Urban Acequia

Tétouan, Morocco

A visit to an urban farm network just above the Oued Martil that flows through Tétouan showed there is still a functioning Acequia right in town! A system of ditches directs runoff through fields, but since the water comes out if the city it is not the cleanest. The farmers use the ditch water to grow fodder for the livestock..mostly alfalfa….and !! Livestock there is. We met chickens, sheep, goats and COWS. There was a small dairy tucked in the bushes in a rambling structure of corregated iron with Victorian cast iron details in the window. Other than the alfalfa, the animals ate a lot of dried bread. This re-cycling of what would otherwise be food waste was significant. Over tea one afternoon, our Moroccan companions were shocked to hear how westerners throw out 40% of our food. Such extravagance and waste! Certainly a foreign perspective for a community that produces what it consumes and directs any leftovers to other species to enjoy. Wafa laughed and said, ‘When we find a corner of bread on the corner, we will even lift up the crumbs to a ledge so that the birds may enjoy it!’

We were taken to this urban farm network by Anass the beekeeper. We crouched through a tunnel in the huge grasses that run rampant when unchecked to follow the ditch. The water ran across the top of a field stacked with veg, but the farmer opted to pipe in clean springwater to grow plants consumed by people. Herbs and medicines grew amidst vegetable plots, which skipped around to grow haphazardly in other places. A bit wild… integrating volunteers and native plants that were allowed to grow where they chose. Fruit trees dotted the plot, with figs fruiting at the time. Lettuce and parsley were going to seed with seeds being saved in a tarp strung up in the tree. A recently harvested field was just planted with young corn and being prepped for a new sowing of seed in the shoulder season. Purselane thrives as a nutrient dense groundcover that tamps out weeds. The glowing purple flowers of artichokes are foraged by the black and yellow African honeybee, and grow with a huge sage bush. As we left, the farmer started harvesting coriander, bunching them up as he readied them to go to market.

Urban farmer harvesting corriander
Coriander being readied for market.
Urban corn field
In the shoulder season, crops are harvested and a fall crop is sown.
Cow hold
Pieced together with corrugated iron and Victorian iron windows, this structure provides shade for the milk cows in the local dairy
Cows in the Dairy
Urban Dairy
Acequia fed field
Thatcher Gray walks through the Acequia fed fodder fields crow below the stacked vegetable fields along the Martil River. A variety of alfalfa, clover and other herbs supplement the stale bread that is fed to the cows, chickens and goats that are raised as part of the urban farm network.