Over many centuries, interactions between people and nature have shaped High Atlas mountain landscapes. Rural communities still maintain ancient practices such as terrace farming and collective pastures that conserve the region’s unique biodiversity.
Rapidly changing climatic, economic and social realities threaten local environments, knowledge and practices. Severe droughts, reduced income and rural exodus contribute to the erosion of cultural values and community cohesion. The difficulties of making a living in the harsh High Atlas environment contribute to unsustainable resource use, reduction of biodiversity and a loss of interest among the younger generation in traditional knowledge and practices.
Photo: © Pommelien da Silva Cosme / Global Diversity Foundation (GDF)
The Global Diversity Foundation launched a project in 2020 aimed at conserving the iconic cultural landscapes in the Moroccan High Atlas that harbour significant biological and cultural diversity. Through participatory research, this project expands and deepens the documentation of relationships between cultural practices and biodiversity.
In collaboration with local partner Moroccan Biodiversity and Livelihoods Association, the project operates in four High Atlas communes in southern Morocco, focusing on extensive highland pastures (agdals) and terraced agroecosystems.
Strengthening local capacities for sustainable management practices
We provide targeted training to local farmers to support them in strengthening their skills in agroecology through merging of traditional practices with innovation in soil, pest and water management and through locally-selected varietal portfolios.
Photo: © Meryem Aakairi / MBLA
We also carry out in situ biodiversity conservation actions through ecological monitoring on soil, vegetation and butterflies. Through the support of community seed banks and plant nurseries, we collect seeds and cultivate endangered species which are distributed to local community members to reduce pressure on wild populations.
Photo: © Inanc Tekguc / GDF
Local product commercialisation
Through the development of market analyses and targeted training for local producers and community cooperatives, the project aims to establish robust markets for High Atlas cultural products. We also organise gastronomy fairs to encourage networking between producers and high-end niche market retailers and chefs in Marrakech.
Photo: © Ilyass Nazih / MBLA
Documentation links between cultural practices and biodiversity
We identify, document and promote cultural practices that maintain High Atlas biodiversity, including characterising traditional livestock breeds and ethnoveterinary management practices. Understanding these practices is fundamental to the collaborative development of socially and ecologically appropriate biodiversity conservation and landscape management approaches.
Photo: © Inanc Tekguc / GDF
Governance and Policy
Through policy reviews and support of the Moroccan Community Conserved Areas Consortium, we contribute to building an enabling national policy environment for the maintenance of High Atlas cultural landscapes. More specifically, this project promotes international recognition of key sites in the High Atlas as World Heritage Cultural Landscapes and/or Globally Important Agricultural Heritage Sites by supporting key government actors to engage in the relevant processes for recognition.
Photo: © Pommelien da Silva Cosme / GDF
The project, which is funded by the MAVA Foundation, is part of GDF’s wider High Atlas Cultural Landscapes programme, aimed at conservation of biodiversity and ecosystem function, and enhanced and sustainable land-based economies and community wellbeing.
Growing the Next Generation of Girl Conservationists
“I really enjoy working with my hands, especially when we are planting seeds. When we have a break in between classes we often go to the gardens to watch how the vegetables are growing.”
Meryam, aged 12, Dar Taliba student
High Atlas, Morocco
Dar Taliba © Da Silva