Natalie Sturm - May 2018

Salam o a3laykom! Hello, may peace be with you!

Hi, my name is Natalie Sturm, and I am junior studying agroecology.  I just returned from spending three weeks in Morocco.  Most of this time was spent in the High Atlas Mountains community of Zawiya Ahansal, where I conducted field work for my research project funded by the Institute on Ecosystems.

My project seeks to examine the social-ecological system of sheep and goat grazing in Zawiya Ahansal.  A social-ecological system (SES) is one in which humans and the environment interact and are inextricably linked.  SESs can be described as “a set of critical resources (natural, socioeconomic, and cultural) whose flow and use is regulated by a combination of ecological and social systems” (Redman, et al. 2004). 

In Zawiya Ahansal, herding of sheep and goats is an integral part of subsistence and culture.  A classic Moroccan meal is Tajine, which is often made with goat or mutton.  Morocco is also famous for its beautiful carpets and blankets handmade with wool.  As tourism in the region increases, sheep and goats will continue to be important. 


However, animal grazing faces challenges in Zawiya Ahansal.  As I witnessed during my time in the community, the rangelands are extremely overgrazed.  Additionally, locals note that the sheep from the cities are often larger and of higher quality, indicating that High Atlas Mountain sheep and goats are likely not receiving adequate nutrition. 

My fieldwork consisted of observing and documenting as much as I could about the grazing social-ecological system in Zawiya Ahansal.  Through interviews, observations, and plant sampling, I have begun to build the groundwork for future Zawiya Ahansal grazing projects.

In future blog posts, I will describe the rangeland habitat and ecology, the immense challenge it would be to re-vegetate these rangelands, and the wool culture and market in Morocco.    




1. Redman, Charles L., J. Morgan Grove, and Lauren H. Kuby. "Integrating social science into the long-term ecological research (LTER) network: social dimensions of ecological change and ecological dimensions of social change." Ecosystems 7.2 (2004): 161-171. 





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