National Parks and World Heritage Sites

Global Geoparks Conference 2023 Goes to Marrakech

By Morocco World News

The GGN nominated Morocco with its Geopark M’Goun among France, Mexico, and Brazil to host this event, which will bring together more than 1,500 participants from 50 countries.

Established in 2014, the M’Goun Geopark, is located between Beni-Mellal in the north and the Ighil M’Goun ridge in the south.

It is the only geopark in the Maghreb, and the first established geopark on the African continent, following the opening of the Ngorongoro-Lengai Geopark in Tanzania in 2018.  

President of the M’Goun Geopark Association Driss Achbal told Morocco World News (MWN) that “Morocco’s choice is based on the permanent commitment of the government, Beni-Mellal’s council and OCP preserving geological heritage at the national and African level.”

He added that Morocco has proven itself with a “solid scientific record” compared to France, Brazil, and Mexico.

In addition, Morocco was also nominated as a member of the GGN during the 9th UNESCO Global Geoparks Conference for the upcoming four years, reflecting the country’s commitment to managing and preserving geological landscapes.

UNESCO labels a “Geopark” as a protected national area containing valuable geological sites due to its educational or scientific aspect, rarity, or aesthetic.  The label allows members of the GGN to exchange expertise and ideas to carry out coherent action to preserve geological areas.

Geological governance
Marrakech’ hosting of this international event presents an opportunity for the country to strengthen scientific research on geology, empower rural women, and establish a climate of peace.

In an interview, Achbal told MWN that the M’Goun geopark has already produced several results in various fields, including geo-education, social economy, mountain sports, and cultural development.

He noted that geoparks are “laboratories” that work with universities and public or private institutes aiming to advance research on natural sciences. M’Goun’s geopark offers a scientific and environmental education program, strengthening Morocco’s engagement in sustainable development.

Its 1700 square meter museum has a first floor dedicated mainly to earth sciences. It also includes administrative premises, interactive game rooms for young people, and a permanent exhibition room. The basement provides a space dedicated to temporary exhibitions and a reserve room and laboratory.

Achbal highlighted that the geoparks association has built a global network with universities, primary and secondary schools, 15 local authorities, 47 local associations, 43 local cooperatives and ministerial departments.

Through training, it encourages rural women to create cooperatives and promote their products locally, nationally, and internationally.

“This year we have produced 500 kilos of saffron on 350 hectares to support women’s mountain cooperatives,” Achbal said.

The park’s president also noted that M’Goun’s geopark organized the Atlas Marathon’s first edition, created the Chess Geopark Association, the Mountain and Water Sports Club, as well as trucking and rafting activities promoting the geological heritage.

“We have produced 7 films in Arabic, French, Spanish and English to raise awareness on environmental preservation,” he stressed.

In 2000, international interest in geoparks emerged through the creation of the European Geoparks Network (EGN), focused on French, German, and Spanish natural areas.

The GGN was created in 2014, bringing together national geological initiatives into a global network for sharing and cooperation.

Since then, Morocco has hosted the first Arab and African geopark. Moreover, the country has since 2019 chaired the United Nations’ African Geopark Network (AUGGN), with the intent to expand the geopark network on the continent and implement the International Geosciences and Geoparks Program’s objectives.

Recent statistics show that Morocco has made progress in developing geoscientific infrastructure and conducting fundamental and applied research on soil samples and associated resources.  

Geological heritage’s inventory and evaluation methods have been developed mainly in a European context. However, adapting them to Moroccan’s mountain characteristics is essential as local actors play a key role in preserving geological landscapes.

Morocco adopted the 2021-2030 National Plan of Geology to respond to the strategic issues of the economic activity sectors, including water, agriculture, energy, crafts, and tourism.

 Achbal indicated that geoparks face some challenges, including building awareness among local actors, developing required infrastructure and making tourists aware of the park’s appealing offerings.

“The geoparks network works actively to promote communication on cultural and historical heritage,” Achbal concluded.

Source: Morocco World News