Community Fruit Tree and Medicinal Herb Nurseries

by High Atlas Foundation
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Community Fruit Tree and Medicinal Herb Nurseries
Community Fruit Tree and Medicinal Herb Nurseries
Community Fruit Tree and Medicinal Herb Nurseries
Community Fruit Tree and Medicinal Herb Nurseries
Community Fruit Tree and Medicinal Herb Nurseries
Community Fruit Tree and Medicinal Herb Nurseries
Community Fruit Tree and Medicinal Herb Nurseries
Community Fruit Tree and Medicinal Herb Nurseries
Community Fruit Tree and Medicinal Herb Nurseries
Community Fruit Tree and Medicinal Herb Nurseries
Community Fruit Tree and Medicinal Herb Nurseries
Community Fruit Tree and Medicinal Herb Nurseries
Community Fruit Tree and Medicinal Herb Nurseries
Community Fruit Tree and Medicinal Herb Nurseries
Community Fruit Tree and Medicinal Herb Nurseries
Community Fruit Tree and Medicinal Herb Nurseries
Community Fruit Tree and Medicinal Herb Nurseries
Community Fruit Tree and Medicinal Herb Nurseries
Community Fruit Tree and Medicinal Herb Nurseries
Community Fruit Tree and Medicinal Herb Nurseries
Community Fruit Tree and Medicinal Herb Nurseries

The planting season, which starts Morocco in December and concludes in March, is like no other time of year. It offers a window for sowing the best of benefits this world could offer--sustenance, livelihoods, flourishing nature, and justice, for now and for generations. This precious time opens its door in just six weeks, and for the sake of doing all we can to reap its benefits, we must prepare.


The High Atlas Foundation has the enormous responsibility to transplant from its nurseries nearly one million organic fruit saplings with family farmers and schools in all regions of Morocco.  And then, we must replant more than one million in those expanding nurseries.

It is truly no understatement to say that your partnership will not only help us achieve this goal for rural communities in all parts of the nation, but also the dreams of the incalculable more who so eagerly seek and need this opportunity.

If you have been inclined to give, please give nowIf you have felt the urge to immerse your hands in earth, please do so with us. Tree planting is about women's empowerment,intercultural solidarityand youth's opportunity.


We kindly ask, try your best to plant where you are, and with us.

Wishing you happy planting, now and forever,

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In a little under just one week, the High Atlas Foundation (HAF) has met with members of 21 cooperatives throughout four provinces of the Oujda Region in Morocco. We have learned the stories behind the development of their cooperatives, about their products, unique manufacturing techniques, the highs and the lows of establishment, ongoing challenges, and impressive achievements. These details, of course, differ across each cooperative, but one common sentiment was reiterated time and time again: members from provinces stretching across Oujda have all shared gratitude for the knowledge and skills they acquired through HAF’s cooperative-building training, made possible by the Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI).

 

While we are overjoyed to hear the different ways in which our MEPI-funded training has significantly impacted the progress of cooperatives in Oujda, we recognize that is just the beginning of how we can help pave the way to success.  We assist along many steps, such as helping cooperatives build relationships with their provincial authorities.  On September 9th, HAF staff met in one large room with members of seven cooperatives of the Guercif province. It is perhaps no coincidence that facilitating a meeting utilizing the participatory approach—the very core of all of HAF’s sustainable development projects—proved to be extremely fruitful.

 

One result of having a participatory meeting with multiple cooperatives was the revelation of the commonalities and shared needs among the large group, followed by equally beneficial solutions. For example, Haoud Jdi and Elmanousri are two women’s cooperatives, both established in 2017, that sell food products: olives and couscous, and cookies and couscous, respectively. Each cooperative expressed a need for a central location for production as it would not only be more able to acquire certification from the food inspectors and thus enable the product to reach national markets, but also increase the quantity of their products made daily. Seeing this shared need between two similar cooperatives, HAF President, Dr. Yossef Ben-Meir, suggested Haoud Jdi and Elmanousri join forces for shared benefit. The women agreed and identified a goal to submit a proposal to their local governmentto create a coalition, including an invitation to a third women’s cooperative, and identify with them available land and a building structure for their production activities.

 

The participatory meeting also consequently highlighted the importance for cooperatives to consider how they can bridge their internal resources (i.e., skills) with their external ones (i.e., funding, land, etc.). For example, the TamzrayneCooperative, created in 2009, sells oil from different medicinal plants, mostly rosemary flowers. They have a partnership with Morocco’s High Commission of Waters and Forests, which has provided 3,000 hectares from where they can harvest the wild medicinal plants, and they also have members who skillfully sell their products. Again, seeing the cooperative’s strengths, Dr. Ben-Meir suggested Tamzraynemaximize the use of their resources and widen their cooperative’s production, based on the vision of the cooperative members. Specifically, since theyalready have land, water, and members skilled in selling plants and plant products, it would be feasible to establish fruit tree nurseries and cultivation (carob and nuts), thereby giving them the opportunity to make more profit from additional products. 

 

Further, the meeting exposed to cooperative members the significance of considering what resources they already have or that they can access on their own. Several cooperatives reported utilizing the ministries and other agencies to submit project proposals for potential partnership-building and financial support. The Hikma Agriculture Cooperative, for example, submitted a proposal to the Ministry of Agriculture to fund land, water well construction, supplies, and a building for production. On the other hand, the men’s bread-baking cooperative, Chebab Hamria, used their existing network to secure a production site rent-free for six months.

 

Over the course of HAF’s Oujda trip thus far, it has been made clear that trainings such as our MEPI-funded cooperative-building training is vital for giving members the tools, resources, and confidence to pursue their goals. Attending the workshop gave participants knowledge about how to establish their cooperatives as well as helped them acquire or build upon skills necessary for managing successful businesses. However, it has also been made clear that beyond knowledge and skills-building training, cooperative members need guidance on how to utilize not only already-existing resources but also how to team-up and utilize each other for shared benefit. The participatory planning meeting in Guercif proved to be a crucial tool that cooperatives can use to identify common needs and share experiences. Moving forward, HAF will urge members of different cooperatives within one municipality or province to develop a supportive network through the participatory approach as we continue our efforts to help cooperatives throughout Morocco excel.

Help enable cooperative development.

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On June 15th, 2004, Morocco and the United States signed their free trade agreement. In addition to removing informational frictions and trade barriers between them, these countries committed to sustainable environmental protection through consistent enforcement and administration of environmental laws.  In the environmental chapter, the two nations clarify how they would enact this protection, preventing harm to human, animal, and plant health.

The free trade agreement recognizes the dangers of pollutants, contaminants, toxic materials, and the consequential need to prevent and control their dissemination. It also upholds the protection of wild or endangered flora and fauna, as well as their habitat and other natural areas. It then outlines how violators would be prosecuted. While they are protected by rule of law, the process requires violators be effectively sanctioned, considering numerous factors such as the nature and gravity of the violation, and their economic condition. Any concerned person may request that the government investigate alleged violations, receive due consideration, and get appropriate access to the proceedings. This formally establishes the due process for victims of environmental degradation.

However, each country retains the right and authority to draft and enforce laws for domestic environmental protection. Notably, the countries explicitly recognize that they cannot compromise their environmental protection laws for more investment or trade. In the face of economic temptation, they committed to maintaining their environmental standards. In fact, they view environmental protection as a pathway to more international investment and development, especially with the growth of the environmental technology industry. As such, they intend to implement incentive structures so that companies will voluntarily act to protect the environment, such as public recognition for nature protection and credit trading programs. They also support partnerships between businesses, local communities, NGOs, government agencies, and scientific organizations.

Moreover, the agreement asserts ways that the governments can act to ensure that environmental protection is sustainable. It emphasizes public participation opportunities, recognizing the need to engage civil society in understanding environmental policy. In order for innovative environmental protection approaches to become widespread, the people need to learn about them, understand them, become interested, and act. Thus, the two governments have agreed to provide opportunities for the public to contribute agenda topics, opinions, and advice. Also, each country is to consult a national advisory committee that includes representatives of both environmental and business organizations, as well as members of the public. This agreement promises that the two countries will inform the people and be open to discussion for environmental regulations.

The trade agreement continues beyond this mutual commitment to each other. They are to collaborate with each other for environmental policies and standards, exchanging expertise, hosting joint seminars and training sessions, and otherwise sharing information. In this way, they can both build their capacity to develop and conserve natural resources together. They established a Working Group on Environmental Cooperation, comprised of government representatives from both countries. They have also created a Joint Committee to give recommendations for a Plan of Action, and identify priority projects for environmental cooperation.

Traditionally, it has been argued that free trade agreements would bring about environmental degradation, but this one has promised to enhance  environmental cooperation between Morocco and the United States. Liberalization ought to increase Morocco’s access to environmentally friendly technologies and encourage an exchange of expertise with the U.S. government. In addition, the agreement emphasizes public participation through emboldening the civil community to seek knowledge and take action to protect their environment. In working together and signing this agreement, the two countries demonstrated hope to strengthen their economies and protect their lands.

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I’m volunteering with High Atlas Foundation through a sabbatical option at my not-for-profit organization in the United States. While I’ve learned a great deal here about sustainability, community empowerment, and agriculture, seeing a new nursery take form from the beginning stages has been one of my unexpectedly exciting experiences here.

From July 20 through July 22, HAF's Project Manager and I traveled to the new nursery HAF is establishing in Oujda in partnership with a youth protection center. This new partnership includes about 1.5 hectares of land to use for planting, once cleared of brush and weeds. On arriving at the site, we took an inventory of the work that’s been done already, and what’s to come.

In the short time since starting the partnership, HAF has cleared a small piece of the land and prepared over 20,000 soil bags for both argan and carob seeds. During our visit, we worked to move the nursery forward by purchasing carob seeds, as well as moving the pre-soaked argan seeds into their next stage of growth.

Argan seeds, notoriously hard to crack, take time to grow. Because of that, we’ve taken the seeds and buried them in layers of sand and soil with plastic underneath, to keep them extra moist while sprouting. The new nursery groundskeeper will keep a close eye on the sprouts and move them individually to be planted as they emerge.

The groundskeeper and directors of the youth protection center have involved the children in the process from this early stage. Being involved will empower them with structure, education, and positive role models and leadership, while deriving direct benefits for hundreds of Moroccan families who will ultimately be the recipients of these trees.

Give to this empowering project.

 

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An old Moroccan proverb, “One hand can’t clap,” is one that embodies both the approach to and application of the work implemented by The High Atlas Foundation (HAF). HAF is made up of a team of people dedicated to empowering Moroccans by engaging them in the process of achieving sustainable change for their communities. This year may not even be halfway over, but 2018 has already been abundant with accomplishments due to the collective hard work of HAF staff and Moroccan people. 

In tandem with Morocco’s planting season starting in early January, HAF kicked off 2018 with its annual tree-planting event on 1/15/18, during which 3,000 trees were planted with 57 schools in 10 provinces across the country. The planting season, which lasted through March, has been extremely fruitful—both literally and figuratively. HAF’s founder and president, reflected on this year’s milestones. “We replanted [organic fruit trees] to the maximum extent in HAF’s 11 nurseries and opened three new ones, totaling 1.4 million seeds that were placed in the ground by farming families, children, women, and men—young and forever young.” 

Since January, HAF has transplanted approximately 225,000 organic fruit saplings from its nurseries located in seven provinces (Al Haouz, Azilal, Fes, Ifrane, Moulay Yacoub, Oujda, and Taroudant) into farmers’ fields and schoolyards. HAF also continued to plant seeds and cuttings in HAF nurseries, for which data had been collected since last April to track one year’s worth of planting: a total of 53,000 seeds in Oujda; 462,483 in Fes; 200,000 in Ifrane; 100,000 in Azilal; and 394,700 in Al Haouz. In addition, HAF has distributed 190,872 trees of different fruit and nut varieties to 156 schools (7,341 trees), farmers (183,501 trees), and a Jewish cemetery (30 trees) since December 2017. 

Notably, the value of these figures goes far beyond the raw number of planted and distributed seeds and trees, which are indeed impressive. Rather, the value of planting and distribution intrinsically lies in the empowerment of and unity among local people, eventual economic growth, improved livelihoods of communities, and the offset of severe environmental challenges; the participation of HAF in Morocco’s planting season are undeniably immeasurable. “It took our team and partners 11 years to plant our first million trees and seeds, and to now have planted 1.4 million in a single year shows that passion and good actions spread from person to person, place to place, region to region, world to world,” Dr. Ben-Meir proudly proclaimed. 

HAF has deep gratitude for all of its existing partnerships with government agencies and delegations, universities, associations, and other nonprofit organizations, which help maximize HAF’s impact on Moroccan communities. In particular, the High Commission on Waters and Forests, Project PUR, and Ecosia directly benefit HAF’s agricultural programs. 

Specifically, the High Commission of Waters and Forests and their regional administrations—particularly the Marrakech and Ouezzane regional managements—have been exemplary in their partnership and contributions to community tree planting by contributing trees and land. Their generosity provides farming families opportunities to plant and better secure both their livelihoods and environment for many decades to come. Project PUR is another valuable partner as they provide fruit trees for communities in the Ourika Valley of the Al Haouz province. Additionally, they assist with monitoring and registering for securing carbon credit certification. HAF is grateful for their close teamwork that has built capacities to track planting accomplishments. Last, but certainly not least, the German social enterprise Ecosia has made HAF’s and its community partners’ planting season in Morocco “one that we will never forget,” described by HAF's President. “They enabled us to create new nurseries, to plant as expansively as possible, and to respond to the organic fruit tree needs of people and schools wherever they are in the nation. That kind of support has been the greatest gift of 2018.” 

Yet, this year is far from over and there are plentiful prospects of agricultural development—both known and unknown at this time—for which HAF will certainly undertake. As Moroccan farmers consistently voice their desire to transition to cash-crop farming and also identify agriculture as a major Moroccan employment sector, tree planting as well as establishing fruit tree and plant nurseries are two ways in which HAF supports farming communities. These ongoing agricultural projects will contribute to continuously increasing the impact on tens of thousands of Moroccans and rural household incomes. 

Further, it is never too early to identify goals for the upcoming planting season in 2019. As HAF's President reflected, “The end of planting seasons seem to always end with a sense of relief and fulfillment as well as with thoughts of what could have been.” He eloquently deliberated, “What if we were to plant in every land grant that has been so kindly given to us? What if we planted with every family that asked and would most welcome this opportunity that keeps giving for generations? What if we would have planted as much as what is really possible and absolutely needed by the people, in order to overcome harsh conditions of poverty?” The aim of every subsequent planting season is to address such open-ended questions—to identify sustainable solutions for organic agriculture and environmental development. “We do all we can to ensure the next planting season results in every field filled, and every need embraced and allowed to exist no more,” HAF's President explained. Considering HAF staff’s tenacious work ethic and genuine passion, it is without a doubt that the organization’s mission will continue to be fulfilled for not only the remainder of 2018 but also for many years to come.

 

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Organization Information

High Atlas Foundation

Location: New York, NY - USA
Website:
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @AtlasHigh
Project Leader:
Yossef Ben-Meir
President of the High Atlas Foundation
Marrakech, Morocco
$38,094 raised of $50,000 goal
 
469 donations
$11,906 to go
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