PG collaborates with farmers and landowners in Morocco to start growing food forests on land that suffers from water shortage, loss of biodiversity and soil degradation. As a forest system, a food forest is a way to both produce food and regenerate natural systems: Water, soil, and biodiversity. In a 5-year programme, our Moroccan partners grow the food forests combining permaculture earthworks and techniques with a high density ‘syntropic’ food forest design system on their lands.
A syntropic food forest is an agroforestry system developed by Ernst Götsch, a Swiss farmer and researcher, in which different trees and plants occupying different niches interact to form increasingly complex ecosystems and more fertile soils over time. Like permaculture, the farming system mimics nature and natural ecosystems of the place. Plants and trees are intensively pruned to optimize biomass growth, create fertilizer, and speed up the regeneration of the living soil system.
The food forests require no long-term inputs. The syntropic systems generate continuous outputs for farmers while slowly restoring biodiversity, soil and natural water systems in areas exposed to degradation and desertification. Each food forest system is a sanctuary for local wildlife and increasingly supports existing areas of (wild) nature in the locality as they mature.
Depending on local conditions, each food forest system is planted with about 2000 trees per hectare. The forest areas are protected from grazing with fencing that allows the systems to get rooted and mature. The syntropic food forest design system promotes polyculture (primarily indigenous species) and boosts biodiversity. When the forests mature, they will be natural and stable productive systems resilient to draught and flooding. A young agroforestry system captures 27 tons CO2 per hectare per year. The syntropic food forests with heavy pruning and accelerated growth are even better carbon sinks.
1. The Cherrat Farm in Bouznika (5 hectares)
The Cherrat Farm project is an integrated syntropic food forest and nature conservation project. We grow the syntropic food forest on the valley top (2 hectares agricultural land) and protect and rewild the arboretum Oued Cherrat valley which is part of the farm (3 hectares valley slope) as a lighthouse project that inspires similar agroforestry and nature regeneration projects on Moroccan farmland.
Part of our land is placed in the Arboretum Oued Cherrat forest, a protected conservation site of high biological and ecological interest (SIBE: Site d’intérêt écologique et biologique). The Cherrat forest is one of the 40 protected national parks in Morocco, and habitat for many indigenous species some of which are endangered. Growing the syntropic food forest we create a wildlife sanctuary for existing species, and help to regenerate what is left of wild nature in the Oued Cherrat valley.
The farm has access to water in the dry season.
2. The Badaoui Farm at Sidi Ghanem (4 hectares)
In this project, 4 hectares already planted with 1000 5-year-old pomegranate trees is transformed into a syntropic food forest system. The farmland is in a semi-arid region where conventional agriculture does not provide any results except very low yields. The conventional way of farming is not sustainable. The land suffers from severe soil erosion from wind and rain, overgrazing from sheep, a diminishing level of groundwater, a gradually hotter climate, and degradation of the quality of the remaining soil. The new forest system will reduce and eventually remove pressure on local ground water.
3. La ferme Moulay Idriss Aghbal (5,6 hectares)
Jnane Aghbal means the Orchard of Aghbal after the name of the neighboring village of Moulay Idriss Aghbal, a saint buried in this area. Aghbal means source in the Berber language, this region being occupied by a Berber Amazigh tribe. The farm, which is generally North-South oriented, is enclosed by acacias and cacti trees, as well as cypress and casuarina trees. On the 5.65 hectares we grow 1000 olive trees, 50 old almond trees, 150 young almond trees, 150 carob trees, 50 young fruit trees including fig and pomegranate trees. The farm is situated in the region of Rabat called Shoul and Zaers. This area is part of the Maamora forest which was a magnificent cork oak forest but unfortunately this forest which covered thousands of hectares is wasting away under the action of the climate but also of man. There is no water table in this region but only water in the fractures of the rock. This water seems to be running out with the uncontrolled digging of boreholes which currently exceed 100 to 150 m in depth. Our project will grow a syntropic food forest on our farmland and support the neighboring Maamora forest.
The farm has access to very little water in the dry season.