By Pommelien da Silva Cosme, Sabah Bahij and Ugo D’Ambrosio

2 April 2020

The Moroccan High Atlas is very rich in food traditions and traditional plant knowledge. Horticultural practices are an important part of wellbeing for local Amazigh communities. Recent research on Amazigh gastronomy in the High Atlas, carried out as part of our High Atlas Cultural Landscapes programme, demonstrates the continued interest of these communities in traditional and local food produced according to ancestral knowledge and practices. To promote local products, foods and practices, we organised a series of dissemination activities on local plants and their different uses at primary schools across different villages in the High Atlas communities of Imegdal and Aït M’hamed, and at the Dar Taliba boarding house for girls in Ourika

With our local partner Moroccan Biodiversity and Livelihoods Association, we engaged students in interactive discussions on local food, plants, herbs, trees, and vegetable and animal products to find out which produce and products are found in their households and the types of crops grown in their communities. We also played colouring games and held botanical quizzes during which students matched photos of local plants with their vernacular names. However, the most fun part of these activities were the drawings students made of local plants, fruit trees, animals, traditional dishes and more. “I made a drawing of wheat because where I come from there are many wheat fields and people working the land,” Dar Taliba student Meryam, aged 14 said. “I have cut wheat myself several times out in the field”.

Dar Taliba students’ drawings

As a result of these activities, we developed a colourful booklet that features local and useful plant products selected by the students we worked with in different regions in the High Atlas, including Imegdal, Aït M’hamed and Ourika. The “Amazigh Household Basket” booklet also features beautiful drawings produced by the students, including olive trees, corn, cherries, carrots and thyme.

Booklet distribution in Imegdal

In January, we printed 1000 copies of the booklet and were able to share the result with all students and teachers involved! We travelled back to the schools and the students we worked with and distributed the booklets in their classrooms. When reading through the pages of the booklet, many students proudly showed us and their teachers which drawings they produced!

Students in Ait M’hamed show their drawings

We are very grateful for the productive collaboration with the schools and teachers involved in this project and for the enthusiasm and beautiful artwork of their students. “These students are the ones who will maintain and transmit knowledge of local food and agroecological practices in the High Atlas for the well-being of future generations, and for this reason, we are particularly grateful for their time, motivation and creativity that contributed to the creation of this booklet,” GDF Director, Emily Caruso says. “We hope that all Amazigh communities in the High Atlas and beyond will find this booklet useful in their initiatives to maintain and transmit their gastronomic traditions.” 

We will use the booklet for future dissemination activities and continue distributing copies to other schools in the High Atlas region, thanks to generous support of the MAVA Foundation, Darwin Initiative and Open Society Foundations. You can also download the booklet here. Happy reading!