Integrated approach to plant conservation in the Moroccan High Atlas

In early 2016, GDF launched a new 3-year project with funding from the MAVA Foundation that focuses on integrating the three strands of our work in the High Atlas – agroecology, biodiversity conservation and water management. The project aims to support sustainable livelihoods and plant conservation while deepening our knowledge of community-based conservation knowledge and practices, including agdals, which are Indigenous and Community Conserved Areas and Territories (ICCAs).

Plant collection in Ait Mhamed 700

In this project, our Morocco-based team works jointly with partner communities to create new knowledge on plant conservation, including through conservation status assessments, ecological monitoring, and assessment of the impacts of climate change on plant populations. We also design participatory management plans for selected useful species that are harvested in the wild. The project continues the expansion of community plant nurseries, helping in the redesign of selected nurseries according to holistic, permaculture principles. These nurseries permit community-wide distribution of fruit and nut trees, and medicinal and aromatic plants to be sold or used for sustenance. Nurseries are further supported by the implementation of irrigation projects to support water efficiency and ensure increased water flow to ecologically sensitive areas.

In the second half of the project, we will consolidate the integrated agroecology-biodiversity-hydrology approach through the interactive development of an adaptable model for replication that will be implemented in another commune in the High Atlas and evaluated for use beyond. The project also engages in interactive processes with local communities to document, promote and strengthen local cultural practices of conservation. Among these are agdals, which are community-conserved areas and landscapes that protect biological diversity while nurturing social, cultural and spiritual relationships and traditions.

In collaboration with our Global Environments Network, this project will support the implementation of a Regional Academy in the Mediterranean on the topic of Community-based resource use, landscape management and conservation at the regional level in the Mediterranean. Gathering emerging environmental changemakers from the region, the 10-day Academy will provide opportunities for training and networking, while discussing strategies to scale up protection of community conserved areas across the region – including agdals, a widespread phenomenon throughout North Africa and the Middle East.