Moroccan Farmers Getting Assistance from Vegetable Scientist
Carbondale, Ill: Consumers want to buy a pepper that’s the same size as other peppers, carrots the same colour as other carrots, hence they want consistency. That seems simple enough. Except that it’s not simple, not in Morocco, small family farms in Morocco grow what they can, and consistency in size, shape and colour is not necessarily the first focus.
Vegetable scientist, Alan Walters, professor in the Department of Plant, Soil and Agricultural Systems at Southern Illinois University Carbondale. He is an expert on finding ways to improve farming methods. He’s working in Morocco with the Moroccan-American Commission for Educational and Cultural Exchange in Rabat, and the Institute National de la Recherche Agronomique (INRA) at its regional center in Agadir as a Fulbright Research Scholar.
About improving marketability of vegetable crops for small farmers, a conversation began between Walters and INRA Director Mohammed Badraoui, hence The Fulbright research project also began. Walters favors introducing vegetables that may thrive in a difficult climate as well as improving local traditional vegetable varieties.
Walters is working with INRA in Morocco to improve revenue generation for small subsistence farmers. Morocco having some of the most arable land of all the Arab and African countries and exports many horticultural crops, including melons, tomatoes and various fruits, to Europe, and is expanding commercial crops such as cotton, corn and soybeans. Argan, olive and palm dates are traditional crops that are also widely grown.
To help the small farmers increase vegetable production, Walters began collecting dozens of landraces in different vegetables and melons to evaluate them for suitability to the harsh inland Moroccan climate. He’s currently involved in the evaluation stage, focused on carrots, melons and watermelons, onions, pumpkins and turnips. Walters’ Fulbright Moroccan experience is not his first for vegetable production work in harsh and often unsuitable climates.