After restoring underused grounds of urban schools in Marrakech, GDF is expanding its efforts to rural schools in the foothills of the High Atlas mountains, where girls are learning about gardens, cultural heritage and environmental stewardship. We are focusing on Dar Taliba, a boarding house in the Ourika Valley that provides an opportunity for 120 teenage girls per year to continue their formal studies while acquiring knowledge about the traditional use of plants from their elders.
Traditional plant knowledge and horticultural practice are an important part of wellbeing in Amazigh communities of the High Atlas. However, when children go to public schools for further education, they lose opportunities to learn about agriculture, gardens and wild plant use. Ourika's Dar Taliba ('boarding house for girls') currently lacks the resources to implement a programme of ethnobotany, gardening and permaculture that would expand learning about traditional and innovative horticulture.
While maintaining ornamental, vegetable and aromatic herb gardens, we launched an 'ethnobotanical green space' where the girls cultivate useful plants they bring from their home villages. Workshops on nutrition, permaculture, seed saving and plant-based cosmetics enrich their educational experience. In addition, through a plant nursery, the girls are gaining practical horticultural skills, including germinating seeds, making cuttings and transplanting mature plants.
The project provides a healthy outdoor activity space for 120 girls a year to gain an education about the natural world and themselves, instilling the values of personal responsibility toward the environment and inspiring pride in the cultural traditions of their communities. GDF staff and the Dar Taliba director are conducting a survey of some of the 600 girls who have been residents of Dar Taliba in order to understand how the experience has impacted their lives over the long term.