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

Our communities and our world in this time of pandemic, climate challenges, and injustice call upon us to build and design anew programs and infrastructure reaching beyond earlier models in offering outcomes even better than we could once have imagined.

The role of higher education has been part of this calling to majorly improve and even rethink fundamental purposes and approaches. A legitimate criticism of universities in recent decades and even generations has been their complacency of operating within their analyses and provision of explanations as to the social and environmental problems that extend beyond the educational setting that in many ways consume our lives.

What accounts for ethnic discrimination? How do we explain gender-based oppression? What has brought about economic disparity to such severe degrees? Why are the youth in our world as prone as anyone to incur the highest levels of unemployment? And certainly solutions are analyzed as well in terms of their outcomes and philosophical or theoretical bases, the costs relative to their benefits, and their comparative efficacy.

However, where universities have generally failed societies and student communities is in regard to their lack of participation in those solutions carried forward by the beneficiaries, the civil associations, and the concerned citizens and businesses within those localities.

Certainly, trends are moving in the direction of the vital role that universities play for societies’ betterment and uplifting of the public. At the same time, there remains a tug-of-war within university life between the activist-theoretician (bent of ameliorating the resultant difficulties people endure by way of social operating structures), and the objectivist (so committed to the “scientific method” that worldly conditions are left uninterrupted to ascertain a truth in their nature).

The pandemic and unabated poverty imposed upon most of humanity is behind this renewed effort to build back better than ever before. In Morocco in the city of Fes, we have the example University Sidi Mohamed Ben Abdellah (USMBA) and its Faculty of Islamic Theology. Dean Aouich and the faculty’s leadership, fully supported by the USMBA President Mrabet, saw the opportunity to create an organic fruit tree nursery utilizing local seeds to benefit farming families of the Fes-Meknes region as a welcomed contribution, commensurate with their view of the role of higher education institutions. They are, after all, responding to a rural community-determined priority since farmers nationally are transitioning from barley and corn to fruit trees.

USMBA is contributing land to serve as the nursery for farmers of the region because rural families need to harvest every year and cannot forego their essential crop in order to plant the tree nurseries, which they also vitally need. The students gain opportunities to integrate and learn from their community surroundings while being exposed to the reality that everyone has an essential part to play in achieving increasing prosperity for the country.

This university-local community initiative fits squarely within the participatory action research framework, whereby data and knowledge is generated from the people and is used to advance change responsive to locally-defined needs. The experience enhances understanding and fulfills academic outcomes, including published articles that advocate the goals of the people, in harnessing critical professional skills with students and locals as they engage in empowerment workshops, in strategizing for project design, and in forging diverse and helpful partnerships.

The 90,000 trees planted for the people of Fes-Meknes at the USMBA nursery include fig, olive, carob, pomegranate, and almond. These trees live for generations, so the most incredible consequences of the dedication of the USMBA community are ones that we could not know no matter how committed the monitoring team.

Universities across Morocco and nations of the world do have admirable examples of their commitment to sustainable community development. The calling, or the frontier of change, is to make these initiatives integral to the research design in order for them to affect, in both the short and long terms, a positive world change. Student and faculty evaluations and the rankings of universities, in themselves, should be based upon the extent of their energy, dedication, and impact in this regard.

If the students of Sidi Mohamed Ben Abdellah are any indicator of students in the world, then all we must really do is to create the expectation and to provide the guidance. In this way, they will carry forward with utmost vigor and with all the heartfelt commitment and analytical focus that one would hope to see.

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Dr. Ben-Meir, President of the High Atlas Foundation, organized an applied workshop on the participatory approach and its role in achieving sustainable development with the local population, during the second day of the training week organized by the High Atlas Foundation in Marrakesh with the support of the United States Forestry Service and the US Agency for International Development.

At the beginning of the training workshop, Dr. Ben-Meir presented a comprehensive definition of the participatory approach as one of the methodological mechanisms that can be applied in any development program or project aimed at improving the living conditions of the local population. This is a strategic approach that involves everyone, without discrimination, in identifying their needs and priorities to combat poverty and marginalization and achieve local development through collective decision-making.

Dr. Ben-Meir also touched on a set of important and basic points that must be respected in order to implement the participatory approach methodology, set priorities, and include everyone in that decision-making for sustainable development.

The participatory approach is one of the mechanisms that qualifies citizens to participate in the management of their local public affairs. It is designed to bring about a comprehensive social change in the environment, sensitize the population, raising their awareness, and create a collective framework in adopting development programs and projects. It aims to achieve consistency between the initial local needs of the population and the final results of development projects. It contributes significantly to raising the level of "self-development" with citizens but also for future generations, and engender the culture of listening and giving constructive criticism.

In summary, the work adopted by this methodology is based on the phrase “working with” instead of the phrase “working for,” because development projects require the participation of the population, men and women, younger and older,  without excluding or restricting freedom of expression. In other words, the participatory approach is of a horizontal nature, not a vertical one. It seeks to make the population directly involved in development projects and to bear the responsibility for achieving their sustainable development goals.

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On October 25th, Programs and Office Manager Sanae, Field Technician Mustapha, and Volunteers Timo and Julian joined Siahmed from the Office du Développement de la Coopération (ODCO) in Douar Lkdirat near Youssoufia in a workshop for 19 women on how to create a cooperative. This training was a follow-up workshop from the previously held “IMAGINE Workshop” and “Participatory Approach Workshop”.

“IMAGINE” is a self-discovery workshop. Throughout the personal growth process, HAF assists women in finding their voices and achieving their goals. Integrated with IMAGINE is the ‘Moudawana’ Family Code, adding a rights-based approach to the sessions, bringing together women to learn about legal protections and determine ways to advance social justice. Cooperative-building grows from empowerment gained during the “IMAGINE-Moudawana” experience and supports women’s cooperatives and their development to create greater financial independence, expand networks, and promote change in women’s roles in their communities.

Mr. Hazil started the training by brainstorming what a cooperative actually is to gather further information about the current knowledge of the women. The group knows of a women’s cooperative in a nearby village called Takharkhot, which is a big inspiration and motivates them to have one themselves. Furthermore, he explained how to create a cooperative step-by-step, guiding them through the legal process and how a cooperative would benefit them in many ways and would open new doors.

Following, the actual objective on what the community wants to work on got discussed. Dependent on local resources and unique skills they have, the group discussed different options. Producing traditional plates or carpets was certainly of interest, but in the end the women agreed on doing an agriculture cooperative because it involves the whole group, as not all of them have knowledge about knitting carpets or designing plates. Upon agreeing on agriculture (tree nursery), laws regarding this area have to be checked and taken into consideration for their potential cooperative.

To start the establishment of a cooperative, all the members have to come to terms with a name for their group, fill in a form with their personal details, and bring the document with all their IDs to ODCO in Safi. Then, their elected cooperative president needs to collect 100 MAD ($11) from every member to open a bank account. Fortunately, Hazil's approach was to support them not solely by stating how to build a cooperative but also by showing kindness and sensitivity. He even gave the members his phone number in case they needed any help with the legal process, as only two of the 19 women can read and write. Additionally, Mr. Hazil would like to follow up with more training sessions with the women after the creation of their cooperative.

This community once again revealed a powerful and capable group of women who are making positive changes in their village and are on the perfect route to have their own cooperative soon.

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This week, the Farmer-To-Farmer (F2F) team launched two different assignments in Beni Mellal region, aiming to enrich two local agricultural cooperatives and assist them to achieve their goals.

The first host organization (HO) "Tamghart group" aims to value and promote Moroccan plants nationally and internationally through their cosmetics products. Therefore, they seek management and expertise in sustainable cosmetics production, so they can improve the quality and quantity of the product to increase income and thus improve living conditions for their members and their families and create more jobs for community members, especially girls. Charaf Eddine Mansouri the F2F local Volunteer and Joe Anne the paired remote U.S Volunteer will work together with the HO members to adapt their previous business plan, in order to enhance it based on new data and information, as this will help the host to have a clear idea of their project, submit a strong project proposal.

And the second HO "The Union de coopératives Apicoles de Bzou" members carry a perfect knowledge of beekeeping, furthermore, they produce good quality and big quantities of honey. However, they struggle in selling their products. Now the HO requests a volunteer to help its members create a website to increase their sales. Currently, they sell to wholesalers who pay a low price. The F2F program assigned local and remote paired U.S Volunteers to assist the HO in order to develop a website, as this will increase their sales, especially online, so they can reach international buyers, as well as their income and thus improve living conditions for their members and their families.

The USAID F2F program does not only strengthen local communities but also creates sustainable project modules in North Africa.
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We often neglect the importance of trees in our daily lives, passively accepting their shade, beauty, and fruit as we walk beneath their leafy branches and sturdy trunks. Yet, to small farmers, just one fruit tree can help generate an income while also sequestering carbon and reducing society’s carbon footprint. Rather than demolishing trees to farm land, High Atlas Foundation (HAF) plants fruit trees on small farms, aiding both local farmers and the environment in the process. If just a few fruit trees can provide long-term benefits to farmers, we should be actively appreciating their importance by supporting initiatives, such as HAF’s carbon offset program with fruit trees.

Each year, small farmers across Morocco reach out directly to HAF to receive fruit tree seeds, hoping to cultivate a sustainable and profitable project. Working directly with the farmers, HAF helps with the initial planting of a fruit tree or creation of a nursery, determining if the trees can maintain good health. The healthiness of trees is of utmost importance, requiring certification from the Ministry of Agriculture, as one unhealthy tree can ruin all the trees. For the trees to truly be sustainable, HAF monitors their health over the years, making sure farmers can maintain their long-term cultivation.

As the trees grow, they sequester carbon through photosynthesis, capturing carbon dioxide from the air, which reduces the overall amount of carbon released into the atmosphere and, thus, our carbon footprint. Equally important, though, the fruit trees provide a sustainable income plan for small farmers, as the fruits from the tree can be sold and eaten as long as the tree lives. Traditionally, the subsistence types of crops of small farmers (corn and barley) yield small incomes and unsustainable practices, such as deforestation and pesticide use. With HAF’s organic fruit trees, however, small farmers can reforest and grow trees without using harmful pesticides while also earning a longer-term income. Through this process, farmers promote sustainable development at an individual and local level, as they see first-hand the ongoing benefits of fruit trees.

Not only do farmers learn and participate in sustainable development through planting trees, but they also perform an act of peace. The concept of peace involves collaboration among parties to establish tranquility and benevolence, so by working with HAF and local communities, small farmers promote peace. Moreover, planting trees creates job opportunities within local communities, specifically for youth, which advances environmental stewardship amongst younger populations and promotes sustainable development. The creation of jobs and incomes for small farmers benefits the wider community; as one farmer increases his/her income, he/she can support local businesses, sustainably advancing the community’s economy.

In the past year, HAF distributed approximately 700,000 trees across Morocco, with a goal to plant 1 million fruit trees, such as carob, Argan, almond, and cherry. Each one of these trees makes an impact at the individual, local, national, and international level, providing incomes for small farmers, which advances sustainable development. Typically, large farms tend to unfairly control economies and decimate fertile land with ecologically harmful practices, only to grow unsustainable crops that provide temporary incomes. In contrast, small farmers planting trees can intimately collaborate within their communities to grow organic crops.

In order to actively appreciate the full potential of trees, we need to support initiatives like the fruit tree planting program at HAF, which places focus on the small farmers. HAF helps build the foundation for sustainable development by working directly with farmers, who learn through participatory and self-realization workshops how to promote sustainability at the individual and ecological level. By developing first at the individual level, small farmers learn how their participation directly impacts development and the environment. We, too, need to recognize our ability to make real, global change, especially at a time of increasing surface temperatures, increasing storm severity and frequency, and increasing sea level rise, all caused by greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide. Therefore, mitigating the impending and current climate crisis requires us to take action, and by supporting small farmers planting carbon sequestering trees, we can directly impact our climate future.

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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
$40,703 raised of $50,000 goal
514 donations
$9,297 to go
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