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
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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GDF's new garden at Dar Taliba ready for planting
GDF's new garden at Dar Taliba ready for planting

A lot has happened at Dar Taliba during the past three months. 

This past January, Global Diversity Foundation broke ground for the ethnobotanical and permaculture garden after a meticulous design process that brought together the expertise of a local permaculture consultancy and the input of local community stakeholders, including the girls residing at Dar Taliba.

GDF prides itself on adopting a participatory approach that values and applies the traditional ecological knowledge and know-how of the communities it is working with while introducing new ways of doing things to complement customary and local methods in a changing world. Introducing permaculture to the Ourika Valley through an educational ethnobotanical garden is an instance of such a multifaceted approach.

Drawing from the patterns observed in natural ecosystems, permaculture seeks to make agriculture a sustainable practice that is permanently in dialogue with its socio-ecological surroundings.

The first step in implementing the permaculture ethnobotanical garden at Dar Taliba was to collect pertinent quantitative and qualitative data. We started by interviewing Abdelmalek, a native of the Ourika valley and head gardener at Dar Taliba, about the site’s history, the soil’s nature, any microclimates within the parcel and the region’s weather patterns. Then we surveyed the 1100 m² parcel in order to understand its topography. Using laser level measurements, our permaculture collaborators determined that the plot of land 'showed a slight convex promontory profile and curved contour lines' with a very slight downward slope along the south to north axis. These naturally occurring contour lines became an integral part of the design plan and served as a framework for the cultivation beds and other elements, including the compost area and greenhouse.

Surveying the parcel also shed light on water circulation within the plot and informed our decision to place the garden’s composting area at the parcel’s highest point in order to allow for any nutrients trickling from the compost piles to be absorbed by the plants grown downstream.

The next phase in the process was to mark the parcel and start the compost heaps. Our anaerobic compost pile was made using manure, straw and plenty of water. Using manure as fertilizer is very common practice in the Ourika valley yet composting is not and it was with great interest that Abdelmalek and other gardeners and day laborers working on the garden learned about the method with the intention to recreate it for their own vegetable patches. It was particularly exciting to see local community members’ interest piqued by the composting process because one of GDF’s hopes in planting the edible ethnobotanical garden at Dar Taliba is for it to not only serve as an educational tool for the girls residing at the boarding house but also as a demonstration site that the community at large can learn from.

With the compost launched, we proceeded to landscape the parcel’s cultivation beds and build the greenhouse. We built the structure’s frame using eucalyptus poles purchased from a local wood seller and had a local metal smith make the door and window frames. We then used agricultural plastic to insulate the greenhouse and we recycled wooden pallets into potting tables. The greenhouse was also retrofitted to harvest rainfall by using a conduit to channel water from its roof to a barrel refurbished with a faucet. Through introducing simple strategies like rainwater harvesting to the gardens at Dar Taliba and thereby the Ourika Valley, GDF seeks to equip the local community with tools to mitigate the impact of climate change in an area already affected by water scarcity.

The plant nursery, cultivation beds and compost were ready just in time for the sowing season and we have since planted beets, onions, radishes, tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, cucumbers, pumpkins, corn, and alfalfa among other things.

Before the school year’s end, GDF organized a workshop for the girls residing at Dar Taliba with the help of our permaculture collaborator. During this workshop, the girls were invited to harvest the ripe produce from the garden and water the plants while learning about mulching, composting, nitrogen fixing plants and the benefits of polyculture farming.

We hope to install a sustainable water supply over the summertime, and have the gardens ready for the next school year.

Plan of GDF's new garden at Dar Taliba
Plan of GDF's new garden at Dar Taliba
Abdelmalek and our permaculture collaborator
Abdelmalek and our permaculture collaborator
Terracing the parcel according to its topography
Terracing the parcel according to its topography
The greenhouse while under construction
The greenhouse while under construction
Dar Taliba residents pleased with their harvest
Dar Taliba residents pleased with their harvest
The girls and our collaborator during the workshop
The girls and our collaborator during the workshop
Group photo from GDF's workshop at Dar Taliba
Group photo from GDF's workshop at Dar Taliba

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As supporters of this project know, Global Diversity Foundation is a longstanding sponsor of the Ourika Valley’s Dar Taliba. The all-girls boarding house now enables over 120 students from remote villages in the High Atlas Mountains to continue their schooling every year. With your help, we support the institution’s commitment to making education accessible to young women from rural Morocco, all the while nurturing environmental stewardship and conserving traditional knowledge in one of the world’s richest biodiversity hotspots.

Located at the foothills of the High Atlas, Dar Taliba serves an area populated by North Africa’s indigenous Amazigh communities whose livelihoods and cultural heritage are closely linked to the local flora and the traditional ecological knowledge they hold. Within these communities, women have represented an important vector for the transmission of ethnobotanical knowledge for centuries, as they shared the practical and ritual uses of plants from one generation to the next.

In recent years, however, much of this knowledge has come under threat, and needs to be both preserved and valued. As part of its mission to conserve biocultural diversity and enhance socioecological wellbeing of communities, GDF has established a comprehensive gardening programme at Dar Taliba which provides the girls residing at the boarding house with extracurricular activities aimed at actively valorizing traditional ecological knowledge and conserving local plant species. In previous years, GDF planted an aromatic plant garden, an ornamental garden and established a herbarium on-site.

This year, we are creating an ethnobotanical and permaculture garden. The first of its kind in Morocco, the Dar Taliba ethnobotanical garden will contain wild plants from the area and will serve as an educational tool for the girls residing at the boarding house as well as the community at large. Our goal is both to highlight the richness and importance of traditional Amazigh plant knowledge and increase Dar Taliba’s food sovereignty. Dr. Alain Cuerrier, an ethnobotanist from the Montreal Botanical Gardens and expert on the use of plants among Canada’s First Nations communities, is collaborating with GDF on the project, which will also produce a booklet documenting the names of plants in Amazigh and their uses.

The ethnobotanical garden at Dar Taliba is also accompanied by a permaculture initiative. GDF and local collaborators Radiant Design have introduced the permaculture design to the institution to increase the amount of produce grown on the grounds for the kitchen and strengthen the girls’ connection to the source of their food. It is our hope that ethnobotanical and gardening activities will become integral to the girls’ stay at Dar Taliba, bridging the widening gap between older and younger generations of women in the communities and preserving biocultural diversity even as girls access other forms of knowledge and opportunity through formal secondary schooling.

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The garden as imagined by girls from Takatart.
The garden as imagined by girls from Takatart.

During the past three months, Global Diversity Foundation (GDF) organized two workshops at Dar Taliba, involving the girls housed at the institution in hands on creative and educational activities.


Irene Teixidor Toneu, a Ph.D student from the University of Reading in the UK who is researching medicinal plant use in the High Atlas, led the first workshop on October 14th 2015. It tied into GDF’s current plans for a permaculture ethnobotanical garden at Dar Taliba and gave the girls the opportunity to actively contribute to the design and plans for the garden. The girls were encouraged to use their imagination and work in teams based on the villages of the High Atlas they come from. The result was colorful diagrams and drawings as well as a list of plants cultivated in each of the villages represented by the girls, and that they wish to include in the ethnobotanical garden. This workshop also had an educational aspect as Irene encouraged the girls to think about what made particular plants ethnobotanical or useful to people. Relying on an interactive method, she asked the girls to describe and list the different uses of the region’s most popular plants and then explained some of the basic chemical or physical properties that make these useful to human beings. Irene was a great fit for this workshop because she has spent many months living with communities in the High Atlas while conducting fieldwork and is very well versed in the ethnobotanical landscape of the region. She is also familiar with plant names in the girls’ native language, Amazigh. Meeting her also exposed the girls to one of the many applications of ethnobotany and the career opportunities the field holds.


The second workshop took place on December 16th and was led by Said Taj, a local florist and artist who often works with nonprofits and leads creative workshops for children. During his day-long workshop, he worked with 6 different groups of up to 20 girls to make floral head wreaths using a variety of common local plants; some of these were harvested from Dar Taliba’s gardens, including raffia palm, roses, oleander, bougainvillea, chamaerops palm and carob leaves. Said introduced the girls to some of the basics of ornamental plants including the symbolism associated with different colors and taught them how to make tissue paper flowers. This hands-on workshop gave the girls an opportunity to be creative and have fun as well as brought them a new-found appreciation of ornamental plants they are familiar with. It also exposed them to one of the many plant-related vocations: floristry.


By bringing activities like the Floral Wreath Making workshop and Ethnobotanical Plants garden planning session to Dar Taliba, Global Diversity Foundation is making opportunities most often unavailable to rural and underprivileged children accessible to the girls residing at the boarding house. This is an important aspect of GDF’s mission to maintain and support ethnobotanical knowledge and biodiversity in the communities most dependent on their local flora for both cultural and livelihood purposes.


Donating to our Global Giving campaign allows GDF to continue broadening horizons for the girls at Dar Taliba and enables the foundation to actively contribute to the valorization of environmental stewardship in the High Atlas. Thank you for your support!

Dar Taliba girls having fun making floral wreaths.
Dar Taliba girls having fun making floral wreaths.
Saida, supervisor at Dar Taliba, participated too.
Saida, supervisor at Dar Taliba, participated too.
Dar Taliba girls learning from Florist Said Taj.
Dar Taliba girls learning from Florist Said Taj.

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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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