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close this bookBoiling Point No. 38 : Household Energy in High Cold Regions (ITDG - ITDG, 1997, 40 p.)
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Household energy in high cold regions of Morocco

by Philippe Simonis, Coordinator of the Special Energy Program (GTZ/CDER) PO Box 509, Gueliz Marrakech, Morocco

ergie domestique dans les zones froides du Maroc.

Cet article consid principalement la ron de IMLIL situdans le Haut Atlas. Le bois en la principale source d'rgie de la plupart des villages du Haut Atlas. L'logie de cette ron ainsi que les aspects socio culturels sont retracdans cet article. Les foyers traditionnellement utilisdans cette ron sont des foyers en cmique sage multiples. Ces foyers ainsi que les fours ain sont gralement construits par les femmes qui s'occupent lement de leur maintenance. Le programme GTZ - CDER (Centre d'udes sur les ergies Renouvelables) vise la ptration des foyers mlliques dont les rendements sont plus vet utilisant le bois comme combustible. Les mesures d'accompagnement notamment la formation des artisans font partie de ce programme

Energy Profile of Morocco

The Kingdom of Morocco is situated on the north-western coast of Africa. It is dominated by the Mediterranean climate which is tempered by the influence of the Atlantic Ocean. Inland, the climate is continental with significant seasonal temperature differences. The mountainous Atlas region is moist with frequent snow falls in winter.

The Renewable Energy Development Centre (CDER) plays a key-role in implementing an energy policy aimed at sustainable development and protection of the environment. With the help of the German Technical Cooperation organization (GTZ), CDER is carrying out several programmes in the fields of biomass and improved stoves. These comprise energy planning (including renewable energy and biomass energy) and the development of technologies with a higher energy efficiency (for stoves and heating institutions and public baths)

Wood energy situation in Morocco

The annual wood consumption is estimated at 7.4 million tonnes with production at only 2.6 million tonnes; a deficit of 4.8 million tonnes annually. Forests are disappearing at an annual rate of 35000 hectares.

Baking top and face of bread

Baking the sides

kettle suspended over Takate

The non-sustainable rate at which wood is being used in Morocco is now being addressed. There are fears that forests will disappear in the near future, especially around cities and villages. In some regions, poor families already use cotton stalks and dried cow dung for cooking.

This article considers mainly the region of Imlil in the High Atlas Mountains, where CDER and GTZ started a dissemination programme on wood stoves. The mountain population consists of Berber tribes who practice different ways of life based on traditional agricultural systems (either transhumant pastoralism or irrigated terraced agriculture); the other on local tourism (for example pilgrimage to shrines). Although adapting to the modem world, the population of the High Atlas region remains closely attached to its traditions.

The locally produced diet comprises cereal grains, vegetables, dairy products, eggs, fowl, meat and walnuts, the main cash crop of the region. The basis of nearly every meal is milled barley, corn or wheat.

Villages, houses and stoves

A village in the High Atlas region comprises a tiered succession of houses overlooking the terraces. Most of the villages are not electrified.

Village houses are generally built of adobe blocks, stone, or more recently, of cement. They are divided in different spaces for men and women, stabling for animals and food storage. The diwan is a room reserved for men and their guests. Lunch or supper is served in the diwan. Women bring in the food and leave; they usually eat in the kitchen or the courtyard. Women collect and store brush wood, firewood and corn roots used for the fire in the kitchen. They keep the fire stoked and ready for use. In the morning, women build the fire and prepare breakfast (milk, coffee, barley gruel or bread).

The "Takate" traditional stove is composed of a ceramic hemisphere placed into a mud support and it is used for several purposes. It serves daily for cooking, (soup, douaz, couscous), bread-baking (a slim pancake in the morning and a more substantial one in the afternoon) and boiling water. The clay insert which constitutes the inner layer of the stove is produced by local craftsman and can be bought in the market.

Sometimes, the shallow firepit in the hearth is lined by granite stones sunk into the floor. An iron grate is often placed over the fire. Alternatively, an iron rack straddling the fire allows kettles to be placed over the fire at various levels so that stews, couscous and other foods can be boiled or steamed at the correct temperature.

Generally wood stoves and bread ovens are made by a particular woman in the family, using knowledge which has been passed down through the generations. She will know how to save wood, combine bread or couscous baking with boiling water for the tea etc. She will also know how to maintain and repair her stoves by protecting them with a mixture of clay and straw.

The kitchen is the energy storehouse of the home. Piles of brush wood, wood and charcoal are stored to one side of this dark room. Women labour in small spaces which are heated by the fire and filled by its smoke. Light penetrates from a small air shaft in the roof. Following the direction of the winds, smoke either exits or fills the house enveloping women and children, which is the cause for different kinds of diseases.

More and more families have a gas burner installed, which is only used for certain preparations or special occasions. Butane gas is distributed in small (3kg) and medium bottles (12kg). The supply is often unavailable in mountainous areas when rain and snow are abundant.

Wood harvesting is one of the most laborious tasks for women although it gives them the opportunity to meet and talk together. It is so important that the strong cord which is used for wood and forage bundling constitutes a part of the wedding gift. Women travel together, starting in the darkness at early dawn with torches and walking up to 10km, often over rugged and steep terrain. They come back in the afternoon with loads weighing 25-55kg for wood or 15-25kg for the very voluminous thorny brushwood. For this reason, women consider wood collection as one of the most awkward of their tasks.

Wood energy constraints and prospects

Fuelwood will remain a main source of energy for most of the villages in the High Atlas mountains. The complex factors affecting its use are acknowledged by Ministries, donors, NGOs, local authorities and the local population.

The main activities actually developed by CDER with the help of GTZ include:

· increasing, improving and updating existing information on woodfuel sources, consumption and more energy efficient technologies

· planning and simulating possible developments in the energy sector (both wood consumption and other renewable technologies)

· dissemination of improved metal wood-saving cooking stoves by; awareness-raising, training of craftsmen and users, commercialization, project monitoring and evaluation

· providing incentives to increase the use of bottled butane gas in rural areas

There are important constraints to such programmes:

· lack of institutions capable of coordinating and steering huge regional dissemination programmes

· absence of decentralized institutions (NGOs) or private companies able to co-ordinate dissemination activities in the near future

· low income level of the population


The measures undertaken in the mountainous regions of Morocco are very important for protecting the ecosystem, maintaining soil quality and helping rural families to find a relatively cheap source of cooking energy. For the goals m be achieved and sustained, projects must be carefully planned and executed in collaboration with local authorities (such as the forestry administration) and associations. The population, especially women, should be involved at every stage of the process and help should be sought from international donors and NGOs.