First regional academy in the Mediterranean takes place in Morocco

In the beginning of November, we organised our first Mediterranean Environments Regional Academy (MERA) in collaboration with the Global Environments Network, a transformative action network created in 2012 to connect and support emerging environmental changemakers. MERA 2018 took place in the Moroccan High Atlas and focused on the relationships between nature and culture in the Mediterranean, and in particular on the role of community-based resource management systems in maintaining the unique landscapes, seascapes and biocultural diversity they harbour. This event was the third regional academy of its kind and the first held in the Mediterranean region.

Armed with her camera, our Morocco Communications and Field Officer, Pommelien captures the essence of MERA through her photos. We are happy to share them with you here.

Fourteen participants—all actively engaged in research or practice in a Mediterranean country—took part in the first Mediterranean Environments Regional Academy. Strong bonds were formed throughout the 10-day academy as participants interacted with each other, and with local and national experts who joined the academy as resource people.

Every day at the Mediterranean Environments Regional Academy we had ethnobotany breaks during which participants shared local foods and products from their countries. From spicy Tunisian ‘harissa’ to Turkish delights, imagine all the delicious Mediterranean food we had…

During the community exchange on plant commercialisation, we gathered all these women to discuss and exchange ideas on commercial opportunities and local plant products that could benefit local communities and family livelihoods.

Through a demonstration of dozens of local medicinal and aromatic plants, we discussed local plant products opportunities and their different uses and health benefits. Moroccan wild thyme for example is traditionally used to treat stomach pains, aching muscles and colds. 

To celebrate a successful MERA kick-off, delicious locally-produced food and bringing together people from different cultures across the Mediterranean, we sang and danced!

As part of the policy, lobbying, advocacy and communication workshop, participants worked through two case studies on communal systems in small groups to strengthen their advocacy skills. Through this exercise, we provided the group with a framework that will support them to conceptualise and carry out advocacy campaigns at different levels to obtain political influence and build solid argumentation through communication and evaluation.

During our video workshop, MERA participants learned how to tell stories in a visually compelling way and how to use a camera so they can produce small videos about their own work to promote their project, message or campaign. Here, workshop facilitators, Elif Tibet and Inanc Tekguc, explain the art of visual storytelling.

Participants went on to create beautiful short stories. This is a scene from “Zaytoun”, which means Olive in Arabic. It tells the story of the relationship between nature and culture through the practice of olive harvesting, which is very common across the Mediterranean and therefore a theme that all participants could relate to.

Over the last decade, gender has become a manifest theme in conservation and development work. Researchers and practitioners are asked to take gender differences into account and adopt more inclusive approaches. During one MERA session, participants explored the theme of gender and agrobiodiversity, and held a debate on the relevance, challenges and opportunities of adopting gender approaches in different contexts.

There is nothing like a field trip to the High Atlas mountains to start the day at MERA. Participants visited Global Diversity Foundation’s community nursery in Imegdal where they met with our local team of community researchers and learned about the endangered, endemic and valuable species we are cultivating, such as Moroccan wild thyme.

On the final day of MERA 2018, we had a refreshing walk in the beautiful High Atlas, a moment to relax and connect after an intensive week of workshop sessions and discussions. Our respect and care for our natural environment is what brings all of us together.

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