High Atlas Cultural Landscapes
Currently, the geographical focus of GDF’s Mediterranean Programme is on the cultural landscapes of the High Atlas of Morocco. Similarly to many Mediterranean landscapes, those of the High Atlas have been shaped by the cultural practices of rural communities. These practices include traditional water management, seasonal short distance transhumance, communal management of high elevation pasturelands, maintenance of culturally-managed trees, protection of sacred sites, soil conservation through terracing and other techniques, smallholder agriculture and agroforestry, and harvesting of wild medicinal and aromatic plants. All of these traditions contribute to diversified use of elevational gradients and ecological niches of the High Atlas.
These practices, which not only maintain an ecological mosaic but also sustain local livelihoods, are vibrant living traditions that are increasingly threatened by changing climatic, economic and social realities. The rural exodus of young people, increasingly severe and prolonged drought and low monetary rewards of traditional agriculture contribute to a general loss of cultural values and a change in social relations. Some high mountain pasturelands are being privatised, and there is an increasing commodification of cultural and natural resources. Decreasing local religious-spiritual authority and weakening of community institutions can foment inter- and intra-community conflict. All of these factors result in abandonment of practices that maintain the distinctive cultural landscapes of the High Atlas.
Our vision is for the strengthening of these traditional practices for the conservation of unique High Atlas biodiversity, and enhanced wellbeing of the communities that have managed and maintained these beautiful landscapes for millennia.
Through our Mediterranean programme, we collaborate with local authorities and rural communities, as well as Moroccan government agencies, NGOs, academics and and professionals, to implement our integrated biodiversity-hydrology-agreocology strategy that sustains communal and customary systems of decision-making, provides employment opportunities and promotes ecological restoration. Our initiatives include:
- Practical actions, such as rebuilding traditional water canals with community labour and new materials, restoring local water reservoirs; enrichment planting in private and communally-managed lands; organic certification of fruit and nut trees; planting of fruit, firewood and fodder trees; facilitating water flow to important plant areas; and establishing community seed banks and plant nurseries;
- Action research on sustainable land use practices, traditional ethnobotanical knowledge, plant and habitat conservation status, the impacts of climate change, and High Atlas ecology and flora amongst others;
- Public information campaigns targeted at local authorities and the general public to impact policy and practice;
- Promoting national recognition of agdals and other communal management systems;
- Supporting new and old community governance systems and institutions;
- Diversification of agricultural production and income;
- Adding value and marketing of community produce through community-based enterprises; and
- Capacity building and exchange of knowledge and expertise amongst communities, locally, nationally and regionally.
If you have any questions about the GDF Mediterranean programme, please contact: