نظم التراث الزراعي ذات الأهمية العالمية

Ksour and social irrigation management in Figuig

Summary

Detailed Information

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Annexes

Detailed Information

The oasis of Figuig played an important economic role in the past: an indispensable relay, a supply point, and a stopover lodge necessary for the material and moral life of the region's nomadic shepherds. Much more than just an agricultural area, the oasis had an urban function in a territory based on the complementarity between oasis culture and nomadic pastoral life. It combined agriculture, trade, crafts and cultural and religious functions.

In times of drought, the ruined nomadic population camped around the oasis and offered their labour force to the inhabitants of the Ksour of Figuig. In years of abundance, the ksour were transformed into sales points (Makhzen) for the products of the nomadic shepherds (animals, wool, melted butter, skins, horns). This complementarity and mutuality in environmental management supported the preservation of the oasis and its unique heritage.

Global Importance

Over the centuries, oasis farmers have developed ingenious techniques adapted to the arid local conditions and wide temperature ranges. The development of these techniques has been accompanied by forms of social organization that are closely aligned with them.

The mobilization of water, the maintenance of irrigation works, the modalities of distribution and allocation of the resource, the techniques of measuring and accounting for rights, and the settlement of conflicts are matters of customary law. Irrigation knowledge, techniques and practices associated with this law constitute a major element of its cultural and technical heritage.

Linked to the Figuig oasis, the pastoralists of Abbou Lakhar have developed a great deal of knowledge associated with pastoralism and the management of the steppes of the region where their animals graze. Often of local breeds, the Bni Guil sheep are emblematic of the region and its gastronomy.

Food and livelihood security

The economy of the Figuig site is essentially based on two sectors: extensive livestock farming and oasis agriculture. Extensive rangelands, largely covered by exparto grass, provide huge areas for extensive livestock farming. Production is mainly intended to ensure food self-sufficiency and the complementing of animal feed.

The cultivated lands are divided into two kinds: the first is made up of small irrigated plots located in the irrigated perimeters of the oases, the second is made up of areas cultivated under rainfed conditions in the village of Abbou Lakhal.

Crop production in the Figuig site is dominated by cereals, palm dates, olives and alfalfa. While cereal production fluctuates greatly from one year to the next according to the succession of drought years in Abbou Lakhal, the production of other crops is regular in the irrigated plots of the Figuig oasis. It is in the latter that date palm constitutes the mainstay of the Figuig oasis economy.

Agrobiodiversity

The local agrobiodiversity is rich and varied, consisting of cereals, legumes, vegetable crops, and several fruit species dominated by date palms. In all, 75 cultivated varieties are spread over 45 species throughout the site. Most of the varieties grown for each species are local: 100% for date palm, over 80% for market gardening, legumes and fruit trees and less than 40% for cereals.

Livestock farming is the first activity carried out in conjunction with plant production, due to the availability of rangelands and the practice of transhumance. It is an activity that has been rooted as a pastoral production method in local agriculture for centuries and involves a great diversity of species, there are 17 animal breeds bred in 8 species.

Given the diversity of ecosystems present in the site, the wildlife is very rich. The wild flora includes 46 families out of a minimum of 258 species, 30 of which are endemic.

Local and traditional knowledge systems

The oasis of Figuig is composed of seven ksour or traditional villages. In addition to its dwellings, each ksar has its own palm grove, springs, canals and ponds. The ksour are thus hydraulically independent, each one manages and controls its own springs and irrigation networks. Thus, water sharing is based on an allocation of water rights, expressed in number of kharrouba, thus determining the irrigation duration of each right holder. The aiguadier plays a key role in the distribution of daily water rights, thus ensuring the fair sharing of the resource as well as its preservation.

Beyond the social management of water alone, the Ksour inhabitants still produce many products in the oases without resorting to chemical protection of their crops. Their fine management of water and light needs is associated with the management of the oasis area, an emblematic tiered garden that can withstand the harsh heat.

In the rural commune of Abbou Lakhal, the extensive breeding of small ruminants is the main source of livelihood for the population. The use of rangelands is traditionally based on an ancestral ethnic and territorial organization. Livestock production is one of the main components of the rural management system and the local economy of the Figuig site. The use of collective rangelands is perfectly integrated into a spatial management logic that optimizes the agricultural production (plant and animal) of the various farms. 

Cultures, value systems and social organisations

Figuig has been the theatre of a rich cultural syncretism: many populations of different geographical and ethnocultural origins have succeeded and mixed there: Berbers, Arabs, Jews, Andalusian, Moors and black Africans. Important decisions are always taken under the authority of the Jmâa, a customary council which helps to maintain harmony and solidarity within the communities.

Intimately linked to pastoralism and a long-standing means of commercial exchange, the wool craft is one of the social mainstays of the figuigui women. Powerful vector of social cohesion between sedentary and nomadic people, weaving activities are a cement of the societies in Figuig.

Landscapes features

The Figuig site comprises two ecologically distinct and economically and socially complementary agrosystems, the Abbou Lakhal rangelands and the Figuig oasis. Indeed, the oasis cultural landscape combining water, palm trees and irrigation systems is complemented by the characteristic steppes of the Highlands.

Figuig has one of the most beautiful palm groves in Morocco. Its date palms, ponds and canals make all the difference of this natural and authentic place. The palm tree, water and the traditional irrigation system structure the spatial organization of the oasis, contributing to the construction of the local landscape model. Finally, the ksour and their architecture are characteristic of the cultural influences of the site.