Enhancing the resilience of High Atlas agroecosystems in Morocco

The globally important High Atlas cultural landscapes have been shaped by a long history of close human-environment relationships that are characterised by sustainable agro-pastoral landscape management practices. These High Atlas agroecosystems, rich in biodiversity and cultural heritage, are under threat as a result of multiple drivers including climate change, loss of traditional knowledge and practices, rapid socioeconomic change and an inadequate policy framework.

Funded by the Open Society Foundations, this project aims to strengthen resilience in these agroecosystems by working on three principal aspects of the problem.

Loss of agrobiodiversity and associated knowledge and practices

Robust seed systems are essential to the maintenance of the unique agrobiodiversity that has been developed and maintained by Amazigh communities for millennia. To achieve this, we carry out research on the characteristics and availability of local, disappearing and new seed varieties. This knowledge enables farmers to make informed decisions about the management of their agricultural plots and to reincorporate diversity in local agroecosystems and cultural landscapes. We also improve community access to seed diversity through the establishment of seed banks, plant nurseries and seed saving, and exchange networks. Together, these actions improve the livelihoods of local farmers through increased harvests, revenues and resilience against environmental and socioeconomic change.

Lack of public participation in policy-making related to seeds and agriculture

To ensure that our actions support High Atlas seed systems and agroecosystems in the long term, we contribute to the creation of national and international policy frameworks that are supportive of smallholders and seed sovereignty. To create a national policy environment that supports the maintenance of High Atlas agroecosystems, we first analyse how existing Moroccan laws and policies influence local seed systems and agricultural practices and disseminate our findings through workshops and publications. To enhance community and civil society engagement with national policy-making on these topics, we provide capacity-building opportunities through the organisation of participatory policy-making workshops and the promotion of national policy dialogues.

Need for a strong civil society to support the process of building resilience and relationships across scales.

Our contribution towards strengthening Moroccan civil society focuses primarily on our partner Moroccan Biodiversity and Livelihoods Association (MBLA). MBLA was created in 2014 by young Moroccan professionals and scholars, with Global Diversity Foundation’s support and mentorship. It is increasingly recognised for its trailblazing work at the intersection of biodiversity conservation, rural livelihoods and agroecological innovation. Our goal is to support MBLA to become fully autonomous by 2025, laying the foundation for a productive partnership well into the future. To achieve this, we will provide MBLA staff with on-the-job, experiential training in fundraising, monitoring and evaluation, and team building and leadership, amongst others. We implement a ‘training-of-trainers’ approach aimed at establishing a process whereby MBLA staff pass on key skills to the leaders of community associations and cooperatives. In collaboration with partner institutions, we offer short-term fellowships abroad for our MBLA staff, offering them the opportunity of enhancing their knowledge, skills and networks.

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This project is funded by the Open Society Foundations.