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A Quick Research Trip

by David

Village in the High Atlas, 2012 (Photo: D. Kreuer)

Once again, I (David) had the privilege to travel to Morocco for a few days. The main purpose of this trip was to meet our POLISES partner, Professor Mohamed Mahdi from the National School of Agriculture. We got together several times, both in Rabat and Meknès, to prepare his upcoming visit to the UFZ in September, draft and submit a joint abstract for the Tropentag conference, and exchange first-hand news on two important pastoral regions of Morocco: the High Plateaus in the eastern part of the country and the High Atlas mountains in its centre.

Mohamed, who had been to the High Plateaus recently, told me about newly introduced agricultural insurance schemes in this steppe region, which is significant for our analysis of policy instruments. While browsing the bookstores in Rabat, I also came across a new book on index-based insurance in Morocco designed to protect farmers from drought; this idea is apparently gaining traction. Other current developments Mohamed reported include a continued trend among pastoral nomads toward sedentarisation, creating rudimentary villages in the process; and what he calls ‘a logic of space occupation’ through agriculture, partially fuelled by development projects that encourage locals to till the land. Overall, processes of economic polarisation within the population seem to continue unabated, with some people reaping profits while others are increasingly exposed to substantial insecurities in their livelihoods.

Our second regional focus was on the High Atlas. In two fieldwork campaigns on socio-economic transformations in 2009 and 2012, I had been part of a wonderful team of researchers that included Mohamed and another POLISES partner, Professor Jörg Gertel from the University of Leipzig. The three of us are now planning to publish our combined findings in an edited volume (details tba). Hence, we used the opportunity to meet a number of colleagues who’ve worked on the region, refresh our knowledge of historical events in the High Atlas, and work on the book proposal.

One projected direction for future research – in the POLISES group and beyond – is a renewed focus on mountain systems more generally. We could thus combine the wealth of empirical information we have on the High Atlas with the power of models to understand and assess economic-ecological dynamics in the long run.

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