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.
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.
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.
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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