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Eaux, pauvreté et crises sociales

Habib Ayeb
Thierry Ruf

Atelier 1. Gérer en invoquant la décentralisation, la démocratisation et la participation financière

Water Governance, Participation, and Poverty: A Critique with Reference to Irrigation Projects and Water User Associations in Morocco

Sylvia I. Bergh et D. Phil

Texte intégral

1This paper addresses the third aspect of the overarching conference theme of ‘Water Poverty and Social Crisis’, namely that of active and effective participation in the management of water resources, and in administrative, legal, political and economic processes of decision-making.

2As Franks (2004) points out, since water governance is about the way water is allocated and managed, it is essentially about decision-making and hence constitutes a political process. This paper aims to support Franks’ call that this needs to be freely acknowledged and internalized in the water sector, where there is still a tendency to want to operate outside the political sphere. Franks also asserts that while participation is often seen as the panacea to the problems of water governance, further research needs to be done on the forums and settings (platforms) in which people can participate. This paper intends to contribute to such research by examining the functioning of (irrigation) water user associations in Morocco.

3The paper is organized as follows. First, we will discuss the global water consensus, the conceptual underpinnings of its participation element and possible critiques thereof. Second, the World Bank’s overall record on this issue will be examined. Third, this paper will provide some brief background on Morocco’s agriculture and irrigation sector, and highlight some issues concerning its Water User Associations (WUAs). Fourth, three examples of the World Bank’s experiences with Community-Driven Development (CDD) and WUAs specifically in Morocco will be reviewed. The last section will then illustrate the issues raised in this paper by presenting some preliminary findings from a case study of a World Bank irrigation project in Morocco.

The global water consensus

  • 1 This refers to the move away from conventional forms of water governance, which have usually been (...)

4Recent water sector policies in Morocco fit well into the (revised1) global water ‘consensus’, which holds that ‘participation offers people the opportunity to meet their responsibilities, as well as the opportunity to claim their rights’ (UNDESA). Other expected benefits of participation are that it facilitates more informed decision-making, eases conflict resolution, and brings in the voices of relatively powerless groups, such as women and indigenous people. For the majority of aid donors, participation also means that the beneficiaries contribute financially (either in cash or in manual labor) to the project costs, so as to increase their sense of ‘ownership’ and to ensure continued maintenance of the infrastructure built by the project. In the irrigation sector, attention has been shifted towards promotion of local governance and transfer of irrigation management to user groups commonly referred to as Water Users Associations (WUAs) (Khanal, 2003).

5However, the same international organisations which promote this new consensus acknowledge that ‘the actual progress in participatory approaches has been modest and uneven.’ (UNDESA) Indeed, a wealth of recent research on water-user associations and village-level management structures demonstrates the limitations of community and the ways in which such institutions can reproduce hierarchies of power, and reinforce exclusion of the marginalized (see Cleaver, 2004 for a bibliography). One reason for this is that during structural adjustment reform processes, the state was encouraged to withdraw but adequate user associations had not been allowed to grow strong enough to take over the state’s former functions, often merely remaining empty shells (Ruf, 2002). A second reason for lackluster performance of participatory arrangements is that many governments have a very instrumental view of local communities and related community-based organizations, whose active involvement is normally sought only at the project implementation stage, and not throughout the whole policy or project cycle (UNDESA).

6Arguably, a more deep-seated reason for these mixed results is that the ‘functional model’ of the WUAs has dominated the consensus. This model assumes that the WUAs are non-partisan, non-political and homogeneous bodies, and perform the irrigation management tasks as designed. It neglects the conditions under which accepted rules and organizations come into being, i.e. the local socio-political dynamics in organizational evolution. Hence this model does not recognize the WUAs’ political character (Khanal, 2003).

7Cleaver and Franks (2003) point to the underlying approach behind this functional model, namely the idea of institutional crafting, as epitomized in the work of Elinor Ostrom who specifies ‘Design Principles’ for robust and enduring institutions for common property resource management (Ostrom, 1990). This and subsequent works (see Cleaver and Franks, 2003 for references) tend to emphasize the formalization of institutional arrangements (e.g. the principle of representation of users), the codification of rules and regulations (i.e. internally efficient mechanisms for conflict resolution and resource allocation), and the strict exercise of sanctions against freeriders. These design principles were then (often crudely) translated into policy and practice, and soon showed their shortcomings. As hinted at above with regard to WUAs, these shortcomings include first, the evolutionism on which functionalist institutional thinking is based (i.e. ‘making good’ the deficiencies of traditional or indigenous institutions) and second, the over-simplification of the social world and processes within it (see Cleaver and Franks, 2003: 2ff. for a detailed discussion).

8This last point refers to the fact that neither communities nor resources consistently exist with clear boundaries, and that natural resources are not simply commodities but invested with social and symbolic meaning to people. Moreover, people’s decisions about natural resources may rarely correspond to external perceptions of efficiency and optimization. Most importantly, authority structures and the social norms of resolving competition and conflict over resources are rarely clear and consistent but diverse and contingent, subject to negotiation and messy compromise (Cleaver and Franks, 2003).

9For example, Khanal (2003) describes a WUA in Nepal that was seen as platform to check the strength of the political parties. Hence, WUA agendas were heavily focused by party politics. While this might be an extreme case of politicization, preliminary findings from our case study in Morocco seem to confirm this possibility (see discussion below).

10Having briefly discussed the global water consensus, the conceptual underpinnings of its participation element and possible critiques thereof in a first section, the second part will now examine the World Bank’s overall record in this area.

The World Bank ideas on participation

11With the renewed importance given to the poverty reduction agenda in the 1990s, the World Bank invited civil society organizations to play a bigger role in the development process. This was based on the assumption that compared with the state or the private sector, such organizations would be closer to the poor (and thus be able to provide services to the poor as sub-contractors of the State), promote transparency and ‘accountability’, be less bureaucratic or corrupt, and provide legitimacy to reforms (Hatcher, 2005). Indeed, the Bank’s financial support for projects with community approaches has increased from less than 5 percent of total bank lending in 1989 to about 25 percent in 2003 (World Bank/OED, 2005).

12As Kamat (2004) points out, ‘in a curious flip-flop of what served as a universal conceptual frame for development planning, the state, today, is represented as fragmented by private interests (otherwise referred to as corruption), and hence inept at representing the will of the people, whereas civil society is seen as the honest broker of ‘the people’s interests’.’ This means that civil society becomes the key site of socioeconomic struggle, replacing political society as the key site of political struggle. It also signifies the decline of the concept of citizenship and the accompanying political, civil and socio-economic rights; this in turn allows donors such as the World Bank to avoid issues of power relations and resource allocation (Hatcher, 2005). Indeed, it could be argued that the fashionable concept of ‘social capital’ serves to perpetuate this trend. As Harriss (2002) holds, ‘the main effect of the language of social capital in World Bank-speak is to suggest that ‘getting the social relations right’ is a technical and not a political process.’ In sum, the World Bank’s and other donor’s enthusiasm for ‘participation’ and partnership with civil society organizations can be explained by referring to their giving the ‘possibility of a kind of democracy through ‘popular participation’, but without the inconveniences of contestational politics and the conflicts of values and ideas which are a necessary part of democratic politics’ (Hearn, 1999).

13However, as the World Bank itself acknowledges (see World Bank/OED, 2005), there are several shortcomings with the CDD approach. Most interesting for our purposes here is that despite community participation, it has been difficult to reach the poorest. This is because apart from data problems to identify them, the new, sophisticated targeting strategies have been difficult to apply since political concerns have often forced governments to include non-poor regions. And within the community, it is difficult to reach the poorest because they have the least amount of time to participate in meetings and training events and hence often do not benefit from the capacity enhancing efforts. Moreover, the poor often lack the resources to contribute and the “better off” in the community contribute on their behalf. This has the potential of changing the local balance of power even more against the poor.

  • 2 This review examined 42 watershed projects that contain some element of ‘participation’ and that w (...)
  • 3 However, the evaluation also noted that ‘substantial room remains for targeting the poor and vulne (...)

14With regards to World Bank watershed projects, an internal Bank review2 (Boerma, 2000) found that in many projects the two main purposes for securing participation in the implementation of projects are not achieved. These purposes are first, to ensure that project activities and funds are appropriately targeted to meet problems and issues as defined by communities themselves; and second, to achieve a sense of ownership of the process so that longer-term sustainability can be ensured. Most importantly, only a quarter of all projects have actually included specific measures for targeting the most vulnerable groups in project areas and ensuring their ability to benefit from project inputs. The review also found that the impact of project investments on the poorest populations is being actively monitored in only slightly less than a quarter of all projects. However, this trend is improving, since the percentage of projects that included specific measures to target the poor has risen from 8% in the early 1990s to 47% in the late 1990s (ibid.: 32). This is also supported by the OED evaluation of the World Bank’s 1993 water sector strategy (Pitman, 2002: 12), which notes that the poverty focus of irrigation and drainage projects rose by 23 percent after the Strategy3.

15Apart from emphasizing a lack of focus on poverty, the watershed review challenges the ‘design principles’ view described above, since it pointed out that ‘in reality most communities are more often socially and economically quite fractionalized and subject to a variety of political, economic and other vested interests.’ Similarly, it notes that vulnerable people tend to be more risk-averse than better-established farmers and thus are often reluctant participants in project activities unless there is an immediate prospect of short-term gain (ibid.: 33).

16There are other signs that the World Bank is becoming increasingly aware of the shortcomings of the functionalist approach. The Bank’s Senior Water Advisor, David Grey (2005), mentioned that the main management challenge is not a vision but more effective implementation, and that the Bank needs to be more attentive to the political economy of water. Similarly, the OED’s Rural Water Projects evaluation (2000) warns that ‘great care must be taken to base projects on local practices and traditions rather than internationally generalized models that specify how villages ought to behave.’

  • 4 Lending for water-related projects accounts for 31 percent of Bank lending in the region over the (...)

17As for the Middle East and North Africa region, it receives the largest (as a proportion of regional lending) water portfolio in the Bank,4 and the trend is rising (World Bank, 2004). This is because the Middle East and North Africa Region have the highest level of water stress. The recent 2004 Water Strategy recommends technical innovation and more efficient allocation and use of surface water and groundwater. It notes that ‘the challenges of re-use of water, desalination, irrigation modernization and orderly mechanisms for the voluntary transfer of water from low-value uses (especially agriculture, which uses 85 percent of the water) to high-value uses (especially urban and industrial) are of high priority.’ Finally, it stresses that the primary focus in the region is on better management rather than building new infrastructure (ibid.: 30).

The irrigation sector in Morocco

18Turning now to the third part of this paper, the particular case of Morocco and its irrigation sector, it seems to partly contradict this last point. While better management has been sought in the form of creating WUAs, the government is also continuing its considerable investments in irrigation infrastructure, as we will see below.

19First however, it might be useful to briefly consider some background information about Morocco and its agricultural sector. Morocco is a lower middle-income country with a GDP per capita of US$1,250 and a population of 30.5 million growing at 1.8 percent annually. Since 1991 the rate of growth of GDP fell by more than half, averaging only 1.9 percent during the 1990s, and per capita incomes stagnated causing the country to lag behind others in the MENA Region. Agriculture contributes about 12-17 percent of GDP depending on rainfall, and employs about half of the work force and 60 percent of the female labor force. The main challenges for the agricultural sector are the doubling of the frequency of severe droughts to one year in two in the 1990s, limited use of selected cereal seeds (in the 2002/03 season usage actually fell by 20 percent to 488,000 tons), fertilizer and mechanical equipment, as well as the fragmentation of holdings (85 percent of farms are under 10 hectares and 49 percent under 3 ha). A measure of the inefficiency of cereal farming is that the government’s guaranteed price for cereals is roughly twice the world price and that the authorities raised wheat import tariffs to 135 percent in order to protect cereal farmers (World BankOED, 2005).

20Only about 14 percent (1.2 million hectares) of the 8.4 million hectares of arable land are irrigated, which makes agricultural production highly vulnerable to drought. Despite this, public investment in irrigation has been substantial, typically accounting for almost half of all agricultural sector expenditures or six to eight percent of national investment, until well into the 1990s. Morocco’s irrigation sector is split among public sector capital-intensive large-scale irrigation schemes covering 485,000 hectares that are operated by nine Regional Authorities for Agricultural Development (ORMVAs: Office Régional de Mise en Valeur Agricole), traditional small and medium-scale irrigation covering 400,000 hectares owned and operated by local communities (mostly producing for auto-consumption only), and about 100,000 hectares of private development (World Bank/OED, 2005). Water user associations now cover 71 percent of Morocco’s irrigated area. Not all these organizations, however, are active. For example, although the Moulouya region has 77 WUAs, only 16 are operational. Similarly, in Doukkala only 24 of 39 WUAs are active (World Bank/OED, 2005).

21In terms of the small and medium-scale irrigation schemes (both traditional and ‘modern’ i.e recently built or improved by the government), there are about 3,000 irrigation areas, whereof 66% have a size of less than 100 ha and account for only 11% of the total irrigated surface; on the other hand, 5% of the total number of areas are bigger than 1,000 ha and account for 53% of the total surface. Three-quarters of all such irrigated areas are privately owned (Elbouari, 2004). In the traditional small and medium-scale irrigation schemes, where canals are made of earth and customary water rights determine access to water, it is estimated that only 10% of the irrigation networks (which are 25,000 km long) function well. This is why the government plans to improve the networks on 195,000 ha between 2000 and 2020 - though the total potential area that could be improved is double this size (Elbouari, 2004). The works aim to both improve the ‘efficiency’ of the networks to reduce leakages and their management by the users, hence the preference to create WUAs on the areas to be improved.

22These current and future works build on twenty years of experience of mostly World Bank and German-funded improvement schemes in the traditional small-and mediumscale irrigation sector, which started in the 1980s and include the following projects:

  • 1984-1988: First small- and medium-scale irrigation development project on 12,880 ha;
  • 1988-1994: Second small- and medium-scale irrigation development project (PMH 2) on 28,000 ha;
  • 1997-2005: Small-and medium-scale irrigation development project in the North on 29,000 ha;
  • 2001-2006: First phase of the Irrigation-Based Community Development Program on 9,500 ha.

23The last project is our case study and will be discussed in more detail below. Between 1990 and 2000, more than 1,032 WUAs were created on these perimeters (Elbouari, 2004).

24In order to justify the investment in these projects, the donors applied strict selection criteria. These were: the rate of return (over 12%), the cost of the works per hectare (not exceeding 12,000 DH/ha) and the obligatory participation by the beneficiaries (at least 10% of the investment costs). The application of these criteria required long, detailed and costly studies. An internal government evaluation concluded that the technical requirements should be simplified and that the beneficiaries should be involved in the preparation of the studies, in particular concerning the choice of the course of the canals which should be paved/cemented; the location of the diversions over the rivers (prises de dérivation sur les oueds) and of the openings for the distribution inside an irrigated area, as well as the modalities of water distribution between the different arms of the irrigation network (Elbouari, 2004). However, the role of the WUA is not limited to the preparation phase. It is also supposed to: First, participate (financially or by providing labor) in the improvement of the irrigation infrastructure; second, manage and maintain the infrastructure on a given perimeter; third, distribute the water to its users; fourth, define and apply the internal rules of the association; and fifth, the committee is in charge of the administrative and financial management of the WUA (Benomar, 2004).

25This participation was to be achieved by creating a legal status for the WUAs (law 2/84 published in December 1990 and applied on a large scale with the publication of the application decree in May 1992). Between 1990 and 2000, more than 1,032 WUAs were created on the newly improved small-and medium scale irrigation areas. The government administration concluded that the WUAs should be initiated by the administration as soon as the projects are pre-selected, and if necessary, base their membership on the traditional organizations. That way, the administration can consult the WUA about the planning of the works and its financial participation in the costs. However, it became clear that for the WUA to be able to take on their intended roles, they needed to be trained in irrigation management. Hence, a training course was developed from 1994 onwards (Elbouari, 2004).

26In terms of the actual functioning of the WUAs, there are numerous issues to be discussed. We will highlight just three here. First, their ‘conseil d’administration’ (board of directors/committee) consists of seven posts, i.e. six farmers’ representatives and one member from the government administration (usually an agricultural extension officer) who is supposed to supervise and facilitate the working of the WUA. However, as Benomar (2004) points out, this seventh member is not present in all the WUAs yet. This is important to mention here since he is also an essential element in ensuring the monitoring of agricultural development and increased yields that would in turn facilitate the estimation of increases in incomes. This data could then serve as arguments for the committee vis-à-vis the WUA’s members to justify the requirement of paying for operation and maintenance costs, and would also help the donor to compare the performance of different WUAs (Zahry and Rchid, no date).

27Second, the WUAs are also aimed at facilitating the temporary exchange of water rights between members so that the water can be used more flexibly according to the irrigation needs of different crops. However, members of the committee are in most cases still hesitant to allow such an exchange, given that they are often members of the ‘jemaa’ (the traditional village council of elders) who have the rights to most of the water shares. In fact, these persons might believe that the WUA will limit their decision-making power and hence be opposed to its creation, or in the opposite case, they might consider the WUA as an opportunity to extend their power and defend their personal interests (Benomar, 2004). Indeed, according to a staff in the Provincial Agricultural Directorate in Marrakech, the ‘jemaa’ is always present behind the scenes and the WUA represents merely an institutionalization of this purely ‘verbal’ association. Often the president of the jemaa is also the president of the WUA (Mrabti, 2005).

28Third, due to the frequency of droughts, many farmers have dug wells using individual pumping and have disassociated themselves from the activities of the WUA (Zahry and Rchid, no date).

A review of three projects of the World Bank in Morocco

  • 5 As for World Bank lending to Morocco, it numbers over US$6.1 billion for 105 loans and credits sin (...)

29Having outlined some of the main characteristics of the irrigation sector and WUAs in Morocco, the fourth part of this paper will now review the record of three recently completed World Bank projects in the water sector before turning to our case study from the tradition small-and medium scale irrigation sector5. Although two of the three examples are drawn from the large-scale irrigation sector, they still provide interesting insights concerning the extent to which the participatory approach in the irrigation sector has helped reduce poverty.

30The first project to be reviewed briefly is an example from the traditional small and medium-scale irrigation sector, the Lakhdar watershed management pilot project (in the province of Azilal) whose objective was to test on a pilot basis participatory approaches to improve land use and natural resource management (NRM) in mountainous areas. The implementation completion report (ICR) notes that even though increased income from agriculture and protecting the natural resource base constitute the ultimate outcomes – as community participation is expected to lead to better sustainable resource management and to higher income generation – the project did not specify measurable targets or baseline/benchmark for these outcome indicators (World Bank, 2005). However, field surveys carried out by the project implementation unit in the Ministry of Agriculture indicate significant increases in the incomes of the more than 2,000 farmers that the project worked directly with (ibid.: 5).

31For our purposes, the outcome of the rehabilitation of small-scale irrigation schemes is most relevant. In total, 554 ha of irrigation schemes were rehabilitated, 111% of the appraisal target of 500 ha. No formal WUAs were created but this component, like all the other components, was based on the participation through village committees. Beneficiary participation averaged 14%, somewhat lower than the 20% estimated at appraisal, mainly because the contractors, in trying to meet their obligations, did not always wait for beneficiaries to undertake the land preparation, while the beneficiaries disputed the project’s arrangements to pay the contractors for days which the communities regarded they had already contributed (ibid.: 6 and Saadani, 2005). This example shows that the practicalities of implementing the participatory approach are not straightforward. Overall, the evaluation report rated the sustainability of the participatory approach as ‘likely’, mainly since 16 of the 26 Douar (Village) Committees (DC) created under the project have evolved into 13 Local Development Associations (LDA) with legal status. Nine of the LDAs have established bank accounts and seven have women as members, which is a new feature in the rural areas of Morocco (ibid.: 10). A further insight from this project concerns the choice of the most appropriate unit for intervention; at first, the douar (village) was chosen but it became clear that in terms of social cohesion and homogeneity in terms of spatial management, smaller units such as a group of sub-villages would be more appropriate (Saadani, 2005). The village committee was deemed an appropriate structure since it is very close to the traditional organization, the ‘jemaa’, while being more open for the representation of women and young people (ibid: 13-14). To sum up, while the poverty alleviation impact of this project can only be estimated roughly due to missing baseline indicators, it did prove that the participatory approach could successfully be put in practice in Morocco.

32The second example is drawn from the large-scale irrigation sector, i.e. the Second Large-Scale Irrigation Improvement Project (1993-2000, total project costs were US$199.8 million). Its main objective was to raise the efficiency of water distribution and use through rehabilitation of infrastructure, improved operation, and on-farm investment. However, the evaluation notes that the absence of adequate monitoring and evaluation precludes assessment of impact, and on-farm water-use efficiency improved only locally at a much smaller scale and with fewer innovations than planned. The second objective, to preserve public investments through appropriate replacement and maintenance was not met, since overall maintenance expenditures per hectare declined by almost a third between 1995 and 2000, because falling revenue from water billings are used to cross-subsidize the ORMVA’s agricultural extension activities. The third objective was to increase recovery of operation and maintenance (O&M) costs from beneficiaries through better management by the ORMVAs, thus reducing the need for the government’s budgetary support. However, farmers’ willingness to pay declined because the quality of water service fell and ability to pay was undermined by lowvalue irrigated crops encouraged by agricultural subsidies. Even though government has had to increase its budgetary support for large-scale irrigation – contrary to project objectives – the norms for O&M are not met (World Bank,/OED, 2005: ix).

33The third example is also drawn from the large-scale irrigation sector, namely the Irrigated Areas Agricultural Services Project (1993-2001, total project costs were US$21.7 million). Its objectives were to raise agricultural production and farmers’ income in the irrigated areas with special efforts to reach women, improve the organizational and operating efficiency of the ORMVAs’ agricultural research activities and extension services, and promote farmer organizations to take an increasing share of development responsibilities. The evaluation notes that agricultural production and farmer incomes increased, but this is not clearly attributable to the project. Outreach to women led to the formation of several cooperatives and producer organizations but was dropped for budgetary reasons on project closure. Agricultural services were partially reorganized and the volume of services increased, but it is not clear to what extent farmers adopted new technologies due to lack of monitoring and evaluation. Similarly, while the number of farmers’ organization rose significantly, their effectiveness is unknown.

34These three examples illustrate the Bank’s difficulty to adequately assess the poverty impact of its projects, mainly due to the fact that during implementation attention to monitoring and evaluation was poor. The second lesson to be drawn from these examples (especially the last two) is that although a large number of farmers’ organizations were formed in the large-scale sector, in general they have neither relieved the ORMVAs of their service delivery role nor led to increased payment for these services. Most importantly, the evaluation notes that there is a marked contrast between WUAs in the traditionally managed areas and those within the modern irrigation perimeters, which clearly indicates that farmers’ leaders are willing to take responsibility for water distribution, management and cost recovery – if given water rights and empowered to do so through enabling laws and regulations. In short, the vigor of local organizations is highly correlated with the level of autonomy given to farmers and is most apparent in the three traditional schemes (Haouz, Ouarzazate, and Tafilalet) where old water rights still apply and public investment costs are not recovered. However, it seems that neither the government nor the ORMVAs (in modern perimeters) currently appear willing to cede any real authority to the WUAs (World Bank/OED, 2005).

Another case study in Atlas Mountains

  • 6 Vulnerability reflects the percentage of the population falling under a level of consumption which (...)

35In this fifth and concluding part of the paper, we now turn to our case study, the first phase of the Irrigation-Based Community Development Program (Projet de Développement Rural Intégré centré sur la PMH : DRI-PMH). Our case study location is a rural commune in the Haouz province south of Marrakech in the High Atlas Mountains. This province is ranked 32nd out of 57 predominantly rural provinces in terms of poverty in rural areas, with a poverty headcount of almost 25%, vulnerability of 56.6%6 and an average annual expenditure of 7,464 DH, i.e. about 740 Euros (World Bank, 2004).

From: World Bank (2001: 94)

  • 7 In the Project Appraisal Document (World Bank, 2001), the rural communes or municipalities, i.e. t (...)

36This program is split into three phases, and its overall objective is to improve the incomes and quality of life of rural communities centered on small and medium irrigation (SMI) in 15 provinces over a 13-year period (2001-13), primarily through demand-driven, coordinated investments in SMI rehabilitation and improvement and complementary community infrastructure, including rural roads, water supply/sanitation, electrification, health and education facilities. Apart from the poverty reduction objective, two expected social benefits are of particular relevance to the theme of this paper, i.e. improved participation and access of beneficiaries to decisionmaking processes and investment opportunities, thus enhancing ownership for project investments and their sustainability; and increased organizational capacity for the rural communities7 [municipalities] and user groups involved, contributing to the formation of social capital (World Bank, 2001).

37The philosophy behind this ‘integrated’ project is that by using the irrigation component and the associated social organization as the ‘hard core’ of the project, social priorities can be formulated more easily by the community living on a given irrigated area (Elbouari, 2004). The project effectively started in July 2002, and went through a long planning stage made up of three phases. In theory, these are as follows: first, the communes (municipalities) within the three provinces that are part of the project (Khénifra, Azilal and Al Haouz) were selected on the basis of socio-economic criteria and consultations with the communes. Within the municipality, the irrigated areas were selected according to similar criteria; second, the needs and priorities of the beneficiaries were assessed through a ‘participatory diagnostic’ in order to define and estimate the activities to be carried out under the project. All the villages in or bordering an irrigated area (douars associés) are part of the project. This diagnostic is then used to develop an irrigated area development plan (plan de développement du périmètre -PDP). The third phase is the elaboration of a communal investment plan which aggregates the different PDPs in the same commune (Elbouari, 2004: 7-8), and which constitutes a “partnership agreement” between the commune and the provincial administration, since the communes are also contributing financially to some of the infrastructure costs (World Bank, 2001).

38In this paper, we will focus on the first and second phase since they are most relevant to our topic. At this time, the actual infrastructure works have still not started in the Haouz province. Therefore, this paper cannot say anything about the poverty impact of the project, but it will instead focus on the underlying assumptions guiding the project design as well as its planning phase.

39This project tried to take into account some of the lessons learned from earlier projects, though these are not necessarily the same lessons that we discussed above. The project appraisal document (World Bank, 2001) states that ‘community-based, demand-driven approaches have had mixed success in the promotion of rural infrastructure and social investments because of excessive involvement of local authorities; consequently, it is important that MARDWF [Ministry of Agriculture] and the other Ministries only provide the required technical support, do not interfere in community organization and decisions and do not try to take over infrastructure O&M&R [operation, maintenance and replacement], productive tasks or commercial functions from the beneficiaries.’ While this might be a valid point with regard to the large-scale irrigation sector and the ORMVAs, it seems to me that the danger of the Ministry of Agriculture being too dominating in the running of traditional small-and medium scale perimeters is quite low, given the limited human and material resources of the Provincial Agriculture Directorates and their extension services.

40Instead, it could be argued that the main lesson that should be addressed by this project is to ensure that the project is well targeted to the poor, that it has a substantial poverty impact, and that this is adequately measured.

41In fact, due to the technical criteria for SMI investments described above such as the rate of return and investment costs, it could be argued that a SMI project can never be properly focused on the poorest; since the areas with a poor population are not necessarily the same as those which ‘merit’ the investment from a technical point of view, i.e. those which have enough water resources to begin with that will guarantee profitable infrastructure investments. In addition, there is the possibility that political influences take precedence over the strictly ‘technical’ choice. For example, in our case study, while one area has never benefited from any development project, it might not have enough irrigated land and water resources to justify the investments. Furthermore, the vice-president of the commune hails from this area. As for the choice of the other area, it seems to be motivated almost exclusively politically, given that both the president of the commune as well as the richest and most influential councilor are natives from this area, and that it has already benefited from two previous irrigationbased development projects. It is also likely that the fact that the consultants were accompanied mainly by commune councilors during their field visits in the ‘participatory diagnostic phase’ has had some influence on whom they talked to and what information was included in the PDP.

  • 8 ‘Average net income per ha on the area under perennial irrigation would increase by 60% over a 10 (...)

42As for the poverty impact monitoring issue, while the project appraisal document includes the customary (and rather optimistic) financial benefit calculations,8 it does not stress the need to establish reliable poverty baseline indicators in order to track the poverty impact of the interventions.

43Similarly, the calculations regarding affordability of O&M charges and participation in capital investments are rather optimistic and it is not known on what basis they were calculated. The project appraisal document (World Bank, 2001) notes that (as with all SMI schemes in Morocco) ‘farmers are expected to contribute initially about 10% of the capital costs of the SMI rehabilitation and improvement works (in kind or cash) and annually 100% of O&M&R costs. The average capital cost for the rehabilitation of the SMI schemes has been estimated at about 17,500 Dh/ha of equipped area (base cost). Participation in the capital costs corresponds to the estimated cost of labor and/or provision of local material that can be borne by the population without a financial contribution. Thus, participation in the investment costs should not cause a financial problem for the beneficiaries.’

44This provision states that the population would not have to contribute financially to the capital costs but only provide labor and local material. However, it does not address the exact procedures of how this labor will be contributed nor the issues raised above such as the unwillingness of contractors to wait for beneficiaries to undertake the land preparation. Most importantly, it admits later on (Annex 11, p. 73), that ‘although the principle of user financial contributions to investment costs is clearly set forth in Law No. 2/84 and its application decree, the rate of contribution was left to negotiation by the parties. In theory it is currently calculated on the basis of farm budget simulations for testing the contributory capacity of farmers. In practice, a flat rate of 10 percent has been adopted in the agreements between the administration and the users' associations. This flexibility of the legislation is positive to the extent that it allows for negotiation with users in light of their specific situation. It would, however, be desirable to set a minimum rate reflecting users' interest in the project. On the other hand, the legislation does not define any specific procedures for cost recovery from users. For the WUAs already constituted, participation agreements have been signed with the MARDWF [Ministry of Agriculture], but they have not been approved by the Ministry of Finance, as stipulated in Decree No. 2/84. The MARDWF does not in fact submit these agreements to the Ministry of Finance, and the latter has no procedure for collecting contributions from users' associations. This situation must be clarified before project start-up, given the importance of user contributions as proof of their commitment to the project.’

45Even though the fee collection mechanism was not clarified in practice, and despite the above provision that the beneficiaries would not have to make cash contributions for the capital costs, the two WUA in the case study area have been collecting such contributions from its members according to their financial capacity (between 25 and 100 Dh each though not all members have paid yet). While one WUA has put 6,000 Dh into a bank account, its committee members have raised doubts with the Ministry of Agriculture about their members’ capacity to pay for 10% of the capital costs. While most farmers and commune civil servants are unclear about how the population will contribute to the costs (in labor or cash) despite the agreement having already been signed between the WUAs and the Ministry of Agriculture, farmers interviewed are reluctant to provide their labor ‘for free’ or believe that the project is sponsored by the government and hence the contractor will provide the labor. This is in contrast with previous experiences of participation in the commune; the population on their own or with minimal involvement by the local government has built many tracks and drinking water reservoirs.

46The project appraisal document then goes on to calculate the affordability of the O&M costs. ‘Average annual O&M costs following rehabilitation are estimated at about 300 MAD/ha of equipped area. This includes about 100 MAD/ha for operation (mainly salary of the "aiguadier") and about 200 MAD/ha for maintenance (unqualified and qualified labor, material such as cement and running costs of equipment). With an average increase in farm income of about 296 MAD/ha after 2 years, the payment of O&M costs should be affordable to farmers.’ (ibid.: 17) Hence, it seems that the project designers themselves did not expect the farmers to substantially increase their incomes after paying for the operating and maintenance costs.

47Furthermore, the document does not address the critiques of the water governance consensus reviewed above and in particular the ‘functional model’ of the WUA, i.e. the ways in which such institutions can reproduce hierarchies of power, and reinforce exclusion of the marginalized. It only notes that ‘investment decisions by municipalities tend to favor investments with political impact; and the current budget process is highly centralized and not conducive to community-driven development.’ It argues that ‘the proposed project would address these issues by: (a) establishing a participatory process for the beneficiaries to express their priorities and see that they are implemented; and (b) making available to the participating provinces additional resources from the Rural Development Fund (RDF) to be used flexibly to respond to the incremental needs of the beneficiaries in an integrated way.’ However, it seems quite unlikely that the participatory process will be able to address the political nature of municipal investment decisions. On the contrary, it might even reinforce this tendency since the main ‘participants’ in the WUAs in our case study area are in fact local government councilors. In one WUA, four out of six committee members are councilors, and in the other, all are political party members. One WUA is presided by the brother of the commune president and is in fact a businessman rather than a fulltime farmer; indeed, most committee members work as shopkeepers or businessmen. It could also be that many of the members in the WUA committees have a business interest in cementing the irrigation canals and might think that being on the committee will help them get the procurement contracts for these works. Similarly, this plurality of offices by the same persons most likely means that there will not be much discussion or resistance to the council’s decisions that affect the WUAs, and that the ordinary farmer members will perceive the committee to be disconnected from their daily realities.

48Finally, there is also the issue concerning the geographical coverage of the WUAs and its implication for their representativeness. One WUA in our study area includes 17 ‘associated villages’ but is only allowed to have six committee members. Hence some farmers do not consider the WUA to be competent to know or address their needs, and do not feel represented in it. Yet others consider it only to be the WUA for the village where its premises are based. However, in the other WUA, an agreement was reached that one committee member would represent several villages so as to cover all villages associated with the irrigated area among them. This issue is consistent with the insight gained from the Lakhdar watershed management project reviewed above, in which even the village level was considered too ‘macro’ for successful participation.

49To conclude, this paper has attempted to provide a critique of the issues around poverty and participation at the example of the irrigation sector and water user associations in Morocco. The question I would like to raise for discussion or future research is how and to what extent can an irrigation project like the DRI-PMH be insulated against or take into account the dominant local political forces and elite capture to ensure a positive poverty alleviation impact.



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1 This refers to the move away from conventional forms of water governance, which have usually been dominated by a top-down approach and professional experts in the government and private sector, towards the bottom-up approach, which combines the experience, knowledge and understanding of various local groups and people (UNDESA).

2 This review examined 42 watershed projects that contain some element of ‘participation’ and that were approved by the Board between mid-1990 and the end of 1999.

3 However, the evaluation also noted that ‘substantial room remains for targeting the poor and vulnerable populations within water sector operations. Of most concern across the Bank is the scant attention given to the direct impact of these operations on the poor.’ (Pitman 2002).

4 Lending for water-related projects accounts for 31 percent of Bank lending in the region over the last decade, compared with 16 percent Bankwide (World Bank, 2004).

5 As for World Bank lending to Morocco, it numbers over US$6.1 billion for 105 loans and credits since 1965. Thirty of these, totaling US$1.8 billion, have been to the agricultural sector (World Bank/OED, 2005).

6 Vulnerability reflects the percentage of the population falling under a level of consumption which is 50 percent higher than the poverty line (World Bank, 2004: 19).

7 In the Project Appraisal Document (World Bank, 2001), the rural communes or municipalities, i.e. the basic unit of local government in Morocco, are slightly confusingly referred to as the “Rural Communities (RC)”.

8 ‘Average net income per ha on the area under perennial irrigation would increase by 60% over a 10 yearperiod, or by an additional 6,800 MAD/ha (prior to payment of O&M charges).’ It also states that ‘an average farm holding is about 5 ha out of which less than 1 ha is irrigated (World Bank, 2001). This seems a gross overestimation compared with the data in the two PDPs for our case study area (two irrigated areas in a rural commune), where 66.4% and 90.9% of the total number of farm holdings are less than 0.5 ha, and none bigger than 1ha (Royaume du Maroc [no date]: 16). Yet another number can be obtained from the Agriculture Census of 1996; the size of the SAU (useful agricultural surface) divided by the number of farming units should give us the average size of a farming unit. For our case study commune, this is 1.86 ha, and if we divide the size of the SAU by the number of plots we obtain 0.19 ha as the average size of a plot in the same area. In other words, an average farming unit would have 10 plots (RGA, 1996).

Table des illustrations

Légende From: World Bank (2001: 94)
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Economist. Université d’Oxford – Angleterre, UK

Student in Development Studies, University of Oxford – UK

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