Construction de la surexploitation et reproduction des inégalités d’accès et d’usage des eaux souterraines : Cas des exploitations agricoles dans le Saiss (Maroc)

Abstract : In many semi-arid regions, groundwater use enabled agricultural intensification through so-called green revolutions. This intensification enabled farmers to mitigate the lack of water and generate more wealth. However, this also induced riskier pathways due to high production costs and volatile agricultural markets. This also caused overexploitation of groundwater resources in many areas, putting at risk the sustainability of the “groundwater economy” (GWE). New inequalities thus appear, as certain social categories cannot follow the declining water tables. The aim of this thesis is to analyze how the construction of overexploitation and the reproduction of inequalities in the access and the use of groundwater are mutually reinforcing. We adopted a “user perspective” in our research approach, as this perspective received little attention in the international debate on groundwater governance. The study was carried out in a small area of 4200 ha in the Saïss plain in Morocco. First a method was developed to specify the contributions of different social categories of farmer to overexploitation. Then the link between overexploitation and inequality was analyzed. The impact of both issues on the socio-economic differentiation of farms was then studied. Finally, a participatory approach was developed to involve farmers and institutional actors in a reflection on the agricultural future of the zone facing the twin problem of overexploitation and inequality. The results show the importance of direct measurement of groundwater withdrawals, in addition to indirect methods, to explain differences in irrigation practices. These measures specify the contributions of the different social categories of farmers to overexploitation, of which currently the entire agricultural sector is accused. The study shows that overexploitation cannot be dissociated from inequalities in access to and use of groundwater, both problems are part of a vicious cycle. Groundwater overexploitation exacerbates -and is exacerbated by- existing inequalities. This reciprocal relation explains the contrasting fortunes of farmers involved in the GWE in the Saïss. New investors are accumulating wealth by cultivating state-subsidized fruit trees and engaging in a land concentration process. Lessees show productivistic logic and generate considerable revenues at the expense of water and soil resources. Conversely, the assignees of the agrarian reform are ejected from this GWE, sometimes even poorer than they were before accessing it. They are caught in a centrifugal dynamic where the most vulnerable undergo socio-economic exclusion due to declining water tables and overproduction undermining the prices on the market, for which they are not responsible. Since financial capital has become the key factor in production systems under the GWE, the agrarian boom benefits farmers/entrepreneurs who are financially capable of bringing together all production factors. They are likely to continue intensive and high value-added agriculture, perhaps until the resource is depleted. Finally, our study questions the implications of such agricultural dynamics at the territorial scale through an intergenerational debate on the challenges to be overcome. The study revealed the entrepreneurial spirit of the sons of assignees coupled with a territorial anchorage, which could well constitute major assets for a more sustainable development of their territory. The thesis recommends making visible the inequalities related to the overexploitation problem. Knowing the amounts of extracted groundwater, where, and by whom, and clarifying the links between overexploitation and inequalities in access to and use of groundwater could provide useful information for more informed groundwater management in compliance with the principles of sustainability.
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Fatah Ameur. Construction de la surexploitation et reproduction des inégalités d’accès et d’usage des eaux souterraines : Cas des exploitations agricoles dans le Saiss (Maroc). Sciences de l'environnement. AgroParisTech, 2017. Français. ⟨NNT : 2017AGPT0009⟩. ⟨tel-01559544⟩

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