After a long summer vacation from school and garden work at the Dar Taliba boarding house for girls, the students are finally back! We are thrilled to start the school year with an exciting programme of permaculture training in collaboration with our partners Moroccan Biodiversity and Livelihoods Association and Radiant Design.

Last week, Dar Taliba Director Jamila and myself joined Cécile and Laila from the Radiant Design team for a day of permaculture training in the garden (an all-girls team this year!). We had just finished setting up the materials for the day when the girls arrived from their morning class. The group split into two teams. One team, led by Cécile, started working on the collection and cleaning of vegetables seeds. Over the past few weeks, the gardeners have been drying the last of the summer vegetables which the girls had planted before summer vacation, such as eggplant and cucumbers. Now, the students were able to slice the vegetables open and gather, clean and dry all the seeds inside.  “I had no idea there were so many seeds inside!”, Asma said while collecting seeds from an eggplant.

Meanwhile, Laila was busy teaching the other team about planting vegetables in the garden. Eager to start planting turnips, green beans and spinach, they paired up and assigned each other different tasks such as planting the seeds, measuring the distance between the planted seeds and covering the holes with earth after. Once they were finished planting, it was their time to collect and clean seeds, so they switched places with the other team. Rotating the teams during their garden work allows every student to get the most out of each training.

Collecting and cleaning seeds from dried green beans

At the beginning of every school year, new students enrol at Dar Taliba and this year was no exception with 52 new girls in residence. Although I was excited to reconnect with last year’s group, I was pleased to see so many new faces such as Iman and Amina. “We’re cousins but we had never met until a few weeks ago when we both started school here”, Iman, aged 12 said. “It’s our first time working in the garden and we really like it”.

Later that week, my colleague Hajar and I organised a drawing activity at Dar Taliba with 30 girls. After a short introduction about our different projects within the High Atlas Cultural Landscape programme — of which targeted outreach to youth and students on traditional plant knowledge is an important part — we did a brainstorming exercise on local food, herbs, plants and trees to understand which products are found in their households and which crops are grown in their communities. This activity was similar to the one we had organised earlier this year at a primary school in Imegdal. Hajar and myself — both not talented in drawing — were happy to see the result of their drawings and to find several creative little artists in the group! “I made a drawing of wheat because where I come from there are many wheat fields and people working the land,” Meryam, aged 14 said. “I have cut wheat myself several times out in the field”. The drawings produced during these sessions will be used to create a “local household basket booklet” — which will feature 50 local and useful plant products — to be used for outreach activities in High Atlas communities.

Dar Taliba student Meryam drawing wheat

Thanks to the girls’ enthusiasm and the help of the Dar Taliba team in facilitating these activities, we are grateful and excited to continue working with these students throughout the rest of the school year.

New Dar Taliba students during their first permaculture training
Dar Taliba students having fun with each others’ drawings