From the field: agroecology assessment week in preparation of Farmer Field Schools

By Omar Saadani Hassani and Pommelien da Silva Cosme

9 August 2019

During the last week of June, our field team organised a participatory evaluation of the challenges for agroecology in the rural communes of Imegdal and Aït M’hamed, as part of our project Enhancing the resilience of High Atlas agroecosystems in Morocco, funded by the Open Society Foundations (OSF).  In collaboration with our partners Moroccan Biodiversity and Livelihoods Association (MBLA), Deafal and Rockin Soils, we met with local farmers to identify challenges and needs of local farmers and to collect agronomic and social data to design a Farmer Field School programme.

In preparation of this evaluation week, our team carried out various focus groups with farmers in both communes to learn more about local agricultural activities. These focused on three main themes: soil fertilisation methods, water and irrigation systems and socio-economic aspects of local agriculture.

During the evaluation week, we visited various local smallholders and their agricultural plots where we interviewed them about local agricultural practices, crop production, soil quality, and more. “The farmers we met shared a lot of information around the issues they face concerning water, crops and livestock,” Global Diversity Foundation Field Agronomist Omar says. “Carrying out this evaluation has been essential to understand the agro-ecological challenges in each commune, from where we can develop trainings based on the farmer’s needs.”

Discussions with local farmers in agricultural parcels in Annamer, Imegdal

During discussions between local smallholders and our team, the following challenges emerged, amongst others:

  • Water shortages during dry seasons
  • Lack of access to veterinary services to manage health of livestock
  • Lack of knowledge regarding organic pest control
  • Issues with aphid infestation 

The data collected during these gatherings with farmers, will allow us to define priorities and to develop strategic actions that respond to the various challenges expressed by local smallholders, which will be adapted to the specific needs of each commune.

Agricultural plots in Annamer, Imegdal

We also held a few interactive sessions at the community plant nurseries in Imegdal and Aït M’hamed, during which experts from DEAFAL and Rockin Soils provided technical assistance to the local nursery managers. They discussed and demonstrated techniques to improve soil quality such as using compost to fertilise the soil and using different formulas of soil compositions to cultivate quality plants in the greenhouse, including aromatic and medicinal plants such as rosemary and thyme. 

Participants gather at the community plant nursery in Bernat, Aït M’hamed

We would like to thank all farmers who participated for sharing their insights during the evaluation, as well as both communes of Imegdal and Aït M’hamed for their collaboration in facilitating the organisation of these activities. With the support of Open Society Foundations, we are developing a tailor-made Farmer Field School programme during which local farmers will receive intensive training in varietal selection, permaculture design, soil fertility, seed-saving and more.

Discussing seed varieties at the community nursery in Bernat, Aït M’hamed
Seguia (irrigation canal): assessing different irrigation methods
Evaluation of the stable conditions for livestock