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Protecting Traditional Property Rights under Conditions of Change: Production of Plant Oils as a Community-based Enterprise in the High Atlas Mountains of Morocco

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Type: Conference Paper
Author: Montanari, Bernadette; Soeftestad, Lars T.
Conference: Governing Shared Resources: Connecting Local Experience to Global Challenges, the Twelfth Biennial Conference of the International Association for the Study of Commons
Location: Cheltenham, England
Conf. Date: July 14-18, 2008
Date: 2008
URI: https://hdl.handle.net/10535/153
Sector: Social Organization
General & Multiple Resources
Region: Africa
Subject(s): plants
economic development
natural resources
property rights
traditional knowledge
Abstract: "In the High Atlas Mountains of Morocco natural resources are declining due to over-harvesting and population pressure. The situation is exacerbated through lack of secure land tenure, political representation, and empowerment on the part of local people. They have since a long time been involved in harvesting local aromatic plants and sold the herbs in a small-scale and informal economy. The overutilization of natural resources affects a number of these aromatic plants, particularly sage and thyme. "Macro-level policies aimed at decentralizing development are currently being implemented. They aim to address natural resource degradation, poverty and outmigration. In this connection a project to distil essential plant oils and process herbal products was established in the El Maghzen village, and an alembic (used for distilling essential oils) was installed by the Department of Water and Forestry. This decentralized distillation project is the only one in the region and represents a major economic opportunity for local people. However, the villagers have never taken part in any major commercial venture before. Furthermore, lack of secure tenure to the areas where the plants are gathered, together with lack of political representation and empowerment are key obstacles to sustaining this economic opportunity. "Under the traditional Jamaa institution, customary law gave local people access to land in order to harvest medicinal plants and collect wood for purposes of cooking and building. Over time the Department of Water and Forestry has assumed ownership over most of the land, while under a new agreement in connection with the project local people will hire land from the Department of Water and Forestry for purposes of harvesting plants. An ongoing research project is investigating and evaluating this development project. In applied terms, it aims to look at the implementation of the enterprise, with a special focus on gender issues."

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