Africa: Morocco's Campaign Against Hashish Growing Has Peasants Grumbling, Protesting 3/10/06

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The Moroccan government has won international praise for its campaign against cannabis cultivation in the country's Rif region, but the 100,000 Moroccan families who make a living supplying hashish for the insatiable European market are not so pleased. While peasants have largely limited their protests so far to grumbling, last week about 3,000 people demonstrated near the village of Boujdiane to demand the government help them replace lost incomes, Reuters reported.

supporting families:
Morocco's hashish crop
"Yes to fight hashish, no to starvation," the crowds chanted. "Where are the jobs? Where are the promises?"

The Moroccan government has said it wants to eradicate cannabis planting by 2008, and the International Narcotics Control Board reports that it managed a 10% reduction in the crop in 2004. But in the Rif, where two-thirds of the population is dependent on cannabis crops, the demands for something to replace the crop are growing.

This year, the government is concentrating on the province of Larache, where it has destroyed more than 10,000 acres of cannabis. But that is only one-third of production in the province and only about one percent of total Moroccan production. Still, the impact on farmers has been significant.

"We agreed to stop growing cannabis in exchange for a development project, but now they have given us nothing," said peasant farmer Abdelillah Bakhoyti. He told Reuters his plants were cut down in July and government inaction has let his community down.

But government officials counter that aid has been flowing into the province, to the tune of nearly $2 million last year. Farmers need to seek alternatives, said anti-poverty program manager Mohammed Yemlahi. "We try to convince farmers to tend goats and to plant fruit trees, especially olives, and create cooperative societies to produce dairy products and poultry," he said.

That isn't enough for some farmers. "If the state wants to eradicate cannabis, it must help farmers by building roads and giving them interest-free loans," said Abdel Harak. "And they should do away with prosecuting cannabis farmers."

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Issue #426 -- 3/10/06

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