RESEARCH - Project






Cultural representations and uses of the Environment: the case of the agdal Berber communal system of natural resource management (Moroccan High Atlas)

Traditional Amazigh (Berber) people’s economy in the High Atlas Mountains (Central Morocco) is highly dependent on the herding of goats, sheep and cows as well as growing wheat, barley, a little horticulture and fruits. The common agdal is a system of agro-sylvo-pastoral resource management based on communal property that belongs to a millenarian Amazigh tradition and consists on prohibiting access to a given natural resource during a period of time through out the year. This system seems to have a positive effect on the floral biodiversity and the vegetation cover of the pastoral territory of the Yagour (Mesioua tribe between 2.000 and 3.600 masl). In fact, floral biodiversity and the vegetation cover seem to be both higher in the zone managed by the agdal system compared to the surrounding areas, as it is ungrazed from the end of March until the beginning of summer, after most plants have set seed. Nevertheless, very often, the date in which opens the agdal areas for grazing is now being altered and depends increasingly more on the state’s intervention (sometimes political negotiations force a sooner opening of the agdal) and the ecological changes like each year's pluviometry which is increasingly rare and variable due to climate change.

My doctoral research tries to prove qualitatively and quantitatively, the existence of an association between the cultural representations and the social uses of the Environment in the group Ait Ikiss (High Atlas of Marrakech) within the framework of the agdal. It seems to me very important to show the existence of this association because it could serve a great example for thinking new state managements adapted to local cultures, respectful with the culture and the ecology of the pastures of altitude, zones of high biodiversity. If I manage to prove the existence of this association, it could also stimulate a new interest for the cultural studies and promote this cultural grazing system as a whole, sustainable and enriching land use.

Research Questions

  • What effect does the common agdal system have on sub-alpine flora?
  • How does the common agdal system support the local economy?
  • What is the association between the local culture and the uses of the agdal?

This research has been funded by :

  • 2009-2010, scholarship of the Catalan Agency of Universitary Research (AGAUR).
  • 2007-2009, scholarship of the Spanish Agency of International Cooperation and Developement (AECID).
  • 2004-2007, scholarship of the University Agency of the Francophony (AUF).
  • 2003-2007, 7 fieldwork financial facilities of the Agdal program for the development of fieldworks in the High Atlas Mountains, Institute of Research for Development (IRD).
  • 2006, 1st price “Young researcher’s award” of French Biodiversity Institute (IFB), for the work on Folk religion and biodiversity conservation.
  • 2005, Grant of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
  • 2004, Grant of the Alvargonzález Foundation.