Territories of life on the edge


Title: Transhumant – Year: 2019 – Place: Saghrou (Morocco) – Author & Copyright: Inanç TEKGÜÇ

ON THE LONG TRAIL: Ait Atta, transhumants of the High Atlas Mountains, Morocco.

What is it like to be an individual among a tribe? Is there such a thing when belonging to a larger community of mobile pastoralists ever since you were born? Is there such a thing when you walk up the Atlas Mountains towards the Igourdane agdal pastoral common and back every year, on a journey that has been the same for as long the memory of the blood can recall? When it’s just you, your tribe, your herd, and the immense African night?

Up there, one often seems to be less singular, and more a meaningful part of a whole.

Title: Position of Igourdane highland pastures and one of its main transhumant roads 
Year: 2021
Place: Igourdane (Morocco)
Author & Copyright: Pablo Domínguez (inset courtesy of Google Earth Engine).

Title: The agdal commons through the seasons 
Year: 2019
Place: Igourdane (Morocco)
Author & Copyright: Inanç TEKGÜÇ

With the seasonal movements of the pastoralists, up to the highlands in late spring and down to the lowlands in autumn, the agdal landscape is dramatically transformed, from being covered with white snow in winter, to vibrant green grass in spring, and fully grazed by the end of the summer. But these landscapes can only exist through collective organization and the prohibition to graze at key dates, that allows it all to be renewed and  to flourish again year after year! 

Your home

Your home is not yours, it belongs to the earth.

Title: Biocultural bonds
Year: 2019
Place: Saghrou (Morocco)
Author & Copyright: Eda Elif TIBET

Agdal is a form of diffused craftsmanship, whose name reveals its secret: agdal is a term derived from the Berber root ‘GDL’ which can refer to various meanings such as ‘protection’, ‘prohibition’, a ‘territory’ in itself or even ‘to pasture’. In the High Atlas, it most often refers to the ancient system of community resource governance but also to the protected territory itself.

Igourdane is one of these extensive highland pastoral agdals, of over 4,000 hectares (40 km2), and is collectively governed by a community composed of 250 families and their livestock belonging to three tribes. Every year these tribes decide to close the agdal to pasture in the month of April and not open it until early June, allowing the vegetation to regenerate.

Your name

Your name is not yours, it belongs to the group.

Title: Three Generations. The Ben Youssef Family
Year: 2019
Place: Saghrou & Nkob (Morocco)
Author & Copyright: Inanç TEKGÜÇ

Ait M’hamed, Ait Bouguemez and Ait Atta: those are the names of the three tribes agdaling Igourdane. These tribes have been following the rhythm of the seasons for generations, in a concerted effort that requires every individual to surrender to and comply with the collective.

The Ait Atta leave their children in town with relatives until they are old enough to join the rest of the family in a destiny that many will cyclically fulfill until the end of their life. It is almost impossible for someone who has not grown up with such a deep vision of the pastures to even imagine what it is to be fully integrated in this whole.

Title: Aït Atta: Nomads of the High Atlas.
Year: 2020
Place: High Atlas (Morocco)
Author & Copyright: Inanç TEKGÜÇ,  Eda Elif TIBET & KARMAMOTION
Web site: https://www.karmamotion.com/aitatta

Your body

Your body is not yours, it belongs to the herd.

Title: Sleepless nights
Year: 2019
Place: Central High Atlas (Morocco)
Author & Copyright: Inanç TEKGÜÇ

Goats, camels, humans, trails, mountains, valleys, grasses, rainfall. They all weigh the same in the thin agdal air. Humans long ago abandoned any pretence of ruling over the elements. At night, it’s the shepherds who need to cut their dreams short to gather the animals of their herd from wandering off into the faint moonlight, under the stars polka dotting the darkness with their twinkling eyes.

Title: Water is life
Year: 2019
Place: Saghrou (Morocco)
Author & Copyright: Inanç TEKGÜÇ

Up in the pre-Saharan mountains, you can feel your ordinary needs take a step back, and leave space for the most the most primordial human urges: hunger, fatigue and thirst.
But you cannot respond to those physical urges alone. Up there, it is liberating to go beyond the notions of individual identity, a value so sacred in western, urbanized culture.

Agdals, if adequately governed, are known to contribute strongly to socio-ecological conservation. But they are in danger. A range of socio-economic difficulties, also linked to climate change, makes people abandon the agdal practice. Here lies our responsibility. We also need to contribute to create conditions for these north African tribes to keep Igourdane alive.

Title: Collective knowledge
Year: 2019
Place: Dades, Morocco
Author & Copyright: Inanç TEKGÜÇ

But you cannot respond to those physical urges alone. Up there, it is liberating to go beyond the notions of individual identity, a value so sacred in western, urbanized culture. But here pastoralists find joy in letting themselves go and being guided up to the pastures by others of their group.

Agdals, if properly governed, are known to strongly contribute to socio-ecological conservation for a number of reasons ~ reducing grazing pressure, facilitating the reproductive cycle of vegetation, maintaining traditional animal breeds and a unique intangible culture, enhancing the overall biodiversity and protection of other natural resources such as water and soils.

But they are in danger.

A range of difficulties, all linked to climate change, the maintenance of a mobile pastoralist lifestyle, harsh and highly variable environmental conditions, and changing socio-economic conditions with very little support from the State, are leaving the practice of agdal in a state of flux. These systems are in decline, with fewer and fewer families and livestock undertaking the transhumant journey to the pasturelands each year, and with new generations not willing to continue if the harshness of pastoral life prevails.

Here lies our responsibility. We also need to contribute to creating conditions for these North African tribes to maintain Igourdane as the magnificent agdal that it is still today, with its unique natural and cultural values, as no life devoted to sustainability can be allowed to become unsustainable!


We would like to thank the Ben Youssef family members for sharing their journey and traditions with us and to KARMAMOTION for filming and Co-Producing this awe-inspiring journey in a documentary film. We also acknowledge the contribution of the local community of Ait M’hamed and its authorities, the Association for the Development of Saghro Nomads, the GDF-MBLA team as a whole, as well as the MAVA Foundation and the Darwin Initiative for their financial support throughout this journey.

Text and composition by Eda Elif TIBET, Pablo DOMINGUEZ, Pommelien DA SILVA, Inanç TEKGÜÇ, Soufiane M’SOU, Ugo D’AMBROSIO and Emily CARUSO.