Residents of the Gharb region of Morocco, already hit by flooding for the second year in a row, are bracing themselves for another rough month. Farmers fear the worst now that February, a month known for heavy rainfall, has arrived.
"I'm experiencing the same nightmare as I did last year," Benacher told Magharebia. "My field has been flooded, my livestock has been harmed and I'm at my wits' end."
Local authorities, together with the national government, have been working to evacuate residents in inflatable dinghies and accommodate them in tents and specially equipped bivouacs.
"The necessary resources have been deployed, including a Ministry of Health team made up of a doctor and several nurses," Sidi Allal local council chairman Tazi Berkiya Mustapha told Magharebia.
Since January, authorities have been distributing mattresses, blankets, food and livestock feed.
Special tents have also been erected for primary school pupils, so that they will not be forced to miss classes while their communities struggle to contain the flooding. School administrators have formulated a plan to take necessary steps to minimise disruption in the children's schooling, said Abdellatif Youssoufi, the regional director of the Academy of Education and Teaching.
In the future, serious efforts should be made to build schools farther away from flood-prone areas, he noted.
The affected area sits just 6 metres above sea level, and its clay-rich soil hinders water retention, resulting in massive floods.
Last year, floods submerged over 56,000 hectares of land in Gharb, destroying crops and leaving many farmers struggling to recover their losses. The Agriculture Department stepped in to provide farmers with replacement livestock, mixed fodder and tree seedlings.
A new strategy - with a price tag of 200 million dirhams - aims to prevent another such season in the Gharb-Chrarda-Beni-Hssen region.
"A comprehensive programme will soon be put in place to maintain and create trackways and clear sewer systems, among other things," Agriculture Minister Aziz Akhennouch announced in Kenitra on Monday (February 1st).
The state will also pay "90% of the purchase price of hybrid maize seed, hybrid sunflower seeds, certified sunflower populations and certified rice seed", he said.
Along with funding seed for new crops, the Ministry of Agriculture and Maritime Fishing's plan covers 60% of the price of fertiliser for 45,000 hectares of sunflowers, 25,000 hectares of maize and 7,000 hectares of rice.
Moroccan officials, confronted with two years of devastating damage in the Gharb-Chrarda-Beni-Hssen region, are looking closely at other ways to prevent a recurrence of the catastrophic flooding.
The Department for Water and the Environment is currently examining whether two proposed dams could safeguard the Gharb plain from future floods. The first of the new dams would be positioned upstream in the Oued Sebou and the second would be installed in the Oued Beht.
"Officials must find a lasting solution for this region," economist Mohammed Benchemmar told Magahrebia.
By Sarah Touahri for Magharebia in Rabat
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