In mid-2019, Amine Saidani and Meriem Farah Hamamouche visited the Drâa valley in Morocco, along with Lisa Bossenbroek and Zakaria Kadiri.

Erfoud, Morocco: Comparison of irrigation practices in North Africa’s oases. (Credit: Amine Saidani - July 2019)

The development of new agricultural landscapes from the same shallow groundwater resource than that previously mobilized in the communities-managed irrigation system, has created a competition on water resources. The traditional irrigation communities are rivaled by new water users, who pump water from the shallow groundwater for practicing intensive agriculture.

Toudgha Valley, Morocco: Sharing of irrigation water in oases. (Credit: Amine Saidani - July 2019)

In the Toudgha valley, water resources are very abundant in the upstream part and decrease downstream. Throughout the wadi Toudgha, oases have existed close to the beds of the wadis for centuries. The agricultural plots (fedane) are characterized by a stratified and diversified agricultural system (palm trees, fruit trees and annual crops). Irrigation is done from surface water. Irrigation water is taken from the Toudgha wadi through a network of traditional water intakes. The organization around water is hierarchical from upstream to downstream of a wadi and from one village to another.

Draâ Tafilalet region, Morocco: Khettara, a community-managed irrigation system in the oases. (Credit: M. Farah Hamamouche - October 2019)

Draâ Tafilalet region, Morocco: Traditional irrigation in the oases. (Credit: M. Farah Hamamouche - October 2019)

A number of lowland oases are irrigated by the khettara irrigation systems (also known as qanat in Iran or foggara in Algeria), which are underground aqueducts draining the superficial groundwater. The number and length of these khettara vary from one oasis to another. The water distribution is based on a customary organization where water rights were initially allocated on the basis of the effort made during the construction (and maintenance) of these systems. However, the water flow of the khettara continues to decrease due to intensive pumping in nearby areas, resulting in the drying up of a number of them. To overcome this problem, wells and/or private or collective tube-wells were made to strengthen the water flow of the khettaras.

Draâ Tafilalet region, Morocco: Power solar for irrigation in the new agricultural landscapes. (Credit: M. Farah Hamamouche - July 2019)

Draâ Tafilalet, Morocco: Irrigation in the agricultural extension using multiple sources of energy for irrigation. (Credit: M. Farah Hamamouche - July 2019)

In the Draâ Tafilalet region, solar pumping appeared from 2010 as an alternative solution to fossil energy (butane gas), the bill for which can reach 300 €/month during peak periods. During the last decade, local expertise was developed around solar energy with a socio-professional rise of local ironworkers. The latter have acquired know-how and technical skills through of their collaboration with the big Casablanca companies of installation. Over time, they became informal artisans of solar panels.

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Draâ Tafilalet region, Morocco: Khettara, a community-managed irrigation system in the oases. (Credit: M. Farah Hamamouche - October 2019)