On September 8 the earth shook in Morocco. With its epicenter in the Atlas Mountains, south of Marrakech, the earthquake has so far caused close to 3,000 deaths, victims of yet another natural disaster. Many isolated areas have not even been reached yet by relief efforts, which are being slowed down by the continuous tremors. The long-term impacts will be calamitous, as an area of great agrifood biodiversity importance has been devastated.
With food gardens, biodiversity-preservation projects and food communities, the Slow Food network in Morocco is widespread. As soon as we heard the news, we contacted our local leaders who, on behalf of the global movement, we thank for the coordination and support work they are carrying out in these difficult days.
From them we heard dramatic stories, of lost loved ones and homes razed to the ground, but also of struggling small businesses and the many efforts made over the years to develop local economies based on food biodiversity. One example is the community of women couscous producers, a Slow Food Presidium. Fatiha cognome, their coordinator, tells us that the cooperative’s structure is unusable, some people from the village have died and many houses have been destroyed. “Our fear is that this earthquake risks canceling out all the efforts we have made in recent years. We strongly believe that the women of this cooperative have brought great change to our local community and that rebuilding their destroyed headquarters will not only give hope to all the women who work in the cooperative, but will enable them to support the whole village.”
As many as 500 schools are damaged, unusable or, even worse, completely destroyed. “We want to restart the activities with school gardens as soon as possible to relieve the children,” says Tarik Ouadirrou, spokesperson for the Slow Food Community for the preservation of food heritage in the Moroccan Atlas mountains. “It’s very important. As a local association, we are in the process of putting in place a plan to meet the needs of schools in particular.”