In the High Atlas Mountains of Morocco, abandonment of religious beliefs is transforming the wild.
For Morocco’s Amazig people, who long looked to their saints for guidance on how to manage their land, a loss of religion spells big changes for nature. Locals are shifting from a communal outlook to a more self-serving one, a switch that bears consequences for people and ecosystems alike, according to a new study in the journal Human Ecology. The study indicates that when people manage the land for themselves rather than the good of all, what’s here today could be gone, or at least different, tomorrow.
Historically, beliefs in local Islamic Saints encouraged a communal mindset when it came to managing resources in the High Atlas Mountains of Morocco. For instance, in spring, the Amazig would often set some pastures off-limits, saving them for harder times, a practice known as Agdal.
But as the Amazig abandon tradition, a new environment begins to take shape. Pablo Dominguez from the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona in Spain and his colleagues observed and interviewed families from 80 households in Warzazt, Morocco, from 2003 to 2008. They found a close relationship between the loss of traditional religious beliefs and expansion of farmland and introduction of new sheep species.
The impacts of these practices are not yet fully understood, but one thing’s for certain, this study takes a fresh tack on natural resource management, emphasizing the ways religion plays a pivotal role in how cultures use and change their environment.