Kick-off meeting – Marrakech (25-27 february 2015)

Global presentation of the kick-off meeting:

The consortium decided to organise the kick-off meeting in Marrakech due to the global context of the project (field work) and make a first assessment of the logistical and scientific environment regarding Zat Valley, located next to Marrakech city (60 km).

As mentioned in the scientific projet – Zat Valley (Morocco/AF): The Zat valley is located in the Moroccan High Atlas at about sixty km from the city of Marrakech (World Heriatge City, 1985). Covering an area of 452 km², the valley is crossed by the Oued Zat, areas of medium and high mountain (highest point: Jebel Meltsen 3600m altitude), high plateau Yagour. With a semi-arid climate and Mediterranean and mountain vegetation type, the Zat valley based on traditional agricultural activity which barely allows the rural population to support their needs. Like other valleys of the High Atlas, the valley has a very rich and varied geological, ecological and archaeological heritage including the rock carvings (Yagour). (Bellaoui, 1989.

This report presents the overall discussions during kick-off meeting based on the final agenda fixed by the consortium (annexe) – a long session had been dedicated to global explanations about RISE management and administrative issues in order to clarify mobility organisation and tasks :

  • Scientific discussions on GEOPARK project : tasks, deliverables and schedule
  • Administrative issues of GEOPARK project: mobility, funding and consortium teams & technical issues (logo, authorisations, accommodations, etc.)
  • Field visit on Zat Valley – first informal visit in the atlas mountains

Scientific & adminsitrative issues – 25th & 26th February 2015 

Sum-up of the scientific issues discussed during kick-off meeting :

(1) Scientific framework (objectives, WP and deliverables) by Museum national d’Histoire naturelle (MNHN, France)

Prof. Yves Girault and Dr. Isabelle Brianso presented the global scientific framework of GEOPARK project focusing attention on objectives, Work Packages and deliverables:

  • Objectives: both insist on the fact that the main objective of the European project is to develop an innovative & common methodology providing better access of Southern countries regarding Geopark inscription process (candidatures) through a sustainable development but, not to carry out a GEOPARK inscription in Zat Valley. Indeed, this purpose were approved by the full consortium – besides, Moroccan colleagues underlined the fact that Zat Valley is a fragile ecosystem which needs a permanent attention not only regarding cultural & natural heritage but also on local population living in this territory. A protocol of study has been discussed, especially concerning field study and field work in the valley in order to respect local population and communities – the full consortium agreed that scientific missions should be organised with time in order to prepare local staff and logistic in advance.
  • Work Packages: As mentioned in Part B of the scientific project – GEOPARK, Work Packages (WP) were well-identified and mixed with partners involved into the European project. Nevertheless, Prof. Yves Girault and Dr. Isabelle Brianso stressed explanations on the four specific WP divided into the consortium – WP repartition as follows:Thus, UAB (Spain) agreed to manage and lead WP1 focused on “Geology, Biodiversity and Environment” – UCAM (Morocco) agreed to managed and leaded WP2 focused on “Heritage and Geo-development (Tourism, Social, Territory)” – MNHN (France) WP3 “Higher-Education in Geopark Issues” & WP4 “Dissemination and Management”. However, the consortium stressed on the fact that leadership does not exclude partners of the consortium – all WPs should be done in collaboration with research staff involved into the project.
  • Deliverables: As mentioned in Part B of the scientific project – GEOPARK, deliverables listed in the final version of the project should be fully completed on pain of having to repay the European Commission. Geopark consortium discussed the full list of deliverables listed on Part B – at that stage, first groups were organized to prepare ongoing missions especially for deliverable “Training Session 1” in WP3.

(2) Administrative framework (ECAS platform, mobilities and budget) by Museum national d’Histoire naturelle (MNHN, France)

Prof. Yves Girault and Dr. Isabelle Brianso presented administrative framework of GEOPARK project focusing attention on budget’s partners transfer, mobilities planning & ECAS platform:

  • ECAS platform: As coordinator, MNHN centralises the full information produced during the 48 months of GEOPARK project – Part B of the project has been transferred to a digital platform in order to get in touch with the European Commission regarding Geopark monitoring : WP, deliverables and mobilities. An administrative staff (MNHN) has been recruited to up-to-date administrative data into ECAS platform.
  • Mobilities: RISE call is based on mobility staff – thus, the coordinator detailed administrative framework and procedure regarding nobilities within Geopark project. MNHN stressed on the fact that each partner has a number of mobilities that have to be done during the period of the project in order to complete with tasks & deliverables listed. Moroccan partner (UCAM) asked MNHN to manage its budget and carry out administrative & financial issues. In addition, a mobility planning has been discussed during kick-off meeting – the implementation of such a technical tool faces with difficulties: university calendar of the consortium, reactivity of colleagues involved into the project, etc.
  • Budget transfer: as Geopark coordinator – MNHN (France) proceeded with financial transfer procedures with partners involved into Geopark project. Transfer budget to UAB (Spain) and CERDAN S.L (Spain) faced difficulties, especially administrative papers & financial authorizations. Spanish partners received funds during Spring time (May 2015) – UCAM (Morocco) formally asked MNHN to proceed with the financial & administrative management of Moroccan budget as non-European partner.

(3) Technical discussions on Geopark with all members of the consortium – UAB (Spain), UCAM (Morocco), CERDAN SL (Spain), MNHN (France).

Prof. Ouidad Tebbaa (UCAM), Prof. Said Boujrouf (UCAM), Prof. Bellaoui (UCAM), Prof. JL Brianso-Penalva (UAB), Dr. Gustavo Perez (UAB), Xavier Cuello (CERDAN SL), Ruben Vicente (CERDAN SL), Prof. Yves Girault (MNHN) and Dr. Isabelle Brianso (MNHN).

  • Zat Valley – local authorizations: Moroccan colleagues stressed on the fact that the Zat Valley is a fragile territory with high level of vulnerability (population, economy, pollution, etc.). Thus, Geopark mobilities should be planned in advance and clearly discussed with Moroccan colleagues in order to get local authorizations and not to disturb local living ecosystem.
  • Early stage researchers: mobilities should be done by young researchers such as PhD students in order to strengthen knowledge and scientific cooperation within the framework of Geopark project. Moroccan young researchers (Tourism Department) are specialised in sustainable tourism, mountain heritage and dynamics of local territory – two PhD students (UCAM) are planned to come in Paris (April 2015).
  • Geopark logo: after discussion the consortium fixed the logo of Geopark project as the official identity of the project that should be diffused to all communication supports produced internally and externally.
  • Geopark staff – updates: a final list of staff (researchers, non-experienced researchers, technical staff) has been established taking into account changes to the full consortium in order to update ECAS platform and register all staff members involved into the project.
  • Presentation of teams’ consortium: each partner (UAB, MNHN, UCAM, CERDAN SL) presented its institution, its potential team (registered in Part B) and the WP involvement (scientific aspects) and tasks. Institutions’ coordinators (JL Brianso-Penalva-UAB, Ouidad Tebbaa-UCAM, Ramon Cerdan-CERDAN SL) presented expertise and scientific interests depending on scientific field: geology, tourism, heritage. Partners and staff need to work together in order to know each other and identify specific collaborations to deal with tasks and deliverables.
  • Communication guidelines on Geopark project: a presentation text regarding Geopark project has been submitted to the consortium in order to briefly present the project on MNHN (UMR Patrimoine locaux & gouvernance) – a text presentation & PP presentation with logo. The consortium approved these documents to be diffused on MNHN-UMR website.
  • Dropbox: The consortium discussed about a virtual space of work – indeed, Geopark project is based on a list of activities that have to be shared and discussed within the consortium. Dropbox could be a possible solution to share documents, pictures and all types of materials and information for Geopark community.
  • Accommodation & logistic: consortium members pointed out the fact that accommodation and logistic issues could be discussed and negotiated – indeed, different prices and accommodation facilities should be proposed to staff involved into Geopark project. Paris (MNHN), Barcelona (UAB, CERDAN SL) and Marrakech (UCAM) are three main touristic urban centres but with huge variation of prices regarding accommodation and meals. Different proposals & solutions were discussed such as AirBnB or IRD visiting researchers (France), Villa Universitaria (Barcelona) and flat rent (Marrakech). UCAM staff organised a visit of the Cadi Ayyad erscampus – visiting researchers (accommodation).

Field visit on Zat Valley – Friday 27th of February 2015:

Zat Valley has been identify as the main field of study during the full period of Geopark project (48 months) – indeed, different materials (tasks, deliverables) should be produced based on empirical data. Caddi Ayyad University invited all colleagues to visit the Zat Valley during kick-off meeting in order to introduce the territory from a geographical point of view but also, start discussions on local actors (population) and local heritage (nature, culture).

Below the Zat Valley programme during kick-off meeting :

  • 8h00 : Departure to Zat Valley
  • 8h45-9h45 : Air Ourir visit by Prof. Said Boujrouf & Dr. Wahiba Moubchir
  • 10h-12h45 : Douar of Wayfirt visit and walk on the left side of the Assif-n-Zat up to Centre de l’Arbaa
  • 13h00-14h : Lunch at Centre de l’Arbaa of Tghdouine
  • 14h-15h45 : Zat Valley : presentation by Mr. Ahmed Bellaoui – President of Tighdouine Municipality & President of the Association des Amis du Zat
  • 15h45-18h : Sidi El Ouafi’s thermal springs visit & Douar de Talatast’s local pottery visit
  • 18h00-19h00 : Return to Marrakech
  • 20h00-22h30 : Diner at Diafa Restaurant (Marrakech)

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