Knowledge and Experience Exchange on Integrated Water Resources Management Aspects between China and Morocco
To develop innovative and successful methods to address increasing water scarcity and over-exploitation of fresh and groundwater supplies affecting its agricultural industry, the Government of Morocco participated in an exchange visit to China. The exchange focused on the use of remote sensing technology applied to water management and monitoring of farmers’ consumption to manage scarce water resources.
The Government of Morocco was faced with increasing water scarcity and over-exploitation caused by urban and agricultural pressures on its fresh and groundwater resources. Increasing water demand combined with limited and decreasing resources due to the impacts of climate change is expected to discriminately affect Moroccan agricultural sector. The Government launched the National Program of Irrigation Water Conservation to mitigate this situation and improve agricultural and water productivity along with farmers’ revenues by promoting the conversion to efficient irrigation practices such as drip irrigation or micro-irrigation.
Conscious that China is facing similar challenges, the Government of Morocco expressed interest in learning about the Chinese experience of developing successful models of water resource management and how China addressed issues such as balancing the use of surface water and of exploited groundwater; conversion from traditional irrigation to drip irrigation; and gaining farmers cooperation in declaring their groundwater sources and rationalizing consumption.
To exchange knowledge and experiences of innovative interventions to manage scare water resources and engage farmers in the process, a high-level delegation of Moroccan government officials participated in the knowledge exchange with China. The Moroccan delegation comprised nine officials representing three major institutions: Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, Royal Center for Remote Sensing, and Ministry of Economy and Finance.
From China, participating officials represented the Ministry of Water Resources, Ministry of Environmental Protection, National Center for State Office of Comprehensive Agricultural Development (SOCAD), Irrigation and Drainage, the State Office of Comprehensive Agriculture Development, Institute of Remote Sensing and Digital Earth, Chinese Academy of Science, Chinese Academy of Agricultural Science, Hai River Basin Project, Xinyi Province, Jiangsu Province as well as local farmers.
The exchange was organized around the following activities:
- Study visit to China. The exchange was held September 8-19, 2014 in China. During the two-week program, the Moroccan delegation visited the Province of Xing Jiang in Northern China, which faces strikingly similar challenges to those in Morocco. Presentations to the delegation covered water resource management challenges and approaches; large-scale water transfer; investments for efficiency improvement in agriculture; integrated water and environment management; water conservation and irrigated agriculture water saving; planning procedures of river basins; and new technologies such as remote sensing, knowledge management, and measurements and tools. Participants also visited farms and water resource management sites. In addition to observing and learning about the Chinese situation, Moroccan officials also gave presentations about the situation in Morocco to their Chinese counterparts.
- Follow-up expert visit. Following the study visit, a Chinese delegation led by the Deputy Minister of the Chinese Ministry of Hydraulic Resources visited Morocco in February 2016. During this visit, a Memorandum of Understanding was signed in Rabat between the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries and the Chinese Hydraulic Resources Ministry for further cooperation in the irrigation sector.
- Raised awareness on the importance of citizen engagement in solving critical water resource issues. This specifically occurred through the Moroccan delegations visits with Chinese farmers who discussed their important roles in responsible irrigation.
- Raised awareness of the role of remote sensing in water resource management and particularly of using evapotranspiration to identify different land use types, construct basin-wide water balances, and allocate water rights.
- Improved consensus and increased teamwork among different Moroccan agencies. Participants were able to share experiences and lessons learned with their colleagues and counterparts. This also improved cross-sectoral coordination since various stakeholders from Morocco are now more familiar with other roles in the improvement of the country’s water resource management.
- Strengthened ties and built stronger relationships between Morocco and China. In addition to the memorandum of understanding signed between the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries and the Chinese Hydraulic Resources Ministry, another memorandum was signed during an official visit by the King of Morocco to China. This memorandum of understanding proposes that the Chinese Government finance the major North-South water transfer and related downstream irrigation infrastructure. The exchange also contributed to strengthen the relations between the Irrigation Utility for the Gharb Irrigation Perimeter and Moroccan Royal Remote Sensing Center; the two institutions are now using satellite images of the Gharb area to monitor the crops grown by farmers and the state of the irrigation infrastructure.
- Ensuring a mechanism for sharing data across agencies helps facilitate stronger networks. From a practical standpoint in water resource management, sharing this data across agencies and with the remote-sensing center helps in the generation of maps that allow for visual tracking of water utilization and irrigation.
- Formal spaces (i.e., workshops, site visits, conferences) are important for sharing of knowledge and experiences; but equally as important are informal spaces (i.e., lunches and dinners) where participants can get to know one another and find avenues for further collaboration or common interests.
- The participation of multiple agencies (i.e., ministries) from one country can help improve cross-ministerial cooperation and teamwork among the participating agencies once the participants return to their home countries and seek to implement what they learned from the exchange.
“The Morocco – China knowledge exchange study tour allowed me, in my role as Director of the Regional Agricultural Development Office (ORMVA of Gharb), to learn about new techniques for both water shortage management and for better water efficiency and productivity in agriculture, two major aspects of the National Irrigation Water Saving Program, which ORMVA of Gharb is implementing. The use of remote sensing and related information systems to monitor evapotranspiration as a proxy to water consumption appears to be an efficient water management tool, which could represent an attractive alternative to the classical practices and techniques to monitor water efficiency and productivity.” – M. El Mahdi Arrifi, Director of the ORMVA of Gharb, Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries
The South-South Knowledge Exchange Facility financed the exchange, complemented by the Bank budget through ongoing project funding. In addition, the Bank team responsible for organizing the exchange activities also accompanied the Moroccan delegation to China.
Providing knowledge during the exchange were Chinese government officials and experts from national, provincial, and local agencies, including the Ministry of Water Resources, Ministry of Environmental Protection, National Center for State Office of Comprehensive Agricultural Development (SOCAD), Irrigation and Drainage, the State Office of Comprehensive Agriculture Development, Institute of Remote Sensing and Digital Earth, Chinese Academy of Science, Chinese Academy of Agricultural Science, Hai River Basin Project, Xinyi Province, Jiangsu Province. Local farmers also met with the delegation.
The Government of Morocco has already begun to build on the results of this exchange, particularly on their partnerships with the participating Chinese experts and agencies with whom they met. The governments of the two nations have formalized collaboration agreements to develop plans for the future of Moroccan water resource management based on the use of remote-sensing technology. More cooperation is envisaged for mapping the evapotranspiration of the irrigation perimeter, which will be used to help rationalize irrigation practices and better advise farmers on crop rotations.
Participants from the Moroccan Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries:
- Ahmed EL Bouari, Head of Irrigation Department,
- Majid EL Yacoubi, CFO
- Soufiane Larguet, Head of Strategy and Statistics Department of MAPM,
- Mohammed Harras, Director of the ORMVA of Haouz
- El Mahdi Arrifi, Director of the ORMVA of Gharb
- Hssain Rahaoui, Director of the ORMVA of Tadla
Also attending from other Moroccan agencies were:
- Driss Elhadani, Director, Regional Center for Remote Sensing
- Ahmed Erraji, LDAS Project manager, Regional Center for Remote Sensing
- Azeddine Lakbakbi EL Yaagoubi, Focal point for International Financing Institutions Budget Department, Ministry of Economy and Finance