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For food sovereignty in Morocco
A field study on agricultural policy and resource robbery
24 November 2019

The ATTAC/CADTM Morocco organization has recently published its study in Arabic on agricultural policy in Morocco and its multiple impacts on small farmers, on agricultural workers, on economy and on environment. The title is: ’For food sovereignty in Morocco, a field study on agricultural policy and resource robbery’. [1]

A first national presentation of this book took place in Rabat on Saturday 26 October 2019.

This publication is the result of an action-oriented research study carried out in five major agricultural regions of Morocco, namely: Loukkos in the north, Gharb on the ouest, Tadla in the middle atlas, Souss and Draa in the south.

The results of this study are presented in the context of the increasing food dependency due to neoliberal choices advocated by the International Financial Institutions such as IMF and WB as well as the WTO. Indeed, the ’Green Morocco Plan’ aims to support the exporting agribusiness sector and pays little attention to ensuring food supply for our population. Subsidies and tax incentives are designed to maximize the profits of large agro-capital. The impoverishment of small farmers is accelerating; they are losing their land; water resources and the environment is worsening. The trade food balance is increasingly in deficit and contributes to an alarming public debt. Austerity policies have a serious impact on the working classes and employees.

ATTAC CADTM Morocco presents this study to the general public interested in the agricultural issue and agrarian reform in our country (trade unions, associations, women’s organizations, youth organizations, political organizations, small farmers, fishermen, agricultural workers, agronomists, researchers...). Its aim is to initiate a broad debate on possible alternatives, including the control of producers over their production tools and the establishment of another agricultural policy based on meeting basic food needs and an equitable redistribution of land and resources and respect for the environment. food sovereignty as alternative is therefore an urgent priority in our country.

Pending the complete translation of this study, we present hereby the introduction of our book.

The book cover


The Attac/Cadtm Morocco has carried out on the field this study to assess the impacts of liberal agricultural policy. A policy that established conditions to put land, water and other natural resources under the control of the major capitalists. This policy aims to provide them with public subsidies and tax incentives to produce intensive export crops very depleting for the soil. Their revenues cover only about 47% of food imports on average over a ten-year period, from 2008 to 2017, a period known as the implementation of the ’Green Morocco Plan’. Cereals account for more than a third of these imports. The main pillar of this plan is the creation of large integrated farms (the ’aggregators’ of the Green Morocco Plan), agricultural, commercial, industrial and export to which the majority of small and medium farmers are subjected, intensifying the process of their impoverishment, although they still resist to produce Subsistence foodstuffs completely marginalized by the Plan; these aggregators also exploit agricultural workers within the most severe conditions, some of them legally endorsed by the current Labour Code.

This study comes in a specific context mainly characterized by the State’s offensive through its legal arsenal, which aims to:

  • Facilitate the appropriation by the large capitalists of land belonging to ethnic communities (mobilization of one million hectares of this land to implement agricultural investment projects, including the registration of 5 million hectares by 2020 to facilitate private appropriation);
  • Continue the grabbing of forest lands (through administrative plan called ’the delimitation of the forest domain Plan’;
  • Develop capitalist export investment projects concerning Argan trees in the regions of the southwest, particularly the regions of Souss and Essaouira, and the destruction of the traditions of its collective exploitation: project to plant 10,000 hectares of ’agricultural Argan trees’;
  • Develop pastoral areas for the benefit of the large nomads who own camel and cattle herds (promulgation of Law n°13-113 on pastoral transhumance, the development and management of pastoral and sylvopastoral areas).

The State has also consolidated its repressive and judicial measures to repress demonstrations by small farmers and the affected population (arrests and trials of activists) organized in response to this capitalist attack in the regions of Souss, South East, West (Sidi Slimane), Midelt, Tadla (Béni Mellal and Khénifra) and Rif. In the cities of Casablanca, on 25 November 2018, Rabat, on 17 February 2019, and Tiznit, on 24 March 2019, national marches were organized to denounce the various violations by the State concerning collective rights to land, forests, rangelands, mining and other resources, on the initiative of the Akal (Land) Coordination to defend populations’ right to land and wealth. The scale of the demonstrations showed the popular will to continue the struggle, and as a result, several local coordinations were set up in the Souss regions and even among Moroccans living abroad.

This study is based on a field survey covering five major agricultural regions (Draa, Souss, Tadla, El Gharb and Loukkos) and on discussions resulting from broader regional meetings held within these regions with small farmers and agricultural workers, as well as other stakeholders on the effects of this agricultural mode based mainly on profits generation for capitalist minority at the expense of the majority of the popular classes. The study also sets out the elements of a possible alternative based on the notion of food sovereignty.

The first chapter contains summaries of the field survey conducted with small farmers and a comparison between results obtained in five agro-regions. the first outcome that emerged clearly was the extent suffering of small farmers due to the high illiteracy rate and the lack of basic health and social security services (pensions and medical coverage) and the necessary infrastructure (roads, etc.), which, as a result, led to the deterioration of their economic and social situation. This reveals the fallacy of the official propaganda that the ’Green Morocco Plan’ in agriculture contributes to the promotion of the rural population. Despite their low annual income and intense poverty, we feel an overwhelming sense of pride and dignity in them. Indeed, they struggle on a daily basis to meet the needs of their families despite difficult circumstances. They always resist to preserve their status of producers, attach importance to their food crops and demonstrate their efficiency in guaranteeing a healthy diet that exploits small areas with a large water saving, preserves the fertility of the soil, plant and animal diversity, and is able to adapt to and respect the environment. We have witnessed among these small farmers their ability to acquire collective knowledge, experiences and cultures that they share in solidarity and in perfect balance with their environment and wealth for centuries. However, they express deep concern about the ongoing destruction of all these gains and accumulations, as well as the robbing of their territories resources by outsiders, owning capital and power, and driven by the greed of rapid gain. In addition, these small farmers are facing increasing difficulty in selling their food products in markets dominated by low-priced imported products and controlled by intermediaries. They bitterly talk about their lack of self-organization, and most of them have expressed their willingness to join any initiative that can help them organize themselves, since they have nothing more to lose.

To better illustrate this general situation, the second chapter focuses on the problems experienced by small farmers and their claims in each of the five regions covered by the field study (Draa, Souss, Tadla, El Gharb and Loukkos). We have also added the results of regional meetings we have organized in these same regions. Indeed, once the field study was completed, ATTAC/CADTM Morocco organized regional meetings on food sovereignty (two meetings in December 2018 in Skoura and Agadir, and two others in February 2019 in Beni Mellal and Sidi Slimane) to share the results of the field study and deepen the discussion with the concerned parties. During the investigation, small farmers described a multitude of problems they suffer from and expressed fears about this global destruction that affects them as producers and rural citizens because of official agricultural policies that support and marginalize the big capitalists. But most of them, however, through their demands, only vaguely question agricultural policy. It seems that a certain individualism is beginning to win their ranks, and the values of collective work and mutual assistance among community members to defend their rights have declined. Similarly, the negative effects of the lack of accumulation of militant experience and the weakness of union and association work are apparent. Indeed, only a minority of them expressed the need to adopt an agricultural policy alternative to the export-oriented capitalist model, namely one that is based on the production of basic consumption needs and encourages local food crops. It should be noted that the alternative of food sovereignty and agrarian reform still require collective efforts and discussions, so that they can be assimilated by farmers and agricultural workers. However, the regional meetings on food sovereignty revealed ideas put forward in relation to those expressed in the individual interviews in the field surveys. In addition, they revealed concrete potential militant capacities through spaces and workshops that allowed the real opinions of the different participants to be freely expressed.

The third chapter discusses the results of the field study on agricultural workers working on farms and packing stations belonging to export companies, mainly based in the Souss region where the agricultural, commercial, industrial and export model is concentrated. In fact, the survey reveals the over-exploitation of agricultural workers, particularly women who are victims of all types of oppression and harassment. There is also a large layer that works in conditions similar to slavery. They are daily agricultural workers offering their “Naked Arms” daily at dawn in the ’Mawkef’ which is a kind of ’job exchange’ at well-known labour concentration points in the region.

And we found that most of the workers came from other agricultural regions of Morocco where the process of impoverishment of small farmers has accelerated, pushing them to abandon their land and migrate in search of work. We have also observed a general tendency to settle in the (Souss) region, where they are forced to accept conditions of over-exploitation in order to be able to start families and incur debt to supplement living and housing costs, which their low wages do not cover; they live among poor douars lacking the least essential infrastructure, such as roads, sanitation, health services, etc.

As modern, air-conditioned trucks leave farms and packing stations loaded with vegetables and fruit for foreign markets on a daily basis, thousands of farm workers are crammed into trucks or ’death’ tractors (frequent fatal traffic accidents) that transport them to production units that do not meet basic health and safety work regulations, wages and social security. The few social achievements come from the struggles of agricultural workers and the extension of trade union work in the region, including the experience of the National Federation of the Agricultural Sector under the Moroccan Labour Union, mainly to defend trade union rights. Employers are supported by the State through the promulgation of a labour code based on flexibility, mediation, temporary work and the facilitation of dismissal procedures. Agricultural workers suffer ’legal’ discrimination in minimum wages and working hours. The labour inspectorate has no binding power and the courts turn a blind eye to abuses by employers.

The state-imposed agricultural model resembles a mill used to crush human beings for capitalist purposes from which only a minority will benefit.

The fourth chapter presents the manifestations of this model of impoverishment of small farmers and the control of agricultural land and water resources by big capitalists. This capitalist penetration is part of the State’s plan to mobilize land for investment and regularize the legal situation of land belonging to ethnic communities and the forest sector. This will then make it possible to grant them to major projects in agriculture, tourism, real estate, mining and quarrying. It is also part of the national water plan, which has implemented huge projects to support the land grabbing process. This plan provides for the creation of irrigation water transfer channels from water-rich regions to arid regions, the continuation of the policy of dams for export crops, desalination of seawater, and the development of an institutional framework to cover this control over water resources. As a result, the demands/protests of small farmers and the rural population have increased as a result of these expansionist plans in several regions of Morocco, and the State has responded with repression, arrests and trials.

The agricultural, financial, commercial, industrial and export oriented model is being introduced under the sponsorship of the State services and the Ministry of Agriculture, through the imposition of production and consumption patterns similar to the model applied in the major capitalist countries. Hybrid seeds, certified seedlings (and livestock breeds) and large nurseries are then imposed and generalized. This leads, therefore, to the destruction of the rest of the indigenous genetic heritage accumulated by small farmers. Multinational corporations have monopolized seed production in the name of intellectual property and patents, and the Moroccan government has ensured that a whole legal arsenal is in place to protect the rights of ’investors’. It has also promulgated a law on distinctive signs of origin and quality (SDOQ) for foodstuffs, agricultural and fisheries products. This has facilitated the capture of the local wealth of small farmers, such as Argan, dates and saffron. This type of seed and trees promoted by multinationals is based on agricultural techniques that promote the destruction of the earth and the depletion of water, and on the massive use of chemical fertilizers and toxic pesticides (as well as livestock and poultry breeds, which consume large quantities of fodder, antibiotics and hormones). It is also based on high consumption of fossil energy (oil, gas and butane), which in turn contributes to the increase in the greenhouse effect and climate change. This leads to natural disasters such as drought and floods. This is in addition to polluted wastes from packaging, storage and cooling stations, food industry plants, plastic waste, as well as all kinds of packaging (pesticide drums and bottles, etc.). In short, the logic of profit goes against the requirements of energy saving and environmental protection.

The State has put in place an integrated system of financial subsidies for the agricultural sector at both production and marketing levels to encourage export crops in irrigated areas, which represent only 17 per cent of the total agricultural area, while it has marginalized rain-fed areas, where the production of basic food products, such as cereals and pulses, is concentrated (about 60 per cent). Indeed, the system of subsidies is a system of looting public funds by big capitalists and commercial agricultural companies.

As a result, small farmers are trapped by the expansion of a capitalistic agrarian mode of production that destroys them as producers, marginalizes them as rural inhabitants, and violates their dignity as citizens.

This mode has its foundations in French colonization and continued after formal independence by the political regime in place in order to create an agricultural bourgeoisie by granting it the majority of reclaimed agricultural land (more than 1 million hectares) and allowing it to take advantage of the dam policy, the law on agricultural investments, subsidies and tax exemptions, etc.

This is what the fifth chapter attempts to analyse, given that major agricultural investments required colossal public funding, even though the country was exhausted by the colonial period and its budget was largely in deficit. This was when the international financial institutions intervened; through a series of preferential credits that led to the outbreak of the public debt crisis in the late 1970s. Several factors contributed to the outbreak of this crisis, namely the increase in the interest rate by the US Treasury and the fall in the prices of raw materials and agricultural products on the world market. Morocco has been unable to pay off its external debt service to governments and foreign banks. On this basis, the International Monetary Fund intervened to set up the Structural Adjustment Plan (SAP), which was spread over the period 1983-1993. This has led to a new liberal phase characterized by privatization, reduction of social budgets and support for the prices of basic consumer products, wage freezes, etc. These austerity measures led to three popular revolts during this decade, in 1981, 1984 and 1990. The Agricultural Sector SAP contained the same measures, namely the privatization of public agricultural enterprises, the liberalization of production and selling prices, reductions in State subsidies, etc. The essence of this policy was to provide highly selective support to the private sector to promote major agricultural investments and export crops.

The liberal opening process deepened with Morocco’s accession to the World Trade Organization in 1995, as well as the ratification of a series of free trade agreements with the world’s imperialist poles: the European Union (entered into force in 2000), the United States (2006) and several other countries. These agreements cover not only trade issues, but also political and security issues, as well as relocations, the service sector, privatization and the free movement of capital. These colonial agreements opened Morocco’s borders to commodities and speculative capital on the one hand, and the expatriation of profits on the other. This has further intensified the trade deficit and deepened the looting and food dependence of our country. The recurrent global food crisis over the period 2007-2011, which is one of the main dimensions of the 2007-2008 global capitalist crisis, has led to rising prices for basic consumer products and popular demonstrations defending purchasing power in several cities and countryside in Morocco.

This is a balance sheet of the liberal formulas imposed on us by the current regime, the World Trade Organization and the World Bank. These liberal principles are confirmed in the Bank’s 2008 report on development in agriculture. And it is precisely in this context that the ’Green Morocco Plan’ in agriculture in 2008, based on the development of large capitalist export groups (aggregations) that will benefit from a large part of the financing, while the mass of small farmers will be marginalized and will only benefit from a minimal part within the framework of what is called ’solidarity agriculture’. This will make them dependent on large groups through their crop and livestock production chains. The ’Green Morocco Plan’ required a total investment of 104 billion dirhams throughout the ten years 2008-2018, from which solidarity agriculture benefited only 15 billion dirhams, while the food deficit increased during this period; indeed, the average annual values of food imports reached 42 billion dirhams, including cereals representing 34.5%, while those of food exports reached 19.7 billion dirhams, including fresh tomatoes and citrus fruits representing 32% [2]. Morocco’s increasing food dependence reveals the nature of the agricultural, financial, commercial, industrial and export-led model, which tends only to generate profits on behalf of a minority of exporters who benefit from subsidies and fund their overseas bank accounts through capital flight. They are the same people who speculate on imports of cereals and other food products. This has contributed specifically to the increase in public debt, which has reached 83% of GDP and whose service absorbs the equivalent of 10 times the health budget and about 3 times the education budget. [3]

And if these neoliberal choices have been imposed on us by international financial institutions and other imperialist decision-making centers, they are legitimized by ’representative’ institutions that do not reflect popular aspirations under the aegis of a despotic political regime. The latter facilitates the control of a small number of families attached to power over wealth, in partnership with speculative foreign capitalists who benefit from portfolio investments and facilities to export their profits. Small farmers and agricultural workers have expressed to us their aspirations for a democratic horizon that guarantees them dignity, freedom, justice and the desire to snatch their rights. They are beginning to have confidence in their unity and organization to stop the process of their destruction and satisfy their demands in the context of protests and struggles in Morocco.

There is therefore an urgent need to intensify collective discussions in wide spaces on possible alternatives to the dominant agricultural and food model.

And in order to enrich the reflection, it seems useful to familiarize oneself with the international experiences, reported in the sixth chapter, and mainly those of La Via Campesina, an international peasant movement, and the lessons that can be drawn from them, taking into consideration the particularities of our country, to identify the main axes of our demands and the means of building from below a movement of peasants, fishermen and agricultural workers.

La Via Campesina (LVC) was founded in 1993 as part of the mobilization against the negotiating rounds of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (1986-1994). LVC, which organizes more than 200 million small farmers in 81 countries around the world, has accumulated a long experience of struggle, study and field work on the popular agricultural alternative of food sovereignty. Food sovereignty is the right of peoples to healthy and culturally appropriate food produced with sustainable methods, and the right of peoples to define their own agricultural and food systems while placing the aspirations and needs of those who produce, distribute and consume food at the heart of food policies rather than the demands of markets and multinationals. Food sovereignty is based on a comprehensive and holistic agrarian reform that guarantees farmers the full right to land, water and natural resources. It is also based on the adoption of policies that stimulate food agriculture, as well as technological models that increase agricultural production without damaging the health of farmers and the population, while preserving natural resources. This means the intensification of ecological agriculture (agro-ecology) as a form of production that respects natural cycles and can slow climate change, conserve biodiversity and reduce pollution. This agrarian reform will only be achieved if it is based on social organizations built from below, while including it in the most inclusive demands for an alternative society; demands that bring together large popular sectors within the framework of a global grassroots mobilization.

Thus, food sovereignty is not limited to meeting the needs of consumption of local and healthy products and does not only concern farmers. In fact, it provides, on the basis of agricultural and food issues, the necessary foundations for the construction of an emancipatory project for a democratic society. Indeed, the general conclusions of the regional meetings showed that collective discussions in our country, at their current phase, are not far from the alternative of food sovereignty. They also revealed concrete opportunities to build alliances on the basis of joint action involving small farmers, fishermen, pastoralists, livestock breeders, farm workers, women, youth, as well as trade union and community activists in villages and cities to fight against the agricultural, financial, commercial, industrial and export model, against the dominant destructive consumption model and for a healthy and ecological food model.

It is in this sense that our contribution as ATTAC/CADTM Morocco is made via this field study to support the debate on the possible agricultural alternative and to promote People’s Camp Alliance’s for food sovereignty in our country.

This study attempted to convey the concrete effects of the agro-exporting model on small farmers and agricultural workers, in order to reflect their main problems as they presented them, their views on the agricultural policies adopted and how they perceive solutions to their suffering. It also tried to place this set in an analytical context of the overall liberal choices adopted by the State in conjunction with the international financial institutions. It does not claim to identify all the issues raised by the acceleration of the penetration of large national and foreign capital into the agricultural sector at this stage of our country’s economic and social development, in the light of its integration into the world capitalist system and its impact by its crises. This study represents a modest first effort and should be developed in various areas, such as land, water, forest and sea. As for the latter, ATTAC/CADTM Morocco organization will undertake a related field study on coastal fishing and deep-sea fishing, as far as possible to get closer to the situation of this social layer, being a major element of food sovereignty, governed by the same capitalist logic as the ’Green Morocco’ plan through the ’Halieutis’ plan relating to the fishing sector. The alternative of food sovereignty must be further examined in the light of the particularities of our reality and the concrete extension of the components of popular agrarian reform and agro-ecology. It is also necessary to deepen reflection and debate on appropriate organizational forms in order to build a strong movement from below, away from the traditions of supervision from above, and to develop these forms of organization, by linking them to international activist networks and experiences, and in particular La Via Compesina, and also at regional level by supporting the efforts to build the North African Network for Food Sovereignty. [4]

Footnotes :

[1Book in 29x21cm format, 192 pages and 65,000 words

[2Statistics from the Ministry of Agriculture, 2018

[3ATTAC Morocco Association, 2018, article entitled: Attac reiterates its demands for the cancellation of public debts as a condition for any real economic, social and human development, published on 12 September 2018.

[4The North African network was established in July 2017 in Tunis as a framework unifying struggles in the region and committing itself to local, continental and global mobilizations. See its constitutive charter and activities on its website:


membre du réseau CADTM, l’Association pour la Taxation des Transactions en Aide aux Citoyens au Maroc (ATTAC Maroc) a été créée en 2000. ATTAC Maroc est membre du réseau international du Comité pour l’annulation de la dette du tiers monde (CADTM) depuis 2006 (devenu Comité pour l’abolition des dettes illégitimes depuis juin 2016). Nous comptons 11 groupes locaux au Maroc. ATTAC veut être un réseau aidant à l’appropriation par les acteurs engagés dans l’activité sociale, associative, syndicale et plus largement militante des enjeux de la mondialisation sur les problématiques de résistance sociale et citoyenne.

Adresse : n°140, rue Cadi Bribri Akkari 10000. Rabat. Maroc
Email : attac.cadtm.maroc at
Site Web Tel 00 212 6 61 17 30 39