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Adaptation Measures for Sustainable Development of the Agricultural Potential of the Flood-Risk Zones of Ghareb Lowland, Morocco

Authors: R. Bourziza, W. El Khoumsi, I. Mghabbar, I. Rahou

Abstract:

The flood-risk zones called Merjas are lowlands that are flooded during the rainy season. Indeed, these depressed areas were reclaimed to dry them out in order to exploit their agricultural potential. Thus, farmers were able to start exploiting these drained lands. As the development of modern agriculture in Morocco progressed, farmers began to practice irrigated agriculture. In a context of vulnerability to floods and the need for optimal exploitation of the agricultural potential of the flood-risk zones, the question of how farmers are adapting to this context and the degree of exploitation of this potential arises. It is in these circumstances that this work was initiated, aiming at the characterization of irrigation practices in the flood-risk zones of the Ghareb lowland (Morocco). This characterization is based on two main axes: the characterization of irrigation techniques used, as well as the management of irrigation in these areas. In order to achieve our objective, two complementary approaches have been adopted; the first one is based on interviews with administrative agents and on farmer surveys, and the second one is based on field measurements of a few parameters, such as flow rate, pressure, uniformity coefficient of drippers and salinity. The results of this work led to conclude that the choice of the practiced crop (crop resistant to excess water in winter and vegetable crops during other seasons) and the availability and nature of water resources are the main criteria that determine the choice of the irrigation system. Even if irrigation management is imprecise, farmers are able to achieve agricultural yields that are comparable to those recorded in the entire irrigated perimeter. However, agricultural yields in these areas are still threatened by climate change, since these areas play the role of water retaining basins during floods by protecting the downstream areas, which can also damage the crops there instilled during the autumn. This work has also noted that the predominance of private pumping in flood-risk zones in the coastal zone creates a risk of marine intrusion, which risks endangering the groundwater table. Thus, this work enabled us to understand the functioning and the adaptation measures of these vulnerable zones for the sustainability of the Merjas and a better valorization of these marginalized lowlands.

Keywords: Flood-risk zones, irrigation practices, climate change, adaptation measures.

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