In Souss, the project for a natural park worries local populations

In Souss, the project for a natural park worries local populations
In Souss, the project for a natural park worries local populations

The government project to create the Western Anti-Atlas National Natural Park with an area of ​​more than 111,000 hectares encompassing numerous douars in the provinces of Chtouka Ait Baha, Taroudant and Tiznit is arousing the mobilization of the local population who see a simple process of confiscation of their land

The decision of the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries, Rural Development, Water and Forests to open a public inquiry concerning the creation of the Western Anti-Atlas National Natural Park on a large part of the properties claimed by the residents of 13 rural communities located in the provinces of Chtouka Ait Baha, Taroudant and Tiznit sparked a wave of protest among the local population.

This project, which the Ministry of Agriculture intends to implement over a vast territory exceeding 111,000 hectares, is part of the “Forest Strategy of Morocco 2020-2023”, in its part linked to the development of national parks and protected areas. .

According to this decision, a public examination is carried out from May 20 until August 19, in accordance with the content of Decree No. 2.18.242 of April 27, 2021 relating to the implementation of certain requirements of Law No. 22.07 relating to protected areas.

In this context, the civil society associations of the Id Ouknidif tribe of the Chtouka Ait Baha province estimated, in a press release published at the beginning of this month, that resolution no. 3267.23 appeared in the Official Journal (JO) of March 14 2024, “violates the sanctity of property rights”emphasizing that this did not take into account the fact that these “targeted lands were inherited by the inhabitants of the region from their ancestors and are private lands”, in addition to being “the only Source of their income, of their daily subsistence, the Source of the water bed in which they drink and the only place to graze their livestock”.

Tribal associations, which bring together more than 72 douars, have denounced what they describe as “unilateral management” of this project by taking a “arbitrary decision, rooted in a logic of control and oppression, to transform vast areas of populated mountains into a natural park, under the pretext of protecting biodiversity”.

This collective indicated that this measure “would restrict land status” land which will include the natural park, “which is in violation of Law No. 22.07 relating to protected areas”which stipulates among its provisions that “the right of usufruct of land located within the boundaries of national parks must be exercised without making any change or modification to the state or external appearance in which these lands existed at the time of the creation of these parks”.

“A decision that does not date from today”

Hajj Ibrahim Afoaar, head of the Adrar Souss-Massa Coordination, expressed in a statement to Desk the rejection by his authority of this decision, which he considers “not as a fact of today, but rather the result of past practices, starting with the introduction of wild boar, blocking locals’ access to region-specific agricultural livelihoods, and then overgrazing of the land, leading to the decision to launch a public inquiry to create the Western Anti-Atlas National Natural Park.

Civil society associations in the region have, according to Afoaar, submitted complaints and grievances to the Ministry of Agriculture and intend to resort to the Administrative Court and the mediation institution in the event that the ministry does not respond positively to the demands of residents who reject this “unfair decision to displace them from the region.”

The same spokesperson stressed that this decision, published in the OJ “plans to prohibit residents from disposing of their land and to fence it, and to impose financial sanctions ranging from 1,000 to 10,000 dirhams on any offender”, which constitutes, according to him, a “fatal fine” for the entire region.

For his part, Omar Fourat, lawyer at the Rabat Bar, estimated that the problem posed by this project is that the supervisory ministry chose a mountainous and populated area, which includes 13 local authorities, when it could have established the park in a forest area deserted from any human occupation.

The decision issued by the Ministry of Agriculture refers to Law 22.07 relating to protected areas, which amended the law on natural parks, promulgated in 1934, during the colonial period, to which the Minister of Agriculture refers, according to him. According to the same interlocutor, “the owners are thus deprived of their property upon publication of the decision in the Official Journal”. Clear, “they no longer have any recourse to the enjoyment of their private property unless authorized by the National Agency for Water and Forests (ANEF) which supervises the project, and in the event of violation of this decision, residents are exposed to financial or other sanctions depriving them of their rights.”

Forat added that all agricultural, pastoral and peasant activities will be carried out in accordance with the park development project, which means that “residents will no longer be able to freely dispose of their land”.

The other problem, according to the same Source, is that the law allows the park administration to delegate its management for the benefit of private companies or entrepreneurs foreign to the region, who will be able to exploit it either for sport fishing , vacationing, or any other activity of a leisure or tourism nature.

Opposition parties in support

The Party of Progress and Socialism (PPS) took up this matter through its deputy in the House of Representatives, Khadija Arouhal, who demanded that the competent ministry “discloses the legal guarantees granted to the inhabitants of the Western Anti-Atlas zone concerned by the natural park project with regard to their property and land exploitation rights”.

Arouhal indicated, in a written question addressed to the Minister of Agriculture, Mohammed Sadiki, that even if the inhabitants concerned can be informed of the file for the creation of this natural park at the headquarters of the local authorities belonging to the area which concerns them and that they can record their observations on this subject, the data available on the land concerned “are limited”. She emphasizes “the absence of official communication on this project”who contributed to “a lack of awareness of the issue and the dissemination of unreliable information among the population”, what she considers ” normal “ because of their fears for their land holdings and economic interests.

The parliamentarian stressed that this situation “requires providing legal guarantees to the residents concerned so that their rights to ownership and use of land will not be violated, and launching a vast consultation process at the level of the groups concerned under the control of local authorities and elected officials “.

For its part, the Unified Socialist Party (PSU), Ait Baha branch, expressed its rejection of the creation of the park. The left-wing political group believes that this initiative constitutes “a prelude to the seizure of land from the inhabitants of the Amazigh tribes of the region and their forced displacement”. The party thus provides its support to the inhabitants of the mountainous district of Ait Baha “to whatever measure they intend to take to put an end to the process of usurpation of the people’s lands that they inherited from their ancestors centuries ago.”

The PSU considered that the creation of this park amounts to “to remove the right of ownership from the inhabitants and to prevent them from carrying out any action on these lands, in exchange for granting them the possibility of their use, which remains temporary”. A protocol therefore dependent on the goodwill of the State “who can at any time acquire them from their owners by mutual agreement or as part of an expropriation”.

The party called on the State to implement the recommendation resulting from the discussion of Morocco’s report before the Racial Discrimination Committee in November 2023 relating to the protection of Amazighs against the confiscation of their lands and forced displacement, and to return land confiscated from their original owners while guaranteeing the right of victims of dispossession to access justice while activating the participatory approach through effective consultations with the people concerned before authorizing any development project or exploitation natural resources that would affect their land.

“There is no identity without land”

Abdallah Bouchart, Amazigh researcher and activist, argues that the goal behind the creation of this park “is not to preserve biodiversity, natural heritage, wildlife, etc., but rather to prepare the ground for investments, or what the law calls development, which raises questions about strategic direction and real objectives of this project.

The researcher emphasized that “the nature of Amazigh identity and existence is embodied by the land, just as it is embodied by freedom. It is not possible to talk about the Amazigh person without the presence of land and freedom. The natural park threatens land ownership and the freedom of man to dispose of and exploit his property and land. For him, the speech of the supervisory administration, its environmental concern and the preservation of the argan tree and the forest, are only “empty slogans, because otherwise how was the argan tree able to survive for thousands of years in the presence of Amazigh man in the Souss if the latter constituted a threat to him? “.

“In order to sustain these resources in a rational manner, the Amazigh spirit has established a strict and intelligent legal system to preserve and maintain them in a democratic and equitable manner, namely the Agdal laws, the laws on pastures and the laws on water distribution”, continues the activist, asserting in conclusion that “these laws, which some call customs, thanks to which the water of the oases, rivers, wells and lakes has persisted, just like the argan tree and its forest surroundings, have been enacted and legislated in a free and equitable manner. Therefore they are revered by communities, which is not the case with legislation adopted in a bureaucratic manner which only guarantees the interests of a small number who impose them on the people without deliberation, sharing or even freedom of expression. opinion “.

©️ Copyright Pulse Media. All rights reserved.
Reproduction and distribution prohibited (photocopies, intranet, web, messaging, newsletters, monitoring tools) without written authorization


PREV An NGO warns of the explosion in the number of deaths of migrants attempting the crossing to Spain
NEXT Legislative elections in Charente: Renaud Combaud, mayor of Aigre, invested in the 3rd constituency at 3 p.m.… forced to give up at 6:30 p.m.