24 Jun Assessment and technical assistance for management of the site of Moulay ‘Abd al-Salâm ibn Mashîsh and other natural sites with religious values
O n the kind initiative from CVSPA member Dr Zakia Zouanat, Gonzalo Oviedo and Josep M. Mallarach were invited by the Ministry of Islamic Affairs of Morocco to visit the site of Moulay ‘Abd al-Salâm ibn Mashîsh, in Jabal La’lâm, Site of Biological and Ecological Interest of Jbel Bouhachem, to assess the management conditions and provide recommendations for improvement, as well as to more broadly discuss the relevance and opportunities of the protection of sacred natural sites in the context of updating protected area legislation and policies.
The team made two field visits to the Jabal La’lâm area, the 9 and 12 of June, and had meetings in Rabat with various government officials, namely the Minister of Habous and Islamic Affairs, the Haut Commissaire des Eaux, Forêts et Lutte contre la Désertification, and the Director of Operations of the Agence pour la Promotion et le Développement Économique et Social des Préfectures et Provinces du Nord. We also met with the Président-Délégué of the Fondation Mohammed VI pour la Protection de l’Environnement – a Foundation presided by HRH The Princess Lalla Hasnaa.
All the meetings were highly successful for the objectives of the visit, and offered useful ideas for potential follow-up. In summary, our recommendations were:
- In relation with the site of Moulay ‘Abd al-Salâm ibn Mashîsh: to assess more in detail the current management conditions of the area, as well as the ongoing and proposed works for improving the infrastructure of the site for both pilgrims and custodians, and suggest some changes that would ensure that proper environmental considerations and respect for spiritual and cultural values are included. It is also suggested to undertake some short-term improvement measures, such as cleaning and waste management.
- In relation to sacred natural sites: to undertake an inventory of sacred natural sites of Morocco, assess their conservation values, and facilitate integration of the management of such sites in the national protected areas legislation and policies.
- Offer technical tools to guide improvement of management of sacred natural sites.
- Propose that the third Delos Initiative international workshop be held in Morocco in the autumn of 2009, with a focus on (i) international lessons in integrating sacred natural sites in nation-wide protected areas planning, (ii) advancing technical approaches and tools to support such integration in Morocco.
This visit was coordinated with the IUCN Office for the Mediterranean, in charge of work in North Africa.
We submitted a concept proposing such activities to the Président-Délégué of the Fondation Mohammed VI for his discussion with HRH Princess Lalla Hasnaa. Depending on the feedback to these ideas, there might be follow-up work to do by the Delos Initiative and the IUCN Med Office, which is very interested in integrating work on cultural and spiritual values across the North Africa programme.