Neoliberalism, environmentalism, and agricultural restructuring in Morocco

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Neoliberal restructuring in Morocco has been taking place for over twenty years. Beginning with a decade of structural adjustment, from the early 1980s to the early 1990s, parts of the public sector have been privatized, state services such as health care and education reduced, tariffs lowered and exports heavily promoted. In the dryland agricultural areas, a declensionist colonial environmental narrative has been appropriated to help justify and implement the neoliberal goals of land privatization and the intensification of agricultural production in the name of environmental protection. This paper contributes to areas of growing interest for geographers through an analysis of the underexplored relationship between neoliberalism and environmentalism, in the form of questionable environmental narratives, in Morocco. Land degradation in the dryland agricultural areas of Morocco is commonly blamed on overgrazing by local pastoralists despite existing documentation that suggests instead that ploughing of marginal lands and over-irrigation are the primary drivers of land degradation in the region. The deployment of this colonial environmental narrative of ‘native improvidence’ has facilitated an expansion of state power over collective rangelands under neoliberalism at the same time that government involvement has decreased in other sectors. The effects of neoliberalism in Morocco have been complex and thus the paper argues that current neoliberal reforms such as the Morocco–US free trade agreement need to be scrutinized carefully to prevent a further exacerbation of poverty as well as to prevent further land degradation in these areas.

Keywords: French colonialism; Morocco; agricultural development; environmental narratives; neoliberalism

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Department of Geography and the Environment, University of Texas at Austin, Austin, TX 78712, USA, Email:

Publication date: June 1, 2006

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