A new project on medicinal root trade, plant conservation and local livelihoods in Morocco

At the beginning of April, GDF began to work with its partner High Atlas Foundation in Amazigh (Berber) indigenous communities of the Moroccan High Atlas on a project addressing livelihood improvement and threats to the sustainable harvesting of medicinal roots. Funded by the Darwin Initiative, the project focuses on wild-crafted medicinal roots that are intensively harvested in two rural townships of the High Atlas mountains - Ait M’hamed rural commune in Azilal province and Imegdale rural commune in El Haouz Province. The harvested roots are sold in the markets of Marrakech, and some of them are exported.

 

The sustainable harvesting of vulnerable plant resources in the unique and biodiverse High Atlas montane ecosystem is essential in maintaining its delicate ecological integrity. This helps to ensure the subsistence of millions of herbal remedy users, and sustains commercial trade that contributes to the livelihoods of thousands of collectors, vendors and traditional practitioners. The project also addresses poverty alleviation in Morocco by encouraging rural peoples to benefit economically from wild-crafting, domestication and value-adding activities.

 

This is a major project for GDF: over the next three years, we will carry out conservation assessments of economically and ecologically critical wild-crafted medicinal and aromatic plants. We will develop participatory adaptive management plans for harvested species, and improve livelihoods of plant collectors and beneficiary communities through the establishment of plant nurseries. We will also work closely with Moroccan government agencies, research institutions and non-governmental organizations. The Moroccan government is committed to mainstreaming plant conservation priorities in national biodiversity policies. To assist this process, GDF and its partners are developing a sustainable multi-institutional partnership to continue the work started in this project. Beyond these concrete objectives, and with complementary funding, we hope to have a broader impact on the conservation of vulnerable plant species in protected areas, forest domains and agdals (the Amazigh word for local community conserved areas). The outcomes will lay the groundwork for effective management and governance of genetic, species and landscape diversity in this unique High Atlas Mediterranean landscape.

 

This three-year project is being carried out as a collaboration between GDF, Institut Scientifique of Rabat, Cadi Ayyad University, High Atlas Foundation and other partners.