Regional Environmental Change

, Volume 17, Issue 3, pp 739–751 | Cite as

Shared environment, diversity of pathways: dynamics of family farming in the Saïs Plain (Morocco)

  • Mariem Baccar
  • Ahmed Bouaziz
  • Patrick Dugué
  • Pierre-Yves Le Gal
Original Article


The sustainability of family farming and its capacity to respond to global changes are widely debated. Based on a survey of 40 farms on the Saïs Plain in Morocco, this article shows how family farms which implemented similar rainfed crop–livestock production systems 45 years ago have evolved differently based on farm characteristics and the variety of natural, economic and political changes they have faced over that time. The survey sample was constructed to cover the wide diversity currently found with regard to the structure, production choices and access to resources (water, land, capital) of local family farms. Four initial farm types were identified based on their access to land, which ranged from private property to collective land tenure. These farms may be grouped today into three main types based on their production activities: mixed rainfed crop–livestock farms, diversified farms combining rainfed and irrigated crops (vegetables and fruit orchards), and specialized irrigated farms. Seven types of development pathways leading farms from their initially similar to their currently diverse situations were identified. The critical determinants were whether and how farms were able to access water and capital resources to acquire land and innovate with high-value crops. This study illustrates that most family farms have capacity to evolve in different ways. However, competition over access to resources (ground water, labour, land) and markets, both between family farms and with locally based agribusiness firms, are a source of uncertainty weighing upon the development dynamics and future of family farms.


Farm typology Land use Irrigation Diversification Drivers of change 



The authors would like to acknowledge the Great Federative Project FABATROPIMED, financed by Agropolis Fondation under the reference ID 1001-009, the Groundwater ARENA projects (ANR CEP S 11/09) and the Programme Hubert Curien Toubkal for supporting this work. They are also grateful to the family farmers who accepted to be involved in the study as well as the representatives of the Moroccan administration who provided useful insights on the Saïs Plain agriculture. We would like to thank the two anonymous reviewers who provided valuable comments which helped us in improving this paper. We are also grateful to Grace Delobel for her contribution to the English edition.

Supplementary material

10113_2016_1066_MOESM1_ESM.tiff (1.1 mb)
Supplementary material 1 (TIFF 1127 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mariem Baccar
    • 1
    • 2
  • Ahmed Bouaziz
    • 2
  • Patrick Dugué
    • 1
  • Pierre-Yves Le Gal
    • 1
  1. 1.CIRADUMR InnovationMontpellier Cedex 5France
  2. 2.Institut Agronomique et Vétérinaire Hassan IIRabatMorocco

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