Jun 28, 2021

Updates on the Tadmamt and Akrich Fruit Tree Nurseries

HAF Project Manager Said, Driver Abdelghani, and volunteer Youssef, all visited the Tadmamt and Akrich nurseries on June 3, 2021, to start off an insightful visit and viewing of the communities. The first stop was in Tadmamt, where they met assistant nursery caretaker Abdeltif, who walked them around the nursery and checked on the saplings and the seeds. They observed that since the last visit to the nursery, progress has been made, but there is still more to be done in choosing the best seeds and installing the irrigation system.

The challenge they examined at the nursery then is that the weeds grow very quickly since the saplings are frequently watered. The caretaking team, including nursery caretaker Si Omar, increased their work time in order to keep up with weeding while simultaneously preparing the almond and cherry saplings for grafting. In utilizing a teamwork approach, weeding should only take one week of dedicated work. Another two or more days are needed to prepare the grafting of the almond and cherry saplings. Hopefully, if the almond saplings grow efficiently enough, they will only take four weeks, and the cherry only two.

Additionally, the water storage system was full. Alhamdulillah, this year there is enough water for the nursery. Two more people will be hired to remove the dirt and plants that grow in the storage container so that the irrigation system will be filled with clean water and its space for water storage optimized. For the irrigation, more valves must be added at the main pipelines to control and distribute the pressure for each part of the nursery equally since work is being done on the terraces.

That same afternoon, the team also met with Akrich nursery caretaker Abderrahim to monitor the nursery together. Abderrahim is giving great attention to the carob saplings every day, and next year, 30,000 carob saplings may be distributed from this nursery. Abderrahim is very happy with the solar water pumping system at the nursery that was donated by FENELEC, and he informed us that the local communities of and around Akrich are learning the importance and the advantages of the solar system when they visit the Akrich nursery. Abderrahim enjoys explaining its function at the nursery. What is encouraging is that the local people are eager to learn more about how solar energy can help to pump their drinking water.

The Akrich nursery was the first of HAF’s “House of Life” interfaith nurseries, beginning as a pilot project in 2012 and built adjacent to the seven-hundred-year-old tomb of Rabbi Raphael Hacohen. Its success influenced the establishment of a second such nursery in Imerdal, near Ouarzazate, which overlooks the 1,000-year-old burial place of the Moroccan Jewish saint Rabbi David and was built at the direction of His Majesty King Mohammed VI of Morocco with funding from the National Initiative for Human Development (INDH).

Jun 28, 2021

Progress at the Imegdale Nursery

On June 4, 2021, Project Manager Said and a group of volunteers visited the Imegdal and Tassa Ouirgane nurseries.

The first stop was the Imegdal nursery, where they met nursery caretaker Hassan on the new nursery land. To date, five terraces have been built on the new land. Three greenhouses have been installed, and a water storage system has also been built. The greenhouses will have the capacity to plant almost 60,000 carob seeds.

The planting and the irrigation system installation should be completed in a two-week time frame. After that, Hassan will plant 20,000 argan seeds. The old nursery also has 50,000 argan seeds and 60,000 carob. The carob and the argan seeds are growing very well but more slowly on the sides that face a lot of wind.

By the end of this year, after transplanting all the saplings grown at the old nursery, Said and the volunteers will move all the materials, greenhouses, and irrigation system to the new land. Hassan was asked to plant as many trees as possible on the old land for when they return it to the local cooperative.

Said and his group hope to visit the nursery often to make sure everything is installed and working well on the new nursery land and to monitor Hassan’s progress. There are now four employees working at the nursery in addition to Hassan, and the plan is to add two more workers to complete the planting process swiftly.

Jun 28, 2021

Crop Preservation Methods in Morocco

Farmers employ a variety of post-harvest crop storage to protect crops from post-harvest damage. Many of the methods employed in developing countries and on small-scale farms are traditional methods that use local resources. Modern storage methods use modern technology to protect crops. Post-harvest storage of horticulture crops is an important practice for small scale farmers to protect their crops. Traditional storage methods present an effective alternative to costly modern methods of storage in mitigating the effects of post-harvest crop damage.

Post-harvest crop damage is anything that damages the crop and keeps it from human consumption. It can be caused by insects, pests, microbes, and storage at improper humidity and temperature. Additionally, humans can cause post-harvest damage by mishandling the crops. Proper storage of crops post-harvest can decrease the threat of damage by isolating the crops from pests and microbes, as well as keeping crops temperature and humidity controlled to slow natural ripening processes.

Post crop harvest damage presents a large threat to agricultural profits. Post-harvest damage causes 50 percent of horticultural products to be lost. Annual crop losses in Sub-Saharan Africa are equivalent to the loss of 4 billion USD. Fourteen percent of the Moroccan GDP is from agriculture, and horticultural crops comprise 85-90 percent of Moroccan market products. Therefore, proper storage practices are crucial to increasing the profitability of Moroccan farms. Farmers in one-fourth of developing countries use community level crop storage. If the storage at this level is not carried out effectively, small scale farmers could lose entire crops and their sources of income.

Traditional methods of horticultural crop storage employed on small scale farms are pits, clamps, cellars, zero energy chambers, and natural ventilation structures. These structures are generally used by small scale farmers because they employ local materials and store smaller quantities of food at a time. They are also cost effective alternatives to large, refrigerated warehouses. Pits are holes that are lined with straw or sand and use the natural coolness of the ground to keep the crops refrigerated. They are typically placed in areas of high elevation to avoid flooding due to rainfall. Clamps use straw and soil to insulate the crops. The horticultural crops are piled in a field and then covered with straw, followed by a layer of soil. Cellars are cool, dark, damp rooms that have enough ventilation to keep the humidity at the proper level. Cellars can be constructed as basements below existing buildings, built into the side of a hill for maximum drainage, or built as an aboveground structure covered by rocks and sod.

Zero energy chambers employ evaporative cooling to keep crops cool. When water evaporates, it cools the surface with which it was in contact. These structures use double brick walls, soaking the inner brick with water to keep crops cool. These can reduce the temperature by 10-15 degrees Celsius and keep humidity levels at 90 percent Finally, natural ventilation structures are constructed to maximize airflow to ensure the heat and humidity generated by the crops is removed. These structures are not well equipped to keep out pests, however spraying the crops can mitigate pest damage.

Modern storage structures employ the use of technology to control the temperature and humidity of crops. These methods are higher cost and less environmentally friendly. Cold storage is the process by which the temperature of an area is cooled to slow the cellular respiration of the crop. The lowered temperature is accomplished using refrigerants and well insulated buildings. A cold storage unit can cost as much as 170 USD per square foot. A Dutch study found that Morocco has great potential for cold storage development, as much as 1,700,000 m3. Additionally, hypobaric storage can be employed to reduce respiration of crops by keeping the atmospheric pressure low and decreasing the amount of oxygen in the environment.

Traditional methods of crop storage are effective for the short term storage of crops in high temperature arid regions like Morocco. These methods utilize low cost materials that can be found on many farms, often repurposing materials that would otherwise go to waste. They are cost-effective methods of preservation that require little input and enable the majority of the profit from the sale of horticultural products to be retained by the farmer. Many Moroccan farmers operate on fewer than five hectares of land and are economically vulnerable. These traditional methods of storage present crop protection options that don’t require major up front investment. More technological methods, like refrigerated warehouses, are better for long term storage. These methods have greater control over the storage environment and increase the adaptability of the preservation of horticultural products. However, these methods are more costly as they require materials that are not local and require the input of energy.

Post harvest crop storage is key to maintaining the profitability of agriculture. Farmers can employ many methods to keep their crops safe. Traditional methods are less costly, but do present greater risk of crop loss. Modern methods of storage are more costly, but enable more control over the conditions in which the crops are kept.

The United States Agency for International Development’s Farmer-to-Farmer Program that is implemented by the High Atlas Foundation in Morocco is in a position to assist agricultural cooperatives and education centers in evaluating effective approaches to storing yields. It is a volunteer initiative that currently connects local and American experts as they share techniques that are then transferred to Moroccan agriculturalists. They are also committed to empowerment and follow-up which help to ensure the sustainability of community projects.

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