schemes—Tadla, Haouz and Doukkala. These schemes total 322,700 ha, and they represented half of Morocco’s large-scale irrigation area. The Oum Er Rbia basin has faced acute water scarcity problems. For more than 20 years,the three ORMVAs (Regional Agricultural Development Office / Office Régional de Mise en Valeur Agricole) received only 60 percent of the surface irrigation water. 


Over the past 30 years, the World Bank has provided support to the agricultural sector in Morocco. The Bank designed a project that complimented Morocco’s strategic priorities stated in their National Irrigation Water Saving Program (PNEEI) and Green Morocco Plan (PMV), which increased agricultural productivity and managed water more sustainably. The project helped tackle Morocco’s water deficit by providing participating farmers with irrigation services necessary for high efficiency drip irrigation. The project also helped improve targeted farmers’ access to technology, financing and agricultural markets. In addition, the project invested in capacity building of the government and project implementing agencies, including strengthening the regulatory framework to promote productive irrigation use and implemented efficient water services by ORMVA’S, through better cost-recovery and improved maintenance.  

Women and men learn about the filter ahead of a pumping station in Doukkala. Photo Credit: World Bank


From 2010 to 2017 the project delivered the following results: 

  • 6,811 farmers, of whom 622 were women, benefited from improved irrigation services over an area of 22,062 ha. 

  • A total of 2,305 farmers adopted more efficient irrigation technologies. 230 of the farmers were women, comprising over 43 percent of the project area. 

  • In Tadla, there was a 43 percent reduction of the volume of groundwater abstracted after irrigation modernization. There was a 61 percent reduction in the volume of groundwater consumed. 

  • In Tadla, farms that were less than 5 ha experienced a 166 percent increase in agricultural production while farms that were between 5-10 ha saw a 77 percent increase in agricultural production.

  • In Doukkala, farms that were less than 5 ha experienced a 142 percent increase in agricultural production, farms that were between 5-10 ha saw a 67 percent increase in agricultural production. Farms greater than 10ha saw a 312 percent increase in agricultural production.

6,811 farmers

Improved irrigation services were provided directly to 6,811 farmers -- 10% of whom were women -- over an area of 22,062 ha.

Bank Group Contribution

The World Bank provided financing to the project through a loan of US$70 million from the International Bank for Reconstruction Development. In addition to financial support to the Government of Morocco, the Bank also brought global knowledge and international experience. 


Throughout the project, the World Bank coordinated its efforts closely with the Government of Morocco, specifically the Ministry of Agriculture and its Directorate of Irrigation and Rural Infrastructure, the ORMVAs of Doukkala, Haouz, and Tadla, and the Water User Associations. Farmers and agribusinesses were also essential partners throughout the project design and implementation. Their knowledge and expertise served as a guide to carry out a sustainable project. 

Haouz Basin. Photo Credit: World Bank

Moving Forward

Irrigation modernization, coupled with training and capacity building, improved the capacity and effectiveness of ORMVAs to manage and operate irrigation water services sustainably. The adaptation of drip irrigation and its successful outcome to increase agriculture productivity with less water attracted farmers to adapt the modernized technologies. Additionally, training of rural youth in more efficient irrigation technologies, fertigation, and implementation of a technician apprenticeship program on localized technology installation and maintenance opened the opportunities for youth to return to their home after project implementation and assist with family farms or find employment in private enterprises. 


Farmers and women in the Oum Er Rbia river basin benefited greatly from the project. A total of 6,811 farmers, including women, benefited from project implementation and from more efficient irrigation technologies. Even though some legal and socio-cultural constraints complicated women’s access to land, women represented 9 percent of farmers who gained access to improved water services, and 230 women adopted more efficient irrigation technologies. Capacity building and training were beneficial to all actors in the industry, including, but not limited to, farmers, women, water users, agribusinesses, and workers in water facilities.