How climate change is affecting the agriculture in Morocco

Moroccan agriculture facing climate change


Agriculture economics engineering student, climate enthusiast

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Moroccan agriculture facing climate change: vulnerabilities and impacts

Agriculture, including livestock, is a vital sector of the Moroccan economy, accounting for approximately 15% of Morocco’s GDP (Gross Domestic Product) and representing 23% of its exports. In 2019, it provided 69% of rural jobs and 39% of national employment, with 33% in the primary sector of agricultural production and 6% in the agri-food industries. (World Bank, 2021) 

However, various climatic and economic hazards threaten this essential sector, especially after COVID-19. This crisis highlighted the need to ensure the food security of Moroccans, taking into account the underlying trends shaping the global demand for agricultural and agro-industrial products, with a greater emphasis on principles of environmental sustainability, especially in a global context of climate change. (NMD, 2021) 

It is crucial to recognize that agriculture plays a dual role with respect to climate change, being both a victim and a major player in this phenomenon. This duality makes it indispensable to assess the vulnerabilities of the agricultural sector while considering its impacts. 

Such an evaluation must cover all relevant aspects:

  • Environnemental aspect: 

Although agriculture has the potential to absorb CO2 through photosynthesis, which allows plants to capture atmospheric CO2 and convert it into organic matter, it is also a significant source of GHG emissions, mainly nitrous oxide (N2O) produced by soil microorganisms and fertilizers, and methane (CH4) generated by the management of animal waste and enteric fermentation of livestock, especially cattle, and to a lesser extent by rice cultivation. (BUR3,2022)

In its Fourth National Communication (NC.4), Morocco conducted eight greenhouse gas emission inventories covering the years 2004, 2006, 2008, 2010, 2012, 2014, 2016, and 2018. Agriculture was responsible for 22.8% of total GHG emissions in 2018, with over 90% of N2O emissions and about 62.3% of CH4 emissions. (NC.4, 2020)

Like other Southern countries, Morocco faces significant temperature increases and precipitation decreases, leading to natural disasters such as drought, floods, salinization, and sand encroachment. These conditions exacerbate the pressure on natural resources essential to the agricultural sector, particularly water and soil. If the average temperature increases by 2°C relative to 1980-2010, Morocco’s annual flow rates would decrease by more than 30% nationwide. The duration of drought days would increase by 50% between 2070 and 2099 compared to 1976-2005. (Abdelmajid et al., 2021)

Since the 1960s, Morocco has substantially invested in the water sector (building large dams, adopting drip irrigation, etc.). This has led to a transition to more productive crops and a significant increase in the real agricultural added value over the last two decades. However, this has only increased pressure on resources by overexploiting groundwater. (World Bank, 2022)

Today, Morocco is ranked among the countries at high risk of water stress, being the 22nd most threatened globally and second in North Africa, just behind Libya. This water shortage reflects Morocco’s vulnerability to climate change due to water uses that do not account for its scarcity. The pricing of irrigation water, among other factors, does not reflect the real cost of the resource and does not promote the use of alternative sources. (NMD, 2021)

  • Agricultural production aspect: 

Most (87%) of the country’s agricultural production is primarily based on precipitation, making it extremely sensitive to increased precipitation variability, especially for barley and wheat. Due to widespread drought, the yields of winter cereal crops in 2016 were 70% lower than in 2015. Drought also promotes the growth of the Hessian fly, increasing the likelihood of damage to wheat yields. Rainfed crop yields are expected to decrease 50 to 75% during dry years if temperatures rise. (World Bank, 2021)

 By 2050, climate projections based on the IPCC’s RCP8.5 emission scenario indicate a reduction in precipitation. This decrease could lead to a reduction in agricultural yields ranging from 3% to 39% in several regions and provinces of the Kingdom. (NDC, 2021)

Irregular rainfall, increased aridity, and drought are expected to shorten growing seasons, reduce yields, and decrease productivity. Hence, the demand for irrigation will increase. Currently, 18% of arable land is under irrigation, amounting to 1.6 million hectares out of 9 million hectares of cultivable land. However, today’s dam filling rate is 23.2% (Bank Al Maghrib, 2024). The increase in water stress will inevitably lead to overexploitation of groundwater resources, as is already happening in the Souss, Haouz, and Saïss regions. (World Bank, 2021)Moroccan agriculture facing climate change

  • Economic aspect:

Given the crucial importance of water resources in Morocco’s economy as an essential factor of production for most economic sectors, primarily Agriculture, changes in water availability and variability induced by climate change could compromise the country’s economic prospects. (World Bank, 2022)

Since the early 2000s, Morocco’s economic growth has resumed, but it remains closely linked to agriculture and global trends and circumstances. The year 2016 saw an 11% decline in its economy due to drought. (NC.4, 2020)

The agricultural yields of rainfed crops, representing 80% of agricultural land, are closely linked to precipitation, making agriculture a significant source of macroeconomic volatility. Variations in precipitation explain nearly 37% of the medium-term variation in GDP, although agriculture contributes only 13% to GDP. Reducing water availability and decreasing agricultural yields due to climate change could reduce the national GDP by up to 6.5%. Moreover, episodes of exceptional rainfall fluctuations lead to emergency measures to support farmers during drought periods and the need to import more grains when national production is reduced. Consequently, droughts can impact the national budget and balance of payments, especially when droughts coincide with international shocks in food prices. (World Bank, 2022)

  • Social Aspect: 

Demographic evolution is strongly linked to climatic and environmental factors that influence migrations. When demographic pressure overlaps with ineffective or inappropriate policy, it amplifies the effect of environmental changes on the economic viability of rural livelihoods, particularly sedentary agriculture. The interaction of land fragmentation due to inheritance and population growth, observable in Morocco and other MENA region countries, has reduced farm sizes. As a result, these farms become less profitable or insufficient to meet farmers’ basic needs in some cases. (FAO, 2023) 

By 2050, the effects of climate change, such as water availability and crop yields, could result in a rural exodus of approximately 5.4% of the total population. Moreover, hazard and vulnerability maps developed for various Moroccan cities show that this climate migration is expected to disproportionately increase the exposure of economically vulnerable households to flood risk, creating a negative chain reaction between water scarcity and exposure to natural risks for poor and vulnerable populations. (World Bank, 2022) 


World Bank. (2021). Morocco Country Profile. World Bank.

Abdelmajid, S., Mukhtar, A., Baig, M. B., & Reed, M. R. (2021). Climate Change, Agricultural Policy and Food Security in Morocco. In M. Behnassi, M. Barjees Baig, M. El Haiba, & M. R. Reed (Éds.), Emerging Challenges to Food Production and Security in Asia, Middle East, and Africa (p. 171‑196). Springer International Publishing.

FAO (2023). Climate change, migration and rural adaptation in the Near East and North Africa region. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.

World Bank. (2022). Climate and Development Report. World Bank.

United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. (2022).

Morocco’s Third Biennial Report.

United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. (2021). Nationally Determined Contribution-Updated.

United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change  (2020). Morocco’s Fourth NationalCommunication..

Special Commission on the Development Model. (2021). Thematic notes, projects, and bets for Morocco’s new development model. CSMD..

Bank Al Maghrib. (2024). Economic Outlook Review: January 2024.

Further reading

Strategies for Small-Scale Farmers in Tropical Africa to Adapt to Climate Change

The two sides of climate change: can it harbor opportunities?

What practices and approaches should be adopted in agriculture to cope with climate change


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