The green and fertile Rif Valley, receiver of the highest rainfalls in Morocco, is “home to probably the largest acreage of cannabis cultivation in the world” and one of the world’s largest producers and exporters of hashish, according to Jane’s Intelligence Review in 2005. And they’re still wheeling and dealing.
Though violence and illegal drug-trafficking tend to go hand in hand, a complex socio-economic system hundreds of years in the making has led to a widespread tolerance for cannabis, especially in the region of the Rif Valley. While cannabis is highly illegal in Morocco, the local people who cultivate it don’t get any significant problems from the police, maybe because hashish is “Morocco’s main source of foreign currency.”
So how do the folk who produce most of Europe’s hash deal with the demand? For the Ghomarian and Riffian people who have been in the area since prehistoric times, it’s mostly a family business.
Though a study published about the role of women in Ghomarian society points out some harsh, patriarchal realities limiting their freedom of expression in public and the right to vote, the role they play in the family business cannot be undermined in the least.
Two thirds of the people interviewed in the study said it would be illogical to have a woman leading a farm and managing it economically, and 70 percent said they do not participate in the “commercialization.” On the other hand, 73 percent said women actively contribute to taking care of the cannabis crops, 82 percent said they actively participate in the making of hashish, 35 percent said women manage the income from the trade and of those, 81 percent said they do so effectively. Around half said women work equally as hard as men in the field. Oddly enough, indulging in the fruits of the land is not seen as a feminine practice and is not common amongst women, even after a day of hard work making it.
The Ghomarian woman was found to be considered a resourceful person; without her presence “nothing works.” And although her importance is sometimes overlooked because of patriarchal tendencies in their culture, presence in the field at a young age alongside alongside their male counterparts, management of the income in some cases, and a fundamental role in preserving local cultural traditions make women “the mainspring of all the socio-cultural and socio-economic activities” in the Rif Valley.
So when you think of the world of Moroccan hash don’t associate it Mexican and Colombian cartels or the complicated, corrupt and often violent opium trade in Afghanistan. Think of an ancestral family business run by a people who have inhabited the same region for thousands of years, and their reputation for making some of the best hash in the world doesn’t lie.