Cultivating Hope: Biodiversity & Livelihoods in Morocco’s High Atlas (3 nights)

CAS 407-302
  • Join forces with SAS “Impact partner”, Global Diversity Foundation!
  • Explore how some High Atlas communities are preserving regional biodiversity and creating opportunities for income alongside local students and community researchers
  • Engage in meaningful discussions, form new friendships, and support the mission of an organization doing incredible work!
Program Overview
Country: Morocco
Depart: Oct 17, 2019 8:30 AM
Return: Oct 20, 2019 5:00 PM
Duration: Overnight Program
Capacity: 21
Category: Lean In
Program Fee
$0.00 (early booking: $0.00)

This program is restricted to students participating in the Impact Project Cohort. Open registration will not be available. 

Semester at Sea is thrilled to announce a partnership with Global Diversity Foundation (GDF) as one of our Chapman Impact Fund* awardees. In addition to funding the cost of participation in this Field Program for the Impact Cohort, the fund is proud to support GDF’s efforts in the Atlas community of Oukaïmeden through the establishment of a community nursery, seed bank and herbarium, funding community workshops, and supporting staff of the Dar Taliba girls boarding house. 

Established in 2000, Global Diversity Foundation is a non-profit organization that protects the natural environment and enhances people’s wellbeing. Their vision is a world of diversity in which there is dignity, justice and respect for all beings and the environment. Through their regional programs, GDF supports communities as they improve their livelihoods while maintaining their cultural landscapes, conserving their biocultural diversity, and building their capacities and institutions.

The High Atlas cultural landscapes have been shaped by a long history of close human-environment relationships characterized by sustainable crop and livestock management. These landscapes, rich in biodiversity and cultural heritage, are under threat as a result of climate change, loss of traditional knowledge and practices, rapid socioeconomic change, and inadequate policy. In addition, lack of socioeconomic opportunities result in a high rate of out-migration, further exacerbating erosion of traditional knowledge, practices, and governance systems. To help address this problem, GDF runs programs that seek to maintain these iconic landscapes by conserving biodiversity whilst enhancing local livelihoods, promoting community governance, and sustaining traditional resource management. In addition to establishing and maintaining community plant nurseries, herbariums, and biodiversity research, GDF also runs an ethnobotanical school garden at the Dar Taliba girls boarding school, which was set up to enable students from remote villages in Ourika Valley to continue their education beyond primary school.

Impact Project cohort members will have the opportunity to directly engage with field staff and project beneficiaries at GDF project sites in the villages of Ourika and Imegdal as well as have a unique opportunity to learn more about Amazigh culture.

The first day will explore key sites in Marrakech providing valuable context on water supply in the region. Voyagers will explore Le Jardin Secret or ‘the Secret Garden’, one of the largest and most ancient palaces in the medina of Marrakech. Today it’s a museum that provides a wealth of historical information about Marrakech’s architecture, water, and gardens – which are important elements in GDF’s work.  Cohort members will then head to the Mohammed VI Museum for Civilization of Water. Irrigation in Morocco is an essential factor of agricultural productivity and in recent years drought has become an issue in many regions in the High Atlas, including in GDF project sites. The museum highlights and explores traditional hydraulic heritage in all its technical, social and cultural aspects.

The second day of the program will be spent at the Dar Taliba boarding school in Ourika, where voyagers will collaborate with Dar Taliba students during one of their weekly permaculture trainings in the school garden. On the second full day, cohort members will travel to Imegdal to experience a day in the life of a community researcher at one of GDF’s plant nurseries. They will gain more understanding about current environmental challenges that threaten biodiversity in the region while also learning different practices aimed at enriching planting and creating opportunities to increase local livelihoods. Voyagers will also explore best practices for plant collection and seed-saving, which are important aspects of GDF’s conservation efforts. On the final morning, students will explore the commercialization of these aromatic and medicinal plants at the Marrakech medina (market).

*The Chapman Impact Fund was created to help Semester at Sea significantly elevate its commitment to responsible travel through a long-term partnership with, and investment in, local organizations. Through a competitive proposal review process, SAS selected two community partners for our Fall 2019 Voyage. These partners are creating lasting change in their communities and are actively working to make the world a more equitable and sustainable place now and for generations to come. The Fund provides a Direct Capacity Building Grant to support their organizational missions (beyond what we can achieve on Field Programs!) and includes a follow-up opportunity for students to stay engaged with their organizations after the voyage is over. SAS voyagers have the awesome opportunity to experience the great work of these organizations and support their causes by participating in these custom-designed Field Programs.


Day 1

  • Travel to Marrakech (~3.5hrs)
  • Lunch at a local restaurant
  • Visit garden the Secret Garden with GDF staff
  • Visit Water Museum with GDF staff
  • Dinner at a local restaurant
  • Overnight at hotel

Day 2

  • Breakfast at the hotel
  • Travel to Dar Taliba girls’ boarding house in Ourika (~45min)
  • Permaculture workshop in school garden with Dar Taliba students (seed collecting, making compost and organic fertilizer, etc.)
  • Lunch in Dar Taliba gardens (food grown by students)
  • Garden Workshop
  • Tea break
  • Questions & Answer session
  • Travel back to hotel (~50min)
  • Dinner at a local restaurant
  • Overnight at hotel

Day 3

  • Breakfast at the hotel
  • Travel to Imegdal (~2hrs 15mins) (comfort stop en route)
  • Introduction to Imegdal community plant nursery
  • Interactive ethnobotanical quiz on endemic plants and their uses
  • Workshop on medicinal and aromatic plants (transplanting seedlings and reproduction through plant cuttings)
  • Lunch at GDF Community Researcher’s house
  • Nature walk exploring High Atlas landscapes
  • Travel back to hotel (~2hrs) (comfort stop en route if needed)
  • Dinner on your own (meal stipend provided)
  • Overnight at hotel

Day 4

  • Breakfast at the hotel
  • Presentation on Plant Commercialization by GDF staff
  • Explore Marrakech Medina & Souk with interactive discussion on commercialization of aromatic and medicinal plants produced in plant nurseries
  • Lunch at a local restaurant
  • Travel back to port (~3.5hrs)

***Times and activities are tentative and subject to change. Please be flexible.***

Meals Included

Day 1: lunch, dinner
Day 2: breakfast, lunch, dinner
Day 3: breakfast, lunch, dinner
Day 4: breakfast

Special Note

  • This program is restricted to students participating in the Impact Project Cohort. Open registration will not be available. 
  • Students who are selected to be a part of the “Impact Project Cohort” (via the scholarship application process) are required to participate in this program and will be automatically registered.
  • All participants will be expected to attend preparatory meetings and complete associated readings in advance of participation.
  • All participants will be eligible to apply for a Fellowship grant that will provide a paid internship with Global Diversity Foundation post-voyage.