Participatory Project against Desertification and for Reducing Poverty in Arid and Semi-Arid Ecosystems in the High Plateaus of Eastern Morocco

Editorial: Sustainable land management: a new approach for mitigating desertification in the High Plateaus of Eastern Morocco

The High Plateaus region of Eastern Morocco is an ecologically and socio-economically fragile area. The severe deterioration of pastoral ecosystems, along with its negative socio-economic consequences, is the result of opportunistic short-term use of pastoral resources, combined with complex and traditional rules concerning property and land-use rights. These causes are amplified by the recurrence of extended periods of drought, which not only heavily impact plant growth, but can also undermine sustainable development efforts, moving away from advocated alternate management towards pushing the inherently precarious limits of arid and semi-arid pastoral ecosystems.

The indicators of the desertification process, evaluated in a recent study conducted by the Regional Directorate for Water and Forests and the Fight Against Desertification in Eastern Morocco, are extremely worrying. They demonstrate a 40% decline in the growth of healthy esparto-grass and a 60% decline in white-wormwood rangeland over the past 25 years. These losses further increase the impact of water and wind erosion, causing an average annual loss of three million tonnes of soil and the expansion of sand-dune accumulation areas. At the same time, the rangeland animal-farming system has evolved towards a semi-sedentary system (less mobility), with animal feed consisting increasingly of supplements. This results in herds that exceed the ability of natural ecosystems to support them – by over 200%. As a result, signs of desertification are alarming enough that it can be identified as a major constraint for economic development and poverty reduction in this area.

To this end, the adoption of Sustainable Land Management (SLM) principles and procedures in development and Fight Against Desertification strategies and programmes in the High Plateaus of Eastern Morocco is recognised as an urgent priority. This approach will combine institutional and technical activities to remove the critical obstacles linked with the management of shared land, supported by the promotion of investment opportunities providing environmental and economic benefits. In adopting this strategy, Morocco has identified a project entitled ‘Participatory Project Against Desertification and for Reducing Poverty in Arid and Semi-Arid Ecosystems in the High Plateaus of Eastern Morocco’, endorsed by the relevant Moroccan authorities, which the GEF has agreed to co-finance. At the same time, its implementation requires the creation of partnerships with local beneficiaries, whose well-being depends on the sustainable management and conservation of natural resources. Another requirement is to improve coordination between the various parties involved in the project in order to ensure synergy and convergent investment as part of action programmes simultaneously targeting the fight against desertification and the reduction of poverty in this area.


People collaborating

Mr. Abderrahim Boutaleb
National Coordinator for the GEF project
Direction régionale des eaux et forets ONUDI
Tel: +212615201509
Email: aboutaleb59@yahoo.fr