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 green hills that used to surround the Moroccan cities of Fez, Ifran and Oujda have turned amber. Years of intensive grazing have depleted the soil of its nutrients. Only the oldest villagers remember that their home used to be green, and cooler.

The absence of the ancient forests is so real, so striking, that it’s almost a presence.


One of our planting sites, adjacent to the Jewish community of Ouarzazate.

We travelled to Morocco two weeks ago, in search of a solution. Here’s what we’ll do: your searches will fund six new tree nurseries around Fez, Ifran and Oujda. These nurseries will yield, in a first phase, 1.3 million fruit and nut trees. Thanks to the solar-powered wells, the nurseries will be entirely self-sufficient.



This nursery in Fez will be managed, in part, by school children.



The Before of the Before-After picture. Our biggest Moroccan nursery is located on the grounds of the Al Akhawayn University.

The fruit trees will, in time, restore the hills of Northern Morocco to their original fertility, and they will do so sustainably: fruit trees are an economically attractive alternative to goat farming, one of the main causes of the region’s ecological decline.


The farmers from Taroudant have largely transitioned to fruit tree farming.

A project this ambitious, and this new needs a manager as experienced as The High Atlas Foundation. The Moroccan-American foundation’s 17-year track record leaves no doubt of its integrity and talent.

In Tadmant, we saw that no amount of rocks can stop The High Atlas Foundation from building a thriving nursery.


In the village of Taroudant, where The High Atlas Foundation launched its first project, we understood how fruit trees can help a community help itself.


At the Hasan II University, we learned how The High Atlas Foundation shares its knowledge with Morocco’s youth.


The High Atlas Foundation convenes a course on participatory management of environmental projects.

A nursery in Ourika, run entirely by women, reassured us of The High Atlas Foundation’s ability to empower marginalized groups through environmental projects. ‘Two years ago these rural women would not have dared to be photographed,’ Amina, the project’s manager, told us. ‘Being in charge of such a big nursery, and becoming economically more self-sufficient, has made them confident of their potential’.


One of the nurseries your searches are funding has left a particularly vivid mark on our minds. You can find it on the edge of the Ben Driss Youth Centre in Fez – a home to children who have dropped out of school, who have been rejected by their families, who have been in conflict with the Law, or who have fallen victim to violent crimes.

We would never have thought that there could be so much joy, so much hope, in such a sad place.

As well as being housed and fed, the children of the Ben Driss Centre continue their education and are given the opportunity to learn a craft.

The nursery that The High Atlas Foundation has imagined, and that your searches have turned into reality, initiates the children into fruit tree farming. After nursing the saplings for a year, the children will donate them to local farmers. They thus integrate into a community by helping that community thrive.


Our nursery at the Ben Driss centre has been prepared for sowing.


A nursery, it turns out, can provide so much more than trees. It can turn outcasts into full-fledged community members. To even the most vulnerable, it can give a second chance.


Such successes are your successes, too. The saplings growing in our nurseries in Fez, the well that is being dug in Ourika, the apricot tree that will be planted in Ifran: they are your searches bearing fruits.



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 Some say that capacity building is the best investment. There are certainly cases that support this idea. This is an example where a technical assessment of four tree nurseries shows the importance of focused training.

  Foremost, evaluation would focus on identifying problems and rectifying them. The common problems are the best place to start. This highlights an unspoken aspect of training and capacity building. This is that the simplest solutions should not be overlooked.

  One issue is uneven tree growth brought about by uneven watering. There is a simple solution. For all nurseries, drip lines should be periodically cleaned. The other option would be to install water filters. The latter is expensive and, given the relatively small size of each nursery, cleaning the lines would the cheapest option.

  There is yet another aspect to nursery management, one that rises high in importance. This the relative cost of an action or option. At the least, this is worth mentioning within a training session. Better yet, this should be a key part of the training.

  This leads to the notion of objectives, both of the training and of the organization. Non-profit groups do not profit from their work. Instead, they provide those in need with a service or product. The product is fruit trees. The means of production are the nurseries and, as with the profit sector, costs are not to be overlooked.

  The goal of HAF is to offer trees to local farmers. In doing so, these are strived to be of good quality and capable to surviving the riggers of on-farm life. For HAF, this means the best product at the lowest cost. This translates into the cost, per survivable, on-farm tree.

  Capacity building will stress the means via the goal. Turning back to the nursery problems, the situation complicates as local problems are addressed.  Where water is plentiful and free, space is often limited. Again, the issue was viability when the possibilities for expansion are severely limited.

 Concentrating production would lead to economies of scale and a hoped for lowering of costs. On the capacity front, this requires training fewer people and, with concentrated production, the possibilities for more uniform nursery.

  The goal is, first through evaluation, later training, to evolve into a standardized system for raising trees. This could be a system where the trees are raised in the ground, dug up, and given to farmers. The other option is to grow the seedlings in soil-filled bags. The in-ground method is inherently cheaper but, unless transplanted quickly, survivability in reduced. The bags can be a bit more costly but more reliable in regard to survivability. 

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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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 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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Organization Information

High Atlas Foundation

Location: New York, NY - USA
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @AtlasHigh
Project Leader:
Yossef Ben-Meir
President of the High Atlas Foundation
Marrakech, Morocco
$40,692 raised of $50,000 goal
513 donations
$9,308 to go
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