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Francisca Verduzco & Marcel Kuper

Liberation and Anarchy in Groundwater Economy in Morocco

Francisca Verduzco (she/her) is a third year student double majoring in Critical Race & Ethnic Studies and Feminist Studies with a minor in Education.


This quarter I got the opportunity to learn and do research about groundwater in Morocco. I specifically studied the T2GS project in Morocco.I decided to focus on Morocco because its Marcel’s region- according to their research there are 3 types of groundwater economies. Morocco is considered a medium-sized groundwater economy because it is based on renewable but overexploited groundwater resources. While reading about this location (Morocco), I’ve learned that groundwater is important for farmers, the private sector, and the State. 


Marcel and his team provide data about the groundwater economy in Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia and this data led to 3 findings. First, all three countries heavily rely on groundwater usage which is 60% of 500,000 farm holdings that use groundwater usage. Groundwater usage in morocco means contributing 45% of agricultural value and also provides 35% of rural employment. However, groundwater economy only benefits 20-30% of farmers which creates inequality! Second, another conclusion this data led to is that aquafiers aren’t good- they are being overexploited. Farmers continue to install personal/ private tube-wells even in public irrigation schemes- which leads to the overuse of groundwater. The last conclusion that this research data led to is that groundwater economy keeps growing! 


Some of the issues raised in Marcel’s research are the two effects that groundwater has. In this research, they explore two contrasting views on groundwater usage: groundwater as liberation and groundwater as anarchy. He argues that though they are contrasting views, they both acknowledge the weaknesses of the state in controlling the dynamics of groundwater economies. Even though there is private initiative to groundwater, the state remains important and relevant through formal and informal channels. 


Groundwater is seen as liberation because farmers are liberating themselves from state water Liberation from authority over water (privatization) and are also liberating themselves from inadequate irrigation services. Groundwater is also seen as liberation because of the social status it provides- it allows rural social economic transition to happen but it is exploited by short term water using practices. 


On the other hand, groundwater is also seen as anarchy because it is seen as a declining resource because of the intensive crops that are supported by cheap access. It’s a growing anarchy because the individual has some sort of freedom outside of government ideals which also leads to the privatization of groundwater! During our interview we asked Marcel about sustainability issues at Morocco to which he responded “You cannot practice agriculture without irrigation. The economic and the social importance of what you can call a groundwater economy makes it very difficult also to regulate it because so many people depend on the groundwater, so preserving it means that you will have to make some choices and diminish its use. Some people will really have to make sacrifices. These are not easy questions. That makes it very tough to act and to reduce groundwater use in these areas.” It goes to show how much Morocco depends on groundwater. All in all, groundwater is seen as anarchy because of the over exploitation by cheap access to groundwater through individual pumps. 


“Liberation or Anarchy? The Janus Nature of Groundwater Use on North Africa’s New Irrigation Frontiers” Marcel Kuper, et al.

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