The Moroccan government recently laid out a new forestry strategy intended to meet five major goals: sustain natural resources in forests and National Parks, engage local users in forest management, promote rural development, strengthen forests’ productive potential, and preserve biodiversity (Ministre de l’Agriculture). By 2030, Morocco aims to restore 133,000 hectares of forests, create 27,500 new forestry jobs, and increase the annual value of ecotourism from 2 to 5 billion MAD (Ministre de l’Agriculture).
CBNRM arose primarily in rural communities in southern Africa in the 1960s as an alternative approach to top-down, centralized control of natural resources, which is often detached from local communities and dominated by government officials and external actors catering to the desires of elites and tourists. CBNRM also seeks to avoid the tragedy of the commons; without local involvement in management and accountability, individuals may try to maximize their benefits from common-pool resources, resulting in heavy overconsumption, depletion, and environmental degradation. Such resource depletion is exacerbated by high levels of poverty in rural areas where people are highly dependent on agriculture and other natural resources to secure income. In Morocco’s case, 17,000 hectares of forest cover are greatly degraded due to resource overuse, including severe overharvesting of firewood and overexploitation of grazing land (Ministre de l’Agriculture).
Devolving resource management to local communities also creates employment opportunities in rural areas, particularly for youth and women, which can alleviate poverty and environmental degradation. In its new plan, Morocco aims to promote rural development by creating 9,500 jobs in participatory forest management, as well as 6,000 in forest productivity and 12,000 in ecotourism (Ministre de l’Agriculture).
Moreover, the approach empowers communities through local governance and decentralization, building their skills and capacity to sustain their resources and livelihoods and initiate further community projects. Morocco plans to establish over 200 forest organizations and over 500 territorial leaders to manage its forests and National Parks (Ministre de l’Agriculture). The national and regional governments will provide guidance and a space for dialogue, but provincial, communal, and local forest councils and organizations will take the lead, bringing together all stakeholders and allowing all users to participate in forestry management coordination (Ministre de l’Agriculture). Furthermore, field professionals will mediate between small local associations and cooperatives and identify and engage new stakeholder and user populations (Ministre de l’Agriculture). Empowering communities with knowledge and decision-making authority in this way supports a sustainable future, as community members can pass on skills and knowledge of resource management from one generation to another.
Ultimately, local communities’ sovereignty over their natural resources is key to promoting sustainable development. Today, over fifty countries including Morocco have transferred natural resource management from centralized governments to local community groups. As climate change further strains natural resources and heightens the vulnerability of communities’ livelihoods, the need for effective, adaptable, and enduring management systems such as CBNRM will only grow stronger in Morocco and across the globe.
By Olufunmilayo Aiyegbusi Volunteer, High Atlas Foundation Nigeria https://www.moroccoworldnews.com/2021/03/337992/sustainable-agricultural-villages-as-a-panacea-to-poverty/ As a nursing mother some years ago, I would have given anything to have had a small business. Working…