The Luberon Regional Natural Park – the Tanger-Tetouan Region (Morocco): creating Morocco’s first natural park (1er décembre 2015)

The creation of regional natural parks contributes to the fight against climate change by protecting and enhancing the biodiversity heritage. The current rate of biodiversity extinction is 100 to 1,000 times faster than the average rate and by 2050, 15 to 37% of the existing biodiversity could disappear (source: Toute l’Europe.eu).

It is within the framework of cooperation between France’s Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur Region and the Tanger-Tetouan Region that the project to create Morocco’s first natural park has been set up. The Luberon Regional Natural Park is supporting the Tanger-Tetouan Region to carry out this project, taking into account the local socio-economic specificities.

Ahead of the COP 22 to be held in Morocco and one year after the MEDCOP 21 held in Marseille on 4–5 June 2015, the Tanger-Tetouan Region will host the MEDCOP 22 in June 2016 – illustrating the similarity of climate issues on both sides of the Mediterranean, as well as the joint mobilisation to address the effects of climate change.

The project

Create the first natural park in Morocco

Where ?

Deep in the western Rif Mountains, opposite the town of Chefchaouen, in the Tanger-Tetouan-Al Hoceima region, north Morocco.

How many beneficiaries?

50,000 inhabitants spread across 159 douars (groups of dwellings, either sedentary or nomadic) in 6 rural communes.

Which actors are involved?

Morocco:

  • United Nations Development Programme (UNDP Morocco – Art Gold)
  • High Commission for Water and Forests and Desertification Control (Haut-Commissariat aux Eaux et Forêts et à la Lutte Contre la Désertification –HCEFLCD),
  • Regional Department for Agriculture of Tanger-Tetouan(Direction Régionale de l’Agriculture de Tanger-Tétouan (DRATT),
  • Initiative for Human Development (INDH),
  • Agency for the Promotion and Development of the North (Agence pour la Promotion et le Développement du Nord – APDN)
  • Region of Tanger-Tetouan-Al Hoceima,
  • Provinces of Chefchaouen, Tetouan, Larache.
  • Rural communes of Al Ouad, Beni Leit, Derdara, Laghdir, Tanaqoub, Tazrout.

France:

  • The Region of Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur
  • The Luberon Regional Natural Park

When was this partnership launched ?

In 2000, the Tanger-Tetouan Region and the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur (PACA) Region signed a framework cooperation agreement. This aimed to enable the two regions to share knowledge concerning these Mediterranean territories and their development pathways.

With this goal in mind, the Tanger-Tetouan Regional Council visited the Luberon Regional Natural Park in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region. It was the visit to this rural area, which is under concerted management and has a local development objective that won over the Moroccan actors.

The PACA Regional Council thus asked the Luberon Regional Natural Park to support the Tanger-Tetouan Region in view of implementing a natural park project that would take into account the local socio-economic specificities.

Context and stakes

The mountainous areas of the Rif are particularly isolated as they are difficult to access. This isolation is as much geographical as economic and social. Traditional agriculture is declining and illegal crop growing is expanding with ensuing massive deforestation, leading to soil erosion and impoverishment. All of these are factors that are likely to drive a rural exodus.

Nonetheless, this region has no lack of assets, as it is home to a remarkable biodiversity (33,000 ha of forest biodiversity, 32 mammal species including 11 endemic, 91 bird species including 32 endemic, 29 reptile species), an ancestral culture that shapes the landscapes (the Jbalas) and a living historic and religious heritage.

This project has been successfully developed thanks to:

  • Morocco’s national decentralisation policy, notably through the creation of Regions;
  • The development of joint actions between the three tiers of local government (communes, provinces, regions), which promotes synergies within a given territory;
  • Morocco’s fast-developing eco-tourism sector;
  • The promotion of local produce to foster an agriculture that is sustainable for both humans and the environment;
  • Energy innovation.

What are the objectives?

The objective is to create Morocco’s first natural park in the spirit of the French regional natural parks. This contributes to the sustainable development of the rural area of Bouhachem, run and managed by local elected representatives within a participatory scheme. This involves leveraging the protection and enhancement of its natural and cultural resources, as well as the sustainable management of the environment.

In other words, providing support, on the other side of the Mediterranean, to implement a planet-friendly project aimed at protection and local development.

What solutions are proposed?

From 2001 to 2014, the Tanger-Tetouan Region, supported by a succession of several young French volunteers, played a leading role in moving this project forward.

For over twelve years, regional management, Luberon Park staff and volunteers travelled through the Bouhachem area, inventoried its natural and cultural heritage, identified the priority needs of its residents, mobilised local actors and elaborated the main lines for its development. This was a lengthy job that has served to anchor the project both in the region and in the minds of the administrations, civil society and inhabitants.

The project has been marked by several key steps. In 2004, a Park Charter was drawn up in dialogue with the various partners and actors. This unifying document, which was voluntarily approved by all the tiers of the local authorities, defines the orientations and objectives for the park over a twenty-year period.

In 2010, the Moroccan Law No.22-07 on Protected Areas established the category of “natural parks” alongside national parks, nature reserves and natural sites. It defines these natural parks as spaces with a natural heritage of particular interest, whose maintenance must be compatible with the sustainable use of natural resources by the communities that live there. The publication of this Law gave the project a new impetus.

In 2012, the group of local authorities of Bouhachem was created, bringing together the six rural communes, the three provinces and the region. Its objective is to support the Park’s official creation and Charter’s implementation. The formation of this group as an institutional entity is still ongoing. This is a real innovation in Morocco: a group that links together different tiers of local government and whose scope of action is multidisciplinary.

What is the ecological content of this programme and how is it aligned with sustainable development concept?

The Bouhachem Natural Park project supports and feeds into the sweeping decentralisation process that Morocco has been engaged in for ten years now. It is in line with the new typology of Morocco’s protected areas, which is now based on international standards. The Bouhachem project is in real synergy with the key national development projects: the Green Morocco Plan (support for small-scale agriculture of quality), the National Initiative for Human Development (INDH – for socio-economic development), the National Charter for the Environment and Sustainable Development, etc.

While drawing inspiration from major national and international movements, the idea of the Park needed, of course, to be rooted in the issues specific to Bouhachem, as closely as possible to the local situation. The missions of the Bouhachem Park are to:

  • Better know and protect the various heritages, promote management of the natural environments and resources, particularly forest resources, in line with sustainable development.
  • Contribute to land-use planning by improving infrastructures that are essential for the residents’ wellbeing (transport, access to health services and education, improved water points and water supply, waste and sanitation facilities, electrification of the douars and, more generally, keeping the dispersion of human settlement under control).
  • Contribute to the economic, social and cultural development and improve the region’s quality of life; particularly by upgrading the built and architectural heritage, and local trades linked with setting up and supporting a profitable and environmentally sustainable agriculture (goat farming, olive growing, apiculture), and developing local production (regional products).
  • Inform: welcome, inform and educate the general public and promote participatory approaches involving the local residents.
  • Experiment: encourage experimental actions and innovations that are replicable in the fields mentioned above, and contribute to international research and international cooperation programmes.

Today, what are the results?

  • The project helped to pave the way for Morocco’s recent Law No.22-07 on Protected Areas, which introduced the notion of Natural parks for the first time.
  • The group of local authorities of Bouhachem has been set up, being the first such group to have the role of managing a rural territory.
  • The region’s very first rural holiday homes have been created.
  • A concept and a project are now anchored both in the region and in the minds of the administrations, civil society and inhabitants.
  • Over 20 development actions have been undertaken under the project, with the Tanger-Tetouan Region as the contracting authority and project manager.
Image Diaporama - 009. Work in the fields. Photo: Louise (...)

009. Work in the fields. Photo: Louise Géhin

Image Diaporama - 006. Hiking trail in Bouhachem Natural Park. (...)

006. Hiking trail in Bouhachem Natural Park. Photo: Arnoul Hamel

Image Diaporama - 002. Douar of Taza. Photo: Louise Gehin

002. Douar of Taza. Photo: Louise Gehin

Image Diaporama - 001. Brick-making. Photo: Louise Géhin

001. Brick-making. Photo: Louise Géhin

Image Diaporama - 003. Traditional dwellings. Photo: Arnoul (...)

003. Traditional dwellings. Photo: Arnoul Hamel

Image Diaporama - 004. Olive oil mill. Photo: Arnoul Hamel

004. Olive oil mill. Photo: Arnoul Hamel

Image Diaporama - 005. Wadi Laou. Photo: Arnoul Hamel

005. Wadi Laou. Photo: Arnoul Hamel

Image Diaporama - 007. Tiled roof at Tazrout. Photo: Patrick (...)

007. Tiled roof at Tazrout. Photo: Patrick Cohen

Image Diaporama - 008. Tiles at Tazrout. Photo: Patrick (...)

008. Tiles at Tazrout. Photo: Patrick Cohen

  • Website of the French Embassy in Morocco (in french)
  • Website of La fédération des parcs régionaux naturels de France (in French)
  • Website of the Luberon Regional Natural Park (in French)

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