The Forest and Landscape Restoration Mechanism

Partners of the Moroccan component of the Paris Agreement in Action project strengthen ties during field visits to restoration sites in the Middle Atlas, Morocco

Year published: 15/12/2023

On 23–26 October 2023, field visits to two restoration sites in Morocco took place as part of the ongoing collaboration between the Forest and Landscape Restoration Mechanism (FLRM) of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the secretariat of the Mediterranean Model Forest Network (MMFN) for the implementation of the Moroccan national component of “The Paris Agreement in Action: Upscaling Forest and Landscape Restoration to Achieve Nationally Determined Contributions” project funded by International Climate Initiative (IKI). Toni Ventre and Riccardo Castellini from the MMFN secretariat met with partners at the two sites in the Itzer area in the Middle Atlas. These included the president of the Ifrane Model Forest Association (AFMI), Abdelkrim Marzouk, and the president of the AREBICA Model Forest Initiative, Zohra Bouzianne, with their respective technical teams. The visits provided an opportunity to discuss technical aspects of the Ifrane Model Forest Association and AREBICA and meet with local and regional representatives of the National Water and Forestry Agency of the Ministry of Agriculture, as well as operating partners for all the sites identified for intervention, namely the Ifrane National Park and the Association of Sylvopastoral Management (AGS). 

The first day was devoted to in-depth discussion on project progress and implementation. A presentation was showcased on the brief history of the AFMI, highlighting the various pilot projects that it has carried out in the Ifrane National Park, as well as their positive impact on local communities and biodiversity, based on the results of impact studies and expert reports. This was followed by a presentation on the approach and progress of the activities funded by the IKI project.  

The next two days were devoted to field visits. First, the Azrou Forest site, where the plot of land earmarked for reforestation is located, provided an opportunity to consider the site identification criteria in relation to the future conditions during the first few years of silvicultural care, which are crucial to success. Then, with representatives of AGS Sehb Laghnem, the participants visited an area where the traditional “Agdal” pasture management system has been restored by previous projects. This site showed how restoration had been particularly effective in increasing biodiversity while also improving sheep and goat grazing. Improved distribution of watering points has also already led to more sustainable management of the grazing load, and this will likely improve further. Crucially, AGS representatives provided  an interesting perspective on restoration activities and impacts and the future expectations of local communities. The Aghbalou Larbi Forest, the second site, is also highly suitable for restoration purposes, as it is located near the volcanic lake Aguelmam n’ Sidi Ali, which is of great ecological value for plant, animal and human communities due to its location in a semi-arid area. Here, the restoration intervention funded by The Paris Agreement in Action project will be combined reforestation with cedar and holm oak, and silvicultural management of local Juniperus thurifera populations. Local government representatives were very hopeful of the environmental benefits that restoration can bring, but they also stressed the need to improve the livelihoods of local communities as well. 

Toni Ventre, Secretariat of Mediterranean Model Forest Network (MMFN)