In 2002, GDF’s started to work on rehabilitating school gardens in Morocco, supporting the creation of aromatic herb gardens, fruit tree orchards and ornamental plant gardens in schools in Marrakech and beyond. In 2015, the idea to create a green space that people can depend on for food, fodder, medicine and fuel was born. Dar Taliba, an all-girls boarding house set up to enable students from remote villages of the Ourika Valley to continue their education beyond primary school, was selected.
We immediately began to develop the ethnobotanical garden on the school grounds in collaboration with the girls currently in residence to help them learn more about Amazigh indigenous plant knowledge from their communities, located in the High Atlas mountains. Dr. Alain Cuerrier, an ethnobotanist from the Montreal Botanical Gardens who specialises in plant use among Canada’s First Nations communities, collaborates with GDF, the girls and local communities on the project.
I could sense the enthusiasm of Jamila – the director of the boarding school – and of the girls that I spoke with about the new useful plants garden. They are keen to make it a space that contributes to the living knowledge and traditions that Amazigh communities hold about their environment. (Dr. Alain Cuerrier, during a visit to Dar Taliba in 2015)
GDF is adopting a participatory approach for all the different stages of creating this ethnobotanical garden. Over the past two years, the Dar Taliba girls have actively engaged with local biodiversity conservation efforts, rediscovering local cultural heritage related to plants, which is rapidly falling into disuse and is in need of preservation for future generations. We have organised hands-on educational activities as an integral part of the project, and offered horticulture and botany workshops for the Dar Taliba girls, encouraging them to bring seeds and cuttings of useful plants from their villages to enrich the ethnobotanical garden. The Dar Taliba girls worked with their families to document Amazigh names of plants, their various uses, traditional classification and associated beliefs about the natural world. These were compiled in a booklet the girls at Dar Taliba can share with their communities.
The ethnobotanical garden at Dar Taliba is becoming an excellent example of the exchange of information, awareness of traditional knowledge and collaboration that GDF seeks to foster throughout its biocultural diversity conservation efforts. Regular updates on our gardens project can be found here: Benefit 700 Moroccan girls through school gardens campaign.