By GRANGER TRIPP
Photographs by JP KEENAN
Rachid Lazaar, 26, needs only a steady flow of water and a small hoe to flood his entire field before the next crop is planted. He carves countless narrow valleys into the barren land to funnel the water exactly where he it needs to go, it seems more a work of art than fieldwork.
With the hottest and driest part of the year over, watering his land like this is a relief for Lazaar. Drought is a dangerous reality for small, rural farmers in Morocco and it appears he has escaped it, at least this year.
“I’m lucky,” Lazaar says. “The region where I work doesn’t suffer too much from drought, it’s very rich agricultural land.”
During a drought season, farmers get little to no yield from their land, drastically reducing or eliminating revenue. With less money in their pockets, farmers are forced to cut back on spending the next growing season, starting a vicious cycle.
Drought also has consequences beyond just the farmers’ lives in the fields. It also means less money for their families to spend on food, clothes and supplies.
To supplement his farming, Lazaar has a second job as a metalworker. Although the income he gets from this job is less, it is steadier than what he makes doing farm work. This allows Lazaar some breathing room when he doesn’t reach his desired yield.
The volatility of the rural economy could be drastically reduced for small farmers like Lazaar, if they were able to purchase insurance coverage for their land. However, these farmers are often overlooked by insurance companies who concentrate on insuring the country’s largest landowners.
“The service I can afford doesn’t guarantee full coverage of what I’ve lost,” Lazaar says, highlighting the disconnect between what coverage rural farmers need and what insurance companies offer them.
Studies show that the implantation of rain-based insurance for small, rural Moroccan farmers could combat the instability within the agricultural sector of the economy. One such study, done in 2001 by The World Bank, found that these programs “could have potentially significant benefits” for farmers and could go even further by “increasing the potential interest of international re-insurers and capital markets in investing.”
This seems as though it would be quite appealing to the Moroccan government as it strives to accomplish “Plan MarocVert (The Plan for a Green Morocco).” This initiative aims to double the value of the country’s agricultural sector, which currently sits at 19% of the GDP, while adding 1.5 million jobs to it by the year 2020.
However, until small farmers like Lazaar can find a way to protect themselves from the volatile economy they work within, “Plan Maroc Vert” will be merely relying on good growing seasons rather than the farmers who give life to the country’s agricultural sector.