green skills award winner

ETF Green Skills Win for Morocco’s Eco-Nursery gives boost to expand its know-how

For the people behind Morocco’s Bouregreg Med-O-Med Gardening School – the country’s first eco-nursery and education centre – being one of the three prize winners in the European Training Foundation’s Green Skills Award 2023 has been a true blessing.

The nursery and training school, built on an 8-hectare site near a rehabilitated old landfill site in Salé, Morocco, placed second in the competition – beating more than 600 other projects that applied from around 60 countries.

“This is an important award that recognises the pedagogical, social and environmental value of this FUNCI project,” says Inés Eléxpuru, Communications Director for FUNCI Morocco-Spain. “This has given encouragement and a sense of belonging to the whole team, to the trainees and to our collaborators.”

Established in 2018, designed and managed by Spanish-Moroccan non-profit cultural institute, FUNCI in association with the Islamic Culture Foundation (ICF), the school was conceived by FUNCI president Cherif Abderrahman Jah.

Featuring a raw earth building, photovoltaic solar-powered electricity, the school teaches an entirely ecological gardening model that pays close attention to irrigation, water sources, and the propagation of plans endemic to dry, hostile environments.

The school helps address youth unemployment in a country where nearly three-quarters of young people under the age of 24 have never had a job: the 3-year diplomas offered to an annual intake of 90 students are based on a curriculum developed and tested in Spain, adapted to Moroccan standards by Spain’s University of Seville, and accredited by Moroccan authorities.

Entrance requirements for learners between 16 and 25 are simply that they know how to read and write, are motivated and in economic need.

Designed to become partially self-financed in the medium term, the school involves students in income-generating activities, including garden services, letting out space and running awareness-raising workshops. Currently it earns around €30,000 a year.

Even before the results were in, the school’s team took advantage of their nomination to the top ten to conduct a press campaign in the national and international media, “explaining the importance of the project and the relevance of this award,’ Inés says.

Since the project applied to the ETF Green Skills Award, it has grown “in quantity and quality” and initiated training for external and sector professionals, as well as external internships for trainees, and a wider promotion of environmental awareness.

The Med-O-Med Gardening School is already becoming “a reference” in Morocco, she adds. The school is the first of its kind in North Africa and the award, by raising its profile, helps organisers, “increase the quality of training for apprentices and trainers, but also replicates our model of ecological and scientific gardening to other sectors and regions.”

Specialist training materials will soon be translated into Arabic, addressing a need for which there are few Arabic-language gardening education resources.

“In relation to the production of native Moroccan plants adapted to the current drought situation, our production is increasing and is becoming known, as it is practically the only one of its kind in Morocco,” Inés notes. “In fact, we had the honour of providing our plants for the permanent Moroccan pavilion at the last annual meeting in Marrakech of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, representing the different ecosystems of Morocco.”

Asked what qualities made the FUNCI project a winner, Inés says that “love, passion, hard work and its innovative, socially and environmentally committed and coherent aspects” were stand-outs.

Its core qualities of “training young people in precarious situations and offering them a better future and a chance for self-esteem and belonging,” also contributed.

Finally, “the originality of the project as a centre not only dedicated to the trainees but also to the public, and its resolutely ecological and sustainable character,” played a part.

For those considering entering the ETF Green Skills Award next year, Inés has a few words of simple advice: “Think carefully about the project after diagnosing the environmental needs of [your] region, carry out a feasibility study before launching it and make an effort to find people with expertise in the field, but also with commitment and passion, to optimise it. [Entrants] should also be patient and persevering.”

Did you like this article? If you would like to be notified when new content like this is published, subscribe to receive our email alerts.