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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

In my second field trip last Thursday, the 24th of October, I got a sense of the dynamics in a local community and got to know some outstanding powerful women, above all my HAF colleague Amina. Together with her and the external consultant Najwa we went to Tassa Ouirgane, a small village bordering the Toubkal National Park. There we visited an olive tree nursery and the local association, which represents the village and its agenda and daily affairs, including the evaluation of HAFs UNDP funded project which began in 2017.

Following a participatory approach, the first step at that time had been identifying and prioritizing the most important needs and challenges of the community together with local association members. The main issue was that the village suffered from flooding whenever the water in the river rose too high, which made several farmers lose their plants and therefore income for their families. So, building a gabion to prevent floods from entering the fields was the major priority of the project.

To include the villagers and keep expenses reasonable HAF did not simply help build a gabion but supported them with practical training by expert as well as tools and materials. Finally, the initiative started building the gabion this month, and still there are challenges to face. The village agreed that each household contribute the money needed for the materials between, but some families are simply not able to pay. All issues were discussed in the meeting which took place in the associations building.

I didn´t understand too much, as my knowledge of Darija is still poor. But Amina tried her best to translate from time to time, so I could at least follow what was going on. Also, it was interesting to see the dynamics of the meeting and the respect the members of the association which were all male, had for my female colleague. That was one thing I noticed right from the beginning and I asked Amina, if women were allowed in the association. She said, theoretically they are but as a matter of tradition no woman could ever become a member yet. The work in the village is strictly separated as well. This tree nursery supported by HAF is also run by men, though HAF partners elsewhere with nurseries managed by women. Amina wanted to encourage women to work there too but as the responsible men did not yet support that.

Noticing that empowerment of women seemed to be an issue in the village, Amina started another project especially for them. It began in January this year with one of the Imagine Empowerment Workshops. Describing the purpose of the workshops in just one sentence she answered: “Creating the life that you want and move from problems to having a clear vision in life”. Exactly this was a major problem a lot of the girls had. When they were asked about their vision for their selves a lot of them simply answered “To be married”. But being married is no vision for yourself, explains Amina. “They have to find a vision, independent from their husband. Married or not, you are yourself and you have to be confident about it and find your own vision in life.”

The concept of HAFs empowerment workshops seems to be really effective. One result was that the young women between 15 and 25 who participated, now founded their own cooperative, in which they want to focus on planting and selling medicinal plants. To generate sufficient starting capital, they began to produce bakery products and sell it in their village. We met the women´s cooperative in a second meeting just after the village association and I was impressed by the energy of the young women. Looking forward Amina says: “These girls have a lot of power. I am sure that things will change in the future and one day they will be in the association too.”

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The Small Grants project of the High Atlas Foundation, which is funded by the Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs within the U.S. Department of States aims to encourage the development of innovative, sustainable environmental projects that encourage local sustainable resource management and engage civil society to implement environmental and development projects, such as in agroforestry, water resource management, and renewable energy. The foundation works with four sub-guarantees, two in Morocco and two Jordan.  One of the associations that benefit from funding under this project is Alfath Association in Bouchane.

The citizens of the communes of Bouchane and Ait taleb face waste problems and air pollution but they have few educational programs to educate them on how to solve these environmental issues. For this purpose, the Alfath Association for Development has put in place an ambitious project, with several stakeholders in the area, such as the local schools, parent groups, farmer associations and the local government.

The most important goals of Alfath project are:     

  • to create a fruit tree nursery with capacity of 100,000 medicinal plants and trees, a solar irrigation pump in Bouchane, with the goal of growing almond trees and medicinal plants.  The association expects the nursery to be financially independent after two years, selling 20 % of the trees and distributing the remaining 80 % to the schools in Bouchane and Ait Taleb.
  • to provide two communities, Bouchane and Ait Taleb, with solar pumps for two wells.  The wells currently use gasoline, so this switch to solar power will reduce air pollution and eliminate the need for fuel.  The foundation will continue to collect the gasoline fees and put those resources toward purchasing trees, maintaining the equipment, and providing social support for students in need.
  • to train students and their parents about the project and environmental issues more generally, with the hopes of helping to establish a culture of environmental protection.
  • to remove the traditional places of throwing animal waste and take the waste to farmers to use as a fertilizer, improving the cleanliness of the area and simultaneously helping the farms to improve soil fertility.
  • to evaluate the project using local graduate students under the supervision of the Geo-Development Association.  The study group will publish a manual for each village to serve as a reference for measuring the development and the preservation of the environment.

The project was inaugurated in March 2019; the first phase of the project has now been completed, after months of hard work, huge efforts, engagement and fulfillment. To evaluate the progress the past months part of the HAF team, project managers Kerstin and Imane, country director Moulay Hassan, and volunteer Yenniv visited Alfath Association and the project sites. They were impressed with Alfath’s progress: the tree nursery has successfully been built and medicinal plants have been planted in it. One solar pump has been built to water the saplings in the nursery. Furthermore, the foundation organised 15 cleanups, 5 more than originally planned, and distributed the organic waste to 17 farmers, who distributed this waste on their fields thereby improving soil quality for the years to come. The foundation also engaged various schools, parents associations, university students and farmers and will start capacity building workshops and environmental education soon. The Alfath Association is thereby proving that successfully facilitating sustainable development is an equation with several variables. It is as much environmental education of the young as it is empowerment, capacity building, and effective natural resource management. Alfath Association in partnership with HAF  is implementing a project that addresses all those variables.

During the visit, we noted that a considerable part of the project has been completed and several successes have been recorded.

We would like to congratulate the members of Alfath association for their hard work, as well as for their success in combining several components within the project, namely: environmental education, tree planting and sustainable development of the municipality.

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Land degradation is a large issue for Morocco. The Atlas Mountains dominate the central part of the country, explaining why much of the landscape is mountainous with slopes that gradually transition into plateaus and valleys, which are very dry during the summer. Even such, dry areas can be made suitable for growing fruit trees by constructing an efficient irrigation system. One main purpose of the High Atlas Foundation (HAF) is to provide people with food security in rural areas by building tree nurseries. In addition to building the irrigation systems, the most difficult task, in my opinion, is to maintain the pipeline in good condition so that water can continually flow to the plants. At first glance, the process seems easy, but it is not.  Water descends from the very tops of the Atlas Mountains into special reservoirs, and then is distributed using pipes and smaller tubes that are led to the plant roots themselves.This water flows a very long way, which could be interrupted by a natural accident. For example, one stone could stop or significantly weaken the flow of water by falling into the pipes, thus causing the trees to die. Additionally, a stone could plug the hole and stop the leak. Therefore, in this case, the human factor is very important: even the smallest efforts such as clearing stones and branches will help fill the reservoir and supply the plants with necessary water. This observation inspired me with the hope that each person with a small action can contribute to what ultimately leads to big changes in the future.

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I had the pleasure of accompanying Said, HAF Project Manager; Hassan, an assistant; and Tobi, a teacher at United World Colleges, on two nursery visits in the Marrakech region. As someone who has always been passionate about agriculture and the environment, the nursery visits had a positive impact on my choosing the High Atlas Foundation to continue my professional career, after obtaining a master’s degree in biotechnology and sustainable development of agro-resources.

The Imegdal nursery is under the supervision of Hassan, a skilled technician also competent in the manufacture of compost made from hay and manure. Hassan spoke to us about transplanting the tree saplings and watering techniques. This nursery - initially funded by the Global Diversity Foundation and the Darwin Initiative - includes several types of plants such as: argan, carob, cherry, almond, and walnut because of its agricultural, economic, environmental, and health importance. Additionally, the High Atlas Foundation wants to protect the agricultural heritage of Morocco and provide a sustainable environment for the growth and development of these plants. Further, these varieties keep the soil fertile while avoiding the use of chemical fertilizers that cause adverse effects both on the quality and health of groundwater.

The Tadmamt nursery is the result of a partnership between Morocco’s office of High Waters and Forests and the High Atlas Foundation for tree planting; its initial funding came from the United Nations Development Program. This nursery, which mainly cultivates almonds, cherries, and walnuts, is under the supervision of Omar. Daily maintenance of the nursery organized by Omar, as well as the grafting technique utilized here, is the best solution to ensuring high quality fruit and profitability of crops.

These nurseries contribute substantially to the sustainable development of local areas. Specifically, they provide a significant number of carob, argan, and walnut plants throughout the year to the inhabitants of the region including landowners and farmers as well as new and old agricultural cooperatives. Ultimately, the nurseries help local communities, particularly those involved in agricultural activities, while keeping our agro-resources.

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ABOUT TWENTY-FOUR HOURS AGO, I planted a tree. It was already taller than the other tree sprouts lined up next to it, looking like the leader of a small pack of children, still a child itself. I bent down and carefully grabbed it, brought it back to the freshly dug square hole in the ground, and looked to the four men standing around me for the next instructions. First, remove the plastic covering the soil. Next, into the ground. Then, move the dug-up soil back into the hole. No need to move carefully here, just use a shovel or your feet or your hands to quickly move large piles of tanned dirt back into the earth. Pack the soil in, walking around the tree with your guide, a man who has worked on the commune for over forty years, like you two are dancing. Finally, water it, and feel the weight of the large bucket suddenly come down on your arm. If you can’t hold it up on your own, someone will immediately step in and hold the bucket with you, helping you guide the flow of water.

This is what guides the progress of the rural commune of Setti Fadma: ritual, support, and action. The challenge of agricultural development hinges on fostering a sense of community, the feeling that no matter the project, it is driven, managed, and controlled by a larger purpose. To plant this tree, I had to take the initiative to volunteer my time and the farmers stepped in to support me every step of the way. To propel agricultural development into new frontiers, we must ask ourselves what we can do for each other as much as we ask what we can do for the earth.

Time works differently in the rural communes of Al Haouz. There is enough awe with the present, wonder with the future, and curiosity about the past to push our agricultural development efforts somewhere new, somewhere better. For now, you cannot spend your entire day in the shaded breeze of the mountains. For now, there is work to be done.

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Organization Information

High Atlas Foundation

Location: New York, NY - USA
Website:
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @haffdtn
Project Leader:
Yossef Ben-Meir
President of the High Atlas Foundation
Gueliz, Marrakech, Morocco
$27,674 raised of $36,000 goal
 
303 donations
$8,326 to go
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