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

Farmer to Farmer team in the Impact Assessment sessions

Two years after starting the Farmer to Farmer (F2F) project in Morocco, the program was able to work with a wide range of agricultural cooperatives, reaching 58 agricultural cooperatives in three regions (Marrakech-Safi, Beni Mellal-Khnifra, and the Oriental region), 14 of them led by women.

Some of these cooperatives started as women's groups seeking to break out of the cycle of stagnation and neglect. Others benefited from other projects that the Foundation is working on, including the establishment of fruit trees and aromatic and medicinal plants nurseries.

Alkhayr, Takharkhourte, Aljamaane, and Azagrane Cooperatives were some of the successful cooperatives that benefited from a self-empowerment workshop, through which women got to know the extent of their abilities and their talents that had been hidden by several material, geographical, and other factors.

Through the empowerment workshop, the cooperative was able to move forward to work on its vision of establishing fruit trees and a medicinal plants nursery. Under major partnerships with Ecosia as well as the F2F program, the High Atlas Foundation (HAF) supported the cooperatives to help bring their members' vision to fruition for a bright future in the region.  Despite the consequences of the COVID19 crisis, the cooperative was able to move forward and not close its doors. In less than a year, the members were able to plant more than 170,000 seeds of different types of fruit trees.

Other cooperatives were established before the program, but they lacked many skills. In contrast, these women were able to learn some of those skills through the technical assistance provided by the F2F program. Recordkeeping, feasibility studies, E-Marketing, and other training helped clarify many behaviors and also contributed to solving many obstacles and challenges faced by these cooperatives, especially during the pandemic period that was not taken into account. There are some cooperatives that took the COVID 19 pandemic as an opportunity to prepare new products. For instance, Mogador cooperative in Ounagha/Essaouira was one of those that produced liquid soap from Argan products for frequent hand-washing.

Amal cooperative in Boughriba/Berkane also changed its main activity from raising rabbits to making lemon jam and Moroccan pastries. Slimania also changed its activity and benefited from an incubator from DPA which helped to raise some money, by selling eggs and chickens. Some of the other cooperatives’ activities were stopped due to the negative effects caused by the pandemic, and most of these cooperatives were working in beekeeping. Despite the two good trainings in Guercif and Al Haouz provinces provided by Mr. Lahcen and Mr. Mustafa on how to groom queen bees, many of them lost ten of boxes either as a result of hunger or lack of monitoring and tracking.

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I recently had the pleasure of attending a Forestry Roundtable discussing the importance of forests and how to best communicate their value to a wide range of people and communities. Presented by Beyond Trees Network and The US Forest Service International Programs, our roundtable consisted of: Hon, mayor of Orea (Spain); Fernández, forester, writer, and illustrator; Roig, professor at the Forestry School in the Technical University of Madrid; Macías, urban forester; and Valbuena, forest community strategist.

Throughout our program, we heard how there is a need for better communication on behalf of forests to spread the knowledge of their necessity and benefits across many different groups of people. We heard from Mayor Corella, a spokesperson for rural communities whose livelihood is linked with the landscape, regarding the positive impact forests have on local communities.

She extrapolated to how even though these communities see these impacts firsthand, everyone is reaping the benefits. She spoke of the symbiotic relationship rural groups have with forests, and how this ecosystem not only helps these groups but also the world. Forests have a wide range of benefits, including carbon sequestration, filtering water, regulating hydraulic flow, as well as generating wild foods and sustainable products.

The problem we continued to hear during the roundtable is that there isn’t enough value placed on our forests. Forests present a difficult conundrum, where we see that many people derive so much enjoyment and use from them. However, it’s hard to accurately quantify their value. While forests that are within specific countries' borders aren’t public goods, they provide a public good for everyone in the world through carbon sequestration as well as our total Earth ecosystem.

These forests provide benefits for so many people that aren’t always immediately near them, so it is even more important to communicate accurately and effectively on their behalf. This includes creating better products to inform both children and adults of their necessity and far reaching usefulness. We need these areas to help regulate our Earth, so informing the public that they are much more valuable if preserved instead of timbered can help us have a beautiful and sustainable planet for years to come. 

We need a global effort for recognition of forests and what they mean to us as a species. Instead of cutting down more and more, we should prioritize planting and helping restore them. If our forests help us so much in the world and provide us with so many far-reaching benefits, why do we run into this problem of deforestation? It is easier to understand the monetary value of timbering than it is to understand what healthy forests from clean air and water mean to everyone in the world.

Thus, one person supposedly derives more value from cutting down the forest even though we know our society places more value on keeping them healthy. This is where communication and forestry telling can help us realize more of their intrinsic value and necessity. Hearing stories from community members close to the forests and using these stories to become closer to nature is something that can help us change our current actions.

On September 22nd, I attended another program on behalf of HAF regarding the need for forest renewal. This was titled Cities4Forests: A City Led Call to Action and focused on  what policymakers and city leaders should be doing to help support tree planting in the city limits in addition to protection of the surrounding woodland. I think this is an extremely important step in developing more of a unified approach to supporting forests.

Our cities are where most of our population lives, and they are often the most removed from nature. Pairing forestry storytelling and better communication with actual action in cities to plant more trees will help lessen the divide between nature and our urban areas.

Too often, we remove ourselves from Earth’s ecosystem and think of ourselves as existing in two different spheres: that of the human side and then all other plants and animals. Fostering more of a connection between humans and the Earth around us will not only help our planet but will also help our well-being.

Viewing and being around nature reduces stress and anger while increasing pleasant feelings, so planting city forests may have far-reaching benefits currently unknown. Educating and spreading knowledge about the benefits of forests to all our children as well as unaware adults will create a society of conscientious and informed people better able to make decisions for the good of the Earth and all those living in it.

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The work in the El Youssoufia project is in progress. Last week, we finished the installation of the solar panels. Also, we finished all the irrigation systems, and we started irrigating the nursery two days ago. We covered the nursery with plastic to keep the bags dry and warm for planting of the carob and argan seeds. 
   
Last week, the USAID Farmer-to-Farmer team, Zineb, Houria, Hassan, and Ahmed, the nursery volunteer-expert, met the women of Kounoze Lkdirate cooperative to build their skills in how to deal with the planting of all varieties of trees that will be in the nursery..
As the women just started occupying the nursery, they will need more training at least at the beginning of the seed planting by bringing in additional experts in that area. We are scheduling together actions in this regard.
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Throughout the Bible, trees are mentioned multiple times, often in relation to the production of fruit; the first mention of trees is in Genesis 11:9-10 where “God said, ‘Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds, And it was so. The land produced… tree bearing fruits with seeds in them according to their kinds.” (The Holy Bible, New International Version ed. Bible Gateway. Accessed 05 Nov. 2021). Later in Genesis, trees are mentioned again as God entrusts Adam to tend to the tree in the Garden of Eden. I find these two instances interesting as trees were one of the fundamental creations of God during the formation of Earth; before trees only light, dark, sky, and water existed; this simply serves to emphasize the importance of trees in the Bible and in creation and maintenance of life.

Additionally, God entrusted people to tend and care for these trees. Something so important and essential was entrusted to people to tend to as the caring of this tree was the very thing that maintained tranquility in the garden. In essence, trees in the early scriptures of the Bible represented the life God breathed into creation as well as the relationship by trusting people to love the Earth.

In relation to the High Atlas Foundation, the role of tree planting in various communities serves a strikingly similar purpose. First, the tree nurseries that HAF funds in rural villages are tended to by the inhabitants of that area. These trees provide life in the sense of the opportunity to gain financial autonomy and freedom. The support of additional income from the sale of cash crops provides economic freedom not only for the caretakers of the trees, but also for their community and future family members.

Secondly, although a palpable connection, the first trees created by God in the Bible were trees that produced fruit. The main pillar of HAFs tree planting initiative is the planting of fruit trees specifically due to the incredible benefits they provide for communities and Moroccan land. Not only do endemic fruit trees produce cash crops that can generate high incomes for impoverished rural families, but they contribute to the biodiversity of Morocco and serve to sequester carbon, contributing to the mitigation of climate change.

The fact that the first tree in the Bible was a fruit tree only serves to strengthen the importance of these plants as it underpins the great value of a tree that produced fruit, which both gives life and represents life in the Bible. If you read through more of the Bible, there are numerous instances in which it compares the production of fruit to the transformation and work done by people. Moreover, the production of fruit in the Bible represents one’s transformation with God and the works that people do; God’s greatest commandment is to love others as you would love yourself, and to take care of those in needs, so therefore, the production of fruit draws a direct connection to uplifting impoverished communities and families.

Overall, there are many instances of tree planting and fruit in the Bible. I only mentioned one scripture, but as I was searching for more, dozens appeared that had direct connections to HAF and the importance of fruit trees in society. As I continue to work with HAF, I hope to delve deeper into this connection between religious texts and their connection to the work of HAF.

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As the COVID-19 pandemic maintains its position as the international community’s chief issue to battle , its far-reaching effects can be felt particularly in poorer, marginalized communities. One obstacle that continues to grow in relevance is the subject of food security—the state of having reliable access to a sufficient quantity of affordable, nutritious food. The market for healthy and nutritious food has greatly expanded in countries such as the Philippines—where there exists an extreme imbalance between massive, corporate agribusinesses and smaller, local farmers in access to these lucrative crops. This injustice works to the long-term detriment of the islands, as such an imbalance hinders the ability to create positive, systemic change. One method being adopted to fight for change is the organization and implementation of food cooperatives throughout the country.

On October 12th, I had the opportunity to attend a webinar jointly hosted by the Sustainable Development Solutions Network and several Filipino Universities. The title of the webinar was “Revitalizing Food Systems: Generating Value with Producers, Markets and Consumers—Cooperative Experiences,” and was hosted by a panel of people who wished to lead a discussion that provided insight on the value chain of food systems when it comes to food cooperatives and small businesses, as well as the efficiency of food production and consumption. Dr. Tuano moderated as Dr. Mercado of First Community Cooperative, Mr. Paez of Agricoop, Ms. Okinlay-Paraguaya of the National Confederation of Cooperatives, and Dr. Ordonez of Alyansa Agrikultura were all offered fifteen minutes to present and discuss their own thoughts and efforts in acting as agents of change.

Dr. Mercado, former chairman of FICCO, wished to explain the context behind the work all of the speakers were accomplishing through their efforts with cooperatives. Mercado explained the importance that concepts such as the PPE cycle—in which poverty increases population growth, which leads to environmental deterioration that further impoverishes a people —have had in contributing to the circumstances that those people now find themselves in. He noted that, in the past, efforts were misplaced in implementing trickle-down economics when they should have been directed toward fostering bottom-up economic growth. He proceeded to recount how this mentality of “brotherhood economics” acts as a pillar of FICCO, and has allowed them to achieve immense success in linking farmers together through projects such as the COOP Plant Culture Lab and Plant Seedlings Production Facility. Dr. Mercado ended his presentation with a poignant message: you have to start small to create big change.

Ms. Okinlay-Paraguaya, CEO of NATCCO, began her presentation by overviewing her organization’s profile. NATCCO boasts a membership of more than 6 million Filipinos and possesses billions of dollars in assets. With such immense size and resources, the organization has accomplished much in the way of organizing and leading cooperatives that support local farmers. Their commitment to progress has been an important component in their success, as promoting digitization and embracing progressive agricultural cooperative practices from Korea and Japan has allowed NATCCO to provide financial support to an immense network of people.

Mr. Paez, CEO of Agricoop—a newer organization—spoke next. Paez first spoke on why Agricoop was founded, highlighting how cooperative governance is often unorganized to the point of failing to meaningfully involve small farmers in the food value chain. Agricoop is working to redefine these supply chains to address this imbalance in the market by implementing supportive “commodity clusters.”  Their work in strengthening cooperative governance is giving local farmers the tools to better negotiate within the value chain and empower their own communities.

The final panelist to speak was Dr. Ordonez, who was speaking as a member of Alyansa Agrikultura. He first provided the specific contexts behind the work that he was accomplishing, in that long-term corporate investment in agriculture is both a failure and a key factor in retarding the growth of small communities. Following this, Ordonez set forth his recommendations on what would be most impactful in addressing this unjust status quo. Some of these suggestions include emphasizing additional income from other crops for small farmers, increasing the Department of Agriculture’s budget, and actively working to improve agricultural participation within the private sector. Dr. Ordonez concluded his presentation by emphasizing the importance of implementing well-managed cooperatives as well as the need for the Philippines to take the time to assess their food system and find places they can systematically improve.

Great change is not achieved overnight, especially within the context of a subject as complicated as food security and local participation in value chains. For the Philippines and many others, this is an issue that is continuing to be navigated. However, it is clear from the knowledge and strategies presented at this webinar that the nation’s future is in good hands, and with their continued effort, we will see community-evolving change.

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High Atlas Foundation

Location: New York, NY - USA
Website:
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Twitter: @AtlasHigh
Project Leader:
Yossef Ben-Meir
President of the High Atlas Foundation
Marrakech, Morocco
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