Using Scientific Research To Achieve Genuine Rural Development – Analysis



Today, the agricultural sector is facing multiple uncertainties linked to the transformation of world markets, new societal expectations on products and services, the growing importance of environmental issues, adaptation to global changes, changes in national and international public policies, and transformations in the sociological profiles of farmers. 

In addition, this sector is concerned by new forms of innovation, seeking to improve the productivity of farms, while reducing their environmental impacts. For example, the development of information and communication technologies towards digital agriculture opens up new perspectives, even if they are not the only ones, and are the subject of more and more research and development work. 

The growing role of public-private partnerships and new research arrangements are directing public research more towards the creation of innovations and strengthening synergies with private players (start-ups, the food and agricultural supply industry), which account for a large share of research and development investment. In this changing context, the research and development system must adapt to be able to respond to new issues expressed by farmers, public authorities and other stakeholders.

The world of start-ups

Agriculture is a market that more and more start-ups are venturing into. Start-ups in the digital, robotics and sharing economy are shaking up the sector thanks to new innovation proposals driving profound changes. This dynamic also benefits from the penetration of digital technologies in the agricultural sector. The use of web tools, smartphones and sensor networks has become widespread on farms and opens up new fields of innovation to which start-ups bring all their expertise.

Several objectives related to improving farm performance are being pursued: reducing the use of inputs (precision agriculture), income diversification (participatory financing, tourism, etc.) and improving working conditions.

To encourage this dynamic, new innovation support mechanisms are emerging. Inspired by Silicon Valley, competitions such as A Green Startup catalyze the process of creating innovation by transforming ideas into realistic commercial offers through multi-stakeholder collaborative work.

The global economic context

Since the oil shocks of the 1970s, developed countries have been facing a slowdown in economic growth. In 2007, the Subprime Mortgage Crisis (1) hit the United States and spread to all developed countries from 2008 to 2010. States launched rescue plans recapitalizing and nationalizing certain banks. This financial crisis led to a slowdown in global economic activity. In 2009, it is the first time in the last 30 years that the world GDP declined (-0.6%). Developed countries are caught in a downward spiral reinforced by high unemployment, fiscal austerity, high public debt and a still fragile financial system.

This crisis, combined with other country-specific factors, is fueling fears among creditors about the ability of some states to repay their public debt, as in Greece. To prevent the crisis from spreading, the Eurozone countries and the IMF are providing financial support to Greece (with the imposition of an austerity plan) and are launching measures to reform the structures of the Eurozone countries.

The emerging countries (China, India, Brazil, …) are gradually asserting themselves on the international scene:

– First on the economic front: in 2012, of the 3.2% growth in world GDP, 80% is due to growth in emerging countries. In the 1990s, emerging countries accounted for 41% of this growth, then 70% in the 2000 years (2). In addition, a gradual rebalancing of the distribution of world wealth is underway. Thus, in 2013, the aggregate GDP of emerging countries (calculated in purchasing power parity) exceeded that of developed countries.

– On the political level, major countries such as China, India, Brazil and South Africa want to have more influence in international relations. India, Brazil and South Africa are thus claiming the status of member permanent seat on the UN Security Council (with veto power, a status that China already has). The major emerging countries are grouping together in informal discussion forums, which allows them to agree on their positions vis-à-vis the major Western powers: BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa).

The enlargement of the European Union (from 15 member countries in 1995 to 28 member countries in 2013) and the adaptation of agricultural policies have major budgetary and commercial consequences.

Compared to industry, the agricultural sector in OECD countries is highly protected from import competition. This protection takes the form of tariffs, high quotas, export subsidies and allows sensitive products to remain protected from competition.

Some key figures on agriculture in international trade (3):

– Agricultural products represent one tenth of international trade in 2012.

– In developed countries, in 2012, agriculture accounted for only a minimal share of GDP and employment (1.5% of GDP and 3.6% of employment in the Euro zone). In large emerging countries, agriculture represents a larger but declining share in their economies (5.1% of GDP and 17% of jobs in Brazil, 10% of GDP and 40% of jobs in China). Finally, for the least developed countries, agriculture occupies an important share with, for example, 12.1% of the added value of sub-Saharan African countries and nearly 50% of jobs.

– Developed countries depend little on agriculture for their exports. In 2011, agriculture accounts for 7.4% of EU-27 merchandise exports. However, France, which is a major agricultural power, accounts for 14% of its agricultural exports.

– The United States and the European Union are the world’s leading agricultural exporters, however, even if their exports continue to grow in absolute terms (between 2000 and 2011, EU exports increased from $56 to $158 billion), many market shares have been won by Brazil, Indonesia and China (for example, Brazilian exports increased from $15.5 to $68.6 billion between 2000 and 2011).

The demographic context and world food demand

Demographics play directly on food demand and thus impact agricultural production. The world’s population has grown from 3 billion in 1960 to 7 billion in 2011.(4) Demographic growth continues on a global scale with strong disparities between regions, with population growth in developing countries, ageing and demographic decline beginning in Europe. All UN population scenarios assume population growth by 2050. The perspective frequently used corresponds to the medium scenario where the population will reach 9.5 billion in 2050. The lowest scenario announces a population of 8.3 billion individuals while in the highest scenario the population would reach 11 billion individuals in 2050. This growth is mainly in developing countries. Improving access to contraception, reducing inequalities within populations, as well as the implementation of effective health and education policies can reduce population growth.(5)

Increasing urbanization has a direct impact on changes in the way people eat (reduction in the time spent preparing meals, use of prepared meals, increase in the number of meals taken outside the home, etc.) (6). In 2011, 52.1% of the world’s population lives in urban areas, compared to 29.4% in 1950 and 36.6% in 1970. Today, this urban population growth continues, even if it is tending to weaken (7). According to UN projections, the urbanization of the world’s population will continue. In the medium scenario, 60% of the world’s population will be urban in 2030 and 67% in 2050. Losses and wastage, which currently account for about 30% of world production, are accentuated by urbanization, which distances consumption centers from production centers (8).

Food demand is, on average, not very sensitive to prices and incomes in developed countries; the situation is different in developing countries, which will be the biggest contributors to the increase in global demand. All the prospective studies on the evolution of food needs (FAO, Agrimonde, ISV, IFPRI) show a marked increase in global food needs of 40 to 68% between 2000 and 2050 (9). The demand for cereals could reach 3 billion tons in 2050 compared to 2 billion today and meat production could increase by more than 200 million tons, totaling 470 million tons in 2050, of which nearly 75% would be consumed by developing countries (compared to 58% today).

Assumptions for changes in the global economic and geopolitical context

– Liberal hypothesis without state regulation

Europe and the United States ratify a transatlantic trade and investment partnership that creates a comprehensive free trade area. Growth in developed countries resumes. Society’s expectations are “taken into account” by large downstream companies, through production contracts or integration policies, without state regulation, which eases environmental and health restrictions. Agricultural prices are very sharply reduced. The system responds well to the increase in global food demand without questioning its organization.

– Liberal hypothesis with state regulation

In a context of economic crisis, developed countries are achieving low or even zero growth, while emerging countries (BRICS) continue to grow strongly. Faced with the increase in global food demand, we are witnessing an intensification of agriculture in emerging countries, to the detriment of environmental and health issues, which intensifies international competition. Thus, European agricultural and food production is concentrated and is now controlled by only a few large firms. However, Europe has not given up its policy of subsidized exports; it continues to support its agriculture, in a logic of mass production, with prices that are little differentiated by quality, but with the development of strict health and environmental regulations, as well as increased eco-conditionality of aid.

– Reasoned food demand hypothesis – consumption adapted to local production

Thanks to strong health and education policies, emerging countries do not adopt the diet of developed countries and favor local production to meet their food needs. The various citizen pressures relayed by global NGOs have gained weight in a highly regulated economy. European agriculture is refocusing on the internal market, aid is entirely oriented towards meeting society’s expectations in terms of health and the environment and adapting to climate change. Prices are relatively differentiated according to quality. Growth is positive but remains low.

– Strong crisis hypothesis – States are retreating towards protectionist policies

The economic crisis is intensifying and becoming political, with tensions in Eastern Europe coupled with an economic recession affecting all of Europe. The population of emerging countries is growing very strongly, the agro system is no longer adapted to meet the very strong increase in food demand. The governments of emerging countries are destabilized and start international conflicts related to access to natural resources (water, soil, energy, minerals, …). Trade liberalization and major international negotiations are interrupted. Europe loses its political and economic weight at the international level, and is also challenged by its member states (exit of the euro, etc.). Europe then withdraws into its nations.

Impact of agricultural research: the debate is open between scientific organizations and donors

How to measure the impact of agricultural research? How can we contribute to steering research to maximize its impact in the field, in terms of productivity gains, environmental quality, efficiency along the agree-food chain, social relations, etc.? These questions were of interest to the ImpresS and Impresa projects, whose results were presented, at CIRAD’s ( La rechereche agronomique pour le développement)(10) initiative, on 18 November 2016 in Brussels. A debate followed with representatives of three European Commission Directorates General (Research and Innovation, Agriculture and Rural Development, Development and International Cooperation) and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD). This unprecedented meeting between scientific organizations and donors opened up avenues for renewing ways of assessing impact, reflecting on the place of impact in competitive funding and rethinking agricultural research and development policies.

Measuring, assessing and better understanding the impact of their research on agriculture: this is the reason why the European Impresa consortium, CIRAD and their partners, decided to get involved in the Impresa and ImpresS projects. Although the projects’ fields of study are different – one on European agriculture, the other on agriculture in the South – the lessons learned from the two projects converge on the need to invest in the long term, but also to involve researchers in thinking about the impact of their research.

Research, a long-term investment

Ten to 30 years of research investment are needed to have an economic, social, environmental, territorial or health impact,” stressed Etienne Hainzelin, coordinator of the ImpresS project at CIRAD, in Brussels on 18 November 2016. “Fifteen years is the minimum duration for a given research question: it often corresponds to a cluster of projects, which are interlinked or intertwined, with partnerships to be set up over the long term“. This was confirmed by Peter Midmore, coordinator of the Impresa project at Aberystwyth University.

Marc Duponcel of the Directorate General for Agriculture and Rural Development said he shared this vision: “Research must be seen as a long-term investment. It is therefore important to provide an appropriate policy framework to develop the impact of agricultural research in a multi-stakeholder approach.” The IFAD representative confirmed the interest of the approach while underlining the difficulty of its implementation, as donors must be accountable for the efficient use of their resources in terms of impacts directly related to investments.

A multi-stakeholder approach

The results of ImpresS and Impresa have indeed highlighted the importance of co-constructing the results, in a multi-actor approach, with interactions between researchers and stakeholders throughout the innovation process, and trust relationships over time.

The work carried out by CIRAD in the framework of ImpresS has also revealed the need to interact with public players and political decision-makers by taking into account the institutional context and the political agenda. They have also shown the essential role of developing the capacities of actors, notably through training, to generate impact.

Impresa also focused on the links between the public and private sectors. The project highlighted the influence of research and innovation in the food industry on agriculture. Peter Midmore insisted on the need for strong governance of public funds dedicated to agricultural research.

From a “culture of promise” to a “culture of impact

ImpresS and Impresa invite researchers to move “from a culture of promise” to a “culture of impact.” “Researchers must be encouraged to think about their end users,” commented Hans-Joerg Lutzeyer of the Directorate General for Research and Innovation.

However, this culture change will not happen without the help of donors who set the framework for funding research and calls for proposals. “The current procedures can lead project leaders to promise a lot,” said the participants.

Mobilizing European expertise for agricultural development

Peter Midmore of Impresa also suggested that the European agricultural research information system should be better informed. “We need a complete overview of agricultural research in Europe, which could take the form of an observatory of what is being done in the Member States and at the European level, which is important to understand who is doing what and what resources are being invested,” confirmed Marc Duponcel of the Directorate General for Agriculture and Rural Development.

This would in fact make it possible to better mobilize European expertise for “agricultural development based on science” according to Bernard Rey of the Directorate General for Development and International Cooperation. “We are currently considering the financial mechanisms to be put in place to increase efficiency and directly target scientific expertise, without being constrained by the procedures of calls for projects, which are usual in scientific circles,” he said. “Science has a role to play in the design of development policy.”

An Innovative Tool to Increase the Resilience of Rural Investments

Agricultural production has become more unpredictable due to climate change: if rainfall favors one crop, the next could be jeopardized by an unexpected drought. Under such circumstances, how can one decide to invest in millet cultivation in the Kanem region of Chad or consider it too risky to invest in wheat production in Thaba-Tseka, Lesotho?

Data is essential for investors, and the absence of such data can discourage or bias investment in sustainable development. Data is not easy to find, especially when looking for figures in remote areas of countries with weak data collection and statistical capacity and where funds for research and monitoring are very limited. This gap often concerns smallholder farms, especially in terms of data on the current and future effects of climate change on crop production.

As climate change increasingly disrupts temperature and precipitation patterns, agricultural production is expected to be increasingly affected. Adaptation to the impacts of climate change is necessary to reduce this vulnerability; in recognition of this, IFAD has developed a tool for assessing adaptation to the impacts of climate change in rural development (also known as CARD).(11)

Simplifying data sets

The assessment tool simplifies data sets from studies published in academic journals. It is a simple, Excel-based tool that facilitates the quantitative integration of climate risks into investments and strategies, food security studies and rural development policies.

The tool provides easy access to projections of the effects of climate change on yields of major crops at national and sub-national levels. Currently available data cover 17 major crops from almost all countries in North, West and Central Africa and Eastern and Southern Africa. Data for all IFAD intervention areas will be available in the course of 2019.

The CARD assessment tool (12) is practical and easy to use because of its user-friendly interface. It is primarily designed for investors and decision-makers in the public and private sectors who, without being specialists, wish to better integrate climate risks into their investments and decisions. The initiative also aims to foster evidence-based policy dialogue on aspects of agriculture and climate change. Finally, it contributes to the promotion of climate-sensitive investments in sustainable development.


The data contained in CARD are extracted from peer-reviewed publications that assess changes in crop yields in the face of climate change using gridded agriculture-climate models based on long-term simulations. This set of models, called ISIMIP (Inter-Sectoral Impact Model Intercomparison Project) (13) Fast Track, is regularly updated by scientific groups in collaboration with the Agricultural Model Intercomparison and Improvement Project (AgMIP).(14)

The general idea behind CARD is the use of a set of gridded agriculture-climate models for the same climate scenario (the high warming scenario RCP8.5 – see the User guide document for more details), and the consideration of a number of possible risk levels for the same warming scenario. The range of future crop yields from the model set is then summarized as simpler statistical indicators (e.g. median) in the Excel interface.

Increased Confidence

By providing reliable, peer-reviewed data on major crops, CARD aims to ensure that agricultural and rural investments have positive development effects, and thus generate benefits for smallholders, society and states. In addition, by providing a more accurate assessment of risks, CARD helps private investors make the leap to decide to invest in rural development.

To continue improving data and adding new functionalities to CARD, IFAD is also seeking new scientific inputs useful for decision-making in agricultural and rural development in the context of climate change.

This initiative starts with initial funding for the second phase of the Adaptation for Smallholder Agriculture Programme (ASAP 2) (15). The CARD initiative needs additional resources to build capacity, integrate data and conduct new research.

Development of the rural economy

Does the rural economy considered as an object of study for the Social Sciences still have a legitimate identity? By analyzing the economic and social space in which agricultures and territories are inserted today, it appears that the rural economy is at the heart of contemporary debates and provides attractive fields of investigation for the development of scientific knowledge. The rural economy, long identified with the agricultural or agri-food economy, is becoming a comprehensive analysis of the relationships between nature, rurality, food, agriculture and global society. The rural economy then finds a topicality and an identity justified in the name of its contribution to scientific progress and social debate.

Agriculture, food, territories: these ancient fields of research are being renewed today. What identity can result from this for the rural economy, a subject of study for the social sciences? Philippe Lacombe (16) discusses this question by considering the economic and social space in which this rural economy is inserted. It then appears that, far from constituting, as is sometimes understood, a marginal or obsolete field, the rural economy is at the heart of contemporary debates and provides attractive fields of investigation. The rural economy becomes a comprehensive analysis of the relationships between nature, rurality, food, agriculture and global society. The renewal permitted by this new situation is, however, subject to conditions.

Rural development in Morocco (17)

Agriculture, the engine of Moroccan growth

In Morocco, in 2017 the agricultural and fishing sector (18) represents 13.6% of GDP for a value of 131.62 billion DH (MM DH). Morocco’s growth is closely linked to that of the agricultural sector: the strong variations in the value added of the agricultural sector, which reflect the sector’s dependence on climatic conditions, particularly rainfall, have repercussions on GDP growth.(19)

The value added of the agricultural and fishing sector increased by an average of 7% over the 2008-2017 period, compared to 4% over the 2000-2007 period. Over the 2008-2017 period, average annual growth in the agricultural sector exceeded GDP growth of only 3.9 percent, making it the engine of Moroccan growth.

In addition to agricultural production, Morocco has developed a diversified and competitive agribusiness industry sector, particularly in cereal processing, the milk and dairy products industry and fruit and vegetable processing. It represents in 2016, 3.9% of GDP or 27% of Moroccan industrial production.

Agriculture “employment lever and future of the rural world”

In Morocco, the number of inhabitants in rural areas has started to decline since 2014 and is expected to drop below 13 million before 2030, reflecting the rural exodus and also the urbanization of rural areas. There is also a gradual decline in the share of young people (0-24 years) in the population. In 2015, Morocco had 6.7 million young people in rural areas, but will have only 4.5 million in 2040. However, the share of those over 65 years of age is increasing significantly.

In 2017, agricultural jobs accounted for 37.5 percent of Moroccan jobs and are expected to account for another 35.8 percent in 2020. In rural areas, the agricultural sector accounted for 72.9 percent of jobs in 2016, up from 75.2 percent in 2008. After 10 years of implementation of the GMP, the Minister of Agriculture announced the creation of 250,000 jobs, 50% of which will be created between 2016 and 2017, although this does not seem to be corroborated by figures from the Office of the High Commissioner for Planning.

Until 2030, the working-age population is expected to stagnate in rural areas and then decline, which could put pressure on the labor force available for the agricultural sector. The unemployment rate was 10.2 in 2017, it is much lower in rural areas (4%) than in urban areas (14.7%) and affects more people in rural areas than in urban areas and women than men. There has been a sharp increase in unemployment among urban youth (42.8% in 2017), but also among rural youth (11.4%).(20)

The Green Morocco Plan (GMP): a real ambition for the agricultural sector

In 2008, Morocco adopted a proactive agricultural development strategy, the Green Morocco Plan (GMP) (21), with the ambition of making agriculture a real engine of growth and socio-economic development in the country.

The first pillar of this strategy aims to develop a modern, high-performance agriculture that meets market requirements by promoting private investment and setting up an aggregation model. The second pillar of the GMP aims to take into account the structure of Morocco’s agricultural fabric by supporting small farmers (nearly 560,000 farms) to secure and improve their incomes, with the aim of reducing rural poverty and consolidating the socio-economic fabric of the poorest territories. This development-oriented policy solidarity came to consolidate the The National Initiative for Human Development (Initiative nationale pour le développement humain –INDH-) (22) implemented since 2005 and which was enriched in 2015 by the elaboration of a rural development strategy oriented towards mountain areas and oases.

The GMP has developed an approach based on value chains through the establishment of inter-professions, the encouragement of private investment in agriculture and the strengthening of public-private partnerships through the signing of program contracts which have provided the operational basis for this policy.

The implementation of this policy has been accompanied by a major restructuring of the Moroccan Ministry in charge of agriculture (deconcentration of services, creation of the Agricultural Development Agency that coordinates the implementation of the GMP, creation of the National Agency for the Development of Oasis Areas and the Argan Tree, etc.).

Ten years after its implementation the objectives have largely been achieved both in terms of wealth creation, investment, poverty alleviation, employment, and increased production and exports.(23)

In order to reduce inter and intra-territorial disparities, Morocco has embarked on a proactive policy to develop disadvantaged rural areas, leading to the formulation of a national strategy for the development of rural and mountain areas, which was adopted in 2015. In addition to the effect in terms of reducing extreme poverty in rural areas, the increase of the SMAG (minimum salary in the agricultural sector) and the stabilization of the rural population, under Pillar II of the GMP (Agricultural and Solidarity Development) 8,000 cooperatives have been created, 215 solidarity agriculture projects completed for an amount of 2.1 billion DH (billion DH) out of a total envelope of 15 MMDH.

The Green Morocco Plan (GMP): public financing for the agricultural sector is rising sharply

Between 2008, when the Green Morocco Plan (GMP) began to be implemented, and 2017, the expenditure programmed in the Ministry of Agriculture’s budget grew at an annual rate of 14%, from 3.6 to 11.9 billion DH. Over this period the programmed investment expenditures have been multiplied by 2.5 for a cumulative amount of 63.4 billion DH. The share of agricultural public investment in the total programmed public investment has thus increased from 5% in 2008 at the beginning of the GMP to 14% in 2017.

In addition, spending on special treasury accounts for the agricultural and fishing sector increased by 262% between 2003 and 2015 to reach 4 800 million DH in 2015, 65% of which is destined for the Agricultural Development Fund, the main instrument of the GMP.

In the context of climate change, water management is at the center of Moroccan agricultural policy

A large part of the Moroccan territory is in arid and desert areas. The potential of water resources is estimated at 22 billion m3 corresponding to about 700 m3 /inhabitant/year, which places Morocco in a situation of structural water stress.(25)

In view of the available resources and climatic conditions, the public authorities have invested heavily in order to set up irrigation systems to develop agricultural production. Irrigation today uses 86% of water resources. While its development has undeniable economic and social benefits, it has also contributed to the overexploitation of most of the world’s water resources (groundwater resources) and the alarming decline in the levels of several aquifers, as well as the degradation of water quality. Morocco is also facing a strong degradation of its soils, particularly due to water erosion.

Indeed, Morocco, like its neighbors, is very vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. Most forecasts show that over the coming decades the country will gradually show signs of increasing aridity due to rising temperatures and decreasing rainfall. Thus, the average temperature could increase by 1.1 to 1.6°C by 2030, by 2.3 to 2.9°C in 2050, and by 3.2 to 4.1°C in 2080. Precipitation could decrease by 14% in 2030, by 13 to 30% in 2050, and by 21 to 36% in 2080.

The agricultural sector, because of its dominant role in the use of water resources, will be the sector most affected by the projected decrease in rainfall, for both rain-fed and irrigated crops. It will also be affected by the expected rise in temperatures and by the effects in terms of erosion.

In March 2014, Morocco adopted its Climate Change Policy (CDP). Concerning the mitigation component, the CDP takes up the elements of the strategy for water saving and its valorization in irrigated agriculture developed by the Ministry of Agriculture to improve the agricultural sector’s resilience to climate change.

National Strategy for Sustainable Development (NSSD) 2030

The process of developing the NSSD, launched in 2013 by the Ministry of Energy, Mines and Sustainable Development, was based on a shared diagnosis, discussed and verified with the various stakeholders, thus enabling a consensus to be reached on the challenges, strategic axes and fundamental objectives for the implementation of the NSSD through an inclusive and concerted approach during all phases of its development.

The strategy is based on 4 principles:

International compliance: The strategy is in line with international best practices, and takes up at a minimum the challenges to which the Kingdom is committed in terms of sustainable development, namely the fight against climate change, the fight against desertification and the protection of biodiversity.

Compliance with the principles of the Framework Law 99-12: The strategy is in line with the principles of the Framework Law 99-12 on the national charter for the environment and sustainable development, namely: integration, territoriality, solidarity, precaution, prevention, responsibility and participation.

Commitment: The National Sustainable Development Strategy is conceived as a continuous process of commitment by the various stakeholders to achieve common objectives that contribute to meeting key sustainable development issues.

Operational: The strategy is intended to be operational by building on the strategies, plans and programs currently being implemented. The strategy is in no way a break with the development choices made by the Kingdom.  The strategy is based on concrete measures with monitoring indicators and / or results.

The strategy is based on 7 issues:

Issue 1: Strengthen sustainable development governance;

Issue 2: Making a successful transition to a green economy;

Issue 3: Improving the management and development of natural resources and strengthening biodiversity conservation;

Issue 4: Accelerate the implementation of the national climate change policy;

Issue 5: Pay special attention to sensitive areas;

Issue 6: Promote human development and reduce social and territorial inequalities; and

Issue 7: Promote a culture of sustainable development.

The UN and its partners in Morocco (26) are working to achieve sustainable development goals through concerted and targeted support that adds value to national efforts to achieve the strategic priorities of: 

  • democratic governance and advanced regionalization; 
  • inclusion and reduction of gender and territorial socio-economic inequalities; 
  • quality education and health; 
  • clean production and consumption; and 
  • the empowerment of women and young people.

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) (27), also known as global targets, are a universal call for action to eradicate poverty, protect the planet and ensure peace and prosperity for all people. These are also the objectives of the UN in Morocco.

Although Morocco is a low greenhouse gas emitting country, it remains vulnerable to the effects of climate change due to the specificities of its geographical position and the diversity of its ecosystems (28).

Thus, Morocco became aware of this danger very early on and has complied with the measures undertaken at the global level, within the framework of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) (29). The FAO Representation in Morocco, based on the country’s vision and in partnership with national institutions, has made “Sustainable management of natural resources and improving the living standards of the country’s fragile population in the face of climate change” one of its priorities.

Conclusion: Four contexts, one future

In the first scenario, following environmental crises, politicians, alerted, decide to switch to an ecological world. Investments are oriented towards green growth and support for new production models. Synergies between agriculture and animal husbandry emerge, and small and medium-sized farms take an increasing place, favoring short circuits and ecological research. Consumers are very attentive to what they eat and are sensitive to health and the environment. In the second scenario, policy is strong. A real work is done on quality, whether it is gustatory, environmental or ethical. A quality export label is created. Investment is made in the traceability and typicity of products. (Bio)industrial environment is the landscape of the third scenario. Agriculture becomes an industry like any other. Biomass, energy, biotechnologies, biomimicry are uses that are developing. Finally, the last scenario evokes a liberal world: the agricultural market is increasingly volatile, internationalization and speculation are the key words. Consumers are looking for cheap products, and firms are taking control.

The goal is not to say that one scenario is better than another. The foresight exercise is a way of thinking, it helps to organize debates, but also to know where to put one’s strengths: should one concentrate one’s efforts on a single theme, on all the themes? Finally, we put elements into the future to be able to debate today. But it’s not a crystal ball either. From these different scenarios stems the main goal: the evolution of the research and development system.

The business model, the scales of work, the main players, the way they collaborate with each other, the place of digital innovations and the themes covered by the research and development system are the six major issues to be taken into account. Working in this sector is not easy because there is a real organizational complexity, with a myriad of players, both public and private. You have to rethink the forms of cooperation and competition between the different players. The public and private spheres can work together.

In each of the scenarios, digital innovations in agriculture were studied. Which technologies will be used? And for what uses? Social networks will be used to connect farmers and citizens, as well as to create innovative marketing channels and exchange scientific and technical information.

Big Data and open data can be used for different purposes: recovering data for more precise traceability, but also to control costs, secure supply chains, create data exchange platforms, and even to reduce risks, depending on the agriculture we are moving towards.

One last question to ask: does rural development require the development of connections between town and country or a strengthening of agricultural functionalities?

In summary, it appears that the implementation methods and targets of the projects and actions may differ according to the scenarios. This means that the projects and actions are levers for action that public and private stakeholders can modulate in their content, implementation and priority objectives according to the future they wish to achieve.

End notes:

  2.  Cf. Les Echos, Croissance et richesse mondiales : le grand rééquilibrage, Samuel Delpierre. Août 2013.
  3.  Cf. Data base of the World Bank of 2012.
  4.  Source: INED
  5.  Cf. PNUD, La vraie richesse des nations : les chemins du développement humain. 2010. 
  6.  Cf. FAO, La nutrition dans les pays en développement, 2001.
  7.  Cf. ONU, World Urbanization Prospects: the 2011 Revision Population Database, 2011.
  8. Cf. Senatorial Delegation for Foresight, Yvon Collin, Senator, The Food Challenge to 2050. April 2012. (Délégation sénatoriale de la prospective, Yvon Collin, Sénateur, Le défi alimentaire à l’horizon 2050. Avril 2012.)
  9.  CEP, Analyse n°27, La demande alimentaire en 2050 : chiffres, incertitudes et marges de manœuvre. Février 2011.
  10. CIRAD (Centre de coopération internationale en recherche agronomique pour le développement) is the French agricultural research and international cooperation organization for the sustainable development of tropical and Mediterranean regions. CIRAD’s priority objective is to build sustainable agriculture that is adapted to climate change and capable of feeding 10 billion people by 2050, while preserving the environment. It considers that in order to develop over the long term and draw up appropriate public policies, a society must participate in the production of the knowledge it needs. This development through research relies on the capacity of countries to equip themselves with an adapted higher education and research system, supported by public authorities, but with real autonomy of action. From the local to the global level, through its sustainable partnerships, it contributes to the development of agriculture at the service of all, particularly small farmers, who make up the vast majority of producers. It thus responds to the global challenges of food security and climate change, but also to the 17 UN sustainable development goals (SDOs) and the Paris agreement on climate change.
  11. International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) is a specialized agency of the United Nations system.It was founded in December 1977 in the wake of the World Food Conference held in Rome in 1974. Its headquarters are in Rome. IFAD is a development assistance bank whose mission is to provide financial and organizational support for agricultural and rural development in developing countries and countries in transition. Its mission is to combat hunger, malnutrition and poverty by improving agricultural resources and techniques and by creating and modernizing agricultural and commercial activities in rural areas, particularly through locally managed microfinance projects. IFAD regularly carries out projects in collaboration with, among others, the World Bank, UNDP, WFP and FAO.
  12. Ibid.
  13.,affected%20sectors%20and%20spatial%20scales. The Inter-Sectoral Impact Model Intercomparison Project offers a framework to compare climate impact projections in different sectors and at different scales. Consistent climate and socio-economic input data provide the basis for a cross-sectoral integration of impact projections. The project is designed to enable quantitative synthesis of climate change impacts at different levels of global warming. This report briefly outlines the objectives and framework of the first, fast-tracked phase of Inter-Sectoral Impact Model Intercomparison Project, based on global impact models, and provides an overview of the participating models, input data, and scenario set-up.
  14. Sustaining and improving the performance of agricultural systems is essential to support a growing global population in the face of a changing and variable climate. Data, computational methods and quantitative models are the foundation of the science underpinning sustainable agricultural systems. Founded in 2010 by a group of US and international agricultural modelers, the Agricultural Model Intercomparison and Improvement Program (AgMIP) has grown to encompass a global community of scientists working to improve agricultural systems data and models and to advance their use to support decision making from farm to national to global scales.  More recently, AgMIP has begun mobilizing climate, agriculture, economics and trade, health and nutrition, security, and humanitarian aid expertise to advance next-generation tools and decision support systems to address current and future challenges to food systems that deliver reliable and nutritious foods.
  15. Smallholder farmers are on the frontline of climate change. They inhabit some of the most vulnerable landscapes, such as hillsides, rangelands, semi-arid and arid lands, deltas and flood plains, and rely on climate-sensitive natural resources to make a living. As a result, they are at significant risk from increasing temperatures, erratic rainfall, pest infestations, rising sea levels, and extreme events such as floods, droughts, landslides, typhoons and heat waves. Smallholders often lack secure land tenure and resource rights, and access to markets and finance. They are often overlooked in global and national policy debates on climate change issues despite the fact that poor rural communities bear the brunt of the impact of climate change and are key to the solution. Since climate change exacerbates existing threats, development organizations must devise new financial and programming instruments to address complex emerging problems.The Adaptation for Smallholder Agriculture Programme (ASAP) is IFAD’s flagship programme for channeling climate and environmental finance to smallholder farmers. The programme is incorporated into IFAD’s regular investment processes and benefits from rigorous quality control and supervision systems.
  16.  Cf. Philippe Lacombe, « Un nouvel espace pour l’économie rurale ? », Économie rurale [En ligne], 300 | Juillet-août 2007, mis en ligne le 12 novembre 2009, consulté le 27 septembre 2020. URL : ; DOI :
  17.  Royaume du Maroc, Stratégie nationale de développement durable 2030.
  18.  The agricultural sector is defined as agriculture and animal husbandry and the agricultural and fishing sector as agriculture, animal husbandry and fishing.
  19.  Cf. Najib Akesbi. “La nouvelle stratégie agricole du Maroc annonce-telle l’insécurité alimentaire du pays ? “ L’Harmattan « Confluences Méditerranée », 2011/3 N° 78 : 93 – 105.
  20.  According to some recent studies, it seems that emigration, particularly to Europe, affects rural and agricultural populations in particular, and that it is due to economic reasons.
  21. Main lever of the national economy, Moroccan agriculture has developed thanks to a mobilization around the “Green Morocco” program, inaugurated by His Majesty King Mohammed VI in April 2008. The project aims to make agriculture one of the first sectors of productive development, to modernize it, to promote agricultural investments, to ensure food security, to stimulate exports of agricultural products and to enhance the value of local products. The “Green Morocco” plan also aims to support agriculture under two axes. The first concerns modern agriculture with added value and high productivity meeting market requirements, by encouraging private investment and adopting new ways of assembling agricultural products, developing Moroccan agricultural exports and industrial activities related to agriculture. As for the second axis, it aims to improve the living conditions of small farmers and fight against poverty in rural areas by increasing agricultural incomes in the most vulnerable areas, and also to promote solidarity-based agriculture through the launch of several farmers’ cooperatives throughout Morocco. Since its inception, the “Green Morocco” Plan has contributed significantly to the creation of agricultural cooperatives in different branches of agriculture, the development of cooperation between the State and agricultural professionals through the program’s contracts, the launch of projects to improve animal husbandry, the intensification of agricultural mechanization and the management of water saving.

The National Initiative for Human Development (INDH) is a Moroccan project of national scope aimed at raising the level of society.

The project was launched by His Majesty King Mohammed VI on May 18, 2005. At the local level, the project is based on tripartite composition committees involving elected officials, representatives of decentralized State services and representatives of the associative sector. At the central level, it is managed by a strategic committee and a steering committee both chaired by the Head of the Government.

Its implementation is entrusted to a national coordination unit based at the Ministry of the Interior and headed by a Governor (Aziz Dadas from June 22, 2005 to January 22, 2009, Nadira el-Guermai from January 23, 2009 to September 2018). For its third phase, launched on September 19, 2018, the leadership of the Initiative was entrusted to Wali M. Mohamed Dardouri.

Phase III Programs (2019-2023)

Phase III has two objectives:

  • Preserve dignity and improve living conditions in line with the dynamics initiated since 2005.
  • Building the future by directly addressing the major impediments to human development throughout the life cycle

This phase is structured around four programs:

Program 1: Catching up on deficits in basic social infrastructure and services

Program 2: Accompaniment of people in precarious situations

Program 3: Improving Income and Economic Inclusion of Youth

Program 4: Impetus for the human capital of the rising generations

23. “Doubling of agricultural GDP, strong increase in agricultural exports (2.4 times), 63 billion DH of private investment generated. In addition, investments amount to 2.30 DH. Among the sectors that have experienced strong export development, are red fruits (18 times), tomatoes (3 times) and argan (5 times).”

24.  El Mekki A. A., Sayouti S., Le Plan Maroc Vert et l’autosuffisance alimentaire en produits de base à l’horizon 2020. Alternatives Rurales, octobre 2015.

25.  Cf. Mokssit A. “Environnement et changement Climatique au Maroc : Le point sur le changement climatique au Maroc“. Environnement et Changement Climatique au Maroc, edité par Ellendor Zeing Mahmallat et Abdelhadi Bennis. Konrad Adenauer Stiftung, 2012.



Sustainable Development Goals, or SDGs is commonly used to refer to the seventeen goals established by UN member states and which are brought together in Agenda 2030. This agenda was adopted by the UN in September 2015 after two years of negotiations involving both governments and civil society. It defines targets to be achieved by 2030, defined by SDG. The targets are 1691 in number and are common to all the countries involved.

They respond to the following general objectives: 

  • eradicate poverty in all its forms and in all countries, 
  • protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all.

For the sake of ownership and communication, they are sometimes grouped into five areas, the “5Ps”: people, prosperity, planet, peace, partnerships.

28.  FAO, Le Maroc face au changement climatique.


The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) was adopted at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992 by 154 States plus all the members of the European Community. It entered into force on 21 March 1994. In 2004, it was ratified by 189 countries, in 2015 by 195 countries2 and in 2018 by 197 countries. The UNFCCC is the first attempt within the UN framework to better understand what climate change is and how to address it.

It recognizes three main principles:

  • the precautionary principle;
  • the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities; and
  • the principle of the right to development.

Dr. Mohamed Chtatou

Dr. Mohamed Chtatou is a Professor of education science at the university in Rabat. He is currently a political analyst with Moroccan, Gulf, French, Italian and British media on politics and culture in the Middle East, Islam and Islamism as well as terrorism. He is, also, a specialist on political Islam in the MENA region with interest in the roots of terrorism and religious extremism.

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