Benefit 700 Moroccan girls through school gardens

by Global Diversity Foundation
Benefit 700 Moroccan girls through school gardens
Benefit 700 Moroccan girls through school gardens
Benefit 700 Moroccan girls through school gardens
Benefit 700 Moroccan girls through school gardens
Benefit 700 Moroccan girls through school gardens
Benefit 700 Moroccan girls through school gardens
Benefit 700 Moroccan girls through school gardens
Benefit 700 Moroccan girls through school gardens
Benefit 700 Moroccan girls through school gardens
Benefit 700 Moroccan girls through school gardens
Benefit 700 Moroccan girls through school gardens
Benefit 700 Moroccan girls through school gardens
Benefit 700 Moroccan girls through school gardens
Benefit 700 Moroccan girls through school gardens
Benefit 700 Moroccan girls through school gardens
Benefit 700 Moroccan girls through school gardens
Benefit 700 Moroccan girls through school gardens
Benefit 700 Moroccan girls through school gardens
Benefit 700 Moroccan girls through school gardens
Benefit 700 Moroccan girls through school gardens
Benefit 700 Moroccan girls through school gardens
Benefit 700 Moroccan girls through school gardens
Benefit 700 Moroccan girls through school gardens
Benefit 700 Moroccan girls through school gardens
Benefit 700 Moroccan girls through school gardens
Benefit 700 Moroccan girls through school gardens
Benefit 700 Moroccan girls through school gardens
Benefit 700 Moroccan girls through school gardens
Benefit 700 Moroccan girls through school gardens
Benefit 700 Moroccan girls through school gardens
Benefit 700 Moroccan girls through school gardens
Benefit 700 Moroccan girls through school gardens
Benefit 700 Moroccan girls through school gardens
Benefit 700 Moroccan girls through school gardens
Benefit 700 Moroccan girls through school gardens
Benefit 700 Moroccan girls through school gardens
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's new design
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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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
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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'hamed, Azilal province
Out on the land in Ait M'hamed, Azilal province

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Mohamed El Haouzi teaches herbarium preparation
Mohamed El Haouzi teaches herbarium preparation

This has been a busy few months for Dar Taliba. There have been exciting opportunities to build new partnerships, and also to do some hard work in the gardens. As we'll hear from Mohamed El Haouzi, Director of Projects in Morocco for Global Diversity Foundation, working in the gardens is also an opportunity to reflect on and fondly recall past partnerships and supporters of Dar Taliba.

Firstly, we are pleased to announce that Dar Taliba has been asked to participate in the Edible Schoolyards Project, a platform that connects educators around the world to build and share a curriculum that places food systems at the core. It is very fitting that this connection began over food – when GDF's Director Gary Martin had dinner in California a few weeks ago with Alice Waters, the famed American chef, creator of Chez Panisse restaurant in Berkelely and founder of Edible Schoolyards. Alice took an interest in Dar Taliba and requested that the school be featured as a project on the Edible Schoolyards website – see our page here. We are excited to explore the Edible Schoolyards platform further, and become part of a growing global network of 'edible' education programs. We are certain there will be exciting opportunities for cross-fertilization and mutual learning in this network that will deepen and enrich the experience of the girls at Dar Taliba. 

Dar Taliba was also recently featured in a short video on the Eco@Africa program of Deutsche Welle (DW), a German international broadcaster. The video 'Relearning Lost Traditions in Morocco' highlights the important work the girls are doing to revitalize and reimplement local plant knowledge that has been passed down through the ancestors. This exposure is a great way to show the world the importance of Dar Taliba, and also allows the girls to see that their knowledge is valued. Thank you, Edible Schoolyards and DW, for helping us co-create this important narrative about the essential work at Dar Taliba to preserve traditional plant use.

And now for an on-the-ground update, we asked Mohamed to tell us a bit about the last few months at Dar Taliba. Mohamed has worked with Dar Taliba of Ourika since 2003, and has been an important part of the project's growth and success. He reports,

“At the beginning of September, I took over the management of the gardens of Dar Taliba, which had suffered from a very hot summer marked by hot winds and lack of water. There was a lot of work to be done to restore all the gardens, so I met with the gardeners to give them the necessary instructions and direction.

The ornamental garden built was completely weeded and cleaned. The aromatic garden has been completely restored after weeding and cleaning, and the missing aromatic plants will be replaced after the current period of cold weather. The vegetable, aromatic, and ethnobotanical garden, built according to the permaculture processes, was also weeded and cleaned up. And, always following the processes of permaculture, turnips and peas were planted in this garden. Very soon, beans will be planted, as well as other vegetables.”

Mohamed recalls that the ornamental garden they cleaned was created in 2003 with the help of Ground Force, a BBC garden series that involved a surprise garden 'makeover'. Ground Force surprised Hassan Ouardagh (the coordinator of the ABDBO association that created Dar Taliba) with the creation of the ornamental garden that he had always wanted for the girls. The garden was created in three days, and Mohamed attended the construction. Indeed, he still keeps the thank-you letter that he was given by the producers of Ground Force.

We remain grateful for all our partnerships and relationships, past and present, that have allowed Dar Taliba to thrive and have brought increasing attention to the important ethnobotanical work of the students. We look forward to branching out and making more connections in the future!

Gently watering seedlings in the new greenhouse
Gently watering seedlings in the new greenhouse
Permaculture design in action
Permaculture design in action
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Medicinal plants of Imegdale: A book for children
Medicinal plants of Imegdale: A book for children

In this report, we share a story of the development of a traditional knowledge teaching tool for Amazigh children. Ethnobotanical researcher Irene writes, “From November 2014 to July 2016, I carried out extensive fieldwork about medicinal plant use in Imegdale, a Tashelhit-speaking community in the Moroccan High Atlas, through a collaboration with Global Diversity Foundation (GDF). Working with the local researcher Fadma, we interviewed over a hundred people and compiled a comprehensive list of medicinal plants used. In the interviews, we would often discuss in which ways this documentation work could be returned to the community. Interviewees were mostly women, the most important medicinal plant knowledge holders in rural Morocco. They are mostly illiterate, and would have no use for a book gathering knowledge that they already hold. However, they were certainly interested in finding alternative ways of transmitting this knowledge to their children. There is awareness that schooling and integration in market economies, although key to rural development, instigate a process of traditional knowledge loss. Children do not spend enough time engaging in plant-related activities and traditional, oral knowledge overall is less developed.

In close collaboration with Fadma and Zahar, a local teacher, we worked on the idea of developing a booklet for children that condensed traditional knowledge about the most culturally important plants in Imegdale to be distributed in local schools and among children. We aim to narrow the gap between formal education and traditional knowledge and hope that teachers will draw upon the booklet when providing instruction on life and earth sciences. For that purpose, the booklet provides a series of questions and exercises that can be proposed to children. In the booklet’s preface, GDF’s director Gary expressed his hope "that the descriptions of the useful plants depicted in the following pages inspire … children … to develop a curiosity about the rich botanical resources in their cultural landscapes”."

We will print and share the booklet with the girls at Dar Taliba, along with the invitation for them to create their own book to collect and share traditional knowledge from their own communities.

Imzurri (lavender) is used to treat "cold".
Imzurri (lavender) is used to treat "cold".
Petioles of the Uamsa (fennel) leaves are edible.
Petioles of the Uamsa (fennel) leaves are edible.

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Global Diversity Foundation

Location: Bristol, VT - USA
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Pommelien Da Silva Cosme
Canterbury, Kent United Kingdom
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