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Community Development work in the High Atlas

Like mules, muleteers are all too easily dismissed as low status and barely worthy of a second thought. Our efforts to improve the lives and welfare of mules and muleteers in the Toubkal National Park seek to challenge this view and have chalked up some significant successes over the past few weeks and months. We have succeeded in building a coalition of partners all determined to advance the cause of animal welfare in the Moroccan mountain tourism industry. And, thanks to their collective efforts, this week saw an unprecedented gathering of people in the mountain village of Imlil, south of Marrakech.

A mule enjoys a good roll and dust bath

Pack mule welfare for Duke of Edinburgh Award students

Since reporting on the setting up and growth of a partnership project to promote pack mule welfare across the mountain tourism industry in Morocco, many more partners have expressed their concern over pack-animal welfare and their desire for more information. Companies, large and small, have made requests for further training so that they can better understand the many issues involved and better meet their responsibilities to these hard-working animals. Out of sight and out of mind for so long, pack-mule welfare is now firmly centre stage.

Donkeys routintely carry 100kg in weight

Realising the synergy of a community partnership in the Toubkal National Park

The past few weeks have been nothing short of momentous here in Imlil, trailhead for the highest mountain in North Africa and gateway to Morocco’s Toubkal National Park.

Over the past few years we have been working extremely hard to build a network of partnerships across the community. We have contributed to the training of all the young guides working in the area and have now established a community project that extends across the tourism industry to include hotels, gîtes, trekking agencies, the village association, the local muleteer associations, the local women’s cooperative, the park authority, the French Alpine Club (CAF) and a range of professional organisations.

A mule relishes the arrival of fresh water in one of the three village water troughs

Spreading the word, sharing the load!

For some reason, it is easy for us to overlook what we hold in common. We share a common humanity and we share many goals in common. We just don’t always see it! We are members of a vast network or community… but we often fail to see that too. We also all recognise the challenges posed when we fail to work together, to communicate and to find solutions to the problems we face. And yet we still often choose to work in isolation without building bridges, that-is-to-say relationships, with those who could partner us in our work.

HRH the Princess Royal views the posters.  Professor Hassan Alyakine is pictured to the right, having just presented our poster to the Princess

Developments in mule tethering systems

In addition to the rest day described in the first part of my report on the student guides’ Grande Traversée, I am delighted to be able to report on another significant development.

Over the past four years, I have been working to find a solution to the horrendous tethering injuries inflicted on mules here in Morocco. It was therefore very encouraging to see the almost universal take up and use of the tethering system that I have developed in collaboration with Professor Hassan Alyakine.

Leather sheath placed over a nylon rope so that pressure is spread over a wider area

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