Social and economic factors
Perma Atlas’ approach is small-scale and transparent but simultaneously directed at all aspects of the community. Agricultural, technical, social and organisational aspects are all taken into account. We are promoting changes in a safe environment. This is why we are working from the bottom-up, starting with their needs, introducing techniques that easily can be adopted by the local community.
The conditions we deal with:
- Rural Berber culture with village heads, and a strong traditional religious hierarchy
- Women have little or no access to men-activities
- Youth is low-educated, illiterate, and has little opportunity for work
- Most people are farmers or craftsmen
- Most people live by the day, without the means for big investments
- Strong willingness to improve local economy
- A hierarchical political administrative structure
- Traditional harvesting: feeding crops, grains, fruit and vegetables
- Uncontrolled grazing of goats
- Sahara is half-arid climate with strong influences from the mountain
- Frost in winter (-5 ° C) and scorching hot and dry summers (40 ° C)
- Extreme rains in winter, extreme long periods of drought during the rest of the year (250 mm yearly)
- Rocky hills eroded by wind and rain
1. Training on permaculture site Anguelz
On a 1.5 hectares terrain, students from the local village learn about the whole process, and build the structures themselves. Older folks share their knowledge with the youth on the traditional techniques. Experience and knowledge gathered in different permaculture project elsewhere in the world are being brought in through a permaculture organisation (Takerkoust).
Phase 1: construction of gabions (dams), swales (small channels) and boomerangs (semi-circular walls holding a tree delivering shadow to other vegetation) and a rainwater container between the gabions and the swales.
Then, different technologies are tested and adapted to the local circumstances, such as the best plant combinations that would be most effective in the local environment. Here we introduce plant species that were extinct in the region, as well as species from other dry regions in Morocco.
In phase 2 we leave the training site to tackle the eroded slopes above the village. The tangible results shown on the site, and the concrete experience and knowledge gained by the participants from the villages, contribute to persuading the other inhabitants in the region.
2. Greening the higher valleys
Parallel to the development of the permaculture training program, we are working on greening the slopes above the villages at the upper part of the Assif Aounil, and place gabions in the chabas (bigger water channels) that are of most danger to the villages.
The greening of the slopes has to be paired with an alternate strategy for grazing. The traditional way of regulated grazing on the slopes has been lost and has to be reinstated. By following a systematic grazing approach, plants get enough space to grow and more cattle can be fed than in the current situation.
In this phase the soil is cultivated on a larger scale, but less intensively: gabions (large and small) in the chabas, stone walls to create more terracing, the creation of mini ecosystems and introducing a regulated grazing system. Locals gain knowledge of the economic opportunities of wild vegetation and other ecologically friendly economical activities.
3. Guiding economic activities of residents
Participants of the permaculture training program are guided in solving the problems of cultivating their land, but also receive guidance in setting up other economic activities that result in more economic resilience. For example setting up a chicken farm, the construction of gabions and swalers in different parts of the region, working in tourism as a guide or in the hospitality industry, or guidance when applying for subsidies and loans for setting up their activities.
4. Developing collaboration within the village communities
It is common in the area for distrust to exist between generations and groups in the village. This makes it challenging to set up community activities. Perma Atlas has the expertise to work on improving collaboration and communication between generations and between the different social groups.
5. Set up permaculture projects for women and children
The women in the village often cultivate their own plot of land for growing vegetables. Within the traditional social relationships they do not have access to men’s activities. After the first results of the training program, a specific program dedicated to the women in the villages. Additionally we are going to target children directly through a permaculture project on the village school.
6. Introducing permaculture in other regions in Marocco
In this phase we expand to other villages in the valley. This is possible with the help of the first and second generations trained professionals, and expanding sustainably the ecological and economic regenerative activities in and around the participating villages. This is where we introduce ecological tourism, and gain national and international interest.
Through social networks, conferences and approaching local nonprofits we want to grow interest around the project and start similar projects around Marocco. This way we are creating a platform to help more village communities.
In the spring of 2017 we started organizing training weekends. Over the course of that year we organized 8 of these weekends. During these weekends the essential techniques are introduced and practiced on the grounds. After the training weekend the participants are offered a salary to practice what they learned on the testing site. Every workshop ends with a discussion of the exercises. In the following workshops they evaluate their work, revise previous techniques and check the costs.
The perspective of a salary is a strong motivator to attend the trainings improving the learning process. The training weekends are a mix of theory and practice. The workshops are translated in Tamazight Berber by a translator specialized in agriculture innovation. The topics are presented in such a way that they can be easily integrated with the local agricultural practices. For example, we discuss water cycles, soil biology, geography and topography, microclimates, botany, but also practical topics; building the gabions (dams), swales (channels) and boomerangs (walled trees giving shade to lower vegetations), setting up water containers, and more. Additionally, we improve the organizational skills of the participants, and more advanced students are tasked with teaching the basic principles to the newer students.
Preventing the inefficient loss of water during the rainy season is one of the key strategies. By building dams and channels, drainage water is stopped and the ground gets the time to absorb the water. Boomerangs (walled tree creating shadow for lower vegetation) are another way to limit erosion and focus water absorption on specific areas of the plot. A water tank is built to make water available for irrigation in the dry summers. The surplus water flows through the gabions into the water tank of 120.000 liters.