Community initiatives in Morocco

In Morocco, community innovations have been identified, selected and characterized within rural communities of Ouneine and Tabant, respectively located in the western High Atlas (province of Taroudant) and the central High Atlas (province of Azilal). 

These initiatives are carried out by farmers and rural stakeholders; these latter come in a variety of forms which reflect some of the changes that the rural world is currently facing in Morocco: members of the same family or lineage with a reticular territoriality that combines local anchorage and mobility towards big cities and/or abroad; young people who have had access to public school and big cities, and who eventually settled in their douar (village) of origin after being unsuccessfully in and out of the city ; young sons of farmers, very active in mountain tourism from which they obtain a significant part of their household income; artisan farmers, traditional woodworkers, potters, etc.

Regarding the douars of Anzi in Ouneine and Agouti in Tabant, the two institutional initiatives identified relate to organizing the activity of artisanal carpentry, which depends largely on the exploitation of forest resources, in a cooperative or association. In the first community carpentry is an ancient tradition, while in the second, this activity was recently introduced, mainly by the Central High Atlas project, which focuses in mountain tourism and was implemented in Tabant since the middle of the 80’s. Both initiatives provide a glimpse of the way the artisans are reorganizing their relationship with the forest, while help to pursue and even develop an economic activity that is heavily dependent on forest resources, and to improve the population’s relationship with the environment in general.

In Anzi, the wood cut from the forest is transformed into material for domestic purposes and farm implements such as tables, stools, swing ploughs, shovels, picks and hoes, as well as for construction material such as doors, windows, frameworks, etc. In Agouti the processed wood, especially from walnut tree, is used to make smaller kitchen utensils like spoons, dippers, plates, etc.

In both cases, this activity, which in Anzi at the beginning met local essential needs, continued to grow to meet national and international demands. The artisans of the cooperative directed their efforts to the manufacturing of products intended for sale in souks (bazaars) or for decoration purposes in houses, hotels and riads (villas). On the other hand, in Agouti, the products manufactured are also functional but mainly ornamental and sold as souvenirs, intended for tourists or marketed through the association’s website (

However, in Anzi, due to the strong dependence of this activity on the forest in order to get wood raw material, artisans often found themselves infringing the forest legislation and potentially exposed to fines and imprisonment. As a result, in both douars, the artisans decided to organize in cooperatives or associations.

The purpose of Anzi’s artisans in creating a cooperative is to get a legal base to conduct their activities and, most importantly, to safely market the product of their work outside the village. All products manufactured by all artisans are marketed on behalf of the cooperative. Since wood items are subject to side-road inspections, the cooperative’s “label” reduces the risk of being hassled by police officers. In the beginning, the cooperative was a means to circumvent the forest legislation. Since this initiative was identified and through the organized exchange-visits between the two communities, the cooperative is looking forward to establish a partnership with the Services des Eaux et Forêts (Department of Water and Forest Resources) with a view to manage the surrounding forests on a concerted basis, and to undertake reforestation and protection measures. The project intends to change and evolve the “cat and mouse” relationship, which has historically characterized the relationship between forest keepers and the communities living nearby.

The creation of the douar in Agouti meets the need of developing the activity by diversifying products and designs. However, what is most innovative is the marketing concept. The association has established the three-thirds rule (association / artisan / environment) to share the proceeds from the sales and the allocation of this income; the association institutes thereby a sort of “environmental tax” to be used for reforestation purposes, the plan being that residents of the douar plant fruit trees. Besides an undeniable social impact, the association hopes to help increase the douar’s wooded area and compensate for wood harvesting in the future. The artisans of the Anzi cooperative are more than willing to follow the example of their Agouti’s peers.

As they conduct their economic activities and care for the environment, while dealing with the reappropriation of their home territory and the protection of their heritage, these communities fit into the scheme of the green economy. Through their initiatives, they aim to produce at the lowest environmental cost. They are beginning to acquire an environmental culture combined with a reinterpretation of ancient practices, like is the fact of “reviving” a forest protection system known as “Agdal” , and the implementation of new ones. Their ultimate goal is to reduce the environmental damages in order to safeguard and even develop the environment; however, both sides believe that their economic operations will gradually succeed in the future.

Therefore, the objective of the project is to provide support and guidance to the process, and to facilitate partnerships between the communities, the State and local and regional authorities to implement concerted solutions regarding the management of forest resources. This is accomplished through cross-visits and the exchange of experiences between communities in Morocco and their peers in other partner countries in this project. Spokespersons of these communities are invited to visit their peers from Uganda in October. We are confident that new hopes will emerge from this South/South cooperation for the benefit of the environment.

An Example: Lamhalt farmers reclaiming hillside in Ouneine

Three related families have joined hands in the village of Lamhalt to reclaim a hillside that is currently stony and degraded. They are slowly turning their land into productive irrigated terraces. Their private project has been funded by family members working in Casablanca. A gradation is visible as one walks upslope – from stony slopes populated by sparse Ziziphus bushes, to cross-slope lines of stone between which rainfed cereals are grown, to emerging terraces with almond trees along the stone lines, on to rudimentary terraces with some irrigation, and finally to fully developed and irrigated benches. The improvement of the land has been accompanied by increased crop diversification. On the now-mature terraces at the top of farm are various fruit and nut trees, barley, maize, faba beans, rosemary, prickly pear (Opuntia sp) as well as vegetables (e.g., courgettes), spices (eg coriander) and medicinal plants. Irrigation is sourced from groundwater. This community initiative, started some eight years ago, has seen 6-7 of the 20 hectares now fully developed.

The initiative in this case is partially social (the idea of a small group of families joining hands to develop land and share certain inputs) and partially technical (diversification into a wide variety of cash crops).

Newsletter article Morocco innovative communities

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