T5: Supplemental irrigation: Case of Tadla region in Morocco
Supplemental irrigation: Case of Tadla region in Morocco
Water scarcity in West Asia and North Africa (WANA) is a well-known and alarming problem. Increasing
water scarcity is threatening the economic development and the stability of many parts of the region.
At present, agriculture accounts for over 75% of the total consumption of water in the region. However,
with rapidly growing demand, it is certain that water will increasingly be reallocated away from
agriculture to other sectors. Moreover, opportunities for the significant capture of new water are now
limited. Most river systems suitable for large-scale irrigation have already been developed. Few major
resources of renewable groundwater remain untapped and current resources are subject to
overexploitation, with extraction exceeding recharge rate in many cases.
While gains in efficiency are potentially available from improved distribution and use of water in fully
irrigated agriculture, a great proportion of the region’s agricultural livelihoods are based on rainfed
farming systems where production is dependent on low and extremely variable rainfall. The challenge in
rainfed areas is to enhance productivity through improving on-farm water use efficiency and
supplementing rainfall either through water harvesting or the strategic use of sources of renewable water
to augment essentially rainfed production. However, conventional practices, which have been developed
for managing water under normal water supply conditions, are not suitable under conditions of water
scarcity. The need for special management of water under conditions of scarcity, based on maximizing the
return from each unit of water available for agriculture, now applies to almost all the countries of WANA.
Technologies for improved management of scarce water resources are available. However, many of these
technologies are not widely implemented or are not seen as feasible by farmers. This can be attributed to a
number of constraints, including technical, socioeconomic and policy factors; but most importantly the
lack of community participation in the development and implementation of improved technologies.
The immediate purpose of the ICARDA Water Benchmark Project, funded by AFESD, IFAD and OFID
and implemented in Tadla region of Morocco, in collaboration with INRA-Morocco, is to develop and
test, with the full participation of rural communities, water and crop management options that will
increase water productivity, optimize water use and that are economically viable, socially acceptable and
environmentally sound. The emphasis was on supplemental irrigation system.
The project approach is based on five principles:
a) Community participation
The project uses an approach, based on community participation. The local communities are the full
partner in planning, implementation, monitoring, and evaluation.
b) Integrating technologies with policy and institutions
The project addressed problems from a technical, socioeconomic, cultural, and institutional and policy
perspective, with the full participation of the intended beneficiaries and other stakeholders.
c) Benchmark and satellites sites (complementarities)
A benchmark site was established in the Tadla area of Morocco. This site represents the majority of the
conditions in the rainfed agro-ecologies. However, some conditions and issues in the region related to the
natural resources, the environment and/or the socioeconomics may not be apparent in the benchmark site
and thus are addressed in the satellite sites in Algeria and Tunisia.
d) Multidisciplinary, multi-institutions
The project approach is based on the involvement of many different research disciplines and development
e) Socioeconomic analysis and community participation
Socioeconomic surveys that characterize the communities involved in the project sites have been
conducted in order to identify the main technical, social, economic and environmental problems that
constraint the community livelihood improvement. The surveys’ results established the base line
information for the project target areas and communities and for evaluation of the impacts.
Impacts of the project
The adoption of improved deficit supplemental irrigation and agronomic package by farmers involved in
the project in Tadla region of Morocco allowed, in average, an increase of wheat yield from 5.5 to 6.6 t/ha
(17%) and a saving of 30% (1,140 m3/ha) of irrigation water. The net benefit was also increased by 34%
(445 USD/ha) and the economic irrigation water productivity was doubled (1.0 vs 2.0 USD/m3 of
irrigation water). A farm survey on deficit supplemental irrigation in the region on a sample of 100 farms
showed that, in the case of farmers who participated in field days, the adoption rate was 21% and the
degree of adoption was 86%. In the case of farmers who participated in the demonstration trials, the
adoption indices were, respectively, 100% and 96%.
Taking into consideration the results described above and if we assume that the improved package of
deficit supplemental irrigation is disseminated at a large scale in the region, significant amounts of
irrigation water can be saved and wheat production can be increased. In fact, the adoption of the package
in only 10% of irrigated area of Tadla perimeter (5,220 ha) can allow a saving of 5,950,800 m3 of water
and an extra production of wheat of 5742 tons. If 50% of the irrigated area (26,200 ha) receives deficit
supplemental irrigation, water saving will be 29,754,000 m3 and the gain of production will be 28,710
tons. The saved water can be used to irrigate more cash crops and improve significantly the total net
returns of the farmers.