Thursday, June 12, 2008

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Souss-Massa Valley

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The Souss-Massa Valley is located in southwestern Morocco. Rainfall in the valley is only about 200 mm per year, which is not enough to support most types of agriculture. In 1968, Morocco's King initiated a plan to irrigate one million hectares. In 1972, the Youssef Ben Tachfine Dam (photo below) was built on the Massa River, creating a reservoir that supported a substantial growth in agriculture in the valley and allowed development of a modern agricultural area of 18 000 hectares, primarily dedicated to vegetable and citrus cultivation.

Irrigated agriculture in the valley also uses groundwater; however, groundwater withdrawal has exceeded the natural rate of recharge. Since the 1970s groundwater resources have declined, forcing farmers to drill much deeper wells to reach water.

In the 1970s, greenhouse agriculture was introduced to the area. It requires 80 per cent less water per kg of crop than unprotected agriculture. The 1988 satellite image shows a few greenhouses (light blue squares) scattered throughout the valley. The 2003 image shows the expansion that has occurred in greenhouse agriculture, with greenhouses (white squares) covering a substantial portion of the valley's agricultural land.

The Souss-Massa Valley is Morocco's leading region for greenhouse agriculture, covering 14 530 hectares in 2004. Vegetables are the primary crops, with tomatoes covering more than half the greenhouse area.

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