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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 the recent webinar titled “Crops to End Hunger: Accelerating Seed Delivery through 

Sustainable Seed Systems” hosted by Agrilinks, speakers described the challenges, new approaches, and potential solutions surrounding commercial seed delivery in developing nations in Africa. Some of the panelists had recently developed a whitepaper making recommendations on how to increase the number of crop varieties available to farmers and seed varietal turnover so that better seeds make their way to farmers. 

By breaking down the process from research and breeding to growth and farming into a product life cycle, they made it easier to understand the difficulties at each step and where solutions can be targeted for the greatest impact. In taking this approach, the High Atlas Foundation’s (HAF) role in the process can be outlined, enabling and accelerating the growth of better crop varieties.

The webinar’s speakers used the product life cycle for seed systems to describe the obstacles and challenges facing seed delivery. Nora Lapitan, from the USAID Bureau for Resilience and Food Security summarized the project life cycle as being split into three phases: Breeding, Decision Point (where a decision is made on what variety is produced, promoted, registered, and commercialized), and the Production, Marketing, and Distribution phase. She mentioned that this life cycle can be a tool for collaboration as partnerships are vital for success, especially in the breeding stages. 

Tony Gathungu, Global Head of Seeds2B for The Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture (SFSA), used this project life cycle approach to describe challenges. He mentioned that the link between breeding and production of seeds was not happening naturally in the public sector. Reasons for this include a larger number of seed varieties, and inadequate data about these varieties for farmers to make decisions. In addition, government licensing approaches are complicated and unclear. At each step along the way, from variety design to seed sales of new varieties, numerous factors make it difficult for the latest seeds to be grown. 

So where does HAF fit into this process? Barbara Wells, Director General of the International Potato Center, mentioned that in regards to seed delivery, it is imperative to “partner with local stakeholders to see impact at scale”. HAF’s participatory development approach places it in a unique position with close contact and partnerships with farmers. Using the product life cycle approach isolates stages where HAF’s help is most effective. 

For example, Gathungu noted that a common challenge in the “growth” subphase is farmers lacking awareness of and distrusting new varieties of seeds. In addition, Jane Ininda, Head of Seed Research and Systems Development at Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), mentioned making farmers aware of new varieties with superior traits is a key priority for the sector. 

Capacity-building workshops target these issues, helping farmers select the best varieties for their area and running farmer-awareness campaigns. This also provides a solution to the problems of a large number of varieties with lacking data, which takes place in the vital “Decision Point” phase of the project life cycle. HAF assistance of community nurseries through its implementation of the USAID Farmer-to-Farmer Program is an opportunity for local farmers to test new varieties of seeds and monitor their growth, and to collect information to determine their effectiveness and value. In this way and others, HAF helps Moroccan farmers decide which seeds are best suited for them, assuring them of their effectiveness and accelerating the uptake of new varieties

Hence, analyzing seed delivery and development as a product life cycle isolates obstacles and targets solutions, accelerating new seed variety adoption by farmers. HAF and its community, civil, and governmental partners  can help solve problems along certain phases of the life cycle through its close relationship with farmers. As these seed varieties reach farmers, better crops will be cultivated and the cycle will continue, with ever-improving seed varieties emerging and being grown. This will help in the difficult fight against poverty and hunger, improving the lives of millions.

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The High Atlas Foundation (HAF) implements the USAID Farmer-to-Farmer Program (F2F) in Morocco. As part of this volunteer initiative team members visited the members of the Aguerzrane women’s cooperative located in the Toubkal Municipality of the Taroudant Province on Thursday the 8th of July. It was a follow up meeting to facilitate participatory monitoring with members to understand the impact and needs following the Imagine Empowerment Workshop and visits by local F2F Volunteer agricultural experts working virtually in conjunction with American professionals. 

There are 31 members of the cooperative who work different shifts over the week managing a fruit tree nursery of 27,000 cherry saplings. The new revenue generated, even as it is needed income and significant as a total sum, may not be having as significant impact as the members need due to its equal division among many families. They therefore seek revenue generating activities such as processing food products. They observe the demand for traditional bread for their own and surrounding villages as well as for the local weekly market. The irrigation system requires additional filtering in order for small stones to not clog the pressure drip system. 

The terraces and the nursery are built on a mountainside. The new terraces upon which the trees sit are on a mountainside and surrounded by fencing over which would be two to three meters high that HAF would immediately financially support. Adjacent to the existing terraces, there is space where two more could be built. Cooperative members are evaluating the cost-benefit of adding the additional terraces. Overall, it was positive to see the process of achieving an idea that was born from the Imagine Workshop experience that together the women of Aguerzrane can define their individual and collective vision, implement it, see its green growth aftermath, benefit from new revenue, integrate domestic and international partnerships, and continue to plan and act together for increasing achievements. 

The municipality during the 2021 cherry harvest yielded approximately 32 tons sold in the domestic market. The organic cherry trees grown into saplings by this cooperative will assist the people in vastly increasing this source of food and income generation.

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The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)or Global Goals are a collection of 17 interlinked global goals designed to achieve a better and more sustainable future. The SDGs were set up in 2015 by the United Nations General Assembly, to be achieved by 2030. Nations around the world adopted these goals in recognition of the fact that ending poverty must be done in tandem with strategies that improve health and education, reduce inequality, and drive economic growth, while tackling climate change and preserving our oceans and forests.

The 17 SDGs are: (1) No Poverty, (2) Zero Hunger, (3) Good Health and Well-being, (4) Quality Education, (5) Gender Equality, (6) Clean Water and Sanitation, (7) Affordable and Clean Energy, (8) Decent Work and Economic Growth, (9) Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure, (10) Reducing Inequality, (11) Sustainable Cities and Communities, (12) Responsible Consumption and Production, (13) Climate Action, (14) Life Below Water, (15) Life On Land, (16) Peace, Justice, and Strong Institutions, (17) Partnerships for the Goals.

On June 6, 2021, the United Nations Research Institute for Social Development (UNRISD) held a side event for the 2021 HLPF titled From Science to Practice: Harnessing Research to Build Forward Better. At this forum, a panel of experts from around the world discussed how research often fails to find its way into policy-making circles due to technical, cultural, political, institutional and financial barriers.

Unfortunately, progress on the 17 SDGs lags far behind. COVID-19 in particular has been challenging, and in some cases, the pandemic has exposed the gaps between the latest scientific discoveries and policy-making. While research and innovation alone cannot get us the 17 SDGs by 2030, collaboration across civil and political society can help get us there.

SDG 2’s aim is to end hunger, achieve food security, and promote sustainable agriculture. At the forum, the experts highlighted some of the challenges that SDG 2 faces while pursuing sustainable agriculture. For instance, the overexploitation of resources by industrial farming, exclusion of smallholder farmers, increasing precarity of subsistence farming, shifting consumption patterns, and the role of global trade in creating new nutrition challenges. Some recommendations to address these challenges were supporting farmers, drawing on local and traditional knowledge, and building collaborative networks.

In our increasingly connected world, we must find a way to bring together scientists and experts from different fields alongside public policy specialists and NGOs who can highlight historically marginalized voices. HAF’s Farmer-To-Farmer (F2F) program is an embodiment of this situation. F2F is a USAID initiative which aims to bring volunteers with expertise in numerous phases of the agricultural development value chain, including tree and plant nurseries, irrigation, cooperative-building, food safety, and commercialization of processed products to Morocco and other countries. The F2F program has demonstrated how volunteers can help individuals and organizations build local communities, bring new knowledge, and strengthen existing sustainable agriculture practices.

The COVID-19 pandemic, although devastating, showed how volunteers can even be useful in a virtual scenario. USAID encouraged F2F implementers to pair local volunteers with remote American volunteers to collaborate. HAF’s first partnership happened in the Tassa Ouirgane village in the Marrakech-Safi region. The results of this assignment include the young women registering as a formal cooperative. These women took this opportunity to learn, grow, and challenge themselves and societal norms. As F2F engages small farmers, this benefits both the farmers and the environment. Additionally, F2F builds on traditional Moroccan knowledge with the latest research on sustainable agricultural practices through volunteers. Hence, HAF’s implementation of F2F directly contributes to the pursuit of SDG 2.

Sustainable agricultural practices are sorely needed to protect the environment, preserve and expand the Earth’s natural resources, and improve soil fertility. Unfortunately, promoting industrial agriculture cannot be the answer to achieving food security through unsustainable agricultural practices. Hence, HAF helping small farmers learn and practice sustainable agriculture practices will help both economic development and achieve SDG 2.

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On June 4, 2021, Project Manager Said and a group of volunteers visited the Imegdal and Tassa Ouirgane nurseries.

The first stop was the Imegdal nursery, where they met nursery caretaker Hassan on the new nursery land. To date, five terraces have been built on the new land. Three greenhouses have been installed, and a water storage system has also been built. The greenhouses will have the capacity to plant almost 60,000 carob seeds.

The planting and the irrigation system installation should be completed in a two-week time frame. After that, Hassan will plant 20,000 argan seeds. The old nursery also has 50,000 argan seeds and 60,000 carob. The carob and the argan seeds are growing very well but more slowly on the sides that face a lot of wind.

By the end of this year, after transplanting all the saplings grown at the old nursery, Said and the volunteers will move all the materials, greenhouses, and irrigation system to the new land. Hassan was asked to plant as many trees as possible on the old land for when they return it to the local cooperative.

Said and his group hope to visit the nursery often to make sure everything is installed and working well on the new nursery land and to monitor Hassan’s progress. There are now four employees working at the nursery in addition to Hassan, and the plan is to add two more workers to complete the planting process swiftly.

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The terrain of Morocco provides the opportunity to achieve tremendous agricultural and environmental results. The High Atlas Foundation (HAF) plants fruit trees across the country with rural communities. In 2021, HAF-community collaboration has planted 700,000 trees of nine fruit varieties, with 6,000 farming families in 39 provinces. In addition, 1.6 million seeds in 13 nurseries located in eight provinces have also been planted.

Rural communities are transitioning away from traditional crops such as barley and corn and are placing more emphasis on planting fruit trees and taking advantage of medicinal herbs and spices. The work being done by HAF is driven by the people themselves, which is why community tree planting has been a priority project.

By involving community members through the participatory approach, HAF assists Moroccan families in generating greater revenue and food sources, but also propel themselves into a sustainable future. With that said, community tree planting has many other benefits that will only further the sustainable development Morocco seeks to achieve.

The first and most evident benefit of tree planting is its environmental impact. Climate change has gained traction in recent years as an issue that will be irreversible if people continue with their harmful practices. Mass tree planting is one way in which climate change can be combated as it has the ability to absorb solar energy and reduce air temperature which has been steadily rising. A key factor in climate change is greenhouse gases which are released through activities such as driving a vehicle, operating certain equipment, and the burning of fossil fuels.

Luckily, trees are adept at reducing the amount of CO2 and harmful toxins that exist in the air. These are the two main ways tree planting can be beneficial to the environment - but it also assists in the improvement of soil and water quality, another major issue that Morocco faces. Ultimately, tree planting is an activity that has undeniable environmental benefits which should be taken into account by Morocco as well as other nations.

It is important to acknowledge the social benefits of community tree planting. Planting trees with other members of the community reinforces a sense of belonging and a degree of empowerment that radiates beyond environmental responsibility. This increases social capital and can lead to improvements in other areas of Moroccan society such as education, employment, and infrastructure.

It has been shown that when people are included and participate in activities such as this, they are more likely to branch out and provide better insight to their needs, which is a tremendous asset in development. Overall, the value of community. is instilled in those who are asked to come together and perform a task that will provide positive results for the greater good.

Community tree planting has proven to be beneficial to human health. The World Health Organization has tagged Morocco as moderately unsafe on regard to air quality, as its mean particulate matter concentration is approximately three times higher than the globally accepted average. Poor air quality correlates with respiratory and chronic illnesses such as asthma, which can be fatal. The presence of more green spaces, which includes tree nurseries, decreases the prevalence of mental health issues. Community tree planting can also contribute to the solution of issues exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, such isolation and lack of human interaction.

Depression and anxiety are diseases that are known to be curbed by the access to green spaces, as well as the participation in activities in such areas. Some have cited the increased appearance of certain settings as a result of tree planting to be a motivating factor in their improved wellbeing. This bodes well for the provinces of Morocco that have been working with HAF, and it can inspire other regions in Morocco to pursue the same course of action.

In conclusion, community tree planting has benefits that affect various factors of human life. For Moroccans, the project will lead to improved social capital and environmental conditions, as well as the potential to increase the biodiversity of the nation. Sustainable development is the primary mission of HAF, and community tree planting exists as a catalyst for Morocco’s future success. As of right now, the plan is to grow 10 million fruit trees by 2025. Surely, the future is bright for Morocco as it is on the verge of a beautiful breakthrough.

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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
$40,789 raised of $50,000 goal
521 donations
$9,211 to go
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