Agdal Yagour, MOROCCO
- Keywords: Morocco, Cultural Landscape, Zat, Yagour, Agdal, pastoralism, Mesioua tribe, Ait Ikiss, Amazigh (Berber), agro-sylvo-pastoral system.
1. OFFICIAL CLASSIFICATIONS AND CATEGORIES
1.1 National and International Classification Lists
The “Agdal Yagour Cultural Landscape” is not in any list.
- National protected areas
1.2. Cultural Landscape Category/Tipology
A landscape designed and created intentionally by human being
Organically evolved landscapesRelict (or fossil) landscape
Associative cultural landscape1
1.3. Description and Justification by Med-O-Med
This cultural alndscape is mainly refered to a way of living of berber tribes in the High Atlas Mountains. It is circumscribed to the Zat area, specifically to the pastoral territory of Yagour plateau. The site is a good sample of association between the cultural representations and the social uses of the environment in the group Ait Ikiss (High Atlas of Marrakech), adapted to local cultures, respectful with the culture and the ecology of the pastures of altitude, zones of high biodiversity, within the framework of the agdal. Traditional Amazigh (Berber) people’s economy in the High Atlas Mountains (Central Morocco) is highly dependent on the herding of goats, sheep and cows as well as growing wheat, barley, a little horticulture and fruits. The common agdal is a system of agro-sylvo-pastoral resource management based on communal property that belongs to a millenarian Amazigh tradition and consists on prohibiting access to a given natural resource during a period of time through out the year. This system seems to have a positive effect on the floral biodiversity and the vegetation cover of the pastoral territory of the Yagour (Mesioua tribe between 2.000 and 3.600 masl). In fact, floral biodiversity and the vegetation cover seem to be both higher in the zone managed by the agdal system compared to the surrounding areas, as it is ungrazed from the end of March until the beginning of summer, after most plants have set seed. Nevertheless, very often, the date in which opens the agdal areas for grazing is now being altered and depends increasingly more on the state’s intervention (sometimes political negotiations force a sooner opening of the agdal) and the ecological changes like each year’s pluviometry which is increasingly rare and variable due to climate change. The territory of Yagour is a pastoral area of more than 70 km 2 that belongs to the Mesioua trib. It is located in a very difficult-to-access region, only 50 km away from Marrakech, up to the peak of the sacred mountain of Meltsene reaching almost 3,600 m. Yagour is particularly used as a summer pastoral land. It is a space characterized by green grasslands, symbolizing the idea of life in the environment abundant in water. The cultural representations associated to it by herders often make reference to a mystic place. In Yagour, the rites of fecundity and pastoralism were probably present in the Paleoberber herding societies of the Bronze Age (4000–2500 BP), as the profusion of engraved symbols on the red sandstone of these pastoral Olympus demonstrates. The natural and cultural heritage components associated to the Yagour area and the Adgal system are most than enough reasons to be considered as a Cultural Landscape in categories 2 and 3 (Continuing and Associative Lanscape respectively).
2. NAME / LOCATION / ACCESSIBILITY
- Current denomination Yagour, Adrar Yagour, Zat, Agdal.
- Current denomination Yagour, Adrar Yagour, Zat, Agdal.
- Original denomination Yagour, Adrar Yagour, Zat, Agdal.
- Popular denomination Yagour, Adrar Yagour, Zat, Agdal.
- Address: Yagour Plateau, Zat Valley, High Atlas, Morocco.
- Geographical coordinates: 31° 18' 36" N 7° 39' 00" W
- Area, boundaries and surroundings: The territory of Yagour is a pastoral area of more than 70 km 2, only 50 km away from Marrakech, up to the peak of the sacred mountain of Meltsene reaching almost 3,600 m.
- Access and transport facilities: It is located in a very difficult-to-access region.
3. LEGAL ISSUES
- Owner: Moroccan Government.
- Body responsible for the maintenance: Moroccan Government.
The common agdal is a system of agro-sylvo-pastoral resource management based on communal property that belongs to a millenarian Amazigh tradition. In Yagour, the rites of fecundity and pastoralism were probably present in the Paleoberber herding societies of the Bronze Age (4000–2500 BP).
5. GENERAL DESCRIPTION
5.1. Natural heritage
- Heritage: Rural
- Geography: High Mountain
- Site topography: Natural
- Climate and environmental conditions: This area with heavy winter snow and a harsh climate suffers from a fodder shortage for the herds during the winter and especially in dry years at the end of summer. It is thus a challenge for these agro-pastoralists to manage the use of the territory in time and space in order to meet the nutritional needs of their livestock, and to ensure soil fertility in the cultivated areas by means of animal manure.
- Geological and Geographical characteristics: The basement rock of most of Africa was formed in the Precambrian (approximately 4.54 - 0.57 billion years ago) and is much older than the Atlas mountains lying in Africa. The Atlas formed during three subsequent phases of Earth's history. The first tectonic deformation phase involves only the Anti-Atlas, which was formed in the Paleozoic Era (~300 million years ago) as the result of continental collisions. North America, Europe and Africa were connected millions of years ago. The Anti-Atlas mountains are believed to have originally been formed as part of Alleghenian orogeny. These mountains were formed when Africa and America collided, and were once a chain rivaling today's Himalayas. Today, the remains of this chain can be seen in the Fall line in the eastern United States. Some remnants can also be found in the later formed Appalachians in North America. A second phase took place during the Mesozoic Era (before ~65 My) and consisted of a widespread extension of the Earth's crust that rifted and separated the continents mentioned above. This extension was responsible for the formation of many thick intracontinental sedimentary basins including the present Atlas. Most of the rocks forming the surface of the present High Atlas were deposited under the ocean at that time. Finally, in the Tertiary Period (~65 million to ~1.8 million years ago), the mountain chains that today comprise the Atlas were uplifted as the land masses of Europe and Africa collided at the southern end of the Iberian peninsula. Such convergent tectonic boundaries occur where two plates slide towards each other forming a subduction zone (if one plate moves underneath the other) and/or a continental collision (when the two plates contain continental crust). In the case of the Africa-Europe collision, it is clear that tectonic convergence is partially responsible for the formation of the High Atlas, as well as for the closure of the Strait of Gibraltar and the formation of the Alps and the Pyrenees. However, there is a lack of evidence for the nature of the subduction in the Atlas region, or for the thickening of the Earth's crust generally associated with continental collisions. In fact, one of the most striking features of the Atlas to geologists is the relative small amount of crustal thickening and tectonic shortening despite the important altitude of the mountain range. Recent studies suggest that deep processes rooted in the Earth's mantle may have contributed to the uplift of the High and Middle Atlas.
This system seems to have a positive effect on the floral biodiversity and the vegetation cover of the pastoral territory of the Yagour (Mesioua tribe between 2.000 and 3.600 masl). In fact, floral biodiversity and the vegetation cover seem to be both higher in the zone managed by the agdal system compared to the surrounding areas, as it is ungrazed from the end of March until the beginning of summer, after most plants have set seed.
Land uses and economical activities:Yagour area is ungrazed from spring to summer, and forests are only cut in winter, etc. At the same time, the agdal of Yagour contributes to the local economy, mainly in three ways. First, the agdal managed territory brings in up to 20% of the annual fodder for cattle. But more importantly, the contribution of the agdal in terms of fodder arrives in the middle of the summer, when other pastures have nothing to offer. Secondly, the agdal provides fundamental manure to enrich agricultural sectors, making these much more productive. Finally, the agdal brings in increasing income through the emerging ecotourism surrounding the discovery of the natural and cultural heritage of the agdal in the region.
Agricultural issues or other traditional productions and their effect on the landscape:The agdal is definitively an ingenious system of agro-pastoral land rotation that has evolved through time until its present forms. The local agro-pastoral sector contributes 75% of the income, which is usually combined with seasonal emigration or engagement in some specialized local professions such as masonry, smithery, or others of the sort. Locally practiced animal husbandry concerns mainly cows, sheep, and goats.
Summary of Landscapes values and characteristics:
The Agdal in Yagour is a good sample of association between the cultural representations and the social uses of the environment in the group Ait Ikiss (High Atlas of Marrakech), adapted to local cultures, respectful with the culture and the ecology of the pastures of altitude, zones of high biodiversity.
5.2. Cultural Heritage
A) Related to current constructions, buildings and art pieces in general
Architectonical elements /Sculptures:
The villages found in the plateau are built in a berber tradicional style, totally adapted to the characteristics of the natural environment.
In the case of gardens: original and current style:It is not the case.
B) Related to ancient remains
- Archaeological components:
Engraved symbols on the red sandstone have been found in Yagour territory (4000–2500 BP).
- Traces in the environment of human activity: Land-Terraces. Agriculture. Pastoralism. Ancient engravings.
C) Related to intangible, social and spiritual values
- Population, ethnic groups: Ait Ikiss group comprises about 640 people who occupy four different habitats: Azgour/Tifni, Ikiss, Warzarzt, and Yagour n’Ikiss. The Aït Ikiss belong to the Mesioua tribe.
- Languages and dialects: Ait Ikiss continue organizing themselves in tribal groups, subgroups, villages, clans, and nuclear families. They speak Tachelhita southern Moroccan Berber dialect. In addition, practically all men and some of the younger women speak Arabic
- Lifestyle, believing, cults, traditional rites: As in other Berber societies, all the decisions about the household’s use of agro-pastoral resources are made by the male who is the household head, and in his absence, by the oldest adult male of the family (depending on the family structure, it can be a brother, the eldest son, etc. ...). The Aït Ikiss, and the rest of the mountain Mesioui, are defined in Morocco as mainly nonorthodox Sunni Muslims who sustain indigenous beliefs and practices as a result of a long cohabitation and reformulation between pre-Islamic religions and earlier Islam. They organize activities and manage their communal territory through the above mentioned tribal assemblies Besides the magnificent landscape that sculpts and contains the institution of agdal, numerous legends accompany its presence in these mountains. Among the stories on Yagour, one often told is of a man dressed in white, riding a white horse, who appears every year at the time of the herding prohibition on Yagour in order to save agdal from dishonest stealers, punishing them in several ways. Another story refers to the 360 saints who walk around together to watch over Yagour with their horses and camels , and symbolizes long caravans, long voyages, and testimonies of allegiance and respect. Legends also identify many spaces around Yagour situated near saints’ graves or cemeteries, that are called tagdalt (little agdal) and have abundant vegetation, protected permanently from cattle and humans. Such protection is achieved mainly through the force of the beliefs and taboos that are present around these sacred places.
Condition: environmental/ cultural heritage degradation:Conservation of the biophysical environment is favored over intensive grazing, since a nonintensive exploitation of the herding lands is characterized by a relatively dispersed position of the cattle in different places throughout the year. The only exception is the opening of the great agdal of Yagour, in the beginning of summer, when most of the ovines and bovines (and some caprines too) are concentrated in one area of about 40 ha where the most dense grasses are. Nevertheless, at this time vegetation prohibits intensive herding when grasses reach almost 1 m height. The general extensive approach of the ecosystem management culminates precisely in the tagdalts (small agdal) system of pastoral land rotation tested and negotiated every year through the generations, giving each place the time needed for its recuperation. The discussed here herding prohibition allows the vegetation, flowering, reproduction, fructification, and establishment of young seeds a rest period and thus promotes the continuity of the pastoral ecosystems. Also, the higher plant cover due to the agdal protection, and the nonintensive exploitation of the lands encourages a denser plant cover than that which could be found if spaces were herded simply as “open access”. Thus, agdals appear to possibly help fight erosion as well. Also, the system of different agdals, closing and opening of places at different times, involves an ecological mosaic effect throughout the whole territory of he Ait Ikiss due to a specialized and differentiated use of the four key locales discussed above. Backing up or inhibiting the expression of different species depending whether one agdal or another is applied also fosters genetic plant diversity and entertains a pool of biodiversity that serves as a point of diffusion of different seeds.
Perspectives/Views/ Points of interest/Setting:
-Yagour plateau, Zat Valley, High Atlas Lanscape. -All the villages of the territory. -The cultivated terraces and the pastoral fields -The ancient engravings.
- Living heritage
Authenticity:The common agdal is a system of agro-sylvo-pastoral resource management based on communal property that belongs to a millenarian Amazigh tradition and consists on prohibiting access to a given natural resource during a period of time through out the year.
Universality:The system of agdal is an ancient and inherently Moroccan form of gardening, or maybe even of the whole Maghreb. Proved to resist climate variations and social, agdal has survived and continues to structure the territory, natural resources, and landscapes of the High Atlas Mountains. In fact, agdal encourages dense plant cover, and biodiversity through its specialized and planned land use. Med-O-Med concludes that the system of communal management of agdal must be seen and encouraged as a socioculturally resilient, economically sustainable, and ecologically enriching approach to land use. In fact, the system of agdal could be used as a tool for designing local developments as it has shown its pertinence through the centuries and different epochs. The agdal of Yagour is an example of evolutionary “conservationism,” which puts forward the role of human agro-pastoral activities in the maintenance, landscaping, and conservation of the environment rather than the “preservationism-sanctuarism,” which would exclude humans and their different activities from environmental conservation. In this sense agdal could become a fundamental tool of extensive gardening and territorial management that should not be ignored. This argument should be taken into account if we consider that we are discussing an institution with a very long history and a strong local legitimacy, supported by real competences in matters of renewable resource management.
Values linked to the Islamic culture and civilisation:The Aït Ikiss, and the rest of the mountain Mesioui, are defined in Morocco as mainly nonorthodox Sunni Muslims who sustain indigenous beliefs and practices as a result of a long cohabitation and reformulation between pre-Islamic religions and earlier Islam. The agdal system is a good representation of the traditional way of interaction between arabic communities and the natural environment.
Historical and graphical data (drawings, paintings, engravings, photographs, literary items…):
Agdal Yagour Cultural Landscape is one of all of the cultural landscapes of Morocco which is included in The Cultural Landscape inventory runned by Med-O-Med.
http://www.naturallymorocco.co.uk/destinations/high-atlas/ourika-valley-treks/ourika-to-zat-valley-1.html http://terraeantiqvae.com/profiles/blogs/el-agdal-bereber-una-forma-de#.Uc07nBWzDFC http://icta.uab.es/Etnoecologia/projects/docs/agdal_Yagour.pdf http://icta.uab.cat/Etnoecologia/proyecto.php?Id_proyecto=76 http://www.antropologiavisual.net/2007/agdal-voces-del-atlas/ http://icta.uab.cat/Etnoecologia/Docs/%5B211%5D-Dominguez_CulturallyMediated_1_En_16.pdf -Auclair, L., Bourbouze, A., Dominguez, P., & Genin, D. (2007). Les agdals du Haut Atlas. Biodiversité et gestion communautaire des ressources forestières et pastorales. (CD-ROM). -Auclair, L., & Al Ifriqui, M. (2005). Les agdal du Haut Atlas marocain, enjeux d’une recherche pluridisciplinaire. In Actes des 2èmes Rencontres d’Anthropologie du Maghreb. Centre Jacques Berque, Rabat, pp. 60–79. -Dominguez, P. (2013). Une approche holistique de l’Agdal du Yagour dans le Haut Atlas de Marrakech. Le poids de l’herbe et le poids de la culture. in AUCLAIR L. & ALIFIQUI M. (coord.) Agdal, patrimoine socio-écologique de l’Atlas marocain, Ed. IRCAM-IRD, Rabat, 290-319 pp. -Dominguez, P. (2013). Culturally mediated provision of ecosystem services: The agdal of Yagour. in L.R. Lozny (ed.), Continuity and Change in Cultural Adaptation to Mountain Environments, Studies in Human Ecology and Adaptation 7, Springer. -Dominguez, P., A. Bourbouze, S. Demay, D. Genin and N. Kosoy. (2012). Diverse Ecological, Economic and Socio-Cultural Values of a Traditional Common Natural Resource Management System in the Moroccan High Atlas: The At Ikiss Tagdalts Environmental Values 21 (2012): 277-296. -Domínguez P, F Zorondo-Rodríguez, V Reyes-García. (2010). Relationships between religious beliefs and mountain pasture uses: A case study in the high Atlas mountains of Marrakech, Morocco. Human Ecology 38(3):351-362. -Ilahiane, H. (1999). The Berber “agdal” institution: Indigenous range management in the Atlas Mountains. Ethnology, 38 (1), 21. -Montagne, R. (1930). Les berbères et le Makhzen dans le sud du Maroc. Paris: Félix Alcan
Practical Information:Researcher: Pablo Domínguez. Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, Barcelona, Spain. e-mail: email@example.com
Compiler Data: Sara Martínez Frías.