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Tighfert, Morocco


The Tighfert oasis has rich cultural and natural characteristics, which means that this territory has lots of development potential (oasis agriculture, ecotourism, local crafts). Generally, the oasis systems (which have been in place for millennia) represent important ecological niches with an abundance of animal and plant biodiversity.

But these areas are are seriously threatened by contemporary life. The recommendations of many studies on the oases suggest there is an urgent need to safeguard and the protect the biodiversity of these ecosystems. The challenge is therefore to find a way to contribute to their conservation while meeting the aspirations of the inhabitants of these territories.

Location and climate

The oasis of Tighfert (Lumbar coordinates: 31.52 ° N, 5.03 ° W) is located in the territorial municipality of Ferkla Essoufla (Province Errachidia, Region Draa Tafilalt) between the two large wadis of the zones of Tanguarfa in the North and Ferkla in the South . Its area is 1.27 km2 (127 ha), of which 80 ha represent the area irrigated according to the Jmaâ [ii]. The Tighfert Oasis currently has more than 2,053 inhabitants spread over 293 households and consists of 7 ethnic factions, all Amazigh, who make up the structure of the community.

Precipitation here hardly exceeds 100mm per year on average and temperatures are low in winter and high in summer (up to 50 ° C). Water resources, which are almost exclusively underground are mobilized by the use of an ancestral method called "Khettarat" [i]


The Tighfert Oasis is divided into three sections: the first section is occupied by date palms, the second by fruit trees and the third by fodder-market gardening. A model of local governance has been developed by the local community where decision-making about the management of land and water resources has been collective and participatory since time immemorial.

A significant intervention by the The Micro-Financing Program of the Global Environment Fund (FEM PMF- GEF) and their partners in Morocco highlighted the role of local communities in the conservation of biodiversity. Indeed, the Tighfert oasis, part of the Ferkla oasis, has been identified as a Community Heritage Area and Territory (APAC).

The threats

Natural threats

  • Salinisation of water and soil;
  • Drought: decrease in production and in the level of groundwater; death of trees and animals; wind and water erosion;
  • Invasion of locusts;
  • Invasions of pathogenic microorganisms
  • Invasions of invasive plants from flood waters.

Anthropogenic threats

  • Decline of the economic model of the oasis system which no longer ensures the desired standard of living;
  • Rural exodus, particularly from the youth;
  • Negligence in the maintenance of hydro-agricultural infrastructures, in particular the khettarat and the irrigation canals;
  • Excessive pumping, especially upstream;
  • Decline in cultural practices;
  • Uncontrolled urbanization in agricultural land;
  • Land use change;
  • Conflicts;
  • Decrease in the coherence of social life;
  • Climate change.

Water governance and management

Like most of the oases in south-eastern Morocco, agriculture has been the main economic activity in Tighfert oasis. Oases are original agro-systems based on balanced interactions between humans and the environment, in an arid to very hostile desert environment. The community of Tighfert, entirely Amazigh, organized its life around the water resource, which is very rare and precious, and very often far away. The local community has developed an ingenious technique of mobilizing groundwater called "KHETTARAT", which can mobilize water over a distance of more than 10 km further upstream. This is the strength of this community.

The Tighfert khettarat is more than 10km long. Its flow varies according to the rainfall and can be high during rainy years (up to 40 litres per second) and low during drought years (3 litres per second). Currently it is more than 7 litres per second. The irrigated area is between 10 to 15% of the existing potential which is around 80 ha. The water turn is 12 days.

Community water governance is plural (Taqbilt or Lajmaat [ii]). Customary law (Azerf-Al Orf [iii]) is passed on from generation to generation and therefore constitutes a real regulatory device which is internal to this community. The right to water first gives a right of access to the water resource coming from the khettarat and also defines the quantity of water which the person entitled has.

In terms of irrigation, the task of enforcing orders is inherited from the past or it is decided by Lajmaat (or its council). It is entrusted to the care of a person called Amghar n'Waman (the sheikh water) who is responsible, among other things, for distributing the water shares according to a so-called “Tanast” measurement system. Tanast is the hydrological clock which allows precise timing of irrigation, (watches are not yet known in these regions). It looks like a copper bowl pierced at the bottom which lasts 12 minutes, defined according to the area of the palm grove and the flow of the khettarat.

The rights are distributed throughout the day and cyclically according to defined periods, often according to the prayer (Lfajr (first prayer -before sunrise)), Ankerr (sunrise), Tizouarine (dohr), Laasar, Tinwoutchi (Lamghrareb), Tinyittsse (Laacha), Midnight. This Tighfert khettarat ensures the maintenance of ancestral lifestyles and covers the needs of the local community for water, food, energy, fodder, income. The existence and operation of this ingenious hydraulic technique makes it possible, in particular, to preserve ancestral knowledge and play a role of a safety net during periods of stress and increased needs. It constitutes a foundation of cultural identity and a form of pride, reinforced by local governance, the rights and responsibilities of the local population over land and natural resources.

In addition to the water mobilized by the khettarat, the oasis also benefits from the floods of the Oued Tangarfa (a potential of 6 m3 per second of water), through a canal bypass with a length of around 4km, a width of 3m and a height of 2m. The khettarat and canals are maintained and developed by the Had Sayem [1] where all the men of the community who have reached the age of fasting must participate in the works. Women, meanwhile, prepare meals and water for workers.


Regarding soil management, the local community has developed practices that respect the land. They provide manure annually, practice rotation, and leave some areas fallow while alternating crops. They also are involved in the production and conservation of seeds. Another requirement is the maintenance and clearance of invasive plants from the palm grove, which is a task carried out mainly by women. They also produce and store other agricultural products either for the family (date, wheat, barley, corn, ...) or for livestock (alfalfa, oats, date waste, corn, etc.). The date palm and in particular the "Azegza" [iv] variety represents the central activity of this oasis.

The other flagship agricultural activity is the breeding of the local sheep known as the D’Man breed [v], which is known for its high reproduction rate and resilience to difficult climatic conditions. Raising the laying hen is an opportunity that allows women to meet some of their basic needs and those of their families.


Crafts have always been an activity to meet the needs of the community. Such activities include weaving (Djellaba, carpets, etc.), using palm leaves, baskets (Koffa [vi] and Mkabs [vii], Tisswit [viii]) and culinary utensils with Tamarisk (spoons, bowls of soup, Tezlaft [ix], etc.). The community also produce household items including doors, beams, windows, cupboards, cupboards, suitcases, etc, and for agriculture, specialized tools which are in particular: Tamgourt, Lmazbert, Amgor, (kinds of saw sickle ), Lmessha (the hoe), etc.

Women cooperatives

In recent years, women in this community have been able to develop their activities by creating cooperatives. These now produce different varieties of semolina (couscous), lamhammssa, peppers, juices and syrup from soft dates, coffee from date pits, etc. Tighfert oasis appears to be an excellent example of biocultural diversity (biological diversity and cultural diversity and the interactions between them).

ICCA support and registration

The PMF GEF’s support to this community, through the Association Oasis Ferkla for the Environment and Patrimony (AOFEP), was through capacity building, especially of young people to ensure intergenerational transfer and therefore the continuity of the defense of their territory. The project also supported and strengthened local governance and established a management plan and a charter for this ICCA. Training on communication and advocacy to be able to work for the recognition and conservation of their ICCA was also carried out. In addition, the project also allowed the community and its associations to share their experience with other ICCAs at local, national, regional and global levels.

[1] An age when the young are called upon to participate in the works and development campaigns organized by the community. The age at which the youngster can start the youngster.

[i] Khettarat: Old hydraulic system for mobilizing groundwater from the groundwater by gravity and without energy

[ii] Taqbilt oulajmaat in Tamazight is Jmaa

[iii] Arzef: ALorf is customary law at Imazighn

[iv] Azegza: word in Tamazight which means green

[v] Local sheep endemic to the oases

[vi] Koffa: Arabic word: it is a bag made from palm leaflets

[vii] Mkab: Amazigh word: these are palm baskets

[viii] Tisswit: Amazigh word Couffin to work semolina and clean wheat, to preserve bread, etc.

[ix] Tezlaft: Amazigh word for a tool with several functions in tamarix; wood working of semolina, couscous, etc.

This case study was originally published by UNEP-WCMC in August 2020. 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.