By Christina Ashford, Programme Manager, Global Diversity Foundation-UK
In collaboration with our partner organisations Moroccan Biodiversity and Livelihoods Association (MBLA) and Radiant Design, we are now in the process of completing the construction of 6,000 m2 of school gardens. The five sections are designed to conserve wild plant species and traditional crop varieties for local communities. The gardens also provide a training space for students to develop new skills and knowledge in plant conservation, plant uses, agroecology techniques and indigenous practices. They can then transfer this knowledge to their families and communities.
Students have been involved throughout the construction process and will continue to participate in the everyday running and maintenance of the gardens which includes:
- A plant nursery and greenhouse for cultivation and production from seeds of wild species and traditional crops.
- An ethnobotanical garden to help students learn about the local flora and the diverse High Atlas Landscape.
- A vegetable garden to grow produce on site for school meals.
- An aromatic and medicinal garden where we have now successfully planted 20 useful, valuable and threatened species such as lavender, thyme and sage. These will be distributed to students and local communities who will plant them in designated areas, thus enhancing community incomes as well as wild populations. A small amount will be kept for the demonstration garden within the school grounds.
- A demonstration garden for recreation, enjoyment and training for students.
These gardens are now being watered by a newly established state-of-the-art drip irrigation system, designed and constructed by partner organisation RESING, to enable year-round growing and maintenance of the garden’s plants and trees even in the very dry summer months.
With the gardens now in full swing, we have begun delivering weekly training sessions to all 130 students on topics ranging from permaculture cultivation methods, seed saving and water management. So far, 8 sessions have been held and we will continue to deliver these regularly throughout the academic year.
Jamila Boussatta, a Dar Taliba graduate who benefited from GDF’s support when we started working here in 2000 and is now the boarding house’s Director, spoke with some of the students to find out what they have learnt so far.
Fatimazhra, aged 13, explained how she learnt ‘the difference between all types of seeds and how vegetables were at the beginning and how they grow’ while 13-year old Nadia thought it was a ‘very good idea to invite us to garden, because we learn something new about agriculture that we don’t know before like different types of seeds’.
Students also spoke of sharing their new skills with their families and communities, helping to ensure the project impacts the wider community and is sustainable in the long-term. Fatimazhra told us that she will ‘practice all what I learned…and I will advise my parents to use the compost and show them how to do it because it’s very good for the land and for the agriculture crop’.
What’s next for Dar Taliba?
In December, we will expand our capacity building programme with quarterly workshops on plant transformation, processing and value-adding, to be delivered by our friend and colleague Rachid Jaafari, Founder-Director of the holistic training centre and natural cosmetics company Terre d’Eveil. In conjunction with the other educational offerings we provide to Dar Taliba students through this project, these trainings will help diversify post-graduation opportunities and provide them with transferable skills that benefit their families and communities.
Extracted from the article first submitted to GlobalGiving: Benefit 700 Moroccan girls through school gardens.