In the framework of the ongoing collaboration between FAO (FRLR - Forest and Landscapes Restoration Mechanism program) and the Secretariat of the Mediterranean Model Forest Network for the implementation of the IKI-funded project-"Accord de Paris en action : intensifier la restauration des forêts et des paysages pour mettre en œuvre des contributions déterminées au niveau national"-, a field visit to Morocco (Middle Atlas) took place last October 23-26.
The visit involved the MMFN Secretariat with Toni Ventre and Riccardo Castellini, partners from the two intervention sites, specifically the president of the Ifrane Model Forest Association (AFMI), Prof. Abdelkrim Marzouk, and the president of the AREBICA Association (Model Forest Initiative), Mrs. Zohra Bouzianne, with their respective technical teams. In addition to the in-depth discussion, sharing and definition of technical aspects, the visit was an opportunity to meet with the various representatives of ANEF (Agence Nationale des Eaux et Forêts), Ifrane National Park and the Association of Silvopastoral Management (AGS) operating partners in all the identified sites targeted for intervention.
The first day was dedicated to checking the progress of the project and to looking forward on how to implement it in the future. Dr. Oukannou presented a brief history of AFMI, going through the various pilot projects carried out in the Ifrane National Park area and highlighting the positive impacts on the local population and biodiversity. This was followed by a presentation by Dr. Hachimi on the approach and progress of the IKI project. Dr.Derrou likewise gave a presentation on behalf of AREBICA on the project and the actions to be implemented at the site they managed.
The next two days were dedicated to field visits in the plots earmarked for the restoration activities. First the site in Azrou Forest where it was possible to appreciate the effective site identification criteria in relation to the future stationary and management conditions with particular regard to the first few years of silvicultural care crucial to success. Then, together with representatives of AGS Sehb Laghnem, we visited the plots managed by AFMI under CEPF- and UNDP-funded projects, aimed to the restoration of the traditional "Agdal" pasture system, particularly effective in meeting at the same time the objectives of increasing biodiversity and the needs of improving sheep and goat grazing. A better distribution of watering points along the area have also contributed to a more sustainable management of the grazing load. Crucial, with AGS representatives, was the discussion of these actions, their impact and the expectations of local people for the future.
The case of the Aghbalou Larbi forest (second site in the Itzer area) is also extremely suitable for restoration purposes. The plots are located near the volcanic lake Aguelmam n' Sidi Ali, an area of great ecological value for the many roles it plays for plant, animal and human communities in this semi-arid context. Here the intervention will involve both reforestation (with cedar and holm oak) and silvicultural management on the existing Juniperus thurifera populations. Again, there are high expectations and awareness by local administrations and communities in terms of how the environmental benefits FLR can bring to their territory have to be accompanied by an improvement in the living conditions of those who have chosen to live there.
This is mainly due to the great involvement work done by Ifrane MF and the AREBICA MF initiative. With the participatory activities that characterize the MF approach they have organized events and meetings with local communities, in order to raise awareness on the importance of restoration and the key role they have, as inhabitants, in these projects. Here below are some examples of articles from the local newspaper, testifying to the great success of these initiatives.