Global Diversity Foundation

GDF has a dual mission. Through our regional programmes, we support indigenous peoples' and local communities' efforts to protect their biocultural diversity, and peacefully achieve just and autonomous decision-making regarding their territories, resources and futures. In collaboration with diverse institutions, we provide support for communities to elaborate their own research, development and advocacy programmes. Areas of specific focus depend on community interests, although they tend to be community access to lands and resources, community-led conservation, advocacy and campaigning for social and environmental justice, the continuity of ethnobiological and biocultural knowledge...
Oct 5, 2015

Back to school at Dar Taliba

The library awaits young scholars.
The library awaits young scholars.

September has been a busy month at Dar Taliba, with staff returning to the boarding house and diligently preparing for the upcoming academic year. Now in its 16th year, Dar Taliba is a well established institution in the Ourika Valley with applicants surpassing the number of spots available. It has decidedly come a long way from its humble beginnings when only a few pioneer families entrusted the nonprofit with their daughters’ wellbeing and education. Last year, 36 girls staying at Dar Taliba graduated junior high school thanks to the boarding house’s support.

This year, the all-girls boarding school received 65 new applicants but can only accommodate half of them in addition to the returning students. This leaves the selection committee, comprised of members of the Association de Bienfaisance et de Développement du Bassin De l’Ourika (ABDBDO), the nonprofit co-sponsoring Dar Taliba, with difficult decisions to be made. As in previous years, priority is given to girls from the more remote villages of the Ourika valley where there are no education opportunities beyond primary school available within walking distance and public transport is scarce and usually beyond the families’ means. Under such circumstances, girls as young as 12 are left with no choice but to drop out of school. Driving along the roads in the area, it is very common to see young school boys standing on the sides of the roads hitchhiking their way back and forth to school; an option much less available to girls.

Before the students arrive, we took a moment to learn more about the staff and other organizations supporting the boarding house and the remarkable service it provides to the Ourika valley. Throughout the last two weeks of September, returning students and parents dropped by to register or apply for room and board at Dar Taliba where Jamila Boussata, the alumna from Dar Taliba’s first cohort who is now Director at the boarding house, holds office hours to answer questions and enroll the girls. She tells me with a smile on her face that ‘’This year Club des Clubs de Casablanca (CCC), [an association introduced to Dar Taliba through a local from the Ourika valley who works with them leading excursions in the High Atlas], has agreed to increase its support, sponsoring ten additional girls’ attendance of Dar Taliba and bringing the number up to 45 girls.’’ Despite efforts to keep costs as low as possible, room and board at the all-girls establishment comes with a 650 dhs annual fee (equivalent to $67) which is beyond the means of the area’s most underprivileged families.

So, 112 girls will be arriving at Dar Taliba on 5 October when Jamila will assign them to the 14 rooms in groups of 8. They will be introduced to the house rules, including an 8pm curfew. Saida Marzoug, who has been supervising the girls at Dar Taliba since 2011, and Aicha Outghould, head cook at Dar Taliba since it opened its doors in 1999, will work with the girls on a clean-up and cooking schedule. With only 4 permanent staff members, the boarding school depends on contributions from the girls, who make their beds every morning and do their dishes to help the house run smoothly.

In addition to the co-ed middle school neighboring Dar Taliba where the girls presently study, a high school is currently being built within walking distance and will open its doors to students next year. This will vastly improve the local youth’s educational opportunities, eliminating the need for many of them to move or commute to the nearest high school at present, 20km away in the town of Tahanout.

The staff shared that Dar Taliba and its gardens have become a space for a variety of uses, including hosting local school camps. One camp saw students staying on the grounds this summer for two weeks in August. Abdelmalek Ait Mojaaddark, gardener at Dar Taliba since it first opened, told me they, too, had made a contribution to the garden. He pointed to two young olive trees the schoolchildren planted with him during a gardening workshop he led during their stay. Dar Taliba is also open two mornings a week to two groups of 15 preschoolers, whom we hope can also enjoy and learn from the garden.

On a less positive note, Abdelmalek said that as of this summer, Dar Taliba no longer benefits from the free water that was once donated by the commune, cutting water to the grounds by half and putting the garden under particular stress during dry seasons. Though the garden is designed to be highly drought-tolerant, GDF plans to dedicate a portion of the donations to this project to restore part of that water flow to the garden, especially during peak dry spells. With new garden users on the way, we are excited to continue growing our relationship with Dar Taliba. 

Jamila speaks animatedly with Abdelmalek.
Jamila speaks animatedly with Abdelmalek.
Students arrive back to Dar Taliba on 5th October.
Students arrive back to Dar Taliba on 5th October.
Jul 7, 2015

The Ethnobotanical Garden at Dar Taliba

Dr Alain Cuerrier visits herb garden at Dar Taliba
Dr Alain Cuerrier visits herb garden at Dar Taliba

Our next endeavor is a model ethobotanical garden: a green space that people can depend on for food, fodder, medicine and fuel. The garden will be located at Dar Taliba, an all-girls boarding house set up to enable students from remote villages of the Ourika Valley to continue their education beyond primary school. The Global Diversity Foundation (GDF), which has been sponsoring the institution since 2002, has already supported the creation of an aromatic herb garden, fruit tree orchard and ornamental plant garden on the grounds.

In coming months, GDF will develop an ethnobotanical garden on the school grounds in collaboration with the girls currently in residence to help them learn more about Amazigh indigenous plant knowledge from their communities, which are located in the High Atlas mountains. Dr. Alain Cuerrier, an ethnobotanist from the Montreal Botanical Gardens who specializes in plant use among Canada’s First Nations communities, is collaborating with GDF, the girls and local communities on the project. During a recent visit to Morocco, he noted, “I could sense the enthusiasm of Jamila – the director of the boarding school – and of the girls that I spoke with about the new useful plants garden. They are keen to make it a space that contributes to the living knowledge and traditions that Amazigh communities hold about their environment”.

GDF has adopted a participatory approach for all the different stages of creating the ethnobotanical garden. The Dar Taliba girls will engage with local biodiversity conservation efforts and rediscover local cultural heritage related to plants, which is rapidly falling into disuse and is in need of preservation for future generations. GDF plans to organize hands-on educational activities as an integral part of the project. We will offer horticulture and botany workshops for the Dar Taliba girls, encouraging them to bring seeds and cuttings of useful plants from their villages to enrich the ethnobotanical garden. The Dar Taliba girls will work with their families to document Amazigh names of plants, their various uses, traditional classification and associated beliefs about the natural world. These will be compiled in a booklet the girls at Dar Taliba can share with their communities.

The ethnobotanical garden at Dar Taliba is becoming an excellent example of the exchange of information, awareness of traditional knowledge and collaboration that GDF seeks to foster throughout its biocultural diversity conservation efforts.

(Full) photo captions:

(above) Alain Cuerrier of the Montreal Botanical Garden visits the Dar Taliba aromatic herb garden with Jamila, the boarding school director.

(below) Alain takes time to smell the onions of the Dar Taliba vegetable garden as gardener Abdelmalek looks on.

Alain smells the onions in the vegetable garden
Alain smells the onions in the vegetable garden
Jul 6, 2015

Nourishing Relations: People, Plants and Place

Dr. Henry Lickers speaks about his work
Dr. Henry Lickers speaks about his work

A Global Environments Network gathering in Northeastern North America

For four days in late June 2015, 40 Indigenous environmental leaders from Canada and the United States met on traditional Mohawk/Kanienkeha'ka territory at the Montreal Botanical Garden and in the community of Kahnawà:ke. Professionals, practitioners, elders and youth shared research, strategies and tactics, and stories of resistance, joy, tragedy, hope and transformation. We explored potential collaboration for environmentally sound solutions for critical issues facing Indigenous communities in the 21st century. A series of themes emerged from workshop sessions and conversations:

The link between Indigenous language learning, understanding and living one’s culture, and applying that to learning cultural uses of plants in-situ.

Dr. Henry Lickers (Turtle Clan Seneca) opened the workshop with a keynote address on Leadership and Biodiversity Conservation. Founding member of an environmental department that preceded the U.S. EPA and Canadian Department of Environment, he spoke on the ongoing challenges of advocacy, protection, and remediation as well as the urgency of regenerating our ability to know, nurture and marvel at the everyday nature that surrounds us – and be healed by it. Reflecting on the theme of the workshop, and the still-limited incorporation of Indigenous environmental knowledge in broader environmental work, he concluded, “The day we all declare ourselves part of biodiversity will be the day that we will have succeeded.”

The urgent need to form networks and stewardship alliances across Native nations and communities, to acquire and share information, strategies and tactics, and offer the advocacy benefits of alliance and collaborative organization.

Stemming from respect for the enormous experience and commitment present, a spirited desire for collaborative action filled the workshop. One idea that sparked plans for joint work was that of tribal parks. Eli Enns (Tla-o-qui-aht) shared the success of this context- and culturally-driven conservation model from the Pacific Northwest as a negotiating tool and path to increase autonomy and recognition of sovereignty in management of Indigenous traditional territories. He considers tribal parks as a type of Indigenous Peoples’ and Local Communities’ Conserved Areas and Territories (ICCA), and works with the ICCA Consortium and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) to advance recognition and establishment of such community-controlled conservation efforts worldwide.

The importance of the arts to learn, reflect upon, live, and share stories, values and cultural heritage. These processes bring people together in strength and beauty.

“The arts and creative expression are vital to the work we do in our communities,” says Monaeka Flores, Chamorro artist and activist from Guam. “Through traditional and non-traditional art forms… we revitalize, rejuvenate, and strengthen languages, customs, and sovereignty movements; restore cultural practices and life ways; give voice to lost narratives and counter narratives; educate younger generations and provide connections with elders; speak to injustices to repair our connections and relationships; and renew the spirit and provide medicine for our peoples and environments in need of rehabilitation.”

Community Exchanges like this one form part of the emerging Global Environments Network. This North American Community Environmental Leadership Exchange (NACELE) is a bi-annual, invite only workshop, co-organized by GDF staff and board members, and GESA alumni and resource people. Each convenes participants from a particular region, with additional representatives from across North America and the Pacific. The next NACELE has been proposed for Northwestern Mexico in Fall 2016.

Support from this GlobalGiving project helped us cover participants’ attendance costs, as did a Canadian Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) Convening Grant, support from The Christensen Fund, Quebec Center for Biodiversity Studies, the law firm of Fredericks Peebles and Morgan, The Cultural Conservancy, and McGill Institute for the Study of Canada.

(Full) photo captions:

(above) Dr. Henry Lickers speaks about his work as Dr Nancy Turner, GDF board president, Verna Miller (Nlaka'pamux; future president of the International Society of Ethnobiology), and others look on.

(below) Monaeka Flores (Chamorro) of the Guam Humanities Council leads the creation of a collaborative art piece representing participants’ journeys and stories.

(bottom) 2015 NACELE participants gathered on the banks of the Saint Lawrence in Kahnawà:ke, Mohawk/Kanienkeha'ka territory. The Nation is working to restore its traditional shoreline, which was drastically altered by the Saint Lawrence Seaway.

Monaeka Flores leads creation of collaborative art
Monaeka Flores leads creation of collaborative art
Participants at Mohawk/Kanienkeha
Participants at Mohawk/Kanienkeha'ka territory
 
   

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