Impact Journalism Day
Agroecology : how one Moroccan village changed their financial landscape
The success story of one small Moroccan village provides a working model for how a community can sustainably support and finance itself. In two years, the village of Brachoua has lifted itself out of relative poverty and into comfortable self-sufficiency, transforming their village into a profitable tourist destination and a forward-thinking community, with its eyes fixed on a sustainable future.
The village of Brachoua in Morocco – located in a rural area 50km from the capital, Rabat – has long known what it's like to live without running water or electricity. With 60 families trying to survive in this state of precarious insecurity, and with few economic resources available, the villagers decided to take action into their own hands. With the support of the Ibn Albaytar Association (AIA), the villagers joined together in search of realistic solutions, establishing themselves as the Modern Farmer's Association at the end of 2013.
"During one of our first meetings with the members of the Modern Farmer's NGO, we gave them a tour of an organic farm near Rabat. They were inspired by the concept, and we suggested to them that they could use the same techniques back home," explains Mohamed Chefchaouni from the AIA.
From this initial visit to the organic farm, the villagers decided to learn from these techniques and develop their own self-sufficient, permaculture farming system for their region. The growing demand for organic products over the past few years has added further value to their locally sourced crops.
With the help of several members of the 'Incredible Edibles' (1), the first vegetable garden was installed in the village, benefiting both the local families and the students of a nearby school. From this initial seed, the project took only two years to expand drastically, growing to include 40 different vegetable plots in Brachoua.
From vegetables to valuation: the second stage in the economic development of this small village required tapping into the right markets. At one of the initial AIA village receptions, the locally produced chickens, eggs, traditional breads and couscous dishes were enthusiastically received, sparking an idea. Instead of taking these products to the local marketplace, the souk, they decided to sell the baskets of local produce in the city instead. At the souk, a chicken would be sold for 60 dirhams (6.2 USD; 5.50 euros) and an egg would cost around 1.20 dirhams (0.13 USD; 0.12 euros). However, take these products to the city and you can get 80 dirhams (8.5 USD; 7.50 euros) and 1.50 dirhams (0.17 USD; 0.15 euros) respectively for the same produce, simply by taking them directly to the end client.
With the support of the AIA, the women of the village have since created a manufacturing cooperative focused on the creation of couscous. The Brachoua women have flourished under this new banner, participating in various events across Rabat in an attempt to publicise the Brachoua products. This has not only formed a strong PR campaign for the region as a whole, putting their small rural village on the map, but it has also promoted the use of organic and permaculture farming processes.
Through all of the subsequent meetings, village visits and exhibitions generated by these projects, a whole new form of economic income has emerged. The quaint, picturesque beauty of the village and its surrounding forests and streams has inspired the creation of a tourism industry to cater for hikers and nature-lovers. Visitors to the village can meet the local inhabitants and buy locally sourced products, making rural tourism an important asset for Brachoua. Every weekend, the village now receives around 250 visitors, from individual hikers to groups of students on educational trips. Through this influx of people into the area, a family can easily earn around 600 DH (67.5 USD; 60 euros) per day.
As you can see, the economic shift seen in the village of Brachoua is important for a variety of reasons. Firstly, this alteration of circumstances was conceived and realised through the ambition and the initiative of the villagers, driven by a desire to transform their basic economic landscape into something more secure and prosperous. This proactive mind-set is undoubtedly the key to this project's success.
Furthermore, this incredible transformation has been entirely brought about by harnessing the existing potential of the village, without bringing in external financial aid. Aside from the 3000 dirhams (281 USD; 250 euros) required for the initial cost of the gardening equipment and plants back in 2013, no other external funds were necessary to bring about this project.
Today, the village boasts electricity and three water fountains, and has become a rural tourist destination known throughout the region. The 60 families who live in Brachoua are autonomous and live off of their own means and resources. As such, the people of Brachoua are also conscious of the importance of preserving the environment both today and in the future, as an important source of revenue.
(1) This is a civic, participatory project and a global organisation that seeks to increase food self-sufficiency in certain regions, as well as promoting the growth of shared, healthy food products.
Sharing the success
The success of the Brachoua's development project – with its focus on permaculture and encouraging ecological tourism – has attracted the attention of many international organisations. Several members of the World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF) organisation have visited this Moroccan community, establishing a connection with the WWoofing programme from June 2015 onwards. This contact has allowed for the villagers to share their experience and knowledge with a variety of international visitors from the likes of Germany, U.S.A., Belgium, Chile, and France.