To inform our participatory conservation actions and ensure they successfully protect biodiversity and improve rural livelihoods, MBLA generates new, and enhances existing, knowledge of the conservation status of threatened, endemic and valuable plant species. Our research activities include:
- Plants and habitats assessments;
- Floristic surveys;
- Ecological monitoring to study the impact of our conservation actions and community-based management practices on biodiversity and ecosystem composition;
- Conservation assessments of species, habitat, ecosystems and key biodiversity areas;
- Mapping, modelling, species tracking and marking to understand the causes of environmental degradation and threats;
- Assess impacts of climate change on plant populations and highlight potential climate change refugia;
- Establish a baseline to monitor the changes at species, habitat and ecosystem scales;
- Elaborate regional conservation priorities, actions and management plans.
MBLA works in collaboration with local communities and institutions to deliver participatory conservation actions that enhance biodiversity of the High Atlas. We deliver:
- Integrated conservation actions that include In situ and Ex situ measures, such as the management of community herbaria, seed banks and nurseries for the production of wild, medicinal, threatened, useful and domesticated species for distribution to households and re-introduction to the wild;
- Restoration and enhancement of traditional water management infrastructures to provide safe drinking water, sanitation and more efficient irrigation practices to support agriculture;
- Agroecology activities, such as plant enrichment and terrace cultivation.
High Atlas landscapes have been shaped by diverse practices of Amazigh peoples for millennia. These cultural practices,
including traditional water management, agroforestry and community-based management of high altitude pastures, contribute to the diversified use and rich biodiversity of the High Atlas.
However, these practices are increasingly threatened by changing climatic, economic and social realities. One key driver of change is the rural exodus of young people seeking educational and economic opportunities.
Increasingly severe and prolonged drought – combined with more frequent flash floods – affect agricultural production, disrupt plant life cycles and contribute to soil erosion. Mounting temperatures push montane species to higher elevations and more restricted distributions.
These drivers contribute to a diminishing biodiversity, a general loss of cultural values and a change in social behaviour. This results in abandonment of practices that maintain the distinctive cultural landscapes of the High Atlas, and the biodiversity they harbour.
To help conserve and revitalise these cultural practices of conservation, MBLA carries out the following activities:
- Community-based research on traditional practices of land management and the use of wild plant species;
- Community-based research into possible drivers for recent changes in cultural practices of conservation and identify ways to strengthen them;
- Support new and old community governance systems and institutions;
- Promote local, national and international recognition of community governance systems.
MBLA supports local livelihoods through activities that improve income, resources and other non-monetary benefits to local people in the High Atlas communities through:
- Distribution of valuable and medicinal and aromatic plants to rural communities;
- Providing communities with safe domestic drinking water and medical care for the most vulnerable communities through ‘health caravans’;
- Improved access to school for girls from rural areas.
One of the central goals of our work is to ensure the long-term sustainability of all our projects. This is achieved through:
Capacity building of project stakeholders
MBLA is involved in a continuous programme of training local people, Community Researchers and local cooperatives to strengthen community-based systems of environmental research and management.
Raining awareness of cultural practices of conservation
A central goal of MBLA’s work is to encourage the maintenance of cultural practices of conservation, which play a vital role in protecting biodiversity and enhancing community livelihoods. To support this, we work to ensure that the cultural landscape management of the High Atlas is widely recognised as essential for biodiversity, human wellbeing, Moroccan culture, and Mediterranean heritage. By increasing awareness and understanding, these sustainable land use practices are not abandoned, but rather bolstered. We do this through targeted outreach to:
A. The local community
We use innovative and engaging tools to reach youth, women, men, community authorities and local cooperatives, including:
- Biocultural festivals and fairs;
- Local radio programmes;
- Engaging conservation education displays in all participating communities;
- Dissemination of colourful materials in schools on topics of biodiversity conservation, traditional practices, value-adding activities and sustainable harvesting.
B. The international community
We work with professionals, practitioners, policy and decision makers to ensure biodiversity conservation and cultural practices of the High Atlas are recognised and protected.