Western High Atlas to Zaida: National Parks Linking Corridor
As a first stage of the overall Sahara Forest Project, it would be worthwhile to establish forests upwind of the main desert area, to increase the water retention and, via the trees, to increase rainfall and humidity downwind in the areas we will be working in.
The prevailing winds in the Maghreb are Westerly, and carry moisture from the sea. The proposed forest corridor is ideally placed to catch that water and retain it. The distance between the two parks is only approx. 37 km, so this is achievable early on in the project.
After the pilot project in Ait Attab is established, it will be used as a base to initiate a similar project in Zaida, and the two will cooperate to make the corridor. Local farmers and landowners can be paid to establish tree nurseries from local established (and thus adapted to the area) trees. Species that have been extirpated can be reintroduced as needed. This method of doing the tree nurseries ensures that the local communities are intimately involved right from the start, and see some benefits immediately.
- Identify location for Second permaculture centre.
- Identify locations for tree nurseries
- Organize seed gathering (this may have to be done first, as Autumn is the time to do it). Local people can be paid also to do this.
- Identify places to make the initial (protected) small plantings.
- Make training course for participants, in Beni Mellal. Pay fee for attending and provide refreshments and transport..
- Distribute seeds to the chosen nurseries, trying to keep the seeds as local as possible, i.e. where possible the seeds are from a nearby wild area.
- Start paying the nursery operators on a monthly basis. Keep some back for bonuses and prizes. Keep some back for a party.
- Provide ongoing support for those making the nurseries.
When the seedlings are viable, at one year, put 33% into small, protected patches in the corridor. This will be easy, as they will be local to the people doing it. A fence to keep off grazers will do. This will act as an experiment to identify potential problems, and safeguard the other 66% which can begin to be planted the following year, as they will be stronger then.
Benefits of the project
- Water will be retained in the watershed, keeping the rivers and streams flowing for much longer. This will relieve drought-related problems in an area well beyond the project itself.
- Being a permaculture food forest, there will also be an abundance of food year-round for the local people to harvest. This will feed the people and leave a surplus to export. Currently this only really happens on any scale on the plains where there is irrigation.
- Money from the project, in the form of wages, infrastructure purchases etc. will boost the local economy and have knock-on effects. In this scheme, the money goes directly to the most poverty-stricken to pay them to do work that will ultimately transform their situation to one of abundance.
- The involvement of Europeans will boost the confidence of the people, helping them to see the potential they have.
- Erosion will be stopped and topsoil will be greatly increased.
- carbon sequester
- rehydrate the aquifers and springs
- Flash floods, sometimes fatal, will cease in the areas downstream of the corridor.
- The trees will increase rainfall in the area, as well as some distance downwind.
Firstly it will be necessary to establish tree nurseries to provide the seedlings for the corridor. This would ideally be done by a number of local farmers. They would be trained and then paid for collecting the seeds, planting them close to their houses in protected area, and nurturing them. In this way we would have local communities directly involved right from the start in the project, and they would benefit immediately. What follows is a rough outline and costing, just as a start.
- Identify local people who will do the nurseries.
- Hold training course in Beni Mellal. Provide accom, food, and token payment (e.g. 30 euros if 2 days)
- Explain overall project and benefits. Make clear they will be paid, and how much per week. Establish standards of expected progress (targets!).
- Locate areas for seed collection, note species etc. Figure out what will have to be bought in (e.g. extirpated species)
- Agree on suitable location of the tree nursery on each landholding.
- Create inspection schedule.
- Preparation of land
The entire corridor will have to be prepared, while the nursery is growing. This will be swales, gabions etc. We would need to visit really, to get realistic costs of machinery and suchlike.