Local development helps integrating returning moroccan immigrants

Abdelmajid BabaKhouya feeding the local sheep species in Laachouria called” D’Man” Photo: Nora Mabkhouti

Growing climate variability, intensifying droughts and diminishing water resources over the past decade, have been driving families of Ksar Laachouria and neighbouring oases, in Fezna, in Errachidia Tafilalt region of Morocco, out of the land they have lived on for many years.


  • 1000 meters of traditional irrigation system called “Khettarats” were restored, or constructed in the region
  • At least 3 other cooperatives in the region are replicating the Madania experience
  • The cooperative activities generated income for its 53 active members ranging between USD 300 and 700 per month
  • About 132 households benefitted from the “Madania cooperative” model

These fast-progressing phenomena are posing major threats to the habitat and livelihoods of people living in the area.

Land degradation, deterioration of biodiversity and declining prospects for agriculture and livestock farming collude to increase the exodus, accelerate the abandonment of traditional activities, and amplify the risk of desertification.

Abdel-Majid BabaKhouya, 38, a native of Ksar Laachouria has lived in Spain for seven years as a migrant worker, often in dire and unstable conditions, especially with the economic downturn that the country has been facing.

Despite his hard work, his dreams of a better life did not materialise and made only very little savings for the future.

Abdel-Majid and many other members of his BabaKhouya family have decided to return to their homeland. Alongside his wife and two children, he is settling back in the oasis among his family clan. He has secured a job as the caretaker of the sheepfold of the “Madania Cooperative.”

After severe droughts in 2005, the BabaKhouya family created the “Madania Cooperative” to support innovation and experimentation in appropriate agricultural techniques and preserve the local heritage of the oasis. The goal was to improve living conditions and attract back locals who have migrated in search of livelihoods. Today, Madania has 53 active members and directly serves 261 people living over more than 40 hectares in the oasis area.

Since 2008, the Territorial Planning Directorate has teamed up with UNDP’s Community-based Adaptation Programme, a component of the Tafilalet Oases Programme, to support the Madania Cooperative in Fezna.

The programme supports the implementation various pilot projects focused on job creation, and livelihood improvement for poor Oasis inhabitants. Emphasising sustainable development, it promotes ecologically adapted agro-techniques, water conservation, the use of alternative energy sources, the development of traditional products, and ecotourism.

In its “integrated sustainable development farm,” which extends over 15 hectares, the cooperative produces highly valued local agricultural products employing water-preserving cultivation methods and using renewable energy to pump water into drip irrigation systems, which enabled substantial savings of irrigation water, rising from 0.03 to 0.09 cubic meters for every square meter of cultivated land.

The oasis enjoys sunshine of about 3000-3500 hours per year which is used to produce 2650 Kilowatt of energy, in average. The programme constructed two clean energy systems, one using solar energy for pumping water and the other using wind energy for electricity generation and pumping water.

The programme also promoted cultivation practices that enhance agro- biodiversity, focusing on plants that are resilient to climate change, consume little water and have high economic value such as fruit trees, cumin, and aromatic and medicinal plants,  and growing drought-resistant fodder for grazing animals.

The cooperative achieved all of the above through the strong engagement of the local community.  It adopted a comprehensive participatory approach to local development whereby men and women from the community could forge genuine relationships of trust with their elected representatives, articulate their own communal charter, expressing their priority needs and interests, and formulate development plans based on those charters.

The cooperative has established a successful model of local development bringing together local governance institutions with community mechanisms for citizen representation and voice. This model is currently being replicated on a large scale in oasis environments throughout the country, encouraging the resettlement of returning migrant workers. 

The global financial crisis has diminished employment opportunities for migrant Moroccan workers, who are finding in the prospects of improved agricultural productivity and revival of their traditional lifestyles a strong motive to return to the homeland.

“Many people like me are coming back to secure a respectable life and a decent future for their kids. We want to preserve our heritage and at the same time enrich it with new visions and ideas that we acquired while living abroad,” asserts Abdel-Majid.

“The project may come to an end soon, but we will make the best of the development activities and approaches we have learned to sustain our lives and the lives of our children for generations to come.”

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