In the verdant northern regions of Morocco, a quiet revolution is taking place. The protagonists of this story are not political activists or social reformers, but rather a group of dedicated scientists from the National Institute for Agricultural Research (INRA).
Their mission? To safeguard the future of Morocco’s traditional cannabis seeds, a precious genetic resource threatened by the influx of imported varieties.
This is not just a tale of preservation, but also of innovation, as these researchers strive to develop a new, commercially viable strain of Moroccan cannabis.
The Battle to Preserve Biodiversity
The legalisation of cannabis for medical and industrial purposes in Morocco has brought the cultivation of this plant out from the shadows.
However, this transition to a regulated sector has also ushered in new challenges. One of the most pressing of these is the preservation of biodiversity and the quality of local seeds.
For centuries, these seeds have been carefully cultivated in the country’s northern regions. Yet, they now face a significant threat from foreign seeds, which are better adapted to meet the demands of the European markets. The situation is reminiscent of the plight faced by some vegetable seeds, which have almost disappeared due to the import of hybrid varieties.
To combat this, the INRA has launched a pioneering research programme. Its aim is to collect, preserve, and characterise these genetic resources, ensuring the survival of Morocco’s traditional cannabis seeds.
This initiative is a testament to the country’s commitment to biodiversity and a sustainable future.
The Power of Collaboration
This ambitious project is not a solo endeavour. It is the result of a collaborative effort involving the Ministry of Agriculture, the National Agency for the Regulation of Cannabis-related Activities (ANRAC), and the Agency for the Development of the North (APDN).
The researchers have focused their efforts on collecting the local ecotypes of cannabis, each differing in morphology, production, and chemical composition.
They have reached out to traditional cannabis growers in the provinces of Al Hoceima, Taounate, and Chefchaouen, ensuring that they do not collect material from growers who cultivate imported hybrids.
Part of the collected seeds is stored in the INRA’s gene bank, while another part is used for experimental studies. This collaborative approach is a shining example of how unity and cooperation can drive forward innovation and protect our natural heritage.
The Future of Moroccan Cannabis
The ultimate goal of this project is to develop a new strain of Moroccan cannabis that can be registered in the national catalogue. This is a prerequisite for commercialising this variety and protecting it from biopiracy.
The seeds are subjected to morphological, agronomic, and genomic analyses at the Bni Boufrah station, near Al Hoceima.
These studies aim to determine their diversity and kinship, crucial steps in the development of a new, commercially viable strain.
The team is hopeful that within two years, they can submit a file to the National Commission for the Protection of New Plant Varieties (CNPOV), which is responsible for granting breeders’ rights.
This would mark a significant milestone in the journey to protect and promote Morocco’s traditional cannabis seeds.
The work being done by the INRA and its partners is more than just a scientific endeavour.
It is a race against time to protect a part of Morocco’s agricultural heritage, a testament to the country’s commitment to biodiversity, and a beacon of hope for the future of its cannabis industry.
As we look forward to the development of a new Moroccan cannabis variety, we are reminded of the power of science, collaboration, and dedication in shaping a sustainable and prosperous future.