How a plant nursery is born: the story of Aït M’hamed’s new community nursery

By Pommelien da Silva Cosme, Communications and Field Officer, GDF

Less than a year ago, after a thorough search, our partner Moroccan Biodiversity and Livelihoods Association (MBLA) found a perfect piece of land for our new community nursery in the valley of Bernat, just outside of Aït M’hamed. The new nursery site was selected based on important criteria, such as the proximity of a local water source, good quality soil and easy access. Establishing thriving community nurseries, which enable terrace cultivation and enrichment planting of locally selected tree crops and medicinal roots such as oregano (Origanum compactum Benth.) and rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis L.), are an important part of our High Atlas Cultural Landscapes programme. These plant nurseries permit reintroduction of cultivated species to the wild as well as community-wide distribution of fruit and nut trees, and medicinal and aromatic plants, aimed at supporting local livelihoods and plant conservation in situ, and decreasing harvesting pressure on wild populations.

Curious to see how this new community nursery came to life? The following photos will tell you the story from the very beginning…

Together with local partner Radiant Design, our programme conservation team designed a nursery plan following permaculture principles. Shortly after, we started construction work with the MBLA team by preparing the parcels of land, which included adjusting the topography, removing rocks and adding soil amendments.

After the land was cleared of rocks and weeds, construction continued with the digging of a water basin, which will enhance water pressure of the drip irrigation system. The water basin was designed and implemented according to the needs of the plants, greenhouse, land parcels, water flow and irrigation system. The structure is 6 metres long, 3 metres wide and 1.6 metres deep with a water volume of 28.8 cubic metres. Located less than 500 metres from the nursery, the Oued Bernat river is the closest water source, ensuring year-round water availability.

Once the water basin was installed, construction of the greenhouse began. The greenhouse will host a number of plant species in favorable conditions throughout the year, especially during cold winters. The plants that are being cultivated inside the greenhouse are a selection of endemic, endangered, useful, valuable and ethnobotanical species, of which most are native to the region.

Once the major construction works were finished, we installed a drip irrigation system, which will allow for sustainable water use and support year-round growing and maintenance of the nursery.

Today, the construction of the nursery is finished and we are now able to start cultivating valuable plants and tree crops!

Here our team is planting a selection of 30 endemic, threatened and valuable species, which have been selected in a participatory approach with local communities, such as Thymus pallidus Batt. and Capparis spinosa L.

The colourful plants in the greenhouse are only days away from being transplanted outside.

This entire process was possible with the support of the local community and authorities, as well as our partners and donors. We can’t wait to see the nursery flourish over the coming months and keep you posted on our progress! To be continued…