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.
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