Celebrating biocultural diversity at the Moussem festival in Aït M’hamed (High Atlas)
By Pommelien da Silva Cosme, Mediterranean Programme and Communications Coordinator
17 June 2019
Following the great success of our activities and workshops at the annual Moussem Festival in Aït M’hamed last year, we were thrilled to participate in the festivities again this spring with our partner Moroccan Biodiversity and Livelihoods Association (MBLA).
Similar to last year, our team used this exciting opportunity to interact and connect with local community members, artisans, cooperatives and associations and visit the various festival stands to learn more about their work. We also introduced our projects and activities as part of the High Atlas Cultural Landscapes (HACL) programme to dozens of people that travelled from neighbouring villages and communities to attend the Moussem festival.
On the first day of the festival, we gathered 25 students from local primary and high schools to raise awareness about the importance of conservation of natural resources and local practices and the role their generation can play in maintaining and protecting these. We continued our afternoon with two interesting knowledge transmission workshops, facilitated by local community members who shared their knowledge with our team and other participants.
During the workshop on wild plants species we asked participants to identify several plants after which we discussed their applications such as Tizrit (Artemisia herba-alba) which is used to treat wounds and to stimulate better blood circulation. We wrapped up the day with an exciting workshop on traditional beekeeping practices and a demonstration of beekeeping materials, facilitated by the Wabzaza Honey Cooperative.
On the second day, we enjoyed a delicious breakfast during a workshop on local gastronomy and traditional recipes. Together with some fifteen women, we discovered and tasted Tarwayt (a traditional dish prepared with barley and dried turnips), Tiklilt (a mixture of fermented milk and butter) and Ofdir (a traditional bread made from barley and cooked on hot stones). Other activities included a workshop on local agroecological practices and a presentation of GDF-MBLA’s work in the region such as the documentation of cultural practices of conservation and the establishment of a local seed bank and community plant nursery.
Throughout the four-day festival and in between our activities, we were lucky enough to enjoy local festivities such as the Amazigh musical performance of Ahidous. We were particularly fascinated by the Fantasia spectacle – a traditional demonstration of horsemanship during which a group of horsemen in traditional clothing speed along a straight path in one line and fire old muskets in the sky at the end.
On the final day, our local partner MBLA received a trophy from the Governor who congratulated the whole GDF-MBLA team for “their efforts towards the preservation of the environment and biodiversity, their contribution to the improvement of local livelihoods, their support to local associations and the documentation of cultural heritage”. We could not have imagined a better way to end this beautiful festival!
We are very grateful to the local community and authorities in Aït M’hamed for inviting us to join this traditional celebration and for participating during our activities.
Thanks to the support of the MAVA Foundation, Darwin Initiative and Open Society Foundations, which allowed us to organise these interactive activities, we concluded another successful edition of our Biocultural Diversity fairs. We look forward to the next edition and participating in other community festivals, which provide excellent opportunities to interact with local communities that are part of our High Atlas Cultural Landscapes programme.