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EWTEK Report Summary

Project ID: 657223
Funded under: H2020-EU.1.3.2.

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - EWTEK (Empowering Women with Traditional Ecological Knowledge)

Reporting period: 2015-07-01 to 2017-05-31

Summary of the context and overall objectives of the project

Morocco depends largely on external financial aid to sustain its socio-economic development. The partner institutions, which include the World Bank, UNDP, IFAD, ABD, GEF, GIZ and EU seek mainly to combat poverty and social exclusion. Despite this inflow of budgets and programs, the country’s performance remains poor in terms of civil and political freedoms, and opportunities to fulfil human knowledge, capacities and potential. Rural women living in isolated villages are particularly poorly integrated in Moroccan society. Rural women however are the gatekeepers of Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) linked to natural resource management. Their important contribution to producing and securing food, managing natural resources, and their ability to earn an income through these activities has been largely undermined. Using an original interdisciplinary approach of ethnobiology, development studies and geography, the overall goal of the EWTEK project was to identify factors that allowed women to gain empowerment, social status through traditional knowledge and its integration in income generating activities (IGA), prescribed by the initiative of the Green Morocco Plan (GMP). Analyzing the political framework and strategies of the GMP vs the in-depth ethnographic content of the social cultural content of the communities revealed key factors that impede the development of initiatives at village level. The ethnographic investigation of the women’s traditional knowledge activities and the transfer of traditional skills to income generating activities has major implications for women’s social status and socio-economic development. Providing that priorities are shifted and focus on a bottom up approach supported by a close collaboration with the local authorities, this new approach of development can have major impacts. This new model provides a unique opportunity to:

1. Advance the social recognition of women who are employed as a labor force in structures like cooperatives, but hardly recognized for their traditional knowledge skills which play a vital part in product development.
2. Advance socio-economic development using traditional knowledge as a tool for participation, enrolment for generating income activities at village level and triggering the empowerment of women and community’s identity.
The EWTEK project is auspicious at a time where persistent issues of poverty and socio-economic exclusion in the country feed a fragile internal stability. It is hopeful that the results of the study can permeate the policy making realm and influence the Moroccan political agenda to include a gender aware “rural traditional dimension” for improving the conditions of rural women.

Work performed from the beginning of the project to the end of the period covered by the report and main results achieved so far

During the outgoing period in the US, I followed courses on development theory-strategies, global development and environment issues. I attended numerous seminars and panel discussions throughout the whole period in the US (2015-2017). These have broadened my insight and deepen my understanding of development and political issues. Many were relevant to my own research, and related to gender, agricultural and food security and value chains, development and political issues. I also taught a course on “Environment and Society” to a large class of Sophomore students (122) during spring 2016. I altered and adapted the course to bring in vital perspectives of ethnobiology relating to natural resource management, value chains, indigenous knowledge, social justice. Prior to conducting my field study in Morocco, I secured my research permits and engaged in several protocols to be able to enter the villages. I wrote desk study reports (one prior to conducting the research and a second with an analysis of the results after returning). My field study for which I identified key factors that impede the implementation of the initiatives of the Green Morocco Plan at village level was accomplished successfully. In addition, after returning from my field study, I showed my work extensively at seminars and round tables at the University of Illinois (UIUC) as well as conferences in India, Mexico and Canada. I also wrote a policy brief for the Centre Jean Monnet Research of Excellence that is to be published in the special policy series of the European Union Centre at the University. I also wrote a full policy report to the Foundation in Morocco with whom I collaborated during my period of field work. This informed them of key concerns that are likely to impact the future course of the development initiatives in the province/other regions of the country and to influence the agenda by offering tangible alternatives. I conducted workshops at the University of Illinois and wrote a book chapter currently in press and drafted articles for publication. I informally supervised PhD students at the Department of Geography and became a committee member of a MSc student who is conducting research on urbanisation in Morocco. I am in the process of completing a course syllabus based on ethnobiology, geography and development studies based on my research. I had regular meetings with my supervisor in the US to monitor my progress and occasional meetings with my supervisors at ISS in the Netherlands for discussing my results and the content of articles.

Progress beyond the state of the art and expected potential impact (including the socio-economic impact and the wider societal implications of the project so far)

The EWTEK project has identified several major key factors that jeopardise the empowerment of women and the local communities within the framework of the initiatives of the Green Morocco Plan in the region of Rhamna, Morocco. These are:

Significant results
• The identification of key factors that prevent the implementation of initiatives at village level. They include a lack of authorities’ consultation, participation, enrolment, exacerbated by geographical isolation, a lack of descent infrastructures and adequate facilities for project enquiry
• A lack of political representation and accountability to higher authorities by which the local populations could demand guidance and support for initiatives
• A lack of recognition of the traditional knowledge associated with vital processes of product development in running cooperatives. This could have major implications for women within the article 8 of the Nagoya Protocol and Convention on Biological Diversity which Morocco however has not ratified.
• A lack of women’s participation in decision-making processes although prescribed by the Moroccan government
• The identification of traditional knowledge as a key instrument for triggering women’s social enterprise in non-operational villages

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