Africa Investments 

In Zagora, an abundance of "blue gold" brings new opportunities

South of Morocco’s Atlas Mountains, the River Draa, the Kingdom’s longest, winds through lush palm groves before disappearing into the dunes of the Sahara. The valley is home to one of the most beautiful oases in the country and has a unique cultural heritage with its adobe kasbahs and ancient Berber ksours. One such architectural treasure, Casbah Caid Ali, built in the 18th century, is listed on Morocco’s register of national heritage.

A stone’s throw away at the foot of the Jbel Kissane, the town of Agdez overlooks the wadi with its huge palm grove and date trees, whose fruit is known as the “brown gold of the desert”. Here, the ochre mountain runs through a full gamut of beautiful colours at sunset. Further on, the capital of the province and commercial crossroads of Zagora reminds us that this town was once a stop for caravans coming from Timbuktu laden with salt and gold.

This picture-postcard perfection cannot obscure a major concern: water resources are under pressure from an unprecedented drought threatening the well-being of those living in the province. The effects of climate change, which has left no continent spared, have dried up the Kingdom’s water tables. Water stress is now a matter of national concern. In the face of this crisis, Morocco has introduced a major policy to counter its potentially devastating effects, particularly on agriculture, the pillar of the country’s economy.

“Most wells are dry and still the drought goes on. Without water, there is no work. If things were to get any worse, I would have to let my five employees go,” said Abdelmajid Kalb El Jamal, manager of the Dar Amazir riad in Agdez.

In this province, the state has taken a lead by launching, in 2016, the building of the Agdez dam. With more than EUR 60 million in funding from the African Development Bank, the infrastructure includes a water treatment plant with a flow rate of 250 litres per second. In a few weeks, more than 125 kilometres of pipes will be providing drinking water to the towns of Agdez, 27 kilometres from the dam, and Zagora, 125 kilometres from the dam.

Strengthening the drinking water supply for the province of Zagora from the Agdez dam is part of a package of broader support from the African Development Bank for the Morocco Water Access Sustainability and Security Project.

This will secure a supply of drinking water for more than 300,000 people living in the project area. By improving the region’s climate and economic resilience, the project will provide valuable support for tourism and cooperative and traditional handicraft production while helping to preserve the local heritage.

All of this reassures the manager of the Dar Amazir riad. “I can breathe easier now. With the guarantee of abundant drinking water, I can start making plans. I’m thinking of hiring an extra four staff, including a tour guide and leaders for desert hikes. And now, I’m confident that I’ll be able to accept requests from travel agencies for longer full board stays at the riad,” said Abdelmajid, with evident satisfaction.

While he expects a 15% increase in turnover in the medium term, Abdelmajid is also hoping to free up enough resources to contribute to the preservation of the exceptional cultural heritage of the Draa Valley and especially of the Casbah Caid Ali, where tourists are always delighted by the play of natural light on the different rooms. From its rooftop terrace, the unparalleled panoramic views of the nearby oasis are unparalleled.

African Development Bank Group

Related posts