By Pommelien da Silva Cosme, Communications and Field Officer, GDF
Over the past months, the Dar Taliba boarding house gardens – which are part of our High Atlas Cultural Landscapes programme – have flourished. The girls have harvested lots of delicious vegetables, enough to provide weekly school meals for all 130 girls currently in residence. “The vegetables from our garden which the girls have planted taste much better than the ones from the souk (local market),” Dar Taliba gardener Al Hoessein says.
Since the beginning of February, the Dar Taliba students received trainings on planting vegetable seeds and successfully cultivated over 3,100 seeds in the greenhouse! The girls took such good care of their seeds that everyone was able to take vegetable seedlings, such as tomatoes, cucumbers and green beans, home to their families during last month’s vacations. Based on the practical planting skills they developed during these sessions, we are confident they will successfully raise these vegetables in their home gardens. “We mainly grow fruit in our garden, mostly apples and plums,” Meryam, aged 12, says. “I’m really excited to take these vegetables home and plant them in our garden with my mom.”
With the arrival of spring and some unexpected rainfall in April, the girls have been very busy with the maintenance, harvesting and daily running of the gardens in collaboration with our partner Moroccan Biodiversity and Livelihoods Association. As part of these spring gardens preparations, we delivered 20 permaculture trainings with our partner Radiant Design during which the girls learned new skills, such as mulching. This technique is very valuable as it keeps down weeds, retains the soil’s moisture and protects the soil from drying out, especially during hot summers. The mulch the girls used during these trainings consisted of organic material harvested in the garden.
“I really enjoy working with my hands, especially when we are planting seeds,” Kaoutar, aged 14 says. “When we have a break in between classes we often go to the gardens to watch how the vegetables are growing.” Check out our latest video to watch how the girls are practicing new skills during their trainings.
The girls demonstrated some other fine skills when they created handmade clay plant labels for all the vegetables they have planted so far. These labels, which are engraved with little drawings and plant names in French and Arabic, are now installed in the gardens so everyone can easily find and recognise the newly planted vegetables, not to mention the beautiful addition they make to the garden!
With temperatures rising every day, the Dar Taliba gardeners have been working hard in collaboration with our partner, hydrological engineering firm RESING, to install a new drip irrigation system, which will support the year-round growing and maintenance of the 6,000m2 gardens.
Until summer vacation arrives at the end of June, we look forward to continuing our weekly permaculture trainings with the girls and share with you all our exciting activities and plans for the students at Dar Taliba.
P.S. Since many girls are going home for a few days to celebrate the first days of Ramadan with their families, we distributed zucchini, cabbage, and bunches of spinach and lettuce (all 100% organic!) to all the students, which they will use to cook delicious Ramadan meals!
Extracted from the article first submitted to GlobalGiving: Benefit 700 Moroccan girls through school gardens.
All photos taken by Pommelien da Silva Cosme.