Benefit 700 Moroccan girls through school gardens

by Global Diversity Foundation
Fresh turnips from the garden for lunch
Fresh turnips from the garden for lunch

When we reported last, the girls at Dar Taliba boarding house were busy working with our project partners to complete 6,000 m2 of new school gardens. Since then the recreational garden, which is now fully furnished with wooden tables and benches, has become a hub for learning about conservation and studying. “The girls have been studying outside whenever they can”, said Jamila, Dar Taliba director.

Although winter brought heavy snow and rain to the Ourika Valley, the girls have participated in a host of permaculture training sessions. Throughout December and January, all 128 girls received training on the use of organic fertiliser from our partner RADIANT Design. They learnt about the negative impacts of chemicals on the soil, such as pollution, and how  organic fertilisers are more sustainable in the long-term as they protect our soil, animals and local biodiversity. With this new knowledge and understanding, the girls were then taught how to make natural fertilisers themselves using the plants grown in the gardens. The classes were a huge hit:

“I really enjoyed learning about organic fertilisers”, Leila, aged 14, told us. “It surprised me how simple and cheap it is, and how it will benefit plants and vegetables to grow”.

The organic fertiliser was finally ready for use this week and the girls are confident their home-made product will work its magic soon. You can read more about what the girls learnt in our online blog.

After a busy few weeks of school exams, followed by a two-week winter break, we kicked off the new semester with a session on seed planting during which the girls planted tomatoes, eggplants, cucumbers, zucchinis, onions, green beans … the list goes on! You should have seen the excitement on their faces when we announced they had planted over 800 seeds during the first two sessions alone. “I planted so many seeds today, I just can’t wait to see them grow!”, Salma, aged 13, said. The students will water their seeds (or ‘babies’ as they now refer to them) every day until they are ready to be taken home where they will replant the seedlings in their communities.

As you can see from our pictures, thanks to a very wet winter and all the girls’ hard work, the gardens are flourishing and the first harvest of the year has been collected. The girls are now able to pick fresh turnips and carrots, amongst others, which are prepared for freshly cooked school meals such as the traditional Friday couscous.

With spring just around the corner and the girls back in Dar Taliba after a well-deserved vacation, we are all super excited for our upcoming trainings and seeing the newly planted vegetables grow! 

It’s thanks to the generous donations of our GlobalGiving supporters that we are able to continue to transform the Dar Taliba garden into a wonderful place to learn and grow. Thank you!

If you want to find out more about our work, you can keep up to date by visiting our website and following us on Facebook and Instagram.

Tomato seedlings being placed in the greenhouse
Tomato seedlings being placed in the greenhouse
Dar Taliba students during a planting session
Dar Taliba students during a planting session
Fabien, from RADIANT Design, explains about seeds
Fabien, from RADIANT Design, explains about seeds
It's all hands-on deck to complete the gardens

With thanks to the generous donations of our GlobalGiving supporters, GDF has been able to continue its support to Dar Taliba boarding house which provides Amazigh girls between 13 and 18 years of age from remote villages of the Ourika Valley an opportunity to continue their education beyond primary school. This support has enabled Dar Taliba to continue operations and saw student numbers double from 65 to 130 at the start of the academic year this September.

Since our last report, our team and all the girls have been working hard and we are pleased to share with you some exciting developments and progress.

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:

  1. A plant nursery and greenhouse for cultivation and production from seeds of wild species and traditional crops.
  2. An ethnobotanical garden to help students learn about the local flora and the diverse High Atlas Landscape.
  3. A vegetable garden to grow produce on site for school meals.
  4. 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.
  5. 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, 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 Talilba students through this project, these trainings will help diversify post-graduation opportunities and provide them with transferable skills that benefit their families and communities.

Thank you again for your support in making this happen!

We look forward to sharing more about how our project continues to benefit students and communities in our next update. In the meantime, you can keep up to date with all our news by visiting our website, sign up to our newsletter, and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Laila (Radiant Design) delivers training
Laila (Radiant Design) delivers training
Students receive lessons in water management
Students receive lessons in water management
Inspecting the onions growing in the garden
Inspecting the onions growing in the garden

In July, the team held a successful project kick off meeting at Dar Taliba with key project partners RESING, a hydrology consulting firm, and permaculture design specialists Radiant Design. We’re pleased to report that the construction of the Dar Taliba garden has now begun!

The garden will include a nursery where some 25 medicinal and aromatic plant species will be cultivated during the months of September and October 2017. All the species grown in the nursery have been identified, through our participatory research, by the local community as useful, threatened or endemic – many of which have a high market value including thyme, lavender and sage. This will ensure that the project will meet the needs of the local community, deliver impact and is sustainable in the long-term. Most of the species from the nursery will be distributed to the wider community for enrichment planting throughout the course of the project, whilst a small amount will be kept for demonstration gardens within the school grounds. These will be used to grow produce for school meals as well as provide training spaces for the girls and other community members. The educational aspect will form an integral part of the project, as explained by Dar Taliba Director, Jamila:

“As for this particular project, I personally believe that the girls would learn a lot from it. They all love working in the garden and are always excited to learn more about each plant. The knowledge they will acquire here will not only help them but it will also help their respective communities. I’d love for this project to continue in time and space and I hope for the girls to gain more knowledge about the essential oils which will enable them to create local products that could later on be commercialised.”

Finally, a greenhouse and community seed bank will be incorporated into the new design. The latter will be used for the conservation of wild plant species and traditional, local crop varieties.

As reported on previously, the gardens will be supported by a newly established state-of-the-art irrigation system. This will allow for year-round growing and maintenance of the 6,000m2 gardens. We’re therefore excited to see that the construction of the irrigation system is now in full swing with RESING currently in the process of conducting topographic work to bring water from the main source to Dar Taliba with a high flow and good quantities. The installation will be completed before the end of the year. In the meantime, the garden is currently being irrigated with water provided by a local association.

As you can see, it’s been a busy summer for the team and work will continue apace over the next few months with construction of the garden due to be completed by the end of the year. Once the gardens are ready, the girls and local community will begin participating in their management and developing skills in permaculture cultivation methods, seed saving, water management, post-harvest plant processing and marketing of plant products…we cannot wait!

The photos accompanying this report show the highlights of the kick-off meeting. Photo credits: Hajar, Morocco Field Scientist and Mediterranean Communications Officer (GDF & MBLA)

Working on the garden
Working on the garden's new design
Discussing the irrigation and educational aspects
Discussing the irrigation and educational aspects
Hassan (MBLA) meeting Laila (Radiant Design)
Hassan (MBLA) meeting Laila (Radiant Design)
Spring afternoon in the garden
Spring afternoon in the garden

In our last report, we shared the news of a recently-awarded grant that will enable us to fully revamp the Dar Taliba gardens, including via the establishment of a state-of-the-art irrigation system. The water will allow year-round growing and maintenance of all the garden’s medicinal, aromatic, edible and ornamental plants and trees. This will ensure the sustainability of the upcoming re-design, according to permaculture design principles, of the entire 6,000 m2 of ethnobotanical, vegetable and demonstration gardens and community nursery.

Through the recent launch of other projects in the High Atlas, we have been able to extend this vision further to include the creation of a community seed bank. By participating, Dar Taliba girls and their home communities can ensure that both wild plant species and traditional, local crop varieties are conserved for posterity. Using low-tech, locally-appropriate approaches for building and maintenance, this community seed bank will be able to host hundreds of seed accessions. Over the next few months, our team will be carrying out fieldwork to collect – according to an agreed-upon protocol – wild plant seeds to create the first accessions of the bank.

Simultaneously, we have been devising a more structured approach for integrating Dar Taliba girls and neighbouring communities into the everyday running of the garden, nursery, herbarium and seed bank. The women’s community cooperative of Oukeimeden has become a key partner in the effort to connect home and school through the garden project. GDF partners the Moroccan Biodiversity and Livelihoods Association (MBLA), hydrology consulting firm RESING, and Jamila, the dynamic young principal of Dar Taliba, are establishing an educational programme. They are developing specific activities and approaches for each target group: high school students and women’s cooperative members. The programme will focus on topics ranging from permaculture cultivation methods to seed saving, via water management, post-harvest plant processing and marketing of plant products. External facilitators will be invited to help develop the curriculum and deliver the training. Moreover, a schedule allowing all Dar Taliba students to actively participate in the management of the garden, nursery and seed bank is being developed for roll-out in the new academic year in September.

With so many exciting plans coalescing this summer, it became clear that we needed someone based at Dar Taliba to supervise their implementation. We were therefore very pleased to connect with Giada, an ethnobotany Masters’ student based in Paris, who is interested in interning with GDF for the three summer months. She will be tasked with overseeing the coherent launch of several of the key elements that form the Dar Taliba community project, and will act as a point person for the educational programme and the construction of the community seed bank.

The photos accompanying this report show preparations for the nursery and Dar Taliba residents showing off some of the season’s early harvest. Photo credits: Inanc Tekguc (1-4,6)  and Hajar Benmazhar (5)

Permaculturist Frederic and gardener Abdelmalek
Permaculturist Frederic and gardener Abdelmalek
Implementing the permaculture design
Implementing the permaculture design
Beginning the greenhouse installation
Beginning the greenhouse installation
Greenhouse progress!
Greenhouse progress!
Celebrating the first harvests of the season
Celebrating the first harvests of the season
Saida shares a moment with three young gardeners
Saida shares a moment with three young gardeners

In our December 2016 update, Global Diversity Foundation’s Director of Projects in Morocco, Mohamed, took us on a walk down memory lane, reflecting on some of the partnerships formed since we started rehabilitating school gardens in Morocco in 2002. If you haven’t already seen it, please do visit our webpage and watch the video featuring Jamila, an ex-boarder and current director of the boarding house. In the video, Jamila describes her life, and the others in residence, at Dar Taliba, including how they participate in work on the ethnobotanical garden. See what you’ve made possible!

In this report, we have some exciting news to share! Through a partnership with local, independent hydrology & engineering consulting firm, Resing, we are receiving funds to implement a water project at Dar Taliba. What this means is we will be establishing a permaculture nursery with a state-of-the-art irrigation system to cover over 6,063m² of the Dar Taliba gardens (including the vegetable patch - see photo - that provides food for the girls), and implement training for the students and community members at the Dar Taliba girls’ boarding house and training center. 

Specific activities that we will carry out over the next two years are:

  • constructing a water-storage basin, designing and implementing the irrigation system
  • designing a fully integrated permaculture garden, which includes a vegetable garden, ethnobotanical garden and nursery, including design of permaculture water capture techniques
  • enrichment planting of useful, endemic and threatened species (grown in the Dar Taliba gardens) in nearby communal territories (including in Ait M’Hamed in Azilal province, see photo)
  • creating a demonstration site at Dar Taliba to train female boarders and nearby community members in permaculture, nursery and irrigation management, medicinal and aromatic plant and fruit and nut tree cultivation, seed saving, value-adding, post-harvest processing and marketing
  • an exchange programme with douar El Hamri in the Chichaoua region for selected Dar Taliba boarders to learn about innovative projects such as organic gardening, ecological gardens, and rainwater collection.

This upcoming support is encouraging for the Dar Taliba girls as it opens up greater opportunities to learn new techniques and form new connections within their own communities as well as with neighboring ones. As mentioned by Mohamed as he chatted about recent cleaning and weeding efforts by the girls to restore the gardens after harsh summer conditions, “The girls and I excitedly await the return of the permaculture specialists to Dar Taliba. 

In photos: Saida (center) has been part of the staff of Dar Taliba for half a decade, working as an educator. At this home away from home, she assists the residents of Dar Taliba with their homework, in the garden and “in general, participates in the welfare of girls in Dar Taliba,” Mohamed shares. (Photo credits: Inanç Tekguç)

The vegetable patch at Dar Taliba awaits planting
The vegetable patch at Dar Taliba awaits planting
Out on the land in Ait M
Out on the land in Ait M'hamed, Azilal province



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Global Diversity Foundation

Location: Bristol, VT - USA
Website: http:/​/​
Project Leader:
Hasnaa Benlafkih
Bristol, VT United States
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