Crossroads of Agroecological Initiatives and Practices (CIPA)
Douar Skoura in Rhamna (Morocco)
According to a recent survey, 52% of lands able be cultivated have been severely affected by soil degradation, primarily due to climate change, unsustainable farming, and overgrazing. This is the case, for example, of the Rhamna region in Morocco, whose formerly agricultural lands turned into vast arid expanses, and whose desolate view reflects the desperation of those who are leaving it. The grass would seem to be greener elsewhere; and for good reason, as it is increasingly scare in Rhamna.
"One of the ultimate goals of the association is to see the end of the immigration toward Europe, in extreme dangers, of young people from rural areas and without qualifications. Our country can offer them healthy and gainful work."
It is on this axis that the CIPA initiative pivots: revitalize the landscape of Douar Skoura, Rhamna, and thus revive hope for the young people in the region. Working on this project since 2015, the CIPA team braved the initial scepticism of the inhabitants, and inaugurated through their collaboration a multidisciplinary agricultural space respectful of the environment: beekeeping, gardening, and livestock breeding are all activities which make it possible to diversify the future prospects at Douar Skoura. Led by Boujemâa et volunteers, the CIPA initiative - Pierre RABHI of THM, gave life to a dynamic of sharing, and an interest in the premises for agroecology surrounding this educational and experimental farm located 30 Km North of Marrakech. Agroecology develops and disseminates techniques that prohibit chemical products and respect the soil, living things, and ecosystems. It thus allows us to limit desertification and erosion, to decrease water needs, and to revegetate bare soils covered in stones.
The initiative receives technical support from SwitchMed in terms of capacity building for the team by empowering it to manage and diversify its activities. In addition, SwitchMed supports the CIPA in its application process for participatory funds for the training of rural youth affected by the agricultural crisis.
The initiative has already carried out a series of information, awareness-raising, and environmental education campaigns on agroecology in different regions of Morocco for schoolchildren, students, women, and farmers. The CIPA, supervised by THM, has already proven that this technique is the healthy alternative enabling farmers and their families to improve their condition while reversing the effects of desertification.
Look at what we have achieved in just two years, in a dry and often hostile environment, thanks to our efforts and teamwork; we have created income-generating activities. Not only is it possible, but it is also cost effective. claims Gueghlan Boujemâa while showing us the green plains that line the soil in front of the farm.
CIPA garden in 2015 (left) and in 2017 (right)
Indeed, in two years of activity, the vegetable garden of the CIPA farm has provided abundant crops and given colour to the landscape. This success has impressed the inhabitants. A fruit forest and a pastoral area are currently being set up, as well as a nursery and an educational beekeeping area. A few locals have joined the CIPA movement as gardeners, workers, or cooks, and have acquired an agroecological know-how or some money that they wished to see grow.
Trees were planted on the estate, others were offered to families from the Douar, and a tree planting and protection movement has been developed;
Young people have gradually connected with the CIPA; they come for training programs and gatherings, meet diverse people from other Moroccan regions and abroad; a desire to participate is thus born. The neighbouring college has contacted members of the initiative to help it create an educational garden.
"The distrust phase has ended; the interest is clear. our presence has been a game changer"
But the CIPA doesn't plan on stopping there. With the experience of its members, like Boujemâa, and in order to boost rural life in Douar Skoura, all while maintaining respect for Nature and its balance, the initiative is planning soon a training program structured and adapted for young people without qualifications from Douar Skoura. Beyond its theoretical and practical scope, this programme will try to inspire a passion for the land, and will aim to establish a relationship between the inhabitants and this land which harbours so much unexplored potential. "Our ambition is to be a "second chance school" for young people who love the land and wish to live off of it". says Boujemâa
Thus, thanks to this agroecology training programme adapted to the particular conditions of the region, a group of 15 rural youths from the Douar (village) Skoura and the surrounding area in the Rhamna region will have this second chance to build their future with dignity, in the respect of nature and its wealth. This training program will take place over 10 days at the CIPA farm school in Skoura. It will be partly theoretical: courses from experienced and qualified trainers in the agronomic sciences, and from a library currently being constructed and a manual that we are designing with the Cadi Ayyad University in Marrakech. But the training program will be mainly practical thanks to the trainers on site and to the 3 ha of land devoted to all sorts of crops.
"The association Terre et Humanisme-Maroc federates Moroccan farmers, cooperatives, institutions, and individuals who are committed to defending and disseminating healthy family farming, respectful of life and of Mankind."