During the last few years, Morocco has moved in thousands of settlers to work on the fruit and vegetable plantations in the occupied territories. The new agricultural commitment is a part of Morocco’s strategy to settle the southern parts of Western Sahara.
Agriculture has boomed in recent years in the Dakhla region, in the south-west of occupied Western Sahara.
The Moroccan official propaganda categorizes the agricultural activities under the “development of the southern provinces”. However, this “development” is carried out without the participation of the Saharawi people, and doesn’t bear them any return.
A report by the Regional Centre for Investment (CRI) of Dakhla reads: “The establishment of agro-industrial businesses has made rapid progress during these last years. In fact, the agricultural potential of this almost desert region is not negligible and promises lucrative profits to investors.”
The CRI estimates the area suitable for agricultural productivity in Western Sahara at 1 million acres. To date, over 529,5 ha are being exploited within six larger irrigated areas of about 1.434 ha, located in a radius of 70 kilometers around the town of Dakhla. Five of these areas are equipped with glasshouses and practical irrigation systems which produce good-quality crops away from the soil. The CRI states that “considerable financial capital is available and offers excellent opportunities for investment in agriculture under glass.”
Tomatoes, cucumbers and melons produced in occupied land, reach European, northern American and former Soviet markets.
Agricultural cultivation in the middle of a desert requires advanced technology. Yet, in the Dakhla region, plants are grown under glass, without soil and fed with nutrient-solutions. For irrigation purposes, water is drawn from depths of 300 to 600 meters, from the extensive and non-renewable subterranean fossil layer.
One of the big producers active in the disputed area is French company Azura, whose produce is available throughout Europe. Another well known producer is French company Idyl, whose website states; “In Dakhla, exceptional sunlight and mild night temperatures right throughout the year give our melons and cocktail tomatoes a unique flavour”.
Through Azura and Idyl alone, up to 10,000 people are employed in the tomato industry in the region of Dakhla, in occupied Western Sahara. Most of the employees are of Moroccan origin.
Morocco occupies the major part of its neighbouring country, Western Sahara. Entering into business deals with Moroccan companies or authorities in the occupied territories gives an impression of political legitimacy to the occupation. It also gives job opportunities to Moroccan settlers and income to the Moroccan government. Western Sahara Resource Watch demands foreign companies leave Western Sahara until a solution to the conflict is found.
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