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

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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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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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
$40,952 raised of $50,000 goal
526 donations
$9,048 to go
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