Irene Teixidor Toneu is a PhD student at the University of Reading (UK), fellow of the European MedPlant project “Phylogenetic exploration of medicinal plant diversity”. She trained as a biologist and ecologist at the University of Barcelona, and is currently exploring medicinal plant selection and knowledge transmission in Morocco. Her interests are twofold: she finds exploring the evolution of traditional medical systems thrilling, and also has a keen interest in finding ways to put traditional knowledge forward for the conservation of culture, biodiversity and the environment.

Irene writes about the story of the development of the booklet “Medicinal Plants in Imegdale”.

Medicinal Plants in Imegdale: a traditional knowledge teaching tool for Amazigh children

Medicinal plant knowledge from the High Atlas

medicinal-plants-in-imegdale-thumbnailFrom November 2014 to July 2016, I carried out extensive fieldwork on medicinal plant use in Imegdale, a Tashelhit-speaking community in the Moroccan High Atlas, in collaboration with Global Diversity Foundation. Working with local researcher Fadma Ait Iligh, we interviewed over a hundred people and compiled a comprehensive list of medicinal plants used. During the interviews, we would often discuss ways in which this work could be returned to the community. Interviewees were mostly women, the most important medicinal plant knowledge holders in rural Morocco. They are mostly illiterate, and would have no use for a book gathering knowledge that they already hold. However, they were certainly interested in finding alternative ways of transmitting this knowledge to their children. There is awareness that schooling and integration in market economies, although key to rural development, instigate a process of traditional knowledge loss. Children do not spend enough time engaging in plant-related activities and traditional, oral knowledge is often devalued.

In close collaboration with Fadma and Zahar Belkadi, a local teacher, we worked on the idea of developing a booklet for children that condensed traditional knowledge about the most culturally important plants in Imegdale, to be distributed in local schools and among children. We aim to narrow the gap between formal education and traditional knowledge and hope that teachers will draw upon the booklet when providing instruction on life and earth sciences. For that purpose, the booklet presents a series of questions and exercises that can be proposed to children.

The seeds of uamsa (Foeniculum vulgare) are often used for digestive complaints, infused or mixed with food as a spice. [Drawing by Ana Burillo]
Imzurri (Lavandula dentata) is one of the most used plants in Imegdale, collected from the wild for local use and also traded to Marrakshi grocers.

In the booklet’s preface, GDF Director Gary Martin expressed his hope “that the descriptions of the useful plants depicted in the following pages inspire … children … to develop a curiosity about the rich botanical resources in their cultural landscapes”. Download the booklet here.

Medicinal Plants of Imegdale is the result of field research funded by the European Union’s Seventh Framework Program for research, technological development and demonstration. It was carried out with in kind support provided by the Darwin Initiative-funded collaborative project titled Medicinal Root Trade, Plant Conservation and Local Livelihoods in Southern Morocco.

A traditional knowledge teaching tool for Amazigh children

Through the MedPlant project, Irene will publish the booklet to be distributed in Imegdale’s rural schools. We will print and share the booklet with Imegdale’s children directly and the girls at Dar Taliba in continued support to promote the boarding house school girls’ learning about gardens, cultural heritage and environmental stewardship.