I came to Morocco to review first-hand the progress on its $697.5 million MCC compact. It has been a fantastic, productive trip thus far, both in terms of the people I have met, their message of enthusiasm and gratitude for the work we will achieve together, and the clear commitment from our partners to make this compact a success.
MCC’s compact with Morocco is diverse and spans a wide geographic area. Beginning in Marrakech, I first traveled west through Chichaoua and Essaouria provinces, two of the poorest in the country. I was also able to visit areas where we will implement the innovative, $300 million Fruit Tree component of the compact. Talking with the potential beneficiaries of our programs, the hard-working local farmers, I learned first-hand about how MCC’s work will improve irrigation techniques in Morocco. The irrigation systems in these targeted areas have been used by local populations for centuries. These systems are built by the communities and demonstrate great ingenuity, including the capture of water from springs and the construction of clever zigzagging networks of earthen canals. In an effort to build on the wisdom of the past and help render it sustainable—and environmentally-friendly—for the future, MCC assistance will be used to rehabilitate these irrigation systems—covering an area of over 50,000 hectares—to allow for more efficient use of scarce water and increase revenues through higher yields and improved quality of crops like dates, olives, almonds and figs.
In the coastal town of Essaouria (which people were quick to tell me was the setting of Orson Welles 1950s classic Othello) I met with Morocco’s first and only woman serving as mayor, Asma Chaabi, and the Director of the National Office of Fishing (ONP). Together, they presented an overview of the challenges small-scale Moroccan fisherman are facing and the anticipated benefits MCC investments in the sector will have in the very near future. These fishermen were themselves involved in the development of this project and are confident that it will result in benefits for their households and their community. Working with ONP, MCC will invest $116 million to improve the competitiveness of thousands of small-scale fisherman across the country through improved landing sites and port facilities. MCC assistance will facilitate the development of wholesale fish markets in support of hundreds of mobile fish vendors.
So far, I have been tremendously satisfied that the MCC program is off to a fantastic start. It is clear that this compact is a successful, tangible partnership between the people of Morocco and the United States. Countless Moroccans, ranging from local farmers to government leaders at all levels, have expressed gratitude to the American people for investing in their future. It is clear that the talented team in place so far, led by Moroccans themselves, has the professional skills and deep determination to successfully and fully implement this program. I have also been touched by the candor and friendship of the many hardworking farmers and fishermen I have met along the way who are looking for a better life, one that will be a reality thanks to MCC’s work.