Morocco’s 5.8 million hectares of forest play a vital part both in its economy and its society as a whole. The forest industry accounts for 5% of the gross agricultural product and 1% of the gross national product, but its true value lies in the fact that Morocco’s rural population benefits from (and often subsists on) forest resources. The forest generates 17% of national fodder production and over half of the nation’s firewood, but global warming, overgrazing by 800,000 sheep (more than four times the sustainable amount), illegal logging, bad water quality due to industrialisation, and wholesale felling to make space for other crops are placing the forests under pressure.
Currently, Morocco is losing about 30,000 hectares per annum to deforestation, with afforestation only accounting for 8% growth in the forest area every year – less than half the rate required to be sustainable. At these rates, Morocco’s forests and all the endemic species that inhabit them will be gone within the next few decades unless something is done to reverse these trends.
Supporting the fight to save the forests
Partnering with Morocco’s High Commission for Water, Forests, and the Fight against Desertification (Haut Commissariat aux Eux et Forêts et à la Lutte Contre la Désertification – HCEFLCD), the European Union Delegation in Morocco launched the Support Programme of the Forestry Policy of Morocco (La programme d'appui de l'UE à la politique forestière du Maroc – PAPS-Forêts). The programme’s main goal was to support and strengthen the sustainable management and protection of Morocco’s forest resources. It came to a close in May 2018.
NIRAS was contracted to provide technical assistance to PAPS-Forêts starting in May 2014. The main objectives were to (i) support the elaboration of procedures, management rules, and mechanisms necessary to the implementation, piloting, and monitoring and evaluation of the EU support programme to Morocco's forestry policy; (2) contribute to the strengthening of the HCEFLCD’s institutional capacities; and (3) participate in reflections on the current application of and changes to forestry policy. Furthermore, NIRAS provided experts for short-term operations to provide specific expertise or technical support for the implementation of certain programme activities and carry out studies, surveys, and training services in line with the support programme’s objectives.
During the 50-month contract period, the PAPS-Forêts team was instrumental in supporting the creation of key strategies around wood energy and silvopastoralism. They also evaluated the technical and social impact of cooperatives and associations in the forestry sector; trained and developed forestry cooperatives; studied forest value chains to find opportunities; completed a supply/demand study for cork; supported the development of an incentive system to encourage reforestation and the economic development of forestry sectors; provided technical assistance around the conception, budgeting, implementation, and evaluation of the HCEFLCD’s strategies and action plans (including the development, training and implementation of a GIS-WEB application to monitor management plans); and provided support in the development of communication materials.
Contributing to the Sustainable Development Goals
PAPS-Forêts also focused on a variety of cross-cutting issues, and in so doing contributed to the following SDG targets:
- SDG 15.2 by supporting the implementation of sustainable management of Morocco’s forests;
- SDG 15.5, as the sustainable management and protection of the forests also protects the habitats of various endemic species such as the barbary macaque, the Atlas Cedar, and Argan trees.
- SDG 16.6 and SDG 13.2 by building the capacity of the HCEFLCD and supporting the conception and implementation of its policies.
- SDG 5.1 by involving women in all aspects of the programme.