The Akraich community nursery—consisting of trees planted on Jewish land that will later be distributed to impoverished rural communities—simultaneously helps to undermine subsistence farming while building interfaith relationships. These exchanges are vital to the health of a community as they both promote trust between the Moroccan Jews and Muslim, as well as encourage environmental stewardship. Connected to the Akraich project, HAF recently brought clean water to the nursery’s neighboring elementary School. While HAF supplied the 8000m of piping needed to connect the school to the nearest clean water source, the actual labor to install these materials was provided by the Akraich community. The community nursery as well as this water sanitation project each capture the collaborative and generous spirit of the Moroccan people.
As the two year mark of the Akraich community nursery approaches the next stage, targeted for January 2015, involves transplanting these saplings to private orchards. Accompanying this transfer, local farmers will continue to be trained in the technical skills needed to care for the trees. Through educating farmers and raising awareness regarding the importance of environmental preservation, the project forges a pathway for sustainable development.
Thanks to your continued support, HAF has been able to increase the scale of this project and reach a wider population, as well as unite diverse communities via their common interest of building a stronger Morocco.
On January 16, 2014 the High Atlas Foundation celebrated the planting of one million trees by planting on 43 sites all over Morocco. The tree nursery in Akraich was a special site where Muslim and Jewish communities came together to break ground and cultivate trees in the spirit of openness that has characterized Morocco’s unique history of multicultural cohabitation. The Akraich nursery is build on land owned by Marrakech’s Jewish community and is an important pilgrimage site where the Jewish saint Raphael HaCohen is buried.
Marrakech’s Jewish community leaders came together with the Muslim villagers of Akraich to share lunch and discuss the importance of the tree planting thorughout Morocco, and the interfaith partnerships that support this goal. The Akraich partnership, initiated by HAF and made possible by your support of the project, gives rural community members access to agricultural training and increased income through the planting of fruit and nut trees.
Your generous contributions to HAF and the communities of rural Morocco further the goal of sustainability, which can only be achieved through widespread collaboration and engagement of various partners that allow integration of support networks. HAF spreads it roots wide and sows them deep. 1,000,000 trees are accompanied by many long, deep roots, which support each other and converge for mutual development.
Thanks to continued support from you and our local partners, HAF recently signed four new agreements with the Moroccan Jewish Community of Marrakech to build tree nurseries on land adjacent to Jewish cultural sites. These nurseries will be for the benefit of the local communities and this agricultural initiative will be incorporated into a federation of cooperatives that promote organic, fair trade agricultural and artisanal products from Morocco.
Last planting season, HAF implemented this multicultural agriculture project on land near the Akraich village (Al Haouz province), adjacent to the sacred site of the Jewish “saint” Rabbi Raphael Ha Cohen. With the generous support of the Lodestar Foundation and wife and husband Wahiba Estergard and Michael Gilliland, HAF and local partners planted 50,000 fruit seeds for the benefit of approximately 8,000 people. In the second year of this five year project, trees from the community-managed nursery will be distributed to each household (starting with single mothers) in the local Muslim community. The trees will be planted and maintained by each farming family, in their own orchards, for their sole benefit. Trees are also distributed in-kind to primary schools in the municipality, as a part of Sami’s Project.
This project, in addition to increasing household incomes, has created on a local and national level a symbol for Moroccan collaborating among Muslim and Jewish groups to advance sustainable human development. This collaboration is mirrored in our cultural projects, which promote multicultural history in Essaouira.
On January 16th, (which falls on the Jewish holiday Tu B'ishvat), the High Atlas Foundation will plant its 1 millionth tree in the 8 provinces where we currently have agricultural projects, simultaneously at noon. In Akraich, we will plant and distribute trees on that day.
Thanks to your generous support, HAF and local partners are able to expand the scope of this agirculture initiative, providing sustainable solutions to rural poverty. HAF and community members are so thankful for your donation, which has provided trees to be planted in the spirit of interfaith cooperation.
At HAF we have had a very busy and successful few months. We are currently developing new projects and applying for funding to continue our work on sustainable community development in Morocco. However, it is useful to reflect on our achievements when considering the way forward…
HAF has had diverse and sustainable achievements since it began operations in Morocco in 2003. Since then, we have planted nearly 700,000 planted (about 18 times the number of trees in New York City’s Central Park), impacting about 5,000 marginalized rural families. These projects not only tell the story of how Morocco can most cost effectively produce the billions of trees and plants it needs (according to its own projection, to break subsistence agriculture), but indeed overcome the existential challenges that also other nations of the region and world face – pervasive rural poverty, gender and youth marginalization, and land degradation.
Other HAF projects include: building 15 clean drinking water systems in villages that are among the most remote (halving infant mortality in a population of 4,000 people); establishing five women’s and girl’s cooperatives, including agricultural terraces and the installation of pressure-drip irrigation systems (providing 180 families social service and employment opportunities); building 3 schools and teachers’ housing and school bathrooms; and training in facilitating participatory planning about 250 people--university students, civil society members, and communal council members, and 1,400 agriculturalists in arboriculture and organic farming.
Specifically in the past six months, we planted 235,000 fruit trees with Moroccan communities, a record for the High Atlas Foundation in one planting season. This has very significant economic and environmental impacts for the communities in which we’ve planted. 100,000 walnut seeds and 15,000 almonds were planted in a community nursery in the rural commune of Toubkal in Taroudant Province in the High Atlas Mountains, where HAF works with local farmers to certify organic their products and connect them with purchasers. HAF and communities also planted 50,000 fruit saplings in a nursery at the historic cultural site of Akraich in Al Haouz Province, on land lent by the Moroccan Jewish Community of Marrakech, to benefit twelve neighboring villages in the region where HAF is also implementing the organic certification and commercialization initiative.
In the arid Rhamna province, 12,000 olive trees irrigated with pressure-drip systems and 70,000 cactus were planted. We are working with a women’s association to establish a cactus oil factory – also planned to be organic certified. We’ve planted and distributed an additional 4,000 trees with rural children at 25 primary schools, with some to take home and plant in their family orchards, incorporating also environmental lessons to build their role as stewards of the earth.
With regards to organic certification, HAF has interviewed and worked with 820 family farmers to inspect their land, teaching organic farming techniques and business planning with these stakeholders, in order to secure certification of their walnut and almond product.
We trained 133 people this year in facilitating participatory development, including university students, women elected to local municipal councils and civil society members. (Tens of thousands of facilitators are needed in Morocco for transformative social change, and training by way of learning-by-doing can lead to community projects and the federation of civil associations to achieve broader goals.) HAF also formalized the creation of two federations of civil associations in Mohammedia Province, in order for them to advocate and achieve larger-scale projects including municipal community centers. These are among the first such federations in this area, and serve as a model for democratic community development.
HAF conducted the preservation, cleaning, and planting inside the cemeteries of the 3 faiths in the coastal city of Essaouira (through community activities and the hiring of experts and some manual support), and engaged more than 400 local youth in workshops, lessons and visits around Morocco’s historical intercultural cohabitation which epitomizes the natural integration of unity and diversity.
In the southern province of Boujdour, HAF created a local association and completed a participatory training and assessment. We are currently completing project proposals on clean drinking water and education, and assessing the viability of the “miracle” Moringa tree in the region.
All of these accomplishments are integrated and codependent for development. For example, a fruit tree’s yield cannot be certified organic without building local capacities through training; sustainable community projects cannot be identified and developed without the assistance of capable participatory facilitators of community dialogue; and individuals and small associations can’t impact the market without federating to increase purchasing power.
None of this would be possible without your support, and we hope that in reading this message you are further encouraged to remain a partner to help sustain this growth, and the impact it has on hundreds and thousands of lives.
HAF had one of its best planting seasons this year, and that is so much thanks to you. HAF continues to partner with the Jewish Community of Marrakech to care for the nurseries planted in Akraich, Morocco, on the land surrounding the grave of a Jewish saint. When these plants reach maturity, they will be distributed to local community members who can profit from their fruit by selling at market.
In the meantime, HAF's local field manager, Abderrahim, is busy caring for these trees in very hot weather, with minimal water resources. How do we do it? With drip irrigation, of course.
Drip irrigation is a system of irrigation that has revolutionized agriculture. It requires less water than traditional irrigation and can be controlled digitally. HAF is still using manual control, but nonetheless, it allows Abderrahim to conserve the precious water resources while caring for the plants in what is currently 105 Degree weather!
HAF hopes to continue to plant on this land in the coming year, but we will have to invest in further irrigation systems. We hope to have these in place before the planting season begins again this winter, so we can assure that the trees you help to plant grow to maturity.
We will keep you updated as we make it throught the heat, but rest assured the trees are healthy and growing.
Thanks for your support.
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President of the High Atlas Foundation
New York City and Marrakech,