Poverty in Morocco: A Rural Dilemma

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RABAT, Morocco — With romantic images of the movie 
Casablanca in mind, perhaps Morocco is not the first country thought of when deliberating impoverished areas of the world. Morocco, however, faces much trouble when it comes to creating a booming economy, as the government has not invested enough time and money in its agricultural industry.

Of the 4 million people living in poverty in Morocco, 3 million are situated in rural regions, according to the Rural Poverty Portal. The poorest groups in the country include landless people, rural wage earners, unemployed young people and women. Although the poverty stricken areas are spacious and bucolic, some of the land is simply not suited for crop growing.

The soil is generally not irrigated, and even the parts that are lack government aid. This leaves farmers with difficulties in generating business out of crops, thus leaving them little option to climb out of poverty. Mountainous areas of Morocco are even worse off, as the soil is more susceptible to erosion and cannot be farmed.

Some farmers also do not have an official title to land, meaning they cannot obtain licenses to complete the actions needed to yield revenue. Besides the lack of access to credit and licenses, other serious issues that stand in the way of the production of farming include unpredictable climate, lack of soil and water resources, illiteracy and limited training.

The poverty in Morocco is so unbearable that some have been escaping for refuge.

The seven-meter-high and 11-kilometer-long fence built by Spain to keep Moroccan refugees from fleeing to the city of Melilla, a Spanish territory located on the African coast, was erected to block immigration. This fence has proven to be not entirely effective, and in fact, Moroccan refugees have doubled since 2012.

The limited opportunities for Moroccans to get themselves out of poverty has caused a recent increase in refugees, which has been a major problem for both countries involved. As of Feb. 1, however, Morocco has taken the steps to form a bilateral agreement with India in hopes of boosting both of their economies. There was a meeting between the External Affairs Ministers from both countries – from India, Salman Khurshid, and from Morocco, Salaheddin Mezour.

They have agreed to boost cooperation in pharmaceuticals, renewable energy and agriculture. One of the main components of this agreement is to invest in the abundance of phosphate located in Morocco.

The reason for this is that phosphate acts as a growing agent and is a major ingredient in fertilizer. In retrieving phosphate, more healthy and profitable crops can grow, thus helping the farming industry. Morocco has plenty of phosphate and India can benefit in regards to their food security by importing it from Morocco.

In another effort to help alleviate poverty in Morocco, there have even been talks of the legalization of marijuana, which began in 2009. There would need to be a redefining of marijuana as an herbal medicine rather than an illicit substance, but if that went smoothly, Morocco’s economy could skyrocket.

They already produce 40,000 tons of cannabis annually, so if the government took over that industry it could change the outlook of Morocco’s financial future.

The mutual treaty between India and Morocco looks promising, and perhaps the investment in each other’s industries can open more jobs for the millions in poverty in Morocco. With the focus in the last three years being on increasing infrastructure in the city of Casablanca as to transform it into economic metropolis, the agricultural sector has been neglected. These actions have not resulted in positive outcomes for reducing poverty in Morocco, so it will be interesting to see what prospects arise from Morocco’s new endeavors.

– Danielle Warren

Sources: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Economic Times, Rural Poverty Portal, Today’s Zaman
Photo: Aangirfan

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