It is the middle of September, and the annual cannabis harvest in Morocco is about to commence. While some fields here and there have already been harvested, as is evident from the bare, vaguely oblong patches scattered here and there on the otherwise verdant hillsides, the vast majority are yet to be cut. PRØHBTD has come to the Rif Mountains of northern Morocco, where the bulk of the country’s cannabis crop is cultivated, to observe the typical routine of an average day during harvest time.
Unfortunately, we have come to the farm of our friend Ali a little too early, and thus we won’t get to see the harvest of the main crop, which is an impressive 60,000 Amnesia Haze plants. However, the workers are busy in the smaller fields of beldia managed by Ahmed, one of Ali’s seven brothers, so we will be fortunate enough to observe this.
It is noteworthy that the majority of the field workers engaged in the harvesting of the plants are women, and even some older female children. This is traditional, Ali explains, and the women of the family are proud of their important contribution to the annual cycle. However, while proud, they are reluctant to be photographed or filmed, and thus we must content ourselves with simply observing, for now.
The women use scythes to cut the plants at the bottom of their thick main stems, which measure at least four inches in diameter in some cases. Their scythes gleam in the bright mid-afternoon sun as they work, hewing at the thick branches relentlessly, gathering the gigantic plants as they fall and adding them to a rapidly-growing pile. Every so often, men appear to gather the piles of cut plants and load them onto weatherbeaten mules and donkeys, before leading the animals off down the dirt tracks leading to the farm buildings, where the cannabis will be dried.
The donkeys and mules have been specially trained to perform their duties. Training commences when the animals are half-grown; they are led repeatedly down the roads of the farms, tethered together in twos with experienced human handlers to lead them. After months of this intensive training, they will be so familiar with the roads that they will be able to perform their tasks without human intervention, and will be put to work transporting the freshly-cut plants to the barns, as well as taking the processed hashish to wherever it needs to be taken—which could be to Chefchaouen or Tetouan, or even as far as Algeria, which requires a long, grueling trek.
Touching or in any way hindering a donkey that does not belong to you is seriously taboo in the Rif, and it is a surefire way to attract extremely negative attention—and as I am repeatedly informed, there is always someone watching you in the fields of the Rif, particularly if you are obviously a foreigner.
Down at the drying stations, the bundles of cannabis plants are unloaded from the mules and laid out on sackcloth on the ground. They are then separated into smaller bundles, loosely tied together with twine and laid out against the walls of the various barns and outhouses scattered around the complex. After one or two days outside to accelerate the drying process, the bundles will be moved indoors so that they can continue to dry at a slower pace.
After a week or so, the bundles will be dry enough to place into cloth sacks, where they will remain until the time is right for them to be processed into hashish. Typically, the bulk of the hashish-making commences at the beginning of November, when the harvest is complete and the temperature and humidity has dropped enough to allow for ideal conditions.
With more than 100,000 plants to harvest, the family will be hard at work for weeks, but the rewards are clearly apparent and very quickly realized. As we stand at the side of one of the fields, a car drives up. Ali tells us to be sure that we do not film it, as it is one of his biggest clients come to discuss the next consignment—which could be for a thousand kilos or more.