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

ver the last two days I helped Mohamed, a volunteer of the High Atlas Foundation, with the distribution of a thousand trees, 300 almond and 700 walnut trees, in the commune Zerkten in the High Atlas Mountains. After we picked up the trees from the nursery in Ourika, we took the transport from Ait Ourir and travelled to one of the most remote areas I have ever visited. The further we got the more difficult and onerous the road got to a point where the driver had to check the engine and tires every half an hour. On our way we met several farmers, provided them with trees and visited the land, where they intend to plant the trees. Seeing their thankfulness and appreciation gave me great trust that they will take good care of the trees so that they will grow up to be strong and healthy. Once mature, after approximately four years for almond and six years for walnut, every walnut tree will increase the farmer’s yearly income by 300 dollars and every almond tree by 15 dollars.  Almond trees can live longer than a century, and walnut more than four centuries.  This new revenue from the nuts will be a great help for these farmers to overcome subsistence agriculture and poverty and will promote the sustainable development of their local communities.

 After a long and exhausting journey we were welcomed warmly by Mohamed’s brother and his wife in a small village called Isoual located directly under the white snowy peaks of the High Atlas Mountains. They live in a beautiful stone house that was built one century ago. Hand-woven colourful carpets cover the floor of the kitchen and the thick walls are painted in green and rose. They prepared a tasty tajine for dinner, served us hot tea and fruit and even gave me their bedroom for sleeping. On the next morning we ate the most delicious Hsowa, bread and coffee, before we went to visit the fields and families of the small village. Our arrival was a big event and everywhere we went we were welcomed most kindly. I was amazed by their pure and selfless hospitality. They live with little and still share every last bit of their belongings with incredible generosity.  After a second breakfast with Msemen and tea we had to start our trip back to Marrakech. Because there was no transport from the village, we hiked until we got to the street that connects Marrakech and Ouarzazate, from where we caught a grand taxi back to Marrakech.

Overall, this trip so far was one of the most valuable experiences for me in Morocco. Witnessing such poverty, generosity and peacefulness in mind, keeps me thinking, how many things I just take for granted and don’t appreciate as I should. I will do my very best to give back to this rural Moroccan communities by encouraging their sustainable development. Establishing the complete agricultural value chain by promoting organic fruit and nut tree plantation is an important step in this process and will lead to an increased income, thereby enabling the implementation of developmental projects like improved education and women empowerment. I am incredibly thankful for their hospitality and for the lesson they taught me. It was an amazing and priceless experience that I will not forget for a long time.

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Given that most poverty in the nation (and in the world) exists in rural places, and that Moroccan farmers are transitioning from traditionally growing barley and corn, the demand for more profitable fruit trees is very significant.  Growing fruit trees from seedlings on land lent by the Moroccan Jewish Community and distributing them in-kind to farming families not only meets a national development priority, but is also a substantial act of interfaith.  The reinvigorated relationships between the farming families and Jewish community members leads to deepened appreciation among the beneficiaries of these historic religious places (even as the burial sites have been totally respected ever since their beginning).  This multicultural initiative lends towards more goodwill due to the sustainable human development results, and in turn increased social unity and actions of cultural preservation. 

What maximizes the measure of solidarity (and project sustainability), however, is that the farming communities themselves identified fruit trees and their varieties as a development priority.  Therefore, the project responds to the expressed needs of the people, their associations and cooperatives and helps to deliver the development outcomes they seek, illustrating how cultural benefits can be maximized when participatory dialogue and planning is fully incorporated into their processes. 

Several thousand tree and medicinal plant nurseries need to be created for the kingdom to generate the billion plants once estimated by the Ministry of Agriculture that are required to break the poverty cycle.  Farming families face a barrier to transition to more lucrative cash crops and grow nurseries, because of the two years necessary to grow seeds into young trees.  Therefore, lending land for nurseries is essential to overcome these concerns as farmers will not risk reducing the amount of their arable land available to them during the two-year period.  Contributing land for community nurseries can be extremely helpful therefore in overcoming rural poverty. 
 
The farming families and their local organizations are the sole beneficiaries of the income generated by the sale of the fruit, which will be certified organic with the assistance of HAF.  Their carbon offsets will be monitored and also sold, generating further income for cooperatives and families.  Certification (which is granted and audited by ECOCERT - and recognized in both the United States and the European Union).  Certification involves field analysis, village level contracts committing farmers to organic practices, water and soil testing, and experiential training in the organic caretaking and harvesting procedures.  The farmers and schools directly benefiting from this initiative are among the most marginalized (determined through participatory community assessments).
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HIGH ATLAS FOUNDATION SELECTSTHIRD MONDAY OF JANUARY AS ANNUAL DAY OF TREE PLANTING

 MARRAKECH- In the United States, the third Monday of January commemorates the life and pursuit of justice led by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  Dr. King recognized the power of service. He famously said, “Everyone can be great because everybody can serve.” Observing the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday through service is a way to begin each year with a commitment to making your community a better place.  In honor of those ideals, the High Atlas Foundation (HAF) announces its commitment to planting trees annually across its project sites in the Kingdom of Morocco, and with our partners, globally.

On January 16th, HAF is planting trees with members of local communities and students of all ages in 16 provinces of Morocco at approximately 50 locations.  We hope you will join us for this moment of unity with one another, with our natural environment, and with hope for a peaceful and prosperous future.

On this day of service, HAF and our partner, the Rabat branch of the Science Teachers Association, are honored to plant trees at the Larbi Doghmi High School in Temara-Skhirat, alongside its students.  Our special guests will include United States Ambassador to the Kingdom of Morocco, Dwight L. Bush, Sr., and the Adviser to the King of Morocco, Mr. André Azoulay. 

HAF co-founder and President, Dr. Yossef Ben-Meir highlighted the importance of the annual event, “Growing trees are an integral part of achieving the people’s development.  Who is taking this action with us in Morocco?  Interfaith groups, cooperatives of women, partners in government at all levels and civil agencies, the living honoring the departed, students of all grades, and we hope that you will if you wish.”

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HAF selling carbon offsets at COP 22 from trees planted at schools

 

At COP 22 on November 17th, the  Foundation will host a Carbon Auction based on the 1.2 million organic fruit tree seeds we planted with Partners from all sectors in twelve nurseries located in five provinces of the Morocco.  

We established an organic enterprise that grows nurseries, strengthens cooperatives, certifies organic, and generates revenue especially for investments in human development. We achieved this for walnuts and almonds in the Commune of Toubkal, and we will also auction at COP their organic product.

We have a unique partnership with the Education Delegation of Ifrane where they lend land near schools in order for communities to grow nurseries, launching organic agriculture actions and carbon offset marketing.

Our partnership with the Moroccan Jewish Community is unique (and a CGI commitment).  The Community is now lending land nearby seven of their 600 sacred burial sites of the saints (in Al Haouz, Azilal, and Ourzazate), and we planted on two of the plots.

The High Commission of Waters and Forests lends land to HAF for organic community nurseries.  We grow from walnut and almond seeds in Tadmamt of Al Haouz, and we have regional draft agreements with Beni Mellal (for walnuts with the Ait M’hamed’s women’s association) and for Ouezzane, to expand cultivation and add value of the declining eleven Moroccan indigenous varieties of fig.

We deeply appreciate that the Center for Safeguarding Children in Oujda committed land for the project that will benefit the region and build highly employable skill of its youth residents.  The universities of Al Akhwayn (where we currently grow an almond nursery), Sidi Mohammed Ben Abdellah in Fez, and the Faculty of Law, Economics, and Social Science in Mohammedia have dedicated nursery land.

In Figuig, we partner to expand the cultivation of Aziza date trees.  In Boujdour province, where a community tree nursery does not exist, we have a partnership with the Nasar school to plant a nursery for the region. In Essaouira, we have a partnership with the school of Smimou for an Argan nursery.

On the 16th of January 2017 at noon, we will together plant trees--transplanted from our existing nurseries--at all the mentioned locations, with schools and communities.

Hundreds of places, including outside Morocco, may join this planting moment, which we are making an annual event on the third Monday of January.  This coincides with Martin Luther King Day of volunteerism and an early start to planting in the season.  Your Majesty, our hearts would know joy to plant beside you.

We are though without means to grow new or expand nurseries in these places, even as agreements are in place, and people are ready to work so hard.

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As we find our way coming out of Ramadan and Aïd Mubarak celebrations, we are starting to prepare for planting season 2017. One of the project’s focus is the building of a community-managed tree and medicinal herb nursery in Tadmamt of the Asni Commune of the Al Haouz Province, a total of 6,000 people in 30 villages also effecting Asni, Oukaimeden, and Ourika. This beautiful region of villages sits on the northern side of Morocco’s oldest nature protected area, the Toubkal National Forest; a vibrant area of pasturelands for goat and sheep herds and a large plethora of indigenous species of vegetation.

This project of building fruit tree and medicinal herb nurseries was designed to include the community and to ensure its lifelong success and viability to the individuals profiting from it. The trees and herbs in question do not need the use of pesticides, they have a high market value, and the people maintaining them already possess the skills to maintain and market the fruit produced.

To paint a picture of the social context, the villages of the High Atlas region rank among the poorest in all Morocco. The lack of, to little, infrastructure has left communities with little presence of government institutions and services in the area. And eighty-five percent of rural households earn less than the national average and nearly eighty percent of rural economies in Morocco are supported by agricultural production. Projects like these diversify the rural economy, create employment, and help diversify diets by contributing to public health initiatives from the consumption of fruit.

Generous contributions to this unique project ensure key institutions that will support their development, culminate relationships among the local populations, and provide work across seasons. Thank you to all supporters of this project. We have made significant progress and we are excited of what is to come. Stay tuned! And until next time. 

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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
$38,052 raised of $50,000 goal
 
467 donations
$11,948 to go
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