Indigenous knowledge and the desertification debate: problematising expert knowledge in North Africa
n Morocco the crisis narrative of desertification has been invoked for decades to facilitate and justify policy and legal changes that have systematically disadvantaged pastoralists and damaged the environment. The existing data from southern Morocco, however, do not support the claims of widespread desertification due to overgrazing or other pastoral activities. Furthermore, many anti-desertification and range improvement projects in southern Morocco have not succeeded. In an effort to rethink desertification and range ecology in Morocco, this paper presents an overview of the indigenous knowledge of range ecology among the Aarib, a group of camel pastoralists in southern Morocco, and compares it to the ‘‘expert’’ knowledge of Moroccan range managers. It suggests that this expert knowledge is based on questionable evidence and that it has been privileged over local knowledge primarily for political, economic and administrative reasons. The discrepancies between expert and indigenous knowledges of range ecology presented here underscore the need to reconsider range ecology in Morocco, taking indigenous ecological knowledge into account. Doing so may point the way to more successful development and conservation projects which are more environmentally appropriate and socially just. Not doing so will likely exacerbate environmental degradation in the region.