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A late start in the 1980s

    Morocco was the last country in the WANA region to establish a medic development program.

There had been a small medic component in a World Bank funded project in Fez - Karria - Tissa area in the early 1980s but medic development began in 1985 on a substantial scale.

In 1985 18,000 ha of medic were sown and by 1988 the area had reached 47,300 ha.

The medic was all sown in the southern region between Casablanca and Safi as it was decided that the northern part of the country with its higher rainfall and more complex rotations would prove too difficult.

South of Casablanca the common rotation was fallow cereal and it was hoped that the medic would replace the fallow.

Medic was not introduced on the parcour.

The program called Operation Ley Farming was organised by the Ministry of Agriculture with advice from GTZ - the German aid organisation.

Some of the GZT advisers had run the highly successful legume pasture development project at Sejnane in Tunisia.

Large quantities of medic seed were purchased from Australia and small teams of Australian farmers were employed for three months during winter to advise on seed bed preparation and sowing.

Contradictory messages

At the same time as Operation Ley Farming was being launched the King of Morocco gave his support to the Million Hectare Wheat Program based on US advice and funds.

This program advocated deep ploughing, nitrogen fertiliser and fallow. Everything that was contrary to medic pasture.

It is hardly surprising that Ministry advisers and farmers were confused.

Given the political power and financial resources of the Million Hectare Wheat Program it would have been better to avoid confrontation and concentrated the medic program on the parcour.

Operation Ley Farming was not supplied with any scarifiers or seeders to sow the medic seed but with considerable effort and ingenuity the Moroccan and Australian farmers managed to prepare seed beds and sow the medic seed with reasonably good results.

The broad principles of the medic rotation had been explained to the Moroccan technicians who were charged with advising the Moroccan farmers but they lacked more detailed knowledge and experience of grazing management.

The standard of grazing management was generally better than the FAO project in Algeria in 1973 but there were still many pastures that suffered from over and under-grazing.

The project plan made extension and training difficult as the medic was scattered over such a large part of the country instead of being concentrated in nodules.

    When it came to the cereal phase the lack of equipment for shallow cultivation became even more of a hurdle than during the establishment phase.

It is difficult to understand why nothing was done.

By 1985 the need for shallow cultivation had been demonstrated for a decade.

The GTZ team had been extremely well organised at Sejnane in Tunisia with the appropriate implements.

I can only speculate that neither GTZ nor the Moroccan officials realised that shallow cultivation require appropriate implements.

Like many officials without practical experience and like the researchers at ACSAD they thought that shallow cultivation was simply a matter of reducing the depth with a deep plough.

    Some medic extension material was produced during the program (not available at the beginning) but nothing on shallow cultivation.

Assessment of Operation Ley Farming

    The official assessment of Operation Ley Farming by the Ministry and GTZ was negative and Morocco has abandoned any further attempt at introducing medic in the 1990s.

The reasons for failure are clear.

Firstly the lack of scarifiers made medic regeneration almost impossible for farmers.

They could use the tandem disc or cover cropper in the closed position which retained the medic pods on the surface but was this not effective in weed control and was costly.

Usually they reverted to deep ploughing which destroyed the medic.

Grazing management was adequate in the sense that the medic survived the grazing phase but farmers were not exploiting the medic to the optimum economic advantage.

Seed Production.

    Morocco produced some seed at Jedida centre but the whole idea was misguided.

The priority should have been the survival of the medic pastures on farms.

If more medic had survived through better shallow cultivation there would be not be the need for so much seed.

Like most WANA countries the importation of medic seed from Australia was seen as a problem.

If the effort expended on producing medic seed had been used to improve the survival of medic pastures less seed would have been needed.

The cost benefits for the country would have been much better.

Abda plains

    The IFAD project continued with medic on the Abda plains near Safi after the main Operation Ley Farming had been abandoned.

The medic program also suffered from a lack of suitable implements for shallow cultivation.

In spite of the severe difficulties a number of farmers did make the system work and there were some excellent medic pastures and high levels of livestock production.

Like other WANA countries Morocco found it difficult to cope with success.

The bureaucratic system could not incorporate successful farms and farmers into its training and demonstration program.

The successful farms were regarded as interesting oddities rather than centres for other farmers to learn from.