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

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - Geopark (Geoparks: Heritage, Education and Sustainable Development - an Innovative Methodology for Southern Countries. Case Study in Morocco (Atlas Mountains, Marrakech))

Período documentado: 2017-01-01 hasta 2018-12-31

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.
According to the inscription list (2015) published by the Global Geoparks Network, it is undeniable that designated sites tend to be concentrated in the Global North (Europe), whereas the Global South is underrepresented with the exception of China. This leads us to question this disparity (North/South and South/South) and on the principles of UNESCO's designation.
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. Considering the imbalanced situation between developing and developed countries in number of Global Geopark, this project aims to provide suitable support for developing countries on planning and management of geoparks by using the results from a specific case study in Zat Valley in Morocco.
The various teams of scientists from the consortium of project GEOPARK have contributed significantly to a better knowledge of the natural and cultural heritage of the Zat Valley.

In close collaboration with Moroccan experts in natural sciences and tourism, the GEOPARK project has designed a plan for valorization of geodiversity and selected 13 geosites based on scientific, didactic and touristic interests.

Through the case of Zat Valley (Morroco), the GEOPARK project has developed an innovative methodology of geopark adapted for developing countries. This method combines integrated heritage inventory on geo-bio-cultural diversity and empowerment of local community.

Based on the principle in application files of the UNESCO Global Geopark (UGG), it is essential to identify distinctive elements from other comparable geoparks. We first determined the characteristics of the study area in relation to the country's geopark alone (M'Goun's UGG) and other two aspiring geoparks (Doukkala-Abda and Tazenakht). We have taken into account, in selecting geological sites of interest to tourists, the results of sediment analyses of the most frequented areas in order to detect the presence of signs of environmental contamination likely to reveal the fragility of these sites.
It is fundamental for a territorial development project such as a geopark to highlight the result of the constant interactions between biophysical and socio-economic elements. Therefore, ecologists and biologists of our team have adapted a methodology based on the interpretation of landscapes from the integrative perspective of socio-ecological systems. This methodology aims to improve the understanding and enhancement of landscapes in a systematic and interdisciplinary perspective, it can then be used for environmental education and scientific communication

Finally, the cultural heritage has been studied and surveyed for their interlinks with socio-economic development, with special focus on women’s role in the heritage process.

Results of the heritage inventory were then exploited though the construction of GIS mapping of Zat valley, which would ensure the accessibility and sustainability of data for a multidisciplinary analysis of the territory. In the long term, local stakeholders would be able to continue to update the data of GIS maps at different spatial and temporal scales in order to monitor future territorial changes.

The GEOPARK project also engaged in sharing the findings of heritage inventory with local societies through creating a web-based virtual museum and an itinerary exhibition. The virtual museum enables users to discover local heritages in an enriched interactive map between different themes. The exhibition “Zat Valley: between heritage conservation and development” composed of 15 panels has been delivered to a local youth association with a brief training. These are not merely dissemination materials of the project, but are designed to encourage and engage local societies to debate and to rethink the future change of Zat valley, thus serve as empowering tools for local communities.

Geopark-related capacity building in the field of higher education is another key objective of our project. During four years, we have organized 3 Autumn/Winter schools for master students, and overall about 18 PhD students from 9 countries (Morocco, Gabon, Togo, Colombia, Equator, Brazil, China, France and Spain) have participated in the four sessions of Doctoriales organized by the GEOPARK project. In order to provide further distance learning opportunities for previous students and even larger publics, we have launched an educational website ( with over one hundred video learning materials.
In addition to the case study in Zat valley, the GEOPARK project has studied difficulties in planning and management of geoparks in different socio-political contexts (Europe, Africa, Asia, and Latin America), including aspects of scientific expertise, participatory inventory, perceptions of geotourism, co-management with local populations.

Combining the theoretical research and our fieldworks in Zat valley, we are now able to propose innovative and interdisciplinary methodologies for the co-development of geopark with local populations, adapted to developing countries of the Global South. Main results are disseminated in the two annual international workshops and the international conference organized in Barcelona in 2018, and are assembled in a collective book coming out in French and English in 2019.

Besides its contribution to geopark-related capacity building for developing countries, the project GEOPARK is expected to build further research and innovation networks between European talents and the Global South. At this point, promising impacts have been shown by several post-project long-term collaborations. The endeavor in capacity building in protected area has been continued by the Eramsus+ Edu-BioMed project (2018-2021) led by UAB-ICTA (Spain). This new project works on education and applied research in UNESCO Mediterranean Biosphere Reserves, a network that has recently included two Moroccan Biosphere Reserves though partnerships built during GEOPARK project. Besides, further scientific exchange on geopark and geoheritage related issues at the global level has also be ensured by the new editorial collaboration of International Journal of Geoheritage and Parks, co-edited since 2018 by Beijing Normal University (China) and Muséum national d’Histoire naturelle (France).
Fieldtrip participants during the second Autumn school in Marrakech 2016