GFAR blog, Partnerships for impact

No tilling please, we are farmers

Maroccan farmer Bil Hassan of Settat lauds the new method of cultivation. (Photo by Keya Acharya)

An alternative farming method of direct seeding that helps Moroccan farmers use water optimally is seen as a good way to cope with weather changes due to climate change

At some 170 km north of Marrakesh in Morocco, the drive to Settat is stark in its arid scenery of depleted soils and eroded lands with deep rills showing up where rainfall runs off. Here and there, there are brave attempts at planting olive trees, though the rows of newly planted cactus look in better health.

At intervals on the road and much like elsewhere in Africa, there are boxes in steps going from the ground to about the fourth level, meant for displaying fruits and vegetables for sale. Almost all of them were empty, barring a few where farmers held up country chickens for sale to passing cars.

When you arrive at Settat, there is hardly a tree in sight, but the soil looks amazingly soft and friable for so arid an area. What is also interesting is that Settat’s soft, moist-looking soils will be of particular interest to India and any nation in the world facing both climate change and arid soils.

No tilling

Settat’s 350 farms use a method called direct seeding, also known as no till. The land is not raked up as in conventional systems, but a truck with a rake-like tool at the rear, pulls a soft line in the soil with small indentations at 10cm intervals to place one seed along with fertiliser. The line is not more than 8-10cm deep.

Agricultural scientist Ousama El Gharras from Morocco’s National Institute of Agricultural Research, Settat, says the most dramatic evidence of climate change in Morocco is in its depleting rainfall. In Settat, rainfall has reduced from 500mm a year to 300mm. Groundwater percolation is poor in the country, while irrigation happens in just 10% of Morocco’s 18m ha of arable lands, yet agriculture constitutes 16-20% of the country’s gross domestic product.

Farmers, traditionally growing barley and wheat on these rain-fed soils at Settat are now happy with the results from direct seeding. Farmer Bil-Hassan, in a striking white lambs wool djellaba, the traditional overall for men, says he now gets 900 quintals of wheat per hectare where in recent previous years he got hardly anything.

Read the full article by on the India Climate Dialogue website here

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