The pictures above show the plantation Sté Maraîchage du Sahara 3 at location N 23°36'14.07” W 15°47'28.12” in occupied Western Sahara, for the years 2005, 2010 and 2016. Photos: Google Earth.
WSRW today publishes the research note ‘The expansion of plantation infrastructure in occupied Western Sahara, 2003-2016’ where we estimate the development of each of the 12 plantations in the territory Morocco holds under occupation.
The study is done by visual analysis of three sets of satellite images provided by Google Earth, with three different sets of photos: from 2003/2004/2005, from 2010/2011/2012 and from 2016.
It shows that approximately 1000 hectares are today under plantation in occupied Western Sahara. Several of the plantations are also said to have been investing heavily since the last set of satellite photos were taken in February this year.
This research note contains two main findings:
There is a continued growth of the plantation acreage. WSRW found a large increase in infrastructure from 2003-2005 (150 ha) to the years 2010-2012 (841 ha). Since then, the acreage has increased even more (963 ha in 2016). As the present analysis is made with conservative figures, the acreage is probably larger.
There is a remarkable timing of the first boom in infrastructure. The large increase of infrastructure at the time when Morocco and the EU were negotiating a trade agreement, suggests that the Moroccan government and the Moroccan/French companies involved had expected the trade agreement to go through. After all, the EU is the main market for the agriculture products grown in Dakhla. From the first to the second image set, the number of plantations increased from 4 to 12.
19 July 2016, the Court of Justice of the European Union is hearing the two parties in the court case Frente Polisario v. European Council. The EU appealed he decision of the first instance over technicalities: that the court has no mandate to express itself on such international matters, and that Polisario could not be granted a right to speak on behalf of the people of the territory in an EU court.
Morocco invaded parts of Western Sahara in 1975, against the opinion of the International Court of Justice.
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.
It's not easy keeping up with all the different legal proceedings relating to Western Sahara. For the sake of clarity, here's an overview of the five different cases at the Court of Justice of the European Union.