The village of Alnif is located in southeastern Morocco at an altitude of 880 meters above sea level in a bare, rocky, red-earthed valley at the foot of the eastern Anti-Atlas mountains.
Durum wheat, dates, almonds, oranges and figs are grown in the oasis, but the most intriguing products from this harsh arid landscape are henna and cumin.
Originally from Asia, the cumin plant from this area is prized for its quality and intense aroma.
It is planted at the end of January and harvested between the end of April and beginning of May before the plant has completely ripened and loses most of its seeds. This is the only way of keeping its bright green color.
The cumin is cut manually with a sickle, made into bunches and hung on a stick to dry in the shade before being beaten to release the seeds.
The seeds are sieved several times, using a container made of woven palm leaves, to remove dust and fine straw. They can keep for up to two years and are stone ground when needed using a traditional mill.
It is usually the women who harvest and process this fundamental ingredient of Moroccan cuisine.
Cumin is used to prepare tajine, couscous and traditional soups. It is also excellent with vegetables and boiled meats. It has various curative properties and is used in traditional medicine to treat coughs, colds, sinusitis and colic.
Long-term goals are to improve the management of water and reduce water waste, and continue to promote the cumin. This will be done through producer training, technical assistance from agronomists, communication initiatives and promotion of the product locally and internationally. Producers are also involved in the Ten Thousand Gardens in Africa project, helping to make a positive change, particularly in schools in Alnif.
Alnif, eastern Anti-Atlas, southeastern Morocco