Morocco’s crown prince leads prayers for rains

Rabat, (Morocco): Crown Prince Moulay El Hassan led rain prayers (Salat-ul-Istisqa) this Friday after King Mohammed VI issued a royal decree this week urging Moroccans to implore Allah to bless them with rain.

Children, quranic school students and clerics joined the prayers.

A severe drought has hit the country’s agricultural production sending prices of vegetables and commodities soaring.

Agriculture Minister Aziz Akhannouch told Parliament on Monday that rainfall in most farm lands across Morocco had fallen by 74 percent. He said the government is taking steps to tackle food scarcity without elaborating them.

Local reports say the government has plans to inject salt crystals into the clouds to artificially induce rainfall.

Fifteen people were killed in a stampede in Sidi Boulalam town last week as people rushed for food aid organised by a private charity in a makeshift market. Most of the victims were poor women. The King ordered assistance to their families and a criminal investigation into the incident.

Water is becoming scarce and farmers have to dig deeper to find any, Houcine Aderdour, president of a producers’ federation and an orange farmer in the Souss region, told AFP.

“It’s too early to speak of drought. But if there’s no rainfall by mid-December, the situation will turn critical,” an agriculture ministry official said, on condition of anonymity.

Amid scarcity of rainfall, aquifers have been over-exploited for agriculture. Farmers living in the plains on the Atlantic coast use water from artesian wells to grow olives, citrus fruits, and wine grapes.

Forty percent of the work force in Morocco depend on agriculture. Although Morocco’s agricultural potential is matched by few Arab or African countries, unreliable rainfall causes drought or sudden floods.