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Imegdale, Morocco


In Morocco, conserving unique biodiversity relies on the knowledge, innovations and practices of indigenous and local communities who live in direct contact with nature. Imegdale territory is located in the Western High Atlas range, in southern Morocco. The High Atlas is one of the ‘hot spot’ areas of the Mediterranean mountains, home to a number of Important Plant Areas, including Imegdale.

Imegdale’s abundant biodiversity is maintained by the rich cultural Amazighe heritage, through ingenious socio-ecological management systems. The Amazighe (the only inhabitants of Imegdale) are indigenous mountain communities comprised of 1,156 households and 5,467 inhabitants, including 2,722 women, inhabiting 28 villages. Regulated by customary law, their traditional conservation practices allow for ecological regeneration and promote balance. These include Azayn - field closure during fruit maturation period; Tagdalt – closure of private lands until the end of vegetation development cycles, and prohibiting access to Agdals (mainly pasturelands) and Azibs (graze lands) for three months in the spring.

Building on the Amazighe’s traditional knowledge, the ICCA Global Support Initiative facilitates a “self-strengthening” process, enabling the indigenous communities to preserve their heritage and be recognised as the guardians of their ICCA.


One of the major threats is that there are limited farming options, due to Imegdale’s mountains being covered 80% by forest. The other threats are

• over-exploitation of medicinal plants

• a high rate of youth exodus in search of better opportunities

• lack of awareness and recognition of customary management by institutional actors.

Climate change exacerbates these existing threats.

Diversifying livelihoods

The population of Imegdale makes their livelihood from sedentary and livestock farming. Most of the production from market gardening, cereals, and fodder crops is used for home consumption. To diversify livelihood sources, community incubators were set up. One incubator initiative is a nursery, which is an effective way to reduce the pressure on useful and/or threatened wild plants.

A seedling distribution program has been carried out, domesticating important plants to reduce pressures on the natural environment by improving livelihoods, regenerating forests and helping to rehabilitate the Imegdale Important Plant Areas.

In 2018 and 2019, a total of 31,094 aromatic and medicinal plants were introduced with the help of farmers in 20 villages, representing 482 beneficiary households.

Through an intense capacity-building program, the Imegdale Community Nursery is now managed by two community researchers, with the support of a local co-operative for the production of medicinal and aromatic plants and fruit trees.

In addition to the nursery, an important aspect of the project is the establishment of a community seed bank and regional herbarium. As a result, the research team and community researchers were able to collect, identify and store seeds from 100 endemic, useful and flagship species.

To identify the most valuable seeds to populate the seed banks with, a participatory mapping exercise was carried out by the communities. Based on their collective consensus, this exercise was also valuable in drafting a joint management plan for the Imegdale ICCA. The map they created outlines the different zones and lists the areas subject to different types of management: plant collection areas, agricultural areas, sacred sites, forests in the Toukbal National Park, tagdaltes, Azibs, as well as conflict zones.

Linking to the ICCA Global Support Initiative

ICCA-GSI's objective is to improve the recognition and overall effectiveness for biodiversity conservation, sustainable livelihoods, and resilience to climate change effects in territories and areas conserved by indigenous peoples and local communities.

Following this, the ICCA-GSI portfolio of projects in Morocco integrates the contribution of indigenous peoples and local communities towards achieving Aichi targets. The creation of a national ICCA network continues to bring together various stakeholders committed to ICCAs ---promoting community values, bio-cultural heritage and solidarity for global benefits.

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This case study was originally published by UNEP-WCMC. The content was provided by the custodians of this ICCA. The ICCA has been self-declared and has been gone through a peer-review process to verify its status. More details on this process can be found here. The contents of this website do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of UN Environment Programme or WCMC.