Celebrating Our Planet with Communities in the High Atlas

+Acumen change-maker Pomme da Silva Cosme shares how a childhood love of nature led her to the High Atlas region in Morocco, where she works at the intersection of people and planet. 

April 20, 2019

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Eaerth Day in High Atlas Region in Morocco
Amazigh communities have maintained these beautiful landscapes for millennia (photo by Inanc Tekguc)

Pomme felt stuck. She had a passion for conservation and a deep connection with the indigeneous communities in the High Atlas region in Morocco, but she didn't feel like she had the tools she needed to put her ideas into action.

Through our course, Designing for Environmental Sustainability and Social Impact, she learned how to diagnose the dynamics that contribute to complex environmental and social challenges and identify an opportunity to intervene. The result? An environmental education project centered around a school garden.

Learn from Pomme herself how this intervention preserves local heritage, builds capacity for girls, and protects the unique ecosystem of the High Atlas. (Edited for clarity and length.)

Tell us about your work. 

I work for the Global Diversity Foundation (GDF), a nonprofit on a mission to protect the natural environment and enhance the wellbeing of communities. Our vision is a world of diversity in which there is dignity, justice, and respect for all beings and environments. 

In my role, I manage the High Atlas Cultural Landscapes program. We are working to maintain the unique ecosystems of the High Atlas while also securing sustainable livelihoods for the Amazigh communities that have maintained these beautiful landscapes for millennia. 

biodiversity conservation High Atlas

Can you give us an example of how you bring an innovator's mindset to traditional land and resource use in order to support both of these goals?

One project I'm really excited about is our ethnobotanical school garden at Dar Taliba. It's an all-girls boarding house that enables students from remote villages of the Ourika Valley to continue their education beyond primary school. In 2017, we started delivering weekly permaculture trainings to teach the girls valuable skills such as seed saving, cultivating aromatic and medicinal plants, making organic fertilizer, and growing and harvesting organic crops. Traditional plant knowledge and horticultural practices are an important part of wellbeing in Amazigh communities of the High Atlas. However, when children go to public schools for further education, they often lose the opportunity to learn about agriculture, gardens and wild plant use.

ethnobotanical garden to maintain ecosystems and support High Atlas communities

These trainings provide a space for the students, who come from different Amazigh communities, to share their local knowledge and learn about traditional plants and their uses, as well as different land use and agriculture practices. Throughout the school year, students bring home plant saplings, vegetables and medicinal plants to their families, and plant them in their home gardens to practice and share their skills with the local community. In addition to these activities, the girls grow and harvest most of the fruits, vegetables and herbs used by the Dar Taliba kitchens to feed the girls and local staff.

What inspired you to get involved in conservation work?

I've always felt a strong connection to nature, and have been eager to learn about how I could protect the natural environment that I love. Although my studies were not linked to conservation work, I always looked for opportunities to volunteer with organizations that focused on sustainable development and agriculture.

I'm inspired by the passion, knowledge, and commitment of local communities in the High Atlas taking action to protect our planet.

What advice do you have for other people interested in getting involved in conservation and sustainability?

The environmental challenges of our time - climate change, biodiversity loss, species extinction - can feel so overwhelming. But that's exactly why its important to seek out the positive stories and change-makers, like the Amazigh communities in the High Atlas.

Every individual has the power to make a positive impact towards a more sustainable future.

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