Around this time every year, Moroccan wheat farmer Abderrahim Mohafid is usually preparing for his spring harvest, but this year his fields lay unusually bare.
On the road leading up to his hamlet in Berrechid province, Morocco’s historical breadbasket situated around 40 km southeast of Casablanca, vast fields languish as the country grapples with its sixth consecutive year of drought.
“The harvest is already lost,” Mr. Mohafid said as he glanced at his 20-hectare field where almost nothing has grown.
In a neighbouring village, Hamid Najem found himself in the same predicament.
His 52 hectares that have yielded soft wheat and barley in past years “are no longer good for anything”, the 50-year-old said.
“We have never had such a tough year.”
More than 88% of Berrechid’s vast agricultural lands are not irrigated, with farmers relying instead on rain, according to Morocco’s Agriculture Ministry.
Yet so far this year, the North African country has seen only about half the rainfall it did during the same period last year, Morocco’s Water Minister Nizar Baraka said.
This has occurred in parallel with temperatures in Morocco increasing by an average of 1.8°C compared to the period between 1981 and 2010, he added.
In recent weeks, Moroccan authorities have restricted the opening of hammams and car wash stations in several cities and prohibited the watering of golf courses or gardens with drinking water, as the country’s dams are only at 23% capacity, compared to around 32% last year.
The successive years of drought are “compromising” this agricultural season, says Abderrahim Handouf, an agronomist.
Fearing the effects of prolonged water scarcity, farmers had already reduced the size of areas in which they sowed cereals, according to the expert.
Morocco’s agricultural model — tunnel-visioned on exports for the past 15 years — is yet again faced with challenges at a time when the country sees “an absolutely declining water supply”, said Mohamed Taher Srairi, an agronomist.