HAF does not simply go into a community and plant trees. We only plant trees if a community’s members have decided through their participatory planning process that transitioning from subsistence farming to raising fruit and nut trees would improve their lives... and then, they choose the kind of trees and they build the tree nursery. They send representatives of each village to learn how to raise trees while helping run the nursery, and they pass along their learning to fellow villagers. After 2 years, the young fruit trees are distributed to households for their orchards. By 6 years later we generally see families’ incomes double, and for many families the increase is multiple-fold.
For a village to decide to transition after generations of subsistence farming (barley and corn) to raising fruit trees, requires a treendous amount of courage.
This year, the High Commission of Waters and Forests and its Marrakech regional department supplied the encouragement. By lending arable land on which to grow the nurseries, they have helped reduce the risk and eliminate the cost of the trees for the farmers.
The High Atlas Foundation facilitates community dialogue regarding projects and works together to raise financial support for material and training costs, and the benefitting communities contribute their labor in-kind.
3 new tree projects launched in 2012:
Planted with school children:“Sami’s Project: Trees for Kids” planted 650 trees with the students, staff and parents’ associations of 5 schools in the Al Haouz Province in its successful inaugural year, while another 142 trees were planted with schools in the Ben Guerir Province.
Trees distributed from nurseries:In February, 22,000 walnut and cherry tree saplings were distributed to families in 43 villages in the Taroudant Province - from 2 nurseries established by HAF in 2010 in memory of Kate Jeans-Gail Memorial, a former Peace Corps Volunteer who served in and loved Morocco.
While we all know the environmental benefits from trees, that’s not the only reason for this campaign. Trees are also good for Morocco as a means to fight desertification and erosion and also to lift entire rural communities out of poverty. (Trees alone of course cannot end poverty: Nurseries combined with irrigation projects (integrating clean drinking water whenever possible), value added and other initiatives that add economic diversity, and skills-building education are the most common priorities expressed by approximately 120 rural villages in 6 provinces with whom HAF currently partners. HAF is also dedicated to these community projects.
Rural Moroccans make up approximately 45% of the country’s population of 32 million, and the World Bank estimates that 85% of their households earn less than the national average. As a corollary, 19% of the Moroccan population live beneath the national poverty line, with 70% of that 19% living in rural areas.
The combination of population growth and the low market-value of traditional staple crops (corn and barley), from which most rural households derive their income, have made subsistence agriculture unsustainable. According to Morocco’s Ministry of Agriculture, these staples are planted on more than 70% of agricultural land, yet account for only 10-15% of agricultural revenue.
Achieving 1 Million Trees in 2013:In 2013, HAF together with community and government partners are mobilizing to plant 11 fruit tree nurseries in seven provinces (Al Haouz, Azrou, Errachidia, Khenifra, Rhamna, Taza, and Taroudant) - to greatly benefit 50,000 people. The 550,000 trees will make it possible to not only achieve but perhaps even to surpass the 1 Million Tree goal.
The High Commission of Waters and Forests’ lending the use of arable land to benefit the rural villages near national parks is extremely helpful and wonderful,and this year the first such nursery was implemented at Toubkal National Park in Tadmamt, Al Haouz province. The Jewish Community of Marrakech is also lending the use of arable land for community nurseries near some of their culturally historic rural sites to benefit rural families also in Al Haouz. The Lodestar Foundation was the financial catalyst to enable planting in 2013 the first nursery in this new partnership in the region of Akraïch. The OCP Foundation and the Ministry of Agriculture are supporting the olive tree planting in the Rhamna province. G4S North and West Africa, the Penney Foundation, and the Jeans-Gail family funded the nurseries in the Taroudant province. Newlyweds Wahiba Benloughmari and Michael Gilliland are enabling the Taza nursery to begin. Former Peace Corps Volunteers are remembering their late and dear colleagueTom Tolen, by seeking to benefit communities also near Taza where he served.
The High Atlas Foundation seeks, builds, and salutes partnerships to achieve sustainable development.
Please contact Ouafa Elbargui for more information:firstname.lastname@example.org; tel. +212 (0) 677 65 53 16.
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President of the High Atlas Foundation
New York City and Marrakech,
NY (US) & AlHaouz (Maroc)