Irrigation Development and Public-Private Partnerships in Morocco

Agriculture is at the heart of Morocco's economic and social development, but in this water-stressed country, irrigation is critical to agricultural production. Irrigated agriculture plays an important role in meeting Morocco's food needs. It also generates more than three-quarters of the country's agricultural exports, providing jobs for half the rural labour force. However, irrigation monopolizes the country's scarce water resources, accounting for 85% of water usage. With water resources becoming increasingly scarce, Morocco urgently needs to find the best way to manage water for irrigation.

The National Irrigation Water Saving Program aims to modernize and develop Morocco's irrigated areas. It has sponsored applied research on water-saving techniques and has delegated management of irrigation water to a private operator in the orange-producing El Guerdane irrigation perimeter in south-western Morocco. Involving the private sector in managing irrigation water is a first in the country, and in the entire Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. The Government of Morocco is currently considering similar public-private partnerships (PPPs) in other irrigated areas. However, it is not yet clear what impact the PPP irrigation model will have on small- and medium-sized farming operations.

This project will develop and test an irrigation services model for small- and medium-sized water operations in Morocco. The model will be based on a study comparing two existing irrigation delivery models used in the El Guerdane irrigation perimeter: cooperative management (by government and/or water users' associations) and the public-private partnership. Activities will be undertaken on a 10,000-hectare site that provides a unique opportunity to compare the two models. The project will assess the performance of each model, and its impact on agricultural production, water conservation, and food security. It will also conduct applied research on water-saving techniques, and develop a technical and economic frame of reference for various crops produced by small- and medium-sized farming operations.

This study is a prelude to the larger debate on developing Morocco's water market. Lessons learned will influence irrigation policy and practice in the entire MENA region. The project will establish a comprehensive geographic information system database of irrigation systems, crops, and cultivation techniques in the study area. It will produce a policy guide summarizing what has been learned about managing the PPP, best practices, challenges, risks, and conditions for replicating or adapting the PPP model. It will also produce tools for communicating and raising awareness for the government's agricultural extension service.

Project ID


Project status


Start Date

Monday, December 19, 2011

End Date

Thursday, February 19, 2015


38 months

IDRC Officer

Robertson, Susan

Total funding

CA$ 414,100


North of Sahara, South of Sahara, Morocco


Agriculture and Food Security

Project Leader

Dr. Rachid Moussadek

Project Leader

Dr. Chati Mohamed Taoufiq


Institut national de la recherche agronomique

Institution Country


Institution Website