Distribution of 24,900 medicinal and aromatic plants to 517 families in the High Atlas

By Pommelien da Silva Cosme, Rachid Ait Babahmad, Soufiane M’Sou and Abdellah Aghraz

28 May 2020

In 2016, we started establishing community plant nurseries in the High Atlas communes of Imegdal and Aït M’hamed together with our partner Moroccan Biodiversity and Livelihoods Association (MBLA). The nurseries in both communes are now thriving with endemic, valuable and threatened species such as rosemary and Moroccan wild thyme. The plants and fruit trees grown in these community plant nurseries were all selected in collaboration with local community members who will plant a part of them in designated areas and reintroduce selected species back to the wild. Once these valuable plants are distributed, they will also enhance rural incomes and decrease harvesting pressure on wild populations, which the community often heavily depend on for their livelihoods.

This January, our GDF-MBLA team organised two plant distributions. Our focal points in Imegdal and Aït M’hamed, Rachid and Soufiane, organised the events with the support of community researchers Hamid, Mohamed, Touda, Hassan and Hammou. Together, they invited residents from neighbouring areas and villages, including members of local cooperatives and associations, to the community plant nurseries. In Imegdal, we distributed 14,700 plants of 22 species, benefiting 404 households in 16 different villages, in addition to a local high school in Asni. “The GDF-MBLA project has enabled us to cultivate wild, aromatic and medicinal plants in our land and also to grow fruit trees,” says Aziz from Taourirte. “This will not only improve our income but also protect our forest.”

People gather at the Aït M’hamed plant nursery for the distribution

While this was our third plant distribution in Imegdal, the event was a first for Aït M’hamed! “This initiative was well appreciated by the local community; it took place in an atmosphere filled with joy, with a significant presence of women and children,” says Soufiane, GDF-MBLA Project and Field Coordinator. “Our plant distribution events aim to raise awareness in the community about the importance of planting trees and its impact on environmental conservation and livelihoods improvement,” he adds. Throughout the week, we distributed 10,200 plants of 13 target species such as almond trees (Prunus dulcis Mill.) to 113 households coming from 12 different douars (villages). Our local team also distributed plants to the local mosque and primary school in Bernat, where our community plant nursery is located. All plants distributed, including oregano (Origanum compactum) and fringed lavender (Lavandula dentata), have a commercial value and will therefore help support local incomes.

Our annual plant distributions, supported by the MAVA Foundation and Darwin Initiative, are part of our High Atlas Cultural Landscape Programme, aimed at maintaining the unique flora and ecosystems of the High Atlas whilst securing sustainable livelihoods and wellbeing for Amazigh communities.

Donkeys are used to transport the plants home
Plant distribution in Aït M’hamed
Bringing distributed plants to a local high school in Asni

Photos by Mohamed Ait Boujamaa, Soufiane M’sou, Hassan Ouchacha, Abdellah Aghraz