Morocco: Where traditional fishing is a thread binding communities

 

In Sidi Bounouar, little village along the south-western Atlantic coast of Morocco, most of the population is employed in artisanal fishing, shellfishing and agriculture. Around 80 families totaling around 380 people make a living from these activities.

“Aglou beach is one of the best beaches in Morocco, and received a prize from the Mohammed VI Foundation for its environmental protection efforts”, Abdellah Aarab tells us. The climate is mild throughout the year “with a strong sea air”, he states, showing proudly the crowd some photos of his land and sea.

The families catch seafood, fish, clams and crustaceans using traditional methods. To that end, the fishermen use nets at low tide, rods, long-liners and fixed wooden boats in the port. There is a strong agricultural tradition here too, with several crops grown, including barley, wheat, maize and organic vegetables. The population also practices beekeeping, and raises cattle and poultry. “Our food system is based on local organic vegetables and fish products”, explains Abdellah, though consumption habits are changing in line with global trends. Yields are also in decline, and in recent years, intensive fishing, climate and irregular rainfall have created a problematic situation. “Everything is less stable than in the past.”

Abdellah Aarab

Searching for new opportunities

This situation has an impact on the social organization of the village, wherein all generations participate jointly in the village life. The good news is that, despite migration to cities, a lot of young people are still involved in the social and cultural development of the community. Living conditions are getting better due to the economic success of local artisanal activities. Furthermore, the region has seen infrastructure development, with expansion to the electricity grid, phone and internet networks, and road building. Sidi Bounouar is, indeed, a lively place! There are lots of cultural events throughout the year, on different themes: agriculture, the environment, sport, national festivities, local traditions and myths, religion, scouting, education and literacy. Nevertheless, living standards are still modest and highly correlated to the success of the harvest or the catch, so people look for new opportunities to generate income.

Since 2013, the village has hosted the Tigri Festival, with a market offering local products and events that highlight the value of artisanal fishing to the community’s cultural wealth. In addition, to enhance local gastronomy and develop coastal tourism, the festival promotes the village externally through local media, and sponsors education efforts aimed particularly at local women, who must play a key role in the region’s economic development. The seafood cooperative Douira, created in 2007, brings 22 women together. Through this organization, they promote the production and sale of mussels, both fresh and drys, catching around 4 tonnes every year. In another project, the Seahouse, the community is working towards the opening of a restaurant featuring local seafood, a guesthouse with a sea view and even a surfing school, as well as educational workshops to involve more women in the mussel-production cooperative.

Réane Ahmad

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