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The Botanic Garden of the Institut Agronomique et Vétérinaire Hassan II, Morocco
Volume 3 Number 1 - December 1998
On account of its geographical position Morocco, provides a refuge for a rich and diverse flora with about 4,500 taxa, of which 600 to 650 are endemic. Nevertheless, the problems of environmental degradation, which affect plant resources, have not escaped the Moroccan flora, which is exposed to ever increasing destructive pressures.
Major Degradation Factors Facing Moroccan Phytogenetic Resources
Distinction should be made between cultivated species (recent or ancient) and wild species. Essentially, cultivated species suffer from changes in food consumption habits and the shift of agriculture to the use of more high-yielding species, even though they have a narrow genetic narrow base. Many land races and local varieties have been abandoned while others are greatly underutilized or not fully exploited. This leads to genetic erosion of such crops as wheat, barley, millet, maize, beans, peas and many fruit species such as pears, peaches, apricots and so on. As for wild species, it has been demonstrated that grazing pressure on rangelands, forests and alpine vegetation, and the search for fuelwood are the fundamental reasons for the vulnerability of many plant species that are becoming rarer and rarer. It has been estimated that Morocco loses 30,000 ha of forested land annually (including many species of unknown potential). Other degradation factors include urbanization, changes to the underlying water level and various types of pollution. Recent estimates showed that over 1,000 species are rare or endangered in Morocco.
The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) recognizes the importance of ex situ conservation of plants and the major role that institutions such as botanic gardens can play in this field.
The Institut Agronomique et Vétérinaire Hassan II (Institute of Agriculture and Vetinary Medicine Hassan II) through its mission is very much aware of the role it needs to play in the context of the CBD and is conscious of the pressures on the phytogenetic resources of Morocco. Accordingly, in 1990 it launched a project to develop a botanic garden on the campus at Rabat.
Objectives of the Botanic Garden of the Institut Agronomique et Vétérinaire Hassan II
The botanic garden creation project was set up to fulfil several aims:
The project was started in 1990. Since then, the Institut Agronomique et Vétérinaire Hassan II has supported the project within the constraints of their other work. It has supplied occasional manual labour with modest funding. The "Administration des Eaux et Forêts" (Administration for Water and Forests) has also contributed significantly to the start up of the project and donated seed of some indigenous species. The "Direction de l'Enseignement de la Reserche et du Développement" (DERD) (Management of Education, Research and Development) has offered to buy materials.
Some progress has been achieved in the preparation of the ground set aside for the garden in the development of a small nursery which will allow the garden to undertake initial work in providing plant material. The garden has the responsibility of setting the masterplan and providing ornamental plants for the management of the parks belonging to the "Association Culturelle et Sportive de l'Agriculture" (ACSA) (Cultural and Sportive Association of Agriculture Club) (8180 plants) and DERD (1808 plants). Under the Institut Agronomique et Vétérinaire Hassan II, the botanic garden is a major contributor to the management of the parks (supplying more than 21,300 plants) and improving the grounds of the Département d'Ecologie Végétale by a collection of wild plants.
However, in the absence of sufficient funds, the work could not be continued and the garden is still far from achieving its objectives.
Faced with this situation the Insititute has looked for other sources of funding. It waited for a long time before the European Union (EU) agreed after extensive negotiations, to sign an agreement in which the EU has allocated funds to the project with Fauna and Flora International (FFI) and BGCI.
The principal objective of this agreement is to support the conservation of the biodiversity of Morocco by developing the capacity of the garden and providing an integrated approach to the conservation of the plants which are rare at a national or international level and to increase the awareness of politicians, decision makers and the public of the importance of phytogenetic resources.
To achieve this objective, the agreement encompasses many activities of which the most important are the:
The contribution of the EU, which is about 118,000 ECU, will help to establish the basic elements of the botanic garden.
The full implementation of the project for the creation of the botanic garden will however require additional resources which are being sought from within the budget of the Institute as well as from international agencies that support projects for the conservation of biological diversity and environmental sustainability.
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