Drought sharpens Moroccan nomads-farmers dispute

A nomadic herder walks near tents in the Moroccan Tiznit province in the region of Souss-Massa, which has drawn in nomadic herders for decades. (AFP)
Updated 19 May 2019

Drought sharpens Moroccan nomads-farmers dispute

  • A law has been adopted by the central government that seeks to regulate nomadic herding and allow “a rational exploitation of vegetation”

TIZNIT, MOROCCO: “We refuse to be confined to a cage,” declares nomadic herder Mouloud, asserting the rights and customs of his kin as they graze livestock in Morocco’s southern expanses.
But the herders’ determination to roam freely has brought them into dispute with crop farmers in the region of Souss-Massa.
In the village of Arbaa Sahel, arable farmer Hmad and many of his peers are enraged by herds stomping through wheat and corn fields.
Drought has turned parts of these plateaus arid, and when water becomes scarce, tensions rise — several clashes have been reported by local media in recent months, as the herders seek pasture.
The battle is also playing out on social networks. Videos show hooded men presented as nomadic herders, equipped with sticks and swords, attacking villagers.
Some villagers have even uploaded images of what are purported to be camel-mounted attacks on their almond groves.
A few residents have fought back by poisoning water supplies and pastures used by nomads, according to testimony on the ground.
“All these lands that belong to locals, (to) fathers and sons — they’re not grazing areas,” said 35-year-old Hmad, clad in leather jacket and trainers.
Exasperated, he points to wheat fields “trampled by sheep” around Arbaa Sahel, near the city of Tiznit.
The region has drawn in nomadic herders for decades — the verdant landscape a major attraction, compared to arid lands to the east.
There has been a “significant rise in the arrival of flocks, due to drought” over the last couple of years, said nomad Mouloud, sporting sunglasses and a blue turban. This has stoked tensions.
A local land organization has recorded 18 cases of aggression by nomadic herders against farmers in Arbaa Sahel alone since December, according to Hassan, who sits on this committee. But Moroccan authorities say only 15 cases have been recorded in the entire Souss-Massa region. The tensions are not limited to farmland — there has been a spike in incidents in the region’s forests, which cover 1.2 million hectares.
Villagers consider these forests to be their property, in line with ancestral customs. But the nomadic culture, and the right to roam freely, form “part of the Moroccan identity,” said Mouloud.
Clutching his smart phone, he discusses the recent tensions with his nomadic friends, who erect large tents when they set up camp during their search for pasture.
In one such tent, women prepare food for the group — a metal tray full of grilled livers and other meat.
Abu Bakr, crouching next to Mouloud and sipping a glass of goat’s milk, has dropped his studies in favor of the nomadic lifestyle.
There are currently some 40,000 nomadic shepherds in the country, according to official statistics.
They move in all-terrain cars to escape the drought — their tents and herds packed into lorries.
When rains are rare, the nomads are constantly on the move, but their movement is more limited when rain is abundant.
“Schooling of children has pushed nomads to opt for stability,” said Abu Bakr.
For Mustapha Naimi, professor of Sahara studies at the University of Mohamed V in Rabat, “nomadism is very old in Morocco, but it has been reduced in recent decades by urbanization.”
Nomadic roaming by entire families has gradually given way to smaller scale pastoralism by shepherds, Naimi explained.
At the same time, “an increase in the number of herds, with 3.15 million heads of livestock... has contributed to conflict,” according to the agriculture ministry.
Land committee member Hassan recalls when shepherds would request “permission from residents” ahead of arriving with flocks.
A law has been adopted by the central government that seeks to regulate nomadic herding and allow “a rational exploitation of vegetation.”
The legislation only allows grazing of flocks in certain zones and along pre-defined routes. And nomads have to obtain a permit, or face penalties.
But this law has been rejected by both camps.
“We hold to our freedom to roam,” said herder Mouloud.
On the other side of the fence, the farmers’ land committee firmly opposes government-designated grazing on land that belongs to local residents.


Lebanon’s Aoun vows to tend to economic, financial reforms

Updated 34 min 59 sec ago

Lebanon’s Aoun vows to tend to economic, financial reforms

  • Aoun said this aimed “to guarantee political stability in cabinet and outside it and to secure the greatest amount of productivity”
  • He expected “the implementation path” to begin “with the start of October"

BEIRUT: Lebanon is expected to begin implementing in October a set of economic and financial measures agreed by its top leadership that will boost economic growth, President Michel Aoun said on Sunday, vowing that he would to tend to this himself.
He was referring to decisions taken at a top-level meeting earlier this month with the aim of reviving an economy that has been growing slowly for years and is struggling with one of the world’s heaviest public debt burdens.
After the Aug. 9 meeting, Prime Minister Saad Al-Hariri said agreed steps included finishing the 2020 budget on time, drawing up a plan to start $3.3 billion of projects approved by parliament, full implementation of a power sector reform plan, and laws to fight tax evasion and regulate public tenders.
“I will personally tend to the implementation path of the decisions of the financial and economic meeting” in cooperation with Prime Minister Saad Al-Hariri, Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri and other parties in government, Aoun said.
In written comments to Reuters, Aoun said this aimed “to guarantee political stability in cabinet and outside it and to secure the greatest amount of productivity,” including in the implementation of the 2019 budget and its reforms.
Aoun said he expected “the implementation path” to begin “with the start of October after the conclusion of the current preparations ... which will lead to lifting of the growth rates, reflecting positively on the economic and financial situations.”
After years of backsliding on economic reform, the impetus to act has grown due to economic stagnation and a slowdown in the flow of dollars into Lebanon’s banks from abroad. Lebanon has depended on such flows from its diaspora to finance the current account and the state budget deficits.
Foreign governments and donor institutions last year pledged $11 billion in financing to Lebanon for major infrastructure at the so-called Cedre conference in Paris, on condition that it carries out reforms.
Measures to reduce the budget deficit and reform the power sector, which bleeds public funds while inflicting daily power cuts on Lebanese, are seen as two vital tests of the government’s ability to reform.
The International Monetary Fund said in July this year’s deficit is likely to be well above a targeted 7.6% of national output.
It said the power reform plan and a budget to reduce the deficit were “very welcome first steps” and “further substantial fiscal adjustment and structural reforms” were needed.
Aoun said work was underway to approve the 2020 budget in the constitutional timeframe.
It would include “new, resolute reforms” agreed at the Aug. 9 meeting to reduce the power sector deficit, improve tax collection and fight customs and tax evasion.
Aoun also said frameworks must be put in place for implementing a plan drawn up by management consulting firm McKinsey for revamping the economy and this should coincide with the start of projects outlined at the Cedre conference.