Conserving High Atlas agrobiodiversity to improve Amazigh livelihoods in Morocco

Funded by the UK Darwin Initiative, this project supports local Amazigh farmers in the High Atlas rural communes of Ait M’hamed, Imegdal and Oukaïmeden and government agencies engaged in solidarity agriculture, to improve agricultural productivity and income from diverse crop landraces of key cereals and leguminous plants cultivated by these communities. 

Erosion of traditional agricultural knowledge, adaptive local practices and plant genetic resources negatively impacts unique High Atlas agroecosystems that sustain a regional biodiversity hotspot and diversified community livelihoods. These changes accompany a decline in agrobiodiversity, locally-adapted production methods, diet quality and community values – such as collaboration and reciprocity – that maintain traditional agroecosystems. A key driver of this downward spiral is socio-economic marginalisation, leading to an increase in rural-to-urban migration and the consequent severing of knowledge and practice transmission.

This project seeks to ensure the conservation and expand the livelihood benefits of five locally important, genetically diverse crops included in the Multilateral System of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (ITPGRFA): alfalfa, fava bean, pea, barley and durum wheat. 

With co-funding from other donors, we provide training to local farmers through Farmer Field Schools to support sustainable and climate resilient agroecosystems. We also seek to improve local livelihoods by supporting rural cooperatives with the valorization, commercialization and exchange of local agrobiodiversity and increased collaboration within and between communities and regional support networks. Finally, this project encourages stakeholder participation in national policy-making on smallholder agriculture and seeds through capacity building workshops and more.

The project is a core component of our broader High Atlas Cultural Landscapes Programme, aimed at strengthening traditional practices of conservation and enhancing sustainable land-based economies and wellbeing.

This project is funded by the UK Government Darwin Initiative.