Kingdom of Morocco
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Contributor: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations
Contact: Jean Bonnal

Kingdom of Morocco

The terms and data used in this publication are in no way an indication of the authors' position regarding the legal status of the countries, territories, cities or zones mentioned, or of their authorities or borders.

A. General Country Data

Surface Area458,730 sq. km.
Population (millions)28.5
Population Growth2.1%
Urban Population48.4%
Density (1995)62 inh/sq. km.
GDP (1994) Billions$ EU 31.5
GDP per Capita$ EU 1.105
Currency Moroccan Dirham
National Budget26% of GDP
Human Development Indicator0.566
HDI Ranking (out of 174 countries)119

Borders, Topography and Climate

Situated in North Africa, Morocco faces the Mediterranean Sea on the north, is bordered by Algeria on the east and south-east, on the south by Mauritania and faces the Atlantic Ocean on the west. The country can be broadly divided into four topographical regions. The Rif mountain chain which runs parallel to the Mediterranean coast ends at the djebel Tidirhine at 2 448 meters. The Atlas massif is made up of three mountain chains in the shape of agreat amphitheater within which the Meseta, the third topographic region is found. West of the Atlas, the Meseta is a series of high plateaus going up to the coast; they have depressions and they are bounded by coastal plains. The plains and valleys south of the Atlas lead into the Sahara. The djebel Toubkal which rises to 4,165 m in the High Atlas, is the highest peak in the country.

The climate is temperate in the north due to ihe influence of the sea, with colder winters in high altitude zones. At Casablanca, the average annual temperature varies between 6.4 degrees centigrade in January, and 22.5 degrees centrigrade in August. In the interior the winters are cooler and the summers hotter. At Fes for example, temperatures vary from 10 degrees centigrade in January to 26.9 degrees centigrade in August. In the Atlas it is not rare for temperatures to drop to minus 17.8 degrees centigrade and mountain tops are snow covered almost all year round. The rainy season coincides with the winter months. It rains more in the northwest and less in the east and south especially in the eastern foothills of the Atlas mountains. The average annual rainfall varies from 955 mm at Tangiers and 430 mm at Casablanca to 280 mm at Essaouira and to 102 mm in the Sahara.

Characteristics, and Recent Developments of the Political System

Morocco's political system is a constitutional hereditary monarchy. The constitution went into effect in October 1972 and was revised in May 1980 and in September 1992. In accordance with the constitution, the monarch, who must be male, is the head of state. He appoints the prime minister and the other members of the government. He has the power to order the review of legislative measures and to disband the Legislative Assembly. He is also the head of the armed forces. Up to 1996 the legislature comprised 306 members, elected for six years : 204 members elected by direct suffrage and 102 by indirect suffrage by representatives of local and professional institutions. The Moroccan political system is based on multi-party politics. The major parties are Istiqlal (Independence), a nationalist party founded in 1944, Socialist Union of Progressive Forces (USFP), Democratic and Popular Action Organization (OADP), Popular Constitutional Democratic Movement (MPCD), a conservative party founded 1959, National Rally of Independents, a pro-monarchy party founded in 1978, and the Constitutional Union, founded in 1983. The country is divided into 35 provinces headed by governors appointed by the king, and under the authority of the central government. In addition to the provinces, there are 7 urban prefectures. Each province is divided into cercles and the cercles are divided into districts.

Recently, on 13 September 1996, 99.56% of Moroccan voters approved by referendum, new constitutional reforms intended to institute a bicameral legislature which would pursue the democratization of the country. The House of Representatives (Lower House) will be entirely elected by universal suffrage. The new House of Counselors, which will represent the active forces in the nation, will be elected by indirect sufferage. The opposition had called for people to vote for the reforms.

Agriculture in Morocco

Even though only 20% of the land is cultivated, Morocco is basically an agricultural country. In 1995, agriculture employed 35% of the work force and contributed 18% of the GDP. Production varies highly with changes in climate. Thus 1994 was an exceptional year and the worst was feared again with the long drought of 1995 (the government had to reduced its current budget by 5%). The major products are : barley, wheat, sugar beets, sunflower seeds, corn, citrus fruits, grapes, beans and olives. The livestock comprises : sheep, goats, cattle and poultry.

Increase in agricultural production has brought about, among other problems, extensive soil erosion. 14% of cultivation is done by irrigation which leads to frequent silting. There are programs, especially reforestation programs, which are implemented in protected zones in order to fight against erosion.

Current Economic Situation

Since 1982, Morocco has followed a strict structural adjustment program. This program was followed in 1983 by an agricultural structural adjustment program. But in 1990 the consequences of the Gulf crisis put an end to the improving economic situation. On 23 November 1993 the prime minister unveiled an adjustment program which consted of a general reform of the investments incentives régimem, the banking and fiscal system. Part of this program was the modernization of the Casablanca stock market and the creation of a currency market, an acceleration of the slow privatization programs, reduction of the deficit, the opening of dialogue with the social, economic and religious groups in order to concluse an economic and social pact. The recent decentralization measures are part of this context. They tend to alter the stakes in local elections, on account of the general reform of local finances and the adjustment in municipality boundaries which has changed the profil of the electorrate.

B. On-going Decentralization Process

Background, Objectives, and Legal Framework

Decentralization is not a new experience in Moroccol. Since the 1960s the country tried to respond to growin social pressure assigning certain decision-making and management functions to the local level. Beyond internal politics, it has recently become necessary to do something about diminishing budgetary resources and to go ahead with the long term restructuring of the economy. In this regard, regions and municipalities were given the legal status of subnational entities. A decentralization law was voted in 1973 and two constitutional reforms were introduced in 1986 and 1992.

Functions, Resources, and Autonomy of Decentralized Entities

This range of legislative and administrative measures broadened the powers of the decentralized entities which can exercice consultation, decision-making, implementation, control functions at both provincial and municipal levels. The process did not go far enough however to the extent that the decentralized entities did not receive sufficient resources to properly carry out their new functions. Besides, the entities only have some degree of autonomy in the allocation of their resources since they are under the authority of the Ministry of Interior.

C. Decentralization and Rural Development

Forms of Decentralization, Agricultural and Rural Development Policy Formulation

Rural development decentralization also started during the 1960s and 1070s but it would seem that in the absence of a specific timetable, the process only took the form of moderate deconcentration and delegationl. Devolution of authority to subnational entities was insufficient. As for devolution to civil society organizations, it is practically nil. Nonethelss, a restructuring program of the Ministry of Agriculture, particularly active since 1985, gave specific attention to the intermediary level to the extent that this level was deemed to have sufficient resources and management capacity lacking at the local level.

The restructuring of the ministry made it possible for the authorities to experiment with new designs for strategic programs according to ascending procedures, which introduced a strong variation in national policy according to type of production, and slighter variation according to region. The local level can participate in the formulation of policy through dialogue and in certain cases, through joint decision-making. There is coordination at regional level even if it is only to some extent. For example, financing and decision-making regarding equipment and rural infrastructureare the exclusive responsibility of the national level but control, monitoring and evaluation of projects in this area involves the national, regional and local levels.

Decentralization and Agricultural Support Services

The decentralization of the major agricultural support services seems to have led to a real sharing of tasks, with the exception of training, policy formulation; financing and service provision are the exlusive responsibility of the national level and public sector respectively. In service extension, the three levels of government (national, intermediary and local) coordinate policies and financing is the responsibility of the two upper levels and service provision shared between the public sector and producer organizations. The same model is followed in the area of research except for policy formulation which is the exclusive domain of the national level. Finally, policy determination for agricultural credit is shared by the national and intermediary levels whereas financing is the exclusive responsibility of the national level and service provision is by both the public sector and rural NGOs.

Support Policies, Constraints and Evaluation of the Decentralization Process

Support policies for decentralization relate to training for technical services and subnational governments, and the organization of producers. Information on the process of decentralization as well as training of local communities was not a priority. Given this situation, the major constraints on the decentralization process are first of all, the absence of coordination between levels of government, and then the weak capacity of civil society organizations and local governments.

Nonetheless, it is generally agreed that rural development decentralization has had a positive impact on both social infrastructure (health, housing, education) and production infrastructure (roads, irrigation, warehouses) as well as on citizen participation. This view is supported not so much by how much decentralization has taken root but rather by the contrast between the current situation and the preceding situation : a highly centralized administration with no democracy at the local level.


Three major steps need to be taken to deepen the process of decentralization in Morocco: a) increased training in the carrying out of new responsibilities, b) the strengthening of the framework for consultations to make them more effective and c) making available more financial resources to the local and intermediary levels.