The Moroccan harvest: Cash is the key to ending tradition of generation s

Business is booming, writes Elizabeth Nash, in the last part of her series on marijuana in Morocco

Rabat - Morocco's northern peoples look towards Europe, and many are resentful and suspicious of their southern compatriots. Dahilia they call them dismissively - "those from the interior". Their feelings derive from centuries of neglect and isolation and a fierce tradition of rebellion, and form a big obstacle to Rabat's aim of developing prosperous alternatives to the production of hashish.

Producing up to 3,000 tonnes of cannabis resin every year, Morocco is now the world's leading exporter of this illegal substance. Some 70 per cent of the cannabis entering Europe, including Britain, comes from Morocco, so it is hardly surprising that EU members are pressing Morocco to stamp out production, and looking for ways to help it to do so.

In coming weeks, hundreds of tonnes of this season's "Moroccan Black" will start its clandestine journey across the Mediterranean through Spain and the Netherlands, subdivided from dealer to dealer with a bigger markup at every step, to emerge for sale on the streets of London or Manchester at some pounds 2,000 per kilo - 50 times the price paid to small producers in the Rif mountains.

Under pressure from European governments, the Moroccan authorities are stepping up repressive measures against traffickers: last month they increased the maximum prison term from 10 to 30 years, with a maximum fine of 800,000 dirhams (pounds 5,500). More than 18,000 traffickers were seized last year, and 342 foreigners - including 40 Britons - are serving time in Moroccan jails for drugs offences.

The authorities insist they aim to eradicate production of kif, the cannabis plant, altogether, though they dare not infringe the Berbers' ancient tradition of cultivation for fear of revolt. They seek to promote alternative activities such as olive or apple production and eco-tourism, with the help of EU funds.

"Cannabis cultivation derives from poverty, and the problem must be solved in the framework of the overall development of the northern region," the director of Morocco's recently established Northern Development Agency, Hassan Amrani, said this week in Rabat.

"Repression is necessary, but we can't keep it up indefinitely. Our challenge is to find a long-term solution. We must offer an alternative activity for millions who live from kif production, and for that we need support from friendly countries and institutions like the EU."

Europe has committed more than 70 million ecu (pounds 47m) to improving roads and water supplies in the north, and additional support to encourage business, but results are not expected for years, perhaps decades. "We can't talk of a timescale," says Lucio Guerato, the European Commission's representative in Rabat. "How do you persuade people to break the traditions of generations? You have to offer them something guaranteeing long-term prosperity. It's horribly complicated."

Crucial to the success of the Northern Development Agency is the support of the people in the Rif, Mr Amrani says. "Our plan is participative, we work with local people and NGOs [Non-governmental organisations], women's groups and youth groups. The agency has good credibility among the people."

The laid-back days of the Sixties and Seventies, when Europe's hippies wandered through the Rif swathed in chilaba kaftans and puffing their kif pipes, have gone. Local fathers' initial surprised amusement swiftly gave way to the beady realisation that a limitless market existed for their traditional smoke. Within a decade, land devoted to kif had increased tenfold and now covers between 50,000 and 74,000 hectares. A trafficking network has sprung into shape that extends throughout Europe and brings an estimated $2bn (pounds 1.16bn) a year into Morocco. Moroccans insist that hashish mostly leaves the country in the hands of British, Dutch or Italian trafficking clans.

Tens of thousands of unfinished high-rise apartment blocks in the northern city of Tangier are thought to have been financed by drug-profits as a means of money laundering. A police investigator nicknamed "Lieutenant Colombo", sent to Tangier in 1992 to declare war on cannabis, detained dozens of suspects and seized tons of drugs, but lasted only months in his post.

Morocco has no law to combat money-laundering, and the authorities deny that it takes place. But US investigators suspect that a blind eye is being turned towards drug-smuggling. "Producers and large-scale traffickers continue to operate with virtual impunity due to budgetary constraints and widespread corruption," a US State Department Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement said in a report in March 1996.

Some observers in Rabat say stamping out kif production, even with the best will in the world, is wishful thinking doomed to failure - especially with a quickening debate in Europe about possible decriminalisation of hashish. Some fear that improvements of infrastructure in the Rif could in the short term even help the traffickers. But international diplomatic sources say Rabat's latest effort to develop the north is the best so far, and they are prepared to give it the benefit of the doubt.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
newsBear sweltering in zoo that reaches temperatures of 40 degrees
Arts and Entertainment
Brendan O'Carroll has brought out his female alter-ego Agnes Brown for Mrs Brown's Boys D'Movie
filmComedy holds its place at top of the UK box office
News
Ian Thorpe has thanked his supporters after the athlete said in an interview that he is gay
people
Arts and Entertainment
Professor Kathy Willis will showcase plants from the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew
radioPlants: From Roots to Riches has been two years in the making
Arts and Entertainment
TV The follow-up documentary that has got locals worried
Arts and Entertainment
Eminem's daughter Hailie has graduated from high school
music
Arts and Entertainment
Original Netflix series such as Orange Is The New Black are to benefit from a 'substantial' increase in investment
TVHoax announcement had caused outrage
Life and Style
Swimsuit, £245, by Agent Provocateur
fashion

Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes

News
One Direction star Harry Styles who says he has no plans to follow his pal Cara Delevingne down the catwalk.
peopleManagement confirms rumours singer is going it alone are false
Arts and Entertainment
Curtain calls: Madani Younis
theatreMadani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
Arts and Entertainment
'Deep Breath' is Peter Capaldi's first full-length adventure as the twelfth Doctor
TVFirst episode of new series has ended up on the internet
Life and Style
Douglas McMaster says the food industry is ‘traumatised’
food + drinkSilo in Brighton will have just six staple dishes on the menu every day, including one meat option, one fish, one vegan, and one 'wild card'
Sport
Mario Balotelli, Divock Origi, Loic Remy, Wilfried Bony and Karim Benzema
transfersBony, Benzema and the other transfer targets
Life and Style
Once a month, waistline watcher Suran steps into a 3D body scanner that maps his body shape and records measurements with pinpoint accuracy
techFrom heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Dynamics CRM Developer (C#, .NET, Dynamics CRM 2011/2013)

£40000 - £60000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Dynamics CRM D...

Web Developer (C#, ASP.NET, AJAX, JavaScript, MVC, HTML)

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Web Developer ...

C# R&D .NET Developer-Algorithms, WCF, WPF, Agile, ASP.NET,MVC

£50000 - £67000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# R&D .NE...

C# Developer (Web, HTML5, CSS3, ASP.NET, JS, Visual Studios)

£40000 - £50000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Developer (...

Day In a Page

Iraq crisis: How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over the north of the country

How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over northern Iraq

A speech by an ex-MI6 boss hints at a plan going back over a decade. In some areas, being Shia is akin to being a Jew in Nazi Germany, says Patrick Cockburn
The evolution of Andy Serkis: First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

The evolution of Andy Serkis

First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial: Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried

You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial...

Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried
Refugee children from Central America let down by Washington's high ideals

Refugee children let down by Washington's high ideals

Democrats and Republicans refuse to set aside their differences to cope with the influx of desperate Central Americas, says Rupert Cornwell
Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Malorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
Blackest is the new black: Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...

Blackest is the new black

Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...
Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

The US Ambassador to London holds 'jeans and beer' gigs at his official residence – it's all part of the job, he tells Chris Green
Meet the Quantified Selfers: From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor

Meet the 'Quantified Selfers'

From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
Madani Younis: Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Madani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

When it comes to national stereotyping, the Irish – among others – know it can pay to play up to outsiders' expectations, says DJ Taylor
Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy: Was the otter man the wildlife champion he appeared to be?

Otter man Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy

The aristocrat's eccentric devotion to his pets inspired a generation. But our greatest living nature writer believes his legacy has been quite toxic
Joanna Rowsell: The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia

Joanna Rowsell: 'I wear my wig to look normal'

The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef gives raw ingredients a lift with his quick marinades

Bill Granger's quick and delicious marinades

Our chef's marinades are great for weekend barbecuing, but are also a delicious way of injecting flavour into, and breaking the monotony of, weekday meals
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014 preview: Why Brazilians don't love their neighbours Argentina any more

Anyone but Argentina – why Brazilians don’t love their neighbours any more

The hosts will be supporting Germany in today's World Cup final, reports Alex Bellos
The Open 2014: Time again to ask that major question - can Lee Westwood win at last?

The Open 2014

Time again to ask that major question - can Lee Westwood win at last?