With nurseries and seeds... A Moroccan initiative combats migration from the Atlas Mountains

Writer: Salma Arafa - Translator: Amira Gawdat
الثلاثاء 04 يونية 2024 | 10:12 مساءً

Over a vast area of ​​the Maghreb, the High Atlas Mountains region extends with its exceptional nature, which has given its residents a unique life that is unlike its surroundings with its advantages and challenges.

However, climate changes have limited the options for residents, and they must find solutions to confront these effects, or leave the region whose history dates back thousands of years.

The Moroccan Association for Biodiversity and Livelihoods joined, years ago, the list of institutions trying to support local people in the region and improve their conditions in a sustainable way that does not harm the environment.


Dr. Abdullah Aghraz, co-founder of the association, said to “Green in Arabic” that the most important climate challenges facing the Atlas Mountains region are the lack of water resources, which reached its peak during successive years of drought that affects job opportunities available to the residents who depend on agriculture and livestock raising. This is what drives them to migrate to cities.

During 2014, “Aghraz” participated in establishing the association, in cooperation with a number of his fellow researchers at the Faculty of Sciences Semlalia at Al-kadi Ayyad University in Marrakech.

He explains that scientific research is the cornerstone on which all of the association's activities are based, and from which efforts to preserve the environment also begin.


The projects executed by the association include seeds banks and nurseries that aim at producing endangered plants, indigenous plants that only grow in Morocco, in addition to income-generating crops that are later marketed such as marjoram and halhal.

Aghraz said that the association worked on combating using fertilizers and chemical pesticides. Through the field farming program, the foundation trained farmers in more sustainable practices, such as using organic fertilizers (compost) and choosing plants that do not require large amounts of water.

The co-founder points out that organic products, which are produced without resorting to chemicals, are of higher value and price compared to other products.

Atlas Products Market

One of the obstacles that residents of the region face in marketing their various types of products is that all cooperative societies established by residents are based in the mountains far from urban areas, and transportation requires a high cost, according to the co-founder of the association.


There is another reason that hinders the marketing of products, which is the decrease in the presence of ice in some areas, coinciding with the climate change crisis, and thus the decline in the number of tourists coming to those areas to practice skiing, as they purchase these products during their trips.

For this reason, the association launched Atlas Products Market that was established many times in the past years in the touristic city Marrakech. The association bears the cost of transportation and accommodation of residents during that period, so that they can market their products, including olive oil ones, and network with regular customers.

Aghraz says that the association began working in this direction during the Coronavirus pandemic that led to the cessation of movement between regions, as happened in various parts of the world.

There is another aspect that the association worked on, which is training cooperative societies in the region on e-marketing, and on publishing video clips in which they tell their story.

Sustainable heritage

The Foundation's efforts to preserve the environment include not only helping residents develop, but also helping to preserve sustainable historical practices.

Speaking to us, Aghraz told how older men take responsibility for implementing these practices, especially in times of water scarcity. They are the ones responsible for distributing it to the population and to the cultivated areas so that everyone benefits, in addition to setting times for stopping grazing at certain times of the year.


The association is interested in documenting cultural practices in the areas in which it operates, in addition to holding meetings with local residents, to determine the pros and cons of each practice.

Women's initiatives

On the other hand, women launch the largest number of initiatives. According to Aghraz, 75% of the cooperative societies that the Foundation works with are women’s associations.

The association participated in establishing a vegetable garden extending for thousands of meters inside one of the girls’ boarding schools in the town of Ourika, in addition to training the school’s female students on sustainable agricultural practices and plant preservation. It ended ultimately achieving the school’s self-sufficiency in vegetable and fruit crops.