Benefit 700 Moroccan girls through school gardens

by Global Diversity Foundation Vetted since 2012 Top Ranked Site Visit Verified

We are in the midst of a hot summer here in Morocco—life usually slows down around August due to the weather and family holidays. Although the Dar Taliba students have returned home to their families for a two-month school vacation, our team has been busy taking care of the gardens and developing an exciting programme for the girls once they return in September.

At the end of June, we completed our first school year of weekly permaculture trainings with a series of practical workshops on composting and water management in collaboration with our partner, Radiant Design. In addition to these workshops, the girls learned how to make an all-natural, organic and non-toxic insecticide with black soap, which has anti-bacterial and natural insecticide qualities. “I think it’s very important the girls learn natural ways to fight bacteria and insects that can threaten all the fresh crops they have been growing over the past months”, Dar Taliba gardener Lhoucine says.

On the last day of the school year, we gathered the Dar Taliba students in the garden and harvested a beautiful mix of potatoes, lettuce, green beans, onions and lots of fresh medicinal and aromatic plants such as thyme. Everyone took home a basket filled with fresh organic produce, grown by the students during their trainings. We hope their families will be as impressed as we are with the delicious results of their hard work!

Until the girls return from their summer vacation in a few weeks, our team will have their hands full managing the new irrigation system and the construction of a brand-new seed bank which will play an important role during their trainings next year. We’ve also recently welcomed two families of bees to the Dar Taliba gardens, who have now found their home in two hives located between the vegetable and aromatic plant gardens. We can’t wait for the girls to meet our new friends and learn about the importance of bees for the environment, (not to mention taste their delicious honey and explore its medicinal uses)!

Thanks to the generous support of all our GlobalGiving donors, we are able to start developing an exciting programme of weekly permaculture trainings for the Dar Taliba students. These will enable the girls to grow many more delicious vegetables to bring home to their families, and learn new skills, such as seed saving. We can’t wait to see all the girls and start working with them again very soon.

Until then, you can follow us on Facebook and Instagram, or visit our website for more updates!

Final harvest of the year
Final harvest of the year
Making compost is fun!
Making compost is fun!
Bees are feeling right at home in Dar Taliba
Bees are feeling right at home in Dar Taliba
Vegetable seedlings ready for planting
Vegetable seedlings ready for planting

Over the past three months, the Dar Taliba boarding house gardens have flourished. The girls have harvested lots of delicious vegetables, enough to provide weekly school meals for all 130 girls currently in residence. “The vegetables from our garden which the girls have planted taste much better than the ones from the souk (local market),” Dar Taliba gardener Al Hoessein says.

Since our last report, the Dar Taliba students received more trainings on planting vegetable seeds and successfully cultivated over 3,100 seeds in the greenhouse! The girls took such good care of their seeds that everyone was able to take vegetable seedlings, such as tomatoes, cucumbers and green beans, home to their families during last month’s vacations. Based on the practical planting skills they developed during these sessions, we are confident they will successfully raise these vegetables in their home gardens. “We mainly grow fruit in our garden, mostly apples and plums,” Meryam, aged 12, says. “I’m really excited to take these vegetables home and plant them in our garden with my mom.”

With the arrival of spring and some unexpected rainfall in April, the girls have been very busy with the maintenance, harvesting and daily running of the gardens. As part of these spring gardens preparations, we delivered 20 permaculture trainings with our partner Radiant Design during which the girls learned new skills, such as mulching. This technique is very valuable as it keeps down weeds, retains the soil’s moisture and protects the soil from drying out, especially during hot summers. The mulch the girls used during these trainings consisted of organic material harvested in the garden.

“I really enjoy working with my hands, especially when we are planting seeds,” Kaoutar, aged 14 says. “When we have a break in between classes we often go to the gardens to watch how the vegetables are growing.” Check out our latest video to watch how the girls are practicing new skills during their trainings.

The girls demonstrated some other fine skills when they created handmade clay plant labels for all the vegetables they have planted so far. These labels, which are engraved with little drawings and plant names in French and Arabic, are now installed in the gardens so everyone can easily find and recognise the newly planted vegetables, not to mention the beautiful addition they make to the garden!

With temperatures rising every day, the Dar Taliba gardeners have been working hard in collaboration with our partner, hydrological engineering firm RESING, to install a new drip irrigation system, which will support the year-round growing and maintenance of the 6,000m2 gardens.

All of this growth and harvest of skills and nourishing food wouldn’t be possible without the continuous support of our generous donors at GlobalGiving. Thank you!

Until summer vacation arrives at the end of June, we look forward to continuing our weekly permaculture trainings with the girls and share with you all our exciting activities and plans for the students at Dar Taliba. You can follow us on Facebook and Instagram for more updates or visit our website.

Thanks again for your support from all of us at Dar Taliba! And a blessed month of Ramadan for those who are celebrating.

P.S. Since many girls are going home for a few days to celebrate the first days of Ramadan with their families, we distributed zucchini, cabbage, and bunches of spinach and lettuce (all 100% organic!) to all the students, which they will use to cook delicious Ramadan meals!

Handmade plant labels
Handmade plant labels
Everyone will bring home vegetables for Ramadan!
Everyone will bring home vegetables for Ramadan!
Garden fun with the wheelbarrow!
Garden fun with the wheelbarrow!
Full concentration while the girls are planting
Full concentration while the girls are planting
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)

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Global Diversity Foundation

Location: Bristol, VT - USA
Website: http:/​/​
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Project Leader:
Pommelien Da Silva Cosme
Canterbury, Kent United Kingdom
$23,575 raised of $30,000 goal
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