By Pommelien da Silva Cosme, Morocco Program Director and Omar Saadani Hassani, MBLA Field Agronomist
Photos by Ibtissam Bouseta
Remember our very first Farmer Field School in 2019 on soil health and fertility? Since then, we have continued this programme to support Amazigh farmers in the High Atlas with our wonderful partner, the Moroccan Biodiversity and Livelihoods Association.
In preparation of our latest Farmer Field School, we carried out a livestock assessment in the rural communes of Imegdal and Aït M’hamed with partner DEAFAL, who provided their expertise through field visits and conversations with livestock owners. This assessment was key to improve our understanding of changes in population sizes, management of different livestock (cows, goats, sheep) as well as to identify any animal health issues.
“During my work with High Atlas communities, I noticed that the activity of livestock breeding and development has decreased,” MBLA Field Agronomist Omar says. “The field assessment allowed us to have an idea of the direct and indirect causes of this phenomenon.”
Through conversations over delicious herbal tea, local livestock owners shared their concerns and observations with our field team. We learned that climate change has significantly affected the decrease in size of herds among local pastoralists mainly because the pastures are much drier and the number of plants and herbs has much reduced.
Based on the assessment and our visits, we organised 2 Farmer Field Schools in October 2021, on effective livestock management in Imegdal and Aït M’hamed, with a total of 30 farmers. During the workshops, participants developed a seasonal calendar for an overview of major events throughout the year including diseases that occur at specific times, changes in climate, livestock production and condition of the pastures; to analyse the cause and effect between these events. We also discussed animal health, diseases and visited several stables to evaluate and share good hygiene practises such as ensuring good ventilation of stables and not overcrowding indoor animal enclosures.
“During this Farmer Field School, High Atlas livestock breeders responded very well despite the pandemic restrictions,” Omar says. “They were very curious and benefited from advice on preventive practises against diseases and for the well-being of their livestock. I was happy to observe their interactions and see the contentment in their eyes.”
As a result of what we learned through these Farmer Field Schools, we are developing an action plan to implement veterinary caravans for local livestock holders to respond to the need of improving animal health and hygiene, as well as treating diseases.
We thank our partners MBLA and DEAFAL as well as the MAVA Foundation and Darwin Initiative for their support for this Farmer Field School in favour of High Altas pastoralists.