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Learning to voice? The evolving roles of family farmers in the coordination of large-scale irrigation schemes in Morocco

Nicolas Faysse
CIRAD, G-EAU Research Unit, France; Ecole Nationale d'€™Agriculture de Meknes, Meknes, Morocco;
Mostafa Errahj
Ecole Nationale d'€™Agriculture de Meknes, Meknes, Morocco;
Marcel Kuper
CIRAD, G-EAU Research Unit, France; Institut Agronomique et Vétérinaire Hassan II, Rabat, Morocco;
Mohamed Mahdi
Ecole Nationale d'€™Agriculture de Meknes, Meknes, Morocco;

ABSTRACT: In Morocco, large-scale irrigation schemes have evolved over the past twenty years from the centralised management of irrigation and agricultural production into more complex multi-actor systems. This study analysed whether, and how, in the context of state withdrawal, increased farmer autonomy and political liberalisation, family farmers currently participate in the coordination and negotiation of issues that affect them and involve scheme-level organisations. Issues related to water management, the sugar industry and the dairy sector were analysed in five large-scale irrigation schemes. Farmer organisations that were set up to intervene in water management and sugar production were seen to be either inactive or to have weak links with their constituency; hence, the irrigation administration and the sugar industry continue to interact directly with farmers in a centralised way. Given their inability to voice their interests, when farmers have the opportunity, many choose exit strategies, for instance by resorting to the use of groundwater. In contrast, many community-based milk collection cooperatives were seen to function as accountable intermediaries between smallholders and dairy firms. While, as in the past, family farmers are still generally not involved in decision making at scheme level, in the milk collection cooperatives studied, farmers learn to coordinate and negotiate for the development of their communities.