Desertification of Fertile Lands in Morocco: The Sad Al Massira Dam Story

Desertification of Fertile Lands in Morocco: The Sad Al Massira Dam Story


According to a recent investigative article from the Moroccan media outlet Le360, severe water stress has dramatically transformed the region surrounding the Al Massira dam in Morocco. The dam, which is the country’s second largest, currently has a critically low fill rate of just 4%.

The article outlines how the once thriving and fertile area around the dam, known for its diverse agricultural production that supplied the local population and markets across Morocco, has been rendered desolate due to persistent drought. This has been further exacerbated by factors such as diminished rainfall, increasing temperatures, and declining groundwater levels. Consequently, the land has dried up and cracked, making it unworkable, and has been abandoned by the local residents.

The water scarcity situation is so acute that, whereas a 10-meter deep well used to provide ample water for irrigation in the past, it is now necessary to dig to depths of up to 140 meters to find water. The lack of water has led most farmers to abandon their activities. The scarcity of rainfall, the prohibition of irrigation from the Al Massira dam, and the prohibitive cost of well drilling has further compounded their plight.

As a consequence of the water crisis, the local population has been forced to abandon farming and turn to livestock rearing, although they struggle to provide sufficient feed for their animals. The residents now have to travel up to 4 kilometers each day to fetch water. With agriculture no longer viable and no other economic activities available in the region, the inhabitants are left facing an uncertain future, not knowing how to ensure the sustenance of their families.

The article also cites Nizar Baraka, Morocco’s Minister of Equipment and Water, who states that the quantity of water available per person in Morocco has decreased by a factor of four over the past six decades. It has dropped from 2,560 cubic meters per year in 1960 to just about 606 cubic meters per year today