Transformations of food production in the urban context

Urban growth and changing working conditions have led to transformation processes within agriculture and animal husbandry in both towns.

Fields of change

Kasba Tadla and Tinghir are both growing urban centres and the borders ot the urban municipalities were extended during past decades to include neighbouring settlements and land. This in turn has changed the status of the duwar-s (Arabic: “village”) and igherm-s (Tamazight: “fortified village”) and their surrounding land into urban hay-s (Arabic:“urban quarter”). In the context of the growing urban centres, food production as an economic practice is losing its central role and significance within the town and the families ot the towns. Nowadays, not all families in hay-s are engaged in farming and in addition, food production is often one of several sources of income within these families.

Urban development tends to affect the distances that people need to travel every day, in a number of ways, as urban expansion changes distances between cultivated land and dwelling places: for example, in Kasba Tadla, many of the farmers who provided land tor urban extensions have plenty ot non-irrigated fields. But if they keep cattle, they might have to walk longer

A view of fields in the Todgha oasis in the vicinity of new concrete houses

Figure 21.1 A view of fields in the Todgha oasis in the vicinity of new concrete houses.

Source: tilia 2016.

distances to their fields to collect fodder. In contrast, development areas have a starting phase of urban fallow, which provides additional land tor grazing — especially for sheep — close to town.

Another factor is the change in the distribution of work. In Tinghir, the cultivation of the fields and the maintenance of the channel system necessitate hard physical labour. In the historical context, due to strong hierarchies in oases9, less influential ethnic groups, but also poorer parts of the population were obliged to bear a bigger workload (De Haas 2003, pp. 244, 249). Access to education and work outside the local agricultural sector has led to a diversification of economic practices and have changed these social hierarchies. In their research in the 1990s, De Haas and El Ghanjou (2000) observed a “strong disaffection” in the younger generation towards traditional agriculture in theTodgha oasis.The researchers connected this with improved education and an orientation towards material success and migration and point out that agriculture has become the task of women, of men of the older generation and of the very poor. This in turn brings with it a perceptible change towards crops which are less labour-intensive, e. g. from cereals to alfalfa and from dates to fruit trees.10 Women are very present in the oasis as they are responsible for the majority of daily tasks in the oasis fields and tasks connected to animal husbandry (De Haas & El Ghanjou 2000, pp. 55—69, 72). Interviews in 2018 indicate that women of the older generation sustain the cultivation of the oasis — young educated women tend not to become involved with fieldwork and animal husbandry. To a large extent hard physical work such as digging or the maintenance of the channel system, is done by paid workers. These changes indicate that urban food production is in a state of transformation.

De Haas (2001) also documented a decline of influence of customary institutions in oases:

The incongruity between the ‘inherited’ physical structures and institutions on the one hand and fundamentally altered social and economic structures on the other is important when trying to explain the crisis of traditional water extraction and irrigation systems, especially if the latter are labour-intensive. The ancient institutions are increasingly losing the effective power to enforce common law, and, for instance, to punish ‘free riding’ peasants who refuse to contribute to the collective maintenance of the irrigation system.

(Dc Haas 2001, p. 21)

Around the turn of the millennium, the organization of common tasks in the Todgha oasis began to be taken over by NGOs. De Haas describes the start of this development in the 1990s and points out the importance of donors and their preference tor officially registered associations (De Haas 2003, pp. 364ff). Also, BelYazid (2016) highlights the factor of financial support, as international and state institutions tend to prefer NGOs as local project partners.

In KasbaTadla, there have been fewer changes in responsibilities so far.The jamcta-s (Arabic: “assembly”, in this case of village representatives) are in charge of the allocation of the fields of the village community. In some villages, they had a final partition of communal land for agricultural purposes several decades ago, and — the land changed status to private property. In other cases, every 10 years there is an allocation of equal parts of land tor every married male in the village community1'.The cultivation of the fields itself is organized by an appointed male member of the extended family. Furthermore, the work in the fields is organized (although not necessarily done) by the family itself. And contrary to De Haas and El Ghanjou’s (2000) findings for the Todgha oasis, my research in KasbaTadla showed no indication that the young generation was not interested in farming.

In 2018/2019, the Moroccan state has started to privatize communal land on a national level (c. f. Ministere de l’Interieur 2019). All males and females belonging to the lineages of the village communities are registered, the land is surveyed and will be distributed among the members. This process will endow shares to both sexes12 and all age groups and leave its marks on Moroccan food production. It will provide property rights to children, women, young men, and bachelors who have been disregarded in the allocation and alter hierarchies within families and village communities. Mahdi (2014) discusses another aspect. He states that communal land is seen as a land reserve for neoliberal concentration processes in Moroccan agriculture and privatization is a part of land grabbing processes. The near future will show how these changes will affect urban food production and food security.

If money is available, mechanization usually takes place: the large fields in Kasba Tadla allow fieldwork such as ploughing, harvesting and threshing to be done with the help of tractors and harvesters. In Tinghir, mechanization includes threshing but it focuses mainly on the water regime, where the water shares can be supplemented by motor pumping. Pumped water can be bought, tractors, harvesters or threshing machines can be rented and workers can be hired, often on a short-term basis.

In addition, migration is an important factor13. Many of the migrants living in Moroccan cities, Europe and the Middle East send and invest remittances, which raise family incomes, provide modern housing and the opportunity to invest in small enterprises as well as in mechanization of food production. This in turn has an effect on the social status of the migrants and of their families.

Controversial practices

In the urban context, animal husbandry is a controversial issue. In Tinghir and the neighbouring igherm-s animals have been an integral part of oasis agriculture for centuries. Historically, livestock was kept within the fortified villages, on the ground floor of the dwellings, in small courtyards (with smaller animals also being kept on roof terraces)14. It is still customary today to use

A zrib at the edge of a town quarter in Kasba Tadla

Figure 21.2 A zrib at the edge of a town quarter in Kasba Tadla.

Source: Heide Studer 2018.

their manure to fertilize the fields. The animals are kept in byres next to the houses and except for donkeys and mules, they are not taken out. In Kasba Tadla, especially in town quarters with informal roots, some families keep livestock — some in stables close to their house and courtyards, in garages, on roof terraces or newly-built and not-yet inhabited houses. Others make use of enclosures on the margins of the settlement, and this can be traced back in history — as the name of the historic town centre of Kasba Tadla is zrib (Arabic: “enclosure”). Figure 21.2 shows a contemporary zrib and some sheep in vicinity of fallow land close to the river and in front of an urban quarter with concrete houses. Sheep and goats in particular, tend to graze on urban fallow land and on inundation zones along the river.

In Morocco, loi n° 12—90 (French: “Law no. 12-90”) regulates the zoning and construction in urban agglomerations. Animal husbandry in urban areas is not mentioned or forbidden, as long as it does not cause any hygiene or health problems for the inhabitants. In Tinghir, on the one hand, livestock is seen as an integral part of oasis economy. On the other hand, the planning administration does not consider subsistence economy, agriculture, and animal husbandry to be a forward-looking urban practice, even though within the urban perimeter nearly 500ha of land are cultivated and livestock includes around 2000 sheep and 1000 cows (Agence de Developpement Social 2010, pp. 40, 43). In Kasba Tadla, the majority of the animal husbandry practices are marginalized, because, as town representatives pointed out, livestock should not be kept within the urban perimeter. Such attitudes, echoed by other countries in the global North and the global South, make it difficult to adapt animal husbandry practices to the urban context (Grace, Lindahl, Correa, Kakkar 2015). Building on international experience, Grace et al. (2015) recommend to improve the keeping of urban livestock, using the existing situation as a basis. They perceive a comeback of animal husbandry in urban agglomerations, and see attitudes and policies gradually becoming more positive. Maybe, in the future existing animal husbandry practices will be perceived as part of urban economy in Morocco, too.

Various players

How urban food production is practiced, where it can take place and if it is accepted as an urban practice is negotiated between different players.

In the context of growing urban centres, individual land owners may profit considerably if they sell development land. For farmers in Kasba Tadla, this is connected with a loss of fields. This is not the case in Tinghir, as oasis fields are situated within inundation areas which are kept free of buildings and recent agricultural extensions are situated at the very edge of town.

Organizational structures such as village assemblies or NGOs such as water or development associations are more powerful players. If their members are united, those organizations can be partners in development processes (c.f. Benidir 2012; Studer 2016; Bel Yazid 2016). They can negotiate conditions for their members with state authorities, municipalities or development companies. A jamcfa is an organization of a (former) village, an assembly of elected male representatives of family lineages whereas associations represent members, e.g., land owners of one or several villages. In Kasba Tadla, jatna'a-s were important partners of the municipality in the urbanization process in recent years. For example, one jamcfa negotiated for better infrastructure for their town quarters with tribal roots, to compensate for the loss of their fields. In Tinghir, NGOs act as intermediaries between farmers and other players and they have become influential in local politics as well1’. When it comes to funding, e. g., for the modernization of the channel system, the recent agricultural extension of the hay Afanour or the renovation of the old ighermTinghir,local NGOs cooperate with local and state authorities and international partners. With regards to food production issues, new forms of common, market-oriented production and marketing have been started. Activities in Tinghir comprise cooperatives tor couscous, dates, milk production, and apiculture, some of these being introduced by international partners, such as the French agricultural agency FERT (Bel Yazid 2016; FERT 2016, pp. 10,19), whereas others have been started by locals. Time will tell which of these will be successful.

Some groups working in urban food production are marginalized in these negotiation processes: not only are women not always equally represented in organizations, in the jama a they are excluded altogether, because of their sex. Landowners with little land tend to have less influence, in NGOs too. Workers who do not own their land or have land rights are not represented by the organizations. In some cases, NGOs actively focus on women or agricultural workers as target groups (c. f. Bel Yazid 2016, FAD 2018).

Local inhabitants involved in informal agricultural and animal husbandry practices perform these as long as possible and wherever they find a place or an opportunity to do so.These informal practices are particularly important in the daily life of the poorer section of the population, and are an essential part of the activities they undertake to make a living. Since they do not have a strong voice in urbanization processes, their power is based in their daily food practices and these can demand a great flexibility.

 
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