Skip to main content

Geoparks: Heritage, Education and Sustainable Development - an Innovative Methodology for Southern Countries. Case Study in Morocco (Atlas Mountains, Marrakech)

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - Geopark (Geoparks: Heritage, Education and Sustainable Development - an Innovative Methodology for Southern Countries. Case Study in Morocco (Atlas Mountains, Marrakech))

Reporting period: 2015-01-01 to 2016-12-31

"• What is the problem/issue being addressed?
The EU Horizon 2020 project GEOPARK aims to study from a comparative perspective (North/South) the processes of heritage making (natural and cultural heritage) in a context of international designation by UNESCO, and to question the notion of ""geoheritage"" according to the Global Geopark Programme.
Within the framework of project GEOPARK, we analyze the political and territorial dynamics that have built these disparities by geographical areas (Europe, Africa, Asia and Latin America) on the basis of the empirical and reflexive work.
Besides, in line with international application requirement (UNESCO), geoparks should now meet criteria of sustainable development that ""are not only concerned with rocks but also with men"" has highlighted the importance of geotourism as an engine for sustainable development of the territory ""in order to promote local economies and help people understand the evolution of their landscapes"" (UNESCO, 2008).

• Why is it important for society?
Since “a Geopark is a territory which includes a particular geological heritage and a sustainable territorial development strategy” geo-tourism and geo-conservation are major components of the development strategies for all geoparks. In the case of the Zat Valley, the development of geo-tourism can create new jobs and improve the regional economy and benefits to people (local civil society) who live in this mountain territory (Haut Atlas).
Through a comparative study of cases from different countries China, Spain, France),, we wish to develop reflection on the growth of geotourism and, more specifically, on the educational issues of geoparks according to various orientations: knowledge and valorisation of heritage (nature/culture), awareness raising towards conservation, integrated management of the territory, and dissemination of knowledge..
The scientific potential of the project is clear and covers Earth Sciences and Humanities, but also innovation from the Social Sciences (gender policies, promotion of women, empowerment of women, training and job opportunities for young generations, etc.), sustainable co-operation in education and research, GIS (mappings, inventory, etc.), interactive multimedia tools for the dissemination of results, distance learning platform, Master’s degree in geopark conservation and management, etc. that it could be duplicated to new geopark territories in Maghreb (Morocco, Tunisia and Algeria) and developing countries.
Dessemination and communication tools elaborated by the project will concern local population and students in Morocco/France/Spain and the scientific community (Europe/Morocco) due to TIC tools access (website, distance learning platform)."
For the purpose of establishing the inventory of natural, cultural and intangible heritage including geo-biodiversity and cultural diversity of the study case in Morocco, the Zat Valley, this project has carried out the following activities:
1). Inventory and valorisation of geological and biological assets, including natural conservation measures, in order to determine the integrated natural and cultural heritage which characterizes the territorial identity.
2). Inventory of environmental weaknesses/threat and proposal of prevention and recovering measures in order to assure sustainability of the economic activities proposed.
3) Inventory of cultural and intangible heritage (arhictecture, weaver, potter); survey of poverty and representation in tourism. This innovative approach includes social sciences, economic aspects, living conditions of local populations, traditional houses and his building materials (clay and rocks) etc.
4) Elaboration of dissemination material related to geological, biological and environmental values in order to have a data base built with GIS and delivered on story map, accessible to the decision makers (land use and territory planning) and to the management body of the Geopark project.
5) Training and Education activities, oriented to students and civil population. The project has organized a serious a traning and communication activities, including Winter School “Geoparks: concept and methodologies” in Barcelona 2016 and Autumn School “Geopark and local development” in Marrakech 2016, a PHD workshop “El Castellet” Espacios Naturales in Barcelona between 2016, an internal workshop “Geoparks and local development: what benefits for local population”, Marrakech October 2016; and co-organized the conference “Geoheritage Inventories: Challenges, Achievements and Perspectives” in Toulouse from 22 to 26 September 2015 and a serious conferences at Abertis Fondation, Barcelona.
The data are collected and produced in the project GEOPARK in order to design an inventory of local heritage including biodiversity, geodiversity (and geosites), and cultural and intangible heritage of the study area, which also serves the objective of defining the delimitation of a potential Geopark candidature in Zat River Valley. The data collection provides the basis element in fulfilling the objective of project

We consider that it is still early to measure the impact of the project on local tourism development. However, we believe that the socio-economical surveys and interviews carried out by local partners in the area has certainly raised awareness of the social impacts associated with the growth of tourism in the local society. Besides, the international workshop organised in Marrakech with participation of the heads of two Moroccan geoparks (M’goun geopark and Jbel Bani Tata aspiring geopark) as well as representatives of national heritage authorities has provided opportunities for an emerging local dynamic network on heritage tourism.
. This project has developed various research and transversal objectives, especially all assets related to heritage of the Zat Valley (natural, cultural, social and historical), forms as a means of livelihood for local communities, the impacts on the environment and pathways of the historic site to the knowledge of the environment of the Geopark. We consider and propose valid solutions to a patrimonialization, which could ensure the sustainability of the rock and heritage and the sites that include it and do the study, with non-destructive physico-chemical means, on the conservation of rock engravings in order to provide sustainable solution.
We consider and create a document on possible forms of tourism enhancement for the engravings to make them integrated into the processes of social and territorial development of the Zat valley as a creation of an action plan based on the gender policy for the training of women and youth in educational technology and training in association with the environment and traditional culture of the Zat Valley. At least we help local actors to position themselves in relation to the proposed Geopark.