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.
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?
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President of the High Atlas Foundation
NYC, NY (US) and Marrakech, Al Haouz (Maroc),