On February 12-13, HAF Director of Development, Aicha Galef, represented HAF at Agora MedSpring brokerage event in Cairo, Egypt. There she presented HAF’s innovate social enterprise, High Atlas Agriculture and Artisanal (HA3). HA3 was chosen as one of 15 idea carriers from throughout the Mediterranean region and was given the opportunity to pitch its sustainable and eco-friendly business model to a group of researchers, experts, and investors, resulting in the creation of new partnerships for the success of this agribusiness startup. With a strong focus on food, water, and energy, this event celebrated creative solutions to the challenges that face Mediterranean nations including environmental protection, food security, and water conservation.
HA3 received great feedback for its social enterprise structure based on securing organic certification to increase farmer incomes and to create revenue for community development projects. The brokerage event sought to provide a venue for civil society members, government representatives, and research institutions to connect and increase collaboration. Aicha had the opportunity to speak with young entrepreneurs and innovative thinkers from throughout the Mediterranean region.
HA3 is expected to benefit greatly from new partnerships formed at the Agora MedSpring event. Dynamic partnerships and inter-sectoral cooperation will help overcome some of the most challenging obstacles to environmental conservation and food security. The HA3 social enterprise will confront these challenges throughout rural Morocco by reinvesting profits from the sale of organic walnuts and almonds into human development projects that benefit the community, such as in education, health, and women and youth empowerment.
On 16th January 2014 a milestone event in the calendar of the High Atlas Foundation is scheduled to take place in various locations throughout Morocco, with the celebration of its successfully completed 'One Million Tree Campaign'. Over ten years, we estimate to have helped 50,000 people make the step out of poverty. The project is poised to continue indefinitely, at an accelerated pace, with 500,000 young trees expected to be planted in 2014 alone.
The planting of HAF's One Millionth Fruit Tree will occur at noon on 16th January 2014 in eight provinces simultaneously where HAF currently has projects: Al Haouz, Azilal, Boujdour, Essaouira, Ifrane, Rhamna, Taroudant, and Taza.
HAF encourages communities and associations to make their own tree planting events on this momentous occasion. Contact us about creating an event in your area and we will do our best to send organic trees conducive to your region.
As a part of Sami’s project, this event will be celebrated with schoolchildren, and the millionth tree will be planted in school yards as symbol of commitment for this generation and the next to take care of our earth and find sustainable methods for our lives. We do this in memory of Sami El Kouhen who passed away from cancer at three years old.
As we approach this historic occasion, we are reminded of how far we’ve come since the inception of the HAF agriculture project in 2003. Each year this project has accelerated rapidly towards the One Million Tree goal, with 235,000 trees planted in 2013, capping four consecutive record-breaking years.
Land is made available by a variety of interested parties including the Moroccan High Commission for Water, Forests and Desertification Control, cooperatives, municipalities, women’s associations and the Jewish community of Marrakesh. We plant recognizing the High Atlas Foundation’s Peace Corps roots, with the Ouaouizerth of Azilal community where the late Ambassador Christopher Stevens served as a Volunteer, in southern Morocco remembering former Volunteer Kate Jeans-Gail and her mother Victoria, and in the north inspired by former Volunteer Tom Tolen – allah yarHamu, God rest their souls. We plant, with faith in the Moroccan people and in humanities future, and we will not stop.
Fruit seeds and saplings including carob, olive, pomegranate, almond and walnut are planted in nurseries managed entirely on organic lines. At the end of each project mature trees are distributed at the symbolic cost of 1 Moroccan Dirham (a fraction of their true market value) to the surrounding population, starting with the most marginalised. In this way the local and national economy is being developed through a variety of business initiatives, overseen initially by HAF. Crucially, the land management strategies put into place prevent erosion and desertification.
Ten years ago, we could only dream that the Campaign would blossom into a powerful tool for breaking the cycle of poverty, strengthening the communities’ connection to local environmentalism to achieve socio-economic empowerment. Through HAF’s participatory approach, tree nurseries have lead to other human development projects: fruit tree plantations, women’s coops, local irrigation projects, youth empowerment and educational projects and much more. Each project improves confidence, income and socio-economic development in rural and often marginalized communities.
Initiatives inspired from the 1 Million Tree Campaign
Organic Certification: The HAF-initiated organic agriculture project spans the entire development process – from nurseries to market. HAF trains rural famers in organic agriculture techniques and empowers them with the skills to expand these projects. By securing organic certification, farmers are able to generate higher revenue for their produce.
High Atlas Agriculture and Artisanal (HA3): The HAF is in process of establishing an enterprise to manage the agriculture initiative. With 1 million trees planted, and millions more to come, this enterprise will unite rural farmers, allowing them to market their produce in the domestic and international market. HAF was recognized as 2013 SEED Award winners for this achievement in innovation, entrepreneurship and promising efforts to promote economic growth, social development and environmental protection in Morocco.
HA3 will distribute a portion of the net profit generated to family farmers for additional income. The remaining income will be directly reinvested in the community, by funding new human developed projects in education, health, and women’s and youth empowerment, initiatives identified and implemented by community members.
Zero Waste Commitment: The HAF has made a Zero Waste Commitment to account for the waste produced by these 1 million trees. Fruit trees produce agricultural waste, be it nut shells and hulls, or fallen leaves, the HAF has a plan to repurpose this waste.
In order to break subsistence agriculture, Morocco needs to plant billions of trees and plants (according to its own projections). HAF is proud to have contributed 1 million trees to this cause, and will continue to expand our agriculture project until we reach that next million. As profits from the sale of organic produce are reinvested in human development projects, HAF is confident that this project will continue to accelerate each year. It took us 10 years to plant our first million trees, help us plant the next million in 2 years! Community partners are ready, are you?
As we see the fruits of this year’s harvest coming off the trees (as we write), it is a great time to reflect on the progress the HAF tree-planting project has made over the past decade. Since 2003, we have planted nearly 700,000 trees (about 18 times the number of trees in New York City’s Central Park), impacting about 5,000 marginalized rural families. This year we have made great strides in both our tree planting initiative and the crucial effort to get land organic certification.
What you’ve helped us accomplish so far this year:
We surpassed our previous record, planting over 235,000 fruit tress with Moroccan communities in one planting season. 100,000 walnut seeds and 15,000 almonds were planted in a community nursery in the rural commune of Toubkal in Taroudant Province. 50,000 fruit saplings were planted in a nursery at the historic cultural site of Akraich in Al Haouz Province, and in the arid Rhamna province, 12,000 olive trees irrigated with pressure-drip systems and 70,000 cactus were planted. HAF planted and distributed an additional 4,000 trees with rural children at 25 primary schools, introducing the next generation to lessons in environmental conservation.
HAF interviewed and worked with 820 family farmers to inspect their land, teaching organic farming techniques and business planning with these stakeholders. Next week, organic certifiers will come to inspect the land; once the certification is finalized, HAF will connect the farmers directly to the Vinternational market, where organic nuts have double the economic value.
With the help of new partnerships and your support, we are settling ourselves up for an even bigger harvest, with more certified organic product in the coming years. With OES (Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental Scientific Affairs) partnership, we hope to plant 250,000 almond and walnut seeds and 70,000 medicinal plants in 4 nurseries this year, all on organic certified land. Your support is CRUCIAL to enable these goals.
Please continue to support our Organic Fruit Agriculture project and help us achieve our 1 Million Tree goal! This is our year.
The planting season is in the winter in the High Atlas Mountains. But don't let this make you believe that we aren't as busy in the off season as we are in the planting season. In fact, we might be even busier. This is because we are turning the trees planted into a great source of income for farmers who have been unable to compete with international market prices, leaving them in poverty.
Ironically, due to the local stakeholder’s inability to invest in pesticides, 70% of the land surveyed for this project is uncontaminated and ready for organic production. HAF and its partners have planted nearly 200,000 walnut and almond trees in the region. HAF has developed a model to support over 3,500 households in the Tadmamt and Al Haouz Provinces in the High Atlas Mountains to harvest, produce, and sell organic walnut and almonds for organic export. Here is how it works: HAF assists rural communities through the entire agricultural development cycle – from tree nurseries, irrigation, training, organic certification, and marketing – combining to increase household incomes on average of 400%, with resounding local and national development impact both economically and in terms of infrastructure, as entrepreneurship and value-add production capacity grows as the project comes to scale.
HAF is working with a team of agricultural experts that are going household to household in the rural mountains of the Northern Atlas to assess the trees and soil of each family. After the assessment and an audit, crops will be certified for organic sales in the US and Europe. Only then does the realy work begin, with collection, quality control, transport, packaging, and sales to international buyers.
This project has enormous implications for economic and community improvement, as farmers will work together in federation to gain access to greater market prices.
Initial investment costs are high, but the return is so big, that we at HAF ask our partners to support in any way that they can to make the first harvest (which starts in September) profitable and sustainable.
Thank you so much for helping us get this far. HAF is committed to the full project-cycle, and we hope you are too.
Thanks to you, as well as generous funding from the Alliance for Global Giving, we were able to surpass our goal of 50,000 trees by planting 100,000 walnut trees and 14,000 almond trees. The caviat -- we must certify these trees to be organic, so that their produce can be sold at high profit for export.
We have begun this process by sending a team of two agricultural experts and a participatory trainer to the Tifnoute to map the land on which the trees are being planted and ensure that they are viable for organic certification. This is a long and meticulous process that will take about six months, especially since we are covering over 50 acres of mountainous land! We are so pleased to share this development, and to let you know that your support is going to something bigger than just planting trees - it is going to ensure sustainable incomes for years to come in the Tifnoute, which will be a model for other planting projects throughout Morocco.
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New York City and Marrakech,
NY (US) & AlHaouz (Maroc)