Globally Important Agricultural Heritage Systems (GIAHS)

Oases System in Atlas Mountains, Morocco


Site location:  The Imilchil-Amellago, Eastern High Atlas, Morocco.

Area of GIAHS: 309.000 ha

Population working for this system: 38 000 inhab.

Topological Characteristics:, scarce fertile soil resources with only 2% arable land

Climatic Classification: extreme dry climatic conditions

Ethnic Groups/Indigenous People: Amazigh tribes Ait Marghad and Ait Hdidou (Berbers, pre Arabic inhabitants).

Primary Income Sources: mostly living on self-sufficiency production

In the High Atlas of Morocco, the local communities have to face extreme climatic conditions to survive. Despite the scarce water resources, farmers have succeeded in creating adapted systems not only to get food but also to get all the necessary products to survive in this area. Far from the cities, these communities are mostly self-sufficient to afford to their needs and have kept their main cultural traits.

Their system integrates at the same time vegetable, cereal and fruits production with pastures for animals through crops rotation and agroforestry techniques. The whole system is organized with a remarkable water management: local communities have built a hydraulic system and use techniques such as the one called khettara consisting in draining the aquifer through tunnels by gravity.

This system has been maintained through generations with a strong cultural aspect and a social organization based on this rural way of life. Besides, local communities are trying to preserve centuries of knowledge and techniques such as traditional medicines, architecture, etc. The cold oases of the Eastern Atlas have shaped the landscapes into unique places. Thanks to their knowledge and their care to the conservation of soil and water, local communities are the custodians of the Mountains.