Global Green New Deal: A Path of Possibilities

Worker-led struggles for food sovereignty in Morocco

, by Réseau d’Afrique du Nord pour la souveraineté alimentaire , AZIKI Omar

Female agricultural laborers, small farmers, seafarers, fisherfolk and herders, who produce most of the food that feeds the world, are most threatened and most affected by the agro-industrial system, by corporate acquisitions of land, seeds, markets, natural and financial resources, and by the privatization of collective property.

Moroccan farmworkers picking vegetables.

This is evident in the agricultural policies pursued by the state in Morocco, embodied in the “Green Morocco Plan 2008-2018”, which saw a minority of large exporting capitalists, both domestic and foreign, benefiting from public finances, expanding their properties, and increasing their wealth. In contrast, small farmers lost their lands and resources, and their income shrunk. Through the “Green Morocco Plan”, agricultural investors have achieved record surplus profits on the backs of agricultural wage-earners who work in extremely harsh conditions of oppression and misery wages.

The Covid-19 pandemic revealed the depth of the economic, health, social and psychological crises experienced by workers, including agricultural workers, exposed to exploitation and who run the risk of death daily to ensure production levels are met. The owners of major agricultural estates demonstrated their recklessness during the pandemic by not providing necessary health protections or adequate transportation, and instead took advantage of the pandemic to pressure workers and reduce headcount.

In this article we will look at the outgoing agricultural policy and analyse how Morocco’s roadmap for the next ten years, the "Generation Green 2020-2030" seeks to continue to increase the volume of investments and exports by promoting major agricultural alliances linked to export – without any consideration for the economic, social, and environmental costs of this scheme, nor the consequences of the increased food dependency that result from it.

Peasant collectivization: the exploitation of small farmers and the seizure of their land

As part of the Green Morocco Plan 2008-2018, there were reports of land grabbing and the exploitation of small farmers in Morocco. The plan aimed to modernize agriculture and increase productivity by forming large capital pools, both local and foreign, that were linked to foreign markets. This led to the formation of octopus groups that dominated local markets, leaving small farmers with no choice but to submit to their conditions or face bankruptcy.

These large capital pools often operated at the expense of small farmers, with reports of land grabs and the seizure of land. The land was then used to grow crops for export, rather than for local consumption. This led to the displacement of local communities and a loss of livelihoods for small farmers, who were often forced to work as laborers on the very land they had once owned.

Moreover, the Green Morocco Plan encouraged the expansion of collectivization in all agricultural production chains, which further threatened the land rights of small farmers. The plan’s successor, the Green Generation 2020-2030, aims to continue and expand this trend.

The state granted 112,000 has of agricultural land to major investors as part of the "Green Morocco Plan", supposedly to promote agricultural development and boost the country’s economy. However, this policy has led to land grabbing, displacement of small farmers, and exploitation of labour, benefiting large corporations at the expense of the public budget and the environment.

In response to these issues, there have been protests and resistance from local communities and farmers’ associations. They have called for greater protection of land rights and the recognition of small farmers’ contributions to food sovereignty and rural development. Some have also called for alternative approaches to agriculture that prioritize local consumption and support small-scale, agroecological farming practices.

Public Investments

The value of the state’s investments in the “Green Morocco Plan” reached 41.6 billion dirhams (approx. €11.2 billion EUR today), of which large investments accounted for 65% (27 billion dirhams). These included the development of irrigation systems, the expansion of agro-industrial zones, and the establishment of large-scale farms, while the balance sheet allocated to solidarity agriculture projects (small farmers) amounted to only 14.5 billion dirhams during the period 2010 and 2020.‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬

Public Debt

Public investment to support capitalist agriculture is covered mainly through public debts. Those allocated to the "Green Morocco Plan" amounted to 34.8 billion dirhams. These public debts are subject to the terms of the international financial institutions, which are borne by the working class and small farmers as social spending is squeezed, public services are privatized, wages are frozen, and pensions and subsidies for basic consumption goods are reduced.

Public Subsidies

The "Green Morocco Plan" explicitly targeted large agricultural groups that received the largest share of subsidies at the level of production and export, averaging nearly 3 billion dirhams (approx., 278.9 million euros) per year. The Minister of Agriculture announced that it will reach 4.2 billion dirhams (390 million euros) per year with the launch of the new agricultural strategy.

Tax exemption

The agricultural sector benefited from full tax exemption for 29 years, from 1984 to 2013. Tax was imposed gradually from 2014 to 2020, through which the owners of agricultural plantations that achieved a turnover equal to or less than 5 million dirhams were exempt. Only a small number of agricultural companies in Morocco pay corporate tax and income tax (20 according to the Minister of Economy).

Crédit Agricole Bank

The state established a public bank to grant loans to the agricultural sector mainly for the benefit of large farmers, which amounted to 70 billion dirhams from 2009 to 2020. Small farmers no longer have the collaterals, credit capacity and annual turnover required by Crédit Agricole bank to grant loans.

Cheap labour

To provide favourable conditions for private capital investment, the state worked to draft a new labour law in 2004 which established flexibility and kept the minimum wage at low levels. The minimum gross wage in the agricultural sector is 1994 dirhams, compared to 2,830 dirhams a month in industry, which is not enough to cover the basic requirements for a decent livelihood. This is what throws agricultural workers into the networks of microcredit institutions, consumer credit institutions and banks, which drain them through exorbitant interest rates.

Agricultural products mainly oriented to export to world markets.

Fresh tomatoes, citrus fruits and red fruits constitute the main part of agricultural food exports, accounting for 41 % of the value of the total food exports to Morocco in 2019.

Food sovereignty: an alternative based on social and environmental justice

The outcome of the "Green Morocco Plan 2008-2018" shows the depletion of state finances and the deepening of public debt and austerity measures, to support the profits of private agricultural groups, at a time when Morocco imports a large part of its main food needs, especially cereals. This is the export-oriented agricultural model based on monoculture that exploits people, drains water, destroys soil, and pollutes nature.

Nurture Equality.

Unfortunately, the state continues to intensify these economic, social, and environmental impacts through its adoption of the "Green Generation Strategy 2020-2030", which is based on deepening the productive logic. It is incumbent on labour organizations and peasant unions, agricultural and consumer associations, civil society militant associations, and networks for the defence of land and wealth to mobilize from bottom-up to stop this capitalist advance.

We need mass public education campaigns about the alternatives offered by food sovereignty, which is based on meeting basic food needs through ecological approaches and adopt a democratic process to determine and shape agricultural policies, food production, distribution, and consumption – including the democratic and fair distribution of land and wealth. We must unify the direct popular base on the field for food sovereignty formed by small farmers, seafarers, herders, foresters, and agricultural workers, and expand it to also include consumer associations in cities and all popular communities against agricultural industries and advocate for healthy and environmentally sustainable food.

The alternative is a path and a world for the many, the peasant and popular path to development: the struggle for food sovereignty under the banner of networks and movements such as La Via Campesina, along with efforts to regain land from neocolonial control. It is the struggle for just national distributions of land, and for agrarian reform. It means the fundamental reworking of national agricultural technologies to make them independent, or less dependent, on imported capital-intensive inputs. Food sovereignty and peasant agroecology also cools our heating planet.

Agroecology must be seen not only as a technical solution to the food, farming and climate crises, but a political, social and technical solution; resting on the autonomy and creative ingenuity of peasant smallholders and their capacity to resist monopoly capital and work outside of transnational monopoly supply and value chains.

The North African Network for Food Sovereignty works towards this end in Morocco by conducting research on food sovereignty, organising solidarity campaigns around key struggles and battles in our region, exchanging experiences with international networks, and coordinating the network’s actions and strategy.