Preserving local cultural heritage through capacity building for girls

In 2015, we started to develop a model ethnobotanical school garden at Dar Taliba, an all-girls boarding house established to enable students from remote villages of the Ourika Valley to continue their education beyond primary school. Over the past three years, Dar Taliba students have been involved in the process of design and creation of the garden and have been participating in its everyday running in collaboration with the Dar Taliba team. The garden now provides a space to help students learn more about Amazigh indigenous plant knowledge from their communities, located in the High Atlas mountains.

In 2017, in collaboration with our local partners Moroccan Biodiversity and Livelihoods Association (MBLA) and Radiant Design, we started delivering weekly permaculture trainings to teach the girls valuable skills such as seed saving, cultivating aromatic and medicinal plants, making organic fertiliser and growing and harvesting organic crops. Traditional plant knowledge and horticultural practices are an important part of wellbeing in Amazigh communities of the High Atlas. However, when children go to public schools for further education, they often lose the opportunity to learn about agriculture, gardens and wild plant use. These trainings provide a space for the students, who come from different Amazigh communities, to share their local knowledge and learn about traditional plants and their uses, as well as different land use and agriculture practices.  

The project provides a healthy outdoor activity for the students in residence, while also encouraging the girls to share the knowledge they gather during the trainings with their families. Throughout the school year, students bring home plant saplings, vegetables and medicinal plants to their families, and plant them in their home gardens to practice and share their skills with the local community. In addition to these activities, the girls grow and harvest most of the fruits, vegetables and herbs used by the Dar Taliba kitchens to feed the girls and local staff.

This project is part of our wider High Atlas Cultural Landscape programme, aimed at maintaining the unique flora and ecosystems of the High Atlas. Through capacity building, we promote sustainable practices that will support biodiversity conservation in High Atlas communities and enhance ecologically-sound local economies by combining traditional land and resource use with innovative approaches.

Regular updates on our gardens project can be found here: Benefit 700 Moroccan girls through school gardens campaign.

This project is funded by the Darwin Initiative, the MAVA Foundation, the Open Society Foundations and generous donors through GlobalGiving.