Launching a new series of biocultural education activities in the Moroccan High Atlas

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

6 April 2020

Through our High Atlas Cultural Landscapes programme, we actively engage students in local biodiversity conservation efforts and offer opportunities for them to learn and use Amazigh indigenous plant knowledge and practices. With our local partner Moroccan Biodiversity and Livelihoods Association, we launched a series of exciting educational activities with primary school students in the High Atlas communities of Imegdal and Aït M’hamed. 

To kick off our activities, we distributed a colourful booklet called “The Amazigh Household Basket” that features local and useful plant products selected and drawn by students we previously worked with in different regions of the High Atlas, including Imegdal, Aït M’hamed and Ourika.

Booklet distribution at a primary school in Aït M’hamed

Our second activity focused on knowledge exchange on local pastoral and agricultural practices, presented by two community elders in both Aït M’hamed and Imegdal. Through intergenerational workshops with youth and community elders, we support the transmission of traditional knowledge on local plants and land use practices, especially now that changing environments in the High Atlas and massive rural exodus are contributing to the erosion and loss of traditional knowledge.

At a local primary school in Aït M’hamed, we invited Aïcha (64) and Bahmad (74) to share their knowledge on traditional practices with a group of 34 students, in order to capture their interest in maintaining these practices as they grow up. Aïcha and Bahmad introduced at least 8 different practices such as Aderass (or Idersane), which are stone walls built to protect the land and increase agricultural production. They also talked about agdals, which mostly refer to shared pasture lands with their own water source. Agdals are used for grazing or foraging during specific periods throughout the year, usually after spring, once most plants have blossomed and set seeds.

Community elders Aïcha and Bahmad in Aït M’hamed

“This activity was heart-warming,” said Sabah, GDF Field Researcher who leads on the development of educational activities. “Aïcha and Bahmad told us about ancient practices and their usefulness for the local population. The students listened attentively to a small part of the history of their commune. They were very interactive and curious, and asked many questions to increase their understanding of the practices,” she said. “Two students even had the courage to share with us their experience of going to the agdal with their families. Their stories were impressive.”

We are thankful for the active engagement of the students, schools and community elders, and look forward to carrying out other activities as part of our biocultural education programme, which includes workshops on plastic pollution, waste collection, and the fauna and flora found in the High Atlas. Stay tuned!

Intergenerational workshop in Imegdal with 25 students

Photos by Touda Atyha and Sabah Bahij