On behalf of the High Atlas Foundation, Ramadan Kareem!
Currently, the High Atlas Foundation is obtaining organic certification for Moroccan agricultural products. Agricultural products marketed through a new social enterprise, High Atlas Agricutlure and Artisanal (HA3), will generate increased income for marginalized populations in Morocco and create a multiplied return. These organic, fair-trade, environmentally sustainable, and socially responsible products will empower rural Moroccans while simultaneously improving their standard of living through reinvestment.
Olive trees are integral to Morocco’s environment, agriculture, and culture. One cannot imagine Moroccan cuisine without olives and olive oil! In addition, olive trees are integral to the HA3 process, as organic certification of olives greatly improves their market value, increasing the income of farmers in Morocco. One of the concerns voiced to HAF over the years is how to break the cycle of subsistence agriculture. Here at HAF, we believe that by obtaining organic certification, income generated will be increased, and this added revenue can be reinvested in other initiatives, such as increased access to clean drinking water and education, acting as a vehicle for local empowerment.
Women’s empowerment, a crucial point of HAF’s participatory development model, is especially impacted in this project. The semi-arid commune of Ait Wafqa, near Tafraoute in southern Morocco, is made up of eighty-percent women. While the men leave for work in urban areas, women manage the family farms, which are impacted by land degradation and poverty. This project will plant and irrigate olive tres, combatting desertification, poverty, and improving the education and empowerment of its local citizens.
Meetings, mostly informational, have already taken place with community members and women. For irrigation, a geomembrane basin, which is one-third of the cost of a concrete basin, collects rainwater and creates enough pressure without requiring energy, has been constructed. Trainings and participatory workshops are planned, and olive tree cuttings have been identified. This project is on its way, and with continued support we can help improve the economic and environmental situation of these Moroccans.
To hear more about organic certification through HA3 and this new exciting chapter in HAF, view a message from HAF’s president, Yossef Ben-Meir here. Organic certification benefits not only the local communities, but reinvests in Morocco’s agriculture, environment, and education.
It’s olive planting season in Morocco! Olives are a part of HAF’s innovative business model to sustainably address socioeconomic challenges with organic agricultural development. Organic certification of produce increases market value, which doubles household incomes thus ending the cycle of poverty. HAF has trained 820 farmers in organic farming techniques and is now marketing this produce internationally to generate added income, which will be reinvested into additional community-identified projects. This model provides a sustainable source of funding to implement projects identified in each community’s Communal Development Plan (which Moroccan law mandates that each commune create), including in resource management, health, education, and women’s and youth empowerment.
HAF’s social enterprise, called High Atlas Agricultural and Artisanal (HA3), has created an agricultural development process that is comprehensive, sustainable, and transferrable. It will generate income and is based on the expressed needs of the local population to increase their livelihoods. A percentage of the sale of agricultural organic raw and value-added products will bring transformative development to rural areas. Certification of organic fruit and nuts significantly increases the value for family farmers. HAF’s social enterprise will connect these products with global purchasers. HAF’s training programs experientially teach agricultural technical techniques, natural resource management, professional skills for marketplace success, and participatory planning and management. Skills gained from these trainings advance the identification and implementation of projects. This approach combines technologic and business knowhow with optimal farming strategies to vastly improve livelihoods of rural families through sales of organic fruits and nuts, and in the future other products, while creating a revenue stream to enable HAF to reinvest in new agricultural and human development projects (such as in education and health). A percentage of the new revenue generated will return to HAF for the implementation of other community project priorities.
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?
Charlotte Burrows, ambassador for Global Giving UK, spent some time with HAF last week to see firsthand the huge impact of your generous donations. She visited several project sites, including a few villages in the Rahmna Province where HAF has planted and irrigated over 12,000 olive trees, thanks to your support and other partners.
Charlotte spoke with the beneficiaries of the olive tree planting and irrigating project and took away a very profound message from one of the community leaders: everything is possible.
She writes about this field visit on her blog: “One olive tree nursery I saw had been planted on the slope of a steep, rocky hill. It was a site I would never have thought feasible for planting and irrigation, and when I congratulated the community leader on this, he grinned back at me saying, ‘everything is possible’. As HAF hopes to expand its reach into every one of Morocco’s 48 provinces, this is surely a motto that guides them, too.”
We are so grateful for the support of our individual Global Giving partners, and to Global Giving UK for enabling us the chance to meet Charlotte and share the projects firsthand with her.
Your contributions not only provide rural farmers with a new and sustainable source of income, they get us one step closer to our goal of planting 1 Million Trees! We invite you to continue to partner with us, and we hope one day to see you too in the field.
The planting season is now over for another year and it’s time to reflect on our achievements.
During the 2013 season, HAF and partners planted in total 234,000 fruit seeds and saplings (including also walnut and cactus) – the most HAF and its partners ever planted in one year. This brings the total amount planted since 2003 to 692,500 trees.
From the 16 February to 23 April 2013, HAF, along with primary school directors, teachers, and students, organized planting events that integrated children and their families. Fruit trees were planted, including walnut, lemon, olive, almond, and pomegranate – all of which grow endemically in Morocco.
Together, the students and staff school dug holes in their school plots and planted the trees, and HAF team members presented information about caring for trees. The students prepared thoughtful theatrical scenes about environmental degradation caused by human misuse. Some of the trees were planted in community gardens, while the majority of trees (varieties that local families identified) were given to the schoolchildren to plant in their family farms.
HAF has a campaign to plant 1 million trees and our goal is in sight! HAF is so grateful to its Global Giving supporters for helping us get this far. Friends, it’s time to break that 1 million tree mark!
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