Monday, August 31, 2009

Moroccan News Briefs

H.M. King launches Ramadan foodstuffs distribution.

On Monday H.M. King Mohammed VI handed out food baskets to needy people in the Yacoub Al Mansour neighbourhood. This marked the launch of a 57 million dirhams ( $7.62 million) operation which consists in delivering foodstuffs to the needy during the holy month of Ramadan 1430 AH.

Organized by the Mohammed V Foundation for Solidarity, this annual charitable action mirrors Moroccan values of solidarity and generosity and aims to bring support to needy people, notably widows, the elderly and the disabled.

The operation will benefit some 2.43 million people, making up 467,100 households from 71 provinces across the Kingdom, of which 403,000 households (over 2 million beneficiaries) live in rural areas.

Each household will benefit from a food basket containing flour, sugar, cooking oil and tea.

Within the framework of this operation, some 4,671 tons of flour, 1,868 tons of sugar, 116.75 tons of tea and 467,100 five-litter cans of cooking oil will be distributed.

The Interior Ministry, the Ministry of Habous and Islamic affairs and Mohamed V Foundation each contributed to the total operation's budget by 30 million dirhams, 12.5 million dirhams and 14.5 million dirhams respectively.

Morocco to set up "Automotive City"

Morocco will set up a free zone dedicated to automobile industry expected to create up to 15 000 jobs by the year 2015. This large-scale project, endorsed by the government, will be carried out in a zone located between the cities of Kénitra and Sidi Yahia (40km northeast of Rabat).

Dubbed "Kénitra Automotive City", the 344-ha project is part of the national industrial strategy mapped out by the government to attract foreign investment and modernize manufacturing infrastructures, banking on high value industrial sectors, the country's growth capacities, proximity to Europe and skilled manpower.

This project, which will host subcontractors specialising in automobile spare parts, electronics and other components, offers investors a package of incentives, a platform of logistics and several other competitive facilities, sharpening the Kingdom's attractiveness.

Morocco scored in 2007 a major win when French car maker Renault unveiled a $1 billion plan to build its biggest factory in Africa near Tangier. This factory is expected to produce up to 200,000 cars a year as of 2012, and eventually up to 400,000 a year.

The Tangier plant will produce low cost cars and small utility vehicles for developing markets. Some 90 percent of the plant output will be for export while the remaining 10 percent is destined for the Moroccan market.

Over 3.6 million pupils to get free school materials

In the academic year 2009-2010 year, more than 3.6 million Moroccan pupils will get free satchels containing textbooks and all necessary stationary.

This operation, to cost over $ 55 million, is part of the Royal initiative aiming to encourage education and combat illiteracy and school dropouts.

This move targets all first grade pupils of public schools, as well as second-graders and students enrolled in secondary education cycles in rural areas.

Morocco's education policy aims at generalizing primary education, improving school facilities, reducing overcrowding and encouraging the expansion of private schools.

The government is making sustained efforts to improve the quality of education in public schools through the improvement of the teachers' financial situation, pedagogical skills and modernisation of school management.

In-depth structural reforms are being ushered in to the educational system in a bid to make schools more attractive and more receptive keeping up pace with the latest technology innovations and globalisation challenges.

New irrigation techniques yield gains in Morocco

Modified irrigation practices have decreased water usage for crops by 40% in the Beni Mellal region of Morocco, while increasing wheat crop yields by 50% to 80% since 2004.

Working in conjunction with the Institute of Agronomical Research, part of the Moroccan Ministry of Agriculture, the International Centre of Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA) has in the past five years implemented new methods of irrigation, known as deficit and supplemental irrigation, in tandem with early planting and increased weed control, which have shown to use water more efficiently, helping the farmers yield greater productivity rates under more stable conditions.

“The ultimate goal is to improve water productivity and water allocation and reduce water losses/wasting through technical/technologies, institutional and policy options (TIPOs),” Dr. Mohammed El Mourid, ICARDA's regional coordinator for North Africa in consultation, explained to Amy Lieberman of MediaGlobal.

“Using less water while increasing productivity give more return and income to farmers, and saves water for more areas and for longer periods, reaching sustainable use of natural resources here,” El Mourid said.

The program's deemed accomplishments have paid off: The International Fund for Agricultural Development and the Arab Fund for Economic and Social Development have now agreed to fund the second phase of the project, “devoted essentially to scaling the results,” and introducing the practices to different regions.

Road accident kills three in Mohammadia

Three people were killed and another seriously injured in a road accident that occurred on Saturday to the south of Mohammadia.

The accident took place in the road linking Casablanca to Rabat when a car collided with a tanker. According to local authorities, the tanker was empty at the time.

Traffic accidents in the kingdom claim an average of 10 lives daily. According to official figures, they cost around 2% of the national GDP.

Illegal fishing in Morocco in the spotlight

The practice has been banned in the Mediterranean since 2003, yet a large fleet of driftnets – fishing nets up to 14km in length that drift with the tide or current and catch almost anything in their path – continues to operate business as usual in Morocco, targeting swordfish for the European market.

This illegal fishing is likely to have caused the accidental deaths of as many as 20,000 dolphins and more than 100,000 sharks in the past five years alone, says WWF.

Fisheries experts from WWF recently visited Morocco where they were told by driftnet fishermen that no changes in the fishing activity of this illegal fleet had occurred in the past few years – despite international prohibitions.

“Fragile ocean life is still being destroyed by widespread driftnet fishing – against the law – in Moroccan waters,” said Dr Sergi Tudela, Head of Fisheries at WWF Mediterranean.

“This lack of compliance by Moroccan fleets not only undermines the credibility of the international fisheries management governance system, but also takes an unacceptable toll on marine biodiversity.”

“Thousands of dolphins and sharks – and loggerhead turtles, an endangered species – are caught up in these walls of death in the Mediterranean every year,” continued Tudela. “WWF demands action by those responsible for sustainable fisheries management in the region to stop the slaughter.”

Fishing with large-scale driftnets has been internationally banned by the United Nations since 1991. In 2003, the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) adopted a more rigorous regulation, banning the use of any driftnets, irrespective of size, for capturing large fish in the Mediterranean Sea.

In 2003, WWF released the results of a field study that showed the presence of at least 177 driftnet vessels in northern Morocco that used large-scale gears and targeted swordfish for export to the European market. The study also estimated an accidental catch by driftnets of 4,000 dolphins every year in the Mediterranean Sea alone.

Since 2003, Morocco has repeatedly promised to phase out its driftnet fleet, but has still not done so. According to UN and ICCAT resolutions, this fishery thus fully qualifies as illegal, unregulated and unreported (IUU) fishing.

And in January 2010, the European Commission’s Regulation on IUU will enter into force, which prohibits the importation of fishery products obtained from IUU fishing into the European Union (EU).

The EU has even made available to Morocco a total of € 3.75 million for the phase-out of driftnets, and WWF urges the European Commission to demand reports from Morocco on its use of EU public funds for the specific purpose of phasing out its driftnet fleet.

“The current illegal driftnet fishery in Morocco, targeting swordfish for the European market, is a test-case for the credibility of the EU’s determination to fight illegal fishing,” continued Dr Tudela.

“WWF urges the European Commission to send a strong signal to Morocco about its political commitment to stamp out illegal fishing – or fully apply the IUU Regulation in January 2010.”

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