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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

Fieldwork in the Toubkal community

On Tuesday, 25th of May we started our journey to the Toubkal community. We went together with the project manager Amina, program assistant Safae and volunteer Youssef. Although we did not know each other, I easily joined the group of highly motivated, knowledgeable and smiling people. The way to Toubkal was marked by many bends, small villages on the way and beautiful views. Millennial relationships between humans and nature have shaped the landscapes of the High Atlas Mountain and this is certainly breathtaking.

After we arrived at our accomodation Dar Amsouzzart we met with a group of women from the local cooperative from the village called Aguerzrane. The women with the support of HAF and the USAID Farmer-to-Farmer Program recently started a cherry tree nursery. The tree nursery is set in the terraced area of the Atlas Mountains. During the workshops women learned how to plant trees, watering plants, managing the field etc. and this helped them to independently manage the tree nursery which gives women the monthly income. That day highly motivated women were also discussing with us about their future plans and how HAF can support them. 

During the fieldwork we met a lot of happy faces of the locals, those faces are definitely proof that HAF projects are achieving their purpose. As director of the project Amina said to me: “As long as I see the result, nothing is too hard to do.” Gratitude was repeatedly expressed to us by invitations to traditional Moroccan tea, coffee or to homemade delicacies.

Afterwards, we were warmly welcomed by the president of the village called Missour. The Foundation would like to help the women of this community to build new terraces for agriculture in order to support their cooperative and the local economy. HAF staff checked the area where they could build new terraces and plant more trees in the future.

On the 26th we spent mostly in the fields of the nearby village Amosart. HAF in collaboration with Credit Agricole Foundation helps local farmers to secure organic certification. In order to apply for the certification for mainly walnuts and almonds we measured the sizes of each farmer's lands. Farmers recognize the added value of organically grown plants and they were proud to tell us that they do not use any chemicals for their trees. We could hear farmers saying many times: “here everything is bio.”

The day was spent by tracking the farmer’s land with the accompaniment of a local farmer. Despite walking a lot up and down the terraced fields, we still had a chance  to sweeten up with nicely ripe cherries, and refresh ourselves with water from springs.

The third day we continued tracking the farmer’s land sizes. Farmer Lachen received us and took us through the terraces of Agadir village. Farmers here seem to feel very comfortable in the mysterious Atlas mountain. They deftly overcome the ascents and valleys of this hilly area without much difficulty. They also find themselves very well among the fields, which are intertwined with various waterways, water springs, terraces and trees.

Despite being inspired by the amazing work of the project director Amina, I was also fascinated about the passion and joy of local farmers. Devoted volunteer Youssef and always smiling project assistant Safae also contributed to the smooth running of the fieldwork. Even though the terrain in the Toubkal region is not easy -  we have seen villages that are facing lack of water, the terrain is difficult, the chances of landslides are high - people still find amazing ways to grow vegetables and plant fruit trees. Green terraces into rocky slopes and countless waterways, give the villages a unique view. This is proof of a strong will and connection with nature.

As someone who grew up on a high mountain farm myself, I was able to identify extremely well with the locals. At the same time, a visit to the Toubkal community inspired me for new projects in my home community. Above all, I recognized the tremendous importance of planting trees, which is important not only for the local economy but also for the environment.

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What is meant by climate change?

The concept of climate change is generally defined as the changes that occur at the level of the climate with a rise in the temperature of the planet as well as the change that occurs at the level of natural phenomena, which often results in damage and degradation to the environment and biological diversity.

In other words, climate change is an imbalance in the usual climatic conditions, which is attributed to human activity that leads to a change in the composition of the atmosphere.

Climate change and afforestation: Morocco as an example

The whole world has recently witnessed unusual and unprecedented climatic phenomena that have produced countless effects. The number of people at risk due to the increase in water stress grew to about 75 million in 2020, according to the forecasts of the Intergovernmental Committee on Climate Change. This number is likely to rise in the following years, and many parts of the globe are drier today due to the lack of rain. This imbalance in rain across the globe is attributed to sudden climatic changes, which prompted countries to move to alleviate the impact of this phenomenon by holding several conferences and meetings that prompted the study of global warming and the awareness of countries regarding its impact that threatens the future of life on the planet.

Specialists believe that human activities are the most prominent cause of climate change and global warming, as the industrial activities on which modern life depends have greatly raised the levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, especially with the beginning of the industrial revolution.

The decline of forest areas is also one of the main causes of climate change, as people cut trees in most regions to create space for agriculture and construction. Morocco, for example, has a depleted forest area of more than 30,000 hectares annually, according to the Moroccan High Commission of Water and Forests (HCWF).

If one of the main causes of climate change is the earth losing, in general, a large proportion of plant species and living organisms, then the solution to overcoming this dilemma is to rebuild this land with trees, which is what most countries of the world have been involved in. This is the case in Morocco, whose goal has been to move forward in overcoming or mitigating the phenomenon and the consequences of climate change.

The High Atlas Foundation is a Moroccan-American organization, and it has been one of the contributors to this process since 2000. Since then, it has devoted all its activities to the long-term alleviation of rural poverty and the promotion of agricultural development, especially afforestation. Additionally, HAF works toward the empowerment of women and youth through capacity-building efforts,  strengthening confidence, skills, and livelihoods.

The efforts made by HAF enabled a significant increase in the area and rate of afforestation in Morocco. It has been able to accomplish this by working in partnership with the Department of Water and Forests and some other partners (i.e., ECOSIA, F2F Farmer-to-Farmer). The rate of trees distributed by HAF has continued to increase each year. This year alone, HAF planted approximately 700,000 trees throughout the regions in Morocco. The trees were transplanted from the HAF’s 11 nurseries. HAF takes into consideration the quality of the trees, the appropriate conditions in which seedlings are prepared through the introduction of modern techniques that are compatible with a healthy environment, and the safety precautions enforced by the Moroccan Ministry of Health.

What distinguishes the trees grown in HAF-community nurseries is that they are of high value compared to other agricultural crops. Fruit trees contribute to environmental awareness and food security. They also reduce soil erosion while providing fresh air.

This has inspired HAF to pursue its work passionately and persistently, as it aims to contribute to the reversal of climate change that threatens the future of humanity, by increasing the quality and quantity of trees grown and planted within the Kingdom of Morocco.

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Women’s empowerment is a crucial aspect of the High Atlas Foundation’s (HAF) work with the USAID Farmer-to-Farmer (F2F) program. 

Last week, the F2F team took a trip to Tidili Mesfioua.  During this trip into the field, they met with two recently established women's cooperatives: Nour Atlas Of Ait Bouali Women Cooperative and Amzawro Cooperative for Development. Both cooperatives were created after the local women participated in IMAGINE women’s empowerment workshops. 

As a result, both of the new cooperatives are interested in partaking in and benefitting from the F2F program. 

Here are some further updates from that trip into the field. 

Working with the Nour Atlas Cooperative

Following a recent IMAGINE Women’s Empowerment workshop, 18 women in Tidili Mesfioua translated what they have learned during the workshop into a strong cooperative. The host members were inspired by Aboughlo cooperative, and now they are working to produce couscous. They have a vision of developing their cooperative even further in the future and adding new products to their list. 

The F2F team gave some direct recommendations to the cooperative. They suggested that members meet at least once every two weeks and in order to discuss plans. They also encouraged the women to reach out to the commune president regarding a location/building for the cooperative. 

Local Farmer-to-Farmer volunteer, Rachida, also guided the members to some provincial and regional markets and welcomed them to visit the Aboughlo cooperative in order to get more ideas on production and selling.

The host priorities are workshops on organizational operations, marketing, and planting barley. They also aim to find a building and materials for the cooperative.

The F2F team will be working to prepare an assignment in this regard and make sure to have more HOs to benefit from it.

The Women of the Amzawro Cooperative

The F2F team members were grateful to meet the 15 active young women who took a priceless opportunity after attending the IMAGINE women’s empowerment workshop, and with the support of the local men’s association, to create a cooperative. This is the first cooperative in the village to produce and deliver pastries within the community.

After a good conversation with the women, it was clear that they would like to start a tree and plant nursery project. The men’s association helped them obtain four hectares of land for this project, but they still need to dig a well and build greenhouses.

F2F can help with recruiting an expert volunteer in order to develop a business plan for this agricultural project, which will help the host apply for grants. The women may also be able to benefit from the trees Ecosia has helped HAF subsidize this tree-planting season.

Building relationships

Farmer-to-farm provides more than just agricultural skills for its beneficiaries. Life skills are surely incorporated into many aspects of the program.

Ait Bouali and Amzawro are two villages next to each other and unfortunately have conflicts. The Farmer-to-Farmer team invited the president "Hayat" of Nour Atlas Cooperative from Ait Bouali village to meet with the members of Amzawro Cooperative in Amzawro village, in order to build relations and exchange experiences between each other. 

This was a successful step towards helping the women learn the importance of collaboration to attain their goals.

When you donate women’s empowerment projects, you help empower women with all the skills necessary to achieve their goals and improve economic circumstances for the entire community.

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COVID-19 impeded the Farmer-to-Farmer Program (F2F) due to travel restrictions preventing U.S. volunteers from traveling overseas. As a solution, USAID encouraged its implementing partners to create paired assignments, linking volunteer experts from the United States with those in host-countries - and in HAF’s case, in Morocco. Together, paired volunteers analyze and solve the challenges faced by cooperatives and educational centers. HAF seized this opportunity, and uses its network of local experts to connect with U.S. experts.

The first assignment in the Oujda region, while under unexpected circumstances, proved to be a success. Laura is a U.S.-based farmer who has previously served with Morocco’s F2F Program in early 2020 with two Host Organizations (HOs) in the Oujda region. She was paired with Hicham, who grew up seeing his father manage one of the first nurseries in Morocco. He then studied to become an agricultural technician and now manages his own nurseries.

Hicham and Laura identified the goal to assist three cooperatives in their planning of new fruit tree and medicinal plant nurseries. After agreeing with Laura on how to proceed, Hicham visited the HOs in three different provinces, met farmers, and delivered workshops to people to improve their knowledge on how they can refine their capabilities in nursery design and promoting healthy growth.

As a result, Hicham and Laura developed estimated budgets for the prospective nurseries that help the HOs understand all the financial details, the needed materials, and the quality of seeds and soil. The social enterprise in Germany, Ecosia, a HAF partner, accepted to contribute to starting one of the three nurseries in Guercif province. This new nursery will see the light during the first half of 2021.

With his 15-year plus experience, HAF could not let Hicham go after he finished this assignment in the Oujda region and asked him to conduct other assignments in Beni Mellal and Ouarzazate, to share his knowledge with people who requested his technical and managerial insights. 

Laura and Hicham got along really well and Hicham expressed his interest in visiting Laura’s farm in the U.S. when time and conditions permit. Laura wants to participate in another remote assignment with Hicham to support more farmers and their cooperatives. Laura and Hicham are an excellent example of the potential that these collaborations offer. This experience highlights the efficiency of remote partnerships and the benefits that result.

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One of the High Atlas Foundation’s (HAF) USAID Farmer-to-Farmer (F2F) team members, Fatima Zahra, was selected from a competitive pool of applicants to attend the “2020 i-Tree International Academy” —a three- month online training organized by the US Forest Service International Programs, Northern Research Station, and the Davey Tree Expert Institute. This international program was designed to introduce the i-Tree suite of tools to global participants.

The first session of the Academy launched in October, with 80 participants from 26 countries joining in on the discussion across 4 continents.  The session, delivered by experienced members of the i-Tree project team and other guests, proved very useful, as it focused on helping participants learn i-Tree applications. These tools can be used to assess the value of urban forests and green spaces.

Dr. David, an urban forester with an extensive background in urban forest management and landscape design, opened the session. Dr. Bloniarz a Master’s degree in Landscape Architecture and a Doctorate in Urban Forestry from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. Currently, Dr. Bloniarzis a scientist with the Urban Natural Resources Institute, an initiative of the USDA Forest Service Northern Research Station. The Institute’s primary focus is the development of new tools and technologies for use by planners, managers, and researchers.

Dr. Bloniarz’s work involves research and technology transfer initiatives related to urban natural resource structure, function, and value.  He serves on the i-Tree development team, providing technical and programming support for this inventory and analysis initiative. He also serves as an Adjunct Assistant Professor in the School of Earth and Sustainability at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, extending his welcome to all the participants.

Before starting the session, Dr. Bloniarz shared their archiving system, the logistic components, and communication protocols. Then he introduced other experts on the panel including:

Kent: US Forest Service International Programs Assistant Director of Asia Pacific Region.

Liza: Urban Outreach and Partnerships Specialist with the US Forest Service International Programs. Over the past few years, she has co-coordinated the International Seminar on Urban Forestry and Community Engagement and also manages Beyond Trees, an online platform dedicated to urban issues.

Allison: Service International Programs Washington, DC

Krista: Heinlen has worked as a GIS analyst in Philadelphia for over 10 years, and comes to the Davey Institute and the USFS Philadelphia Field Station having conducted both broad and intricate spatial analyses in the fields of environmental science, social science, and public health. Her work includes GIS and mapping support for research at the field station, as well as helping i-Tree tool users better understand and incorporate their urban forest inventories and canopy analyses.

Al Zelaya:   Research Urban Forester for The Davey Tree Expert Company. His primary responsibilities include development, research, training, website administration and providing technical support for urban forestry environmental service projects.

Jason:  Research Urban Forester with the USDA Forest Service and The Davey Tree Expert Company. He has a Ph.D. in Forestry and an M.S. in Statistics from Virginia Tech. Jason has 15 years of experience in teaching and research involving the quantitative assessment and modeling of forest resources.

The i-Tree International AcademyThe program's purpose is to develop a global network of individuals who can use i-Tree to complete assessment projects, advise others, and advance new i-Tree integrations.

The goals were as follows:

  •  Learn how to use several core i-Tree assessment tools including Eco and Canopy.
  • Understand fundamental concepts behind the i-Tree tools including ecosystem services and their relationship to tree and forest structure.
  • Explore how i-Tree Database can be used to integrate new global cities in i-Tree.
  • Know the advantages and limitations of i-Tree when used internationally.
  • Apply new learning to develop an ‘action plan’ for using i-Tree or advancing integration in their home county.

Over the course of two hours, panelists presented the i-Tree International Academy program along with the instructors, resources, experts, and i-Tree software toolkit. They introduced online resources and systems used during the course. In addition, they discussed the international issues and challenges global cities are facing.

Session one focused more on demonstrations, learned the framework of the academy, plan overview, I- tree concepts, keys website, and online resources.

What is an i-Tree?

It is a great tool to be used for data gathering for trees. According to the organization, i-Tree is

The i-Tree team’s journey started in 2006, putting USFS urban forest science into the hands of users. They started their initiative in Vietnam, Bangladesh, and India.

The i-Tree application is a free public domain software package developed by USDA Forest Service and partners, which really takes collections of many different tools and puts them under one umbrella. Though the i-Tree umbrella is based on peer-reviewed research that goes back to the 90s,it has been available to the public since 2006. With each year, the model continues to be improved.Today i-Tree includes a variety of tools that are used globally and encompass trees on all urban and rural lands.

During the session, participants learned that there are many tools such as landscape, county, design, My Tree, planting calculator, hydro, species, and projects. However, the focus in track 2 was on database, Eco, and Canopy, as these three tools are primarily used internationally.

i-Tree Tools
i-Tree tools allow users to look at that data and assess the values that are being provided, the ecosystem services, carbon sequestration, pollution, capture redaction, and energy redaction.

i-Tree Hydro
Hydro simulates the effects on hourly streamflow and water quality due to changes in tree cover and impervious cover within a watershed. It contains auto-calibration routines to help match model estimates with measured hourly streamflow. Hydro can be used internationally but they have found that it is often very challenging to obtain the necessary input data outside the US. There are hydrology related summaries available in i-Tree Eco that may address some of the climate and sustainability issues

i-Tree Canopy
Canopy allows users to easily photo-interpret Google aerial images to produce statistically reliable estimates of tree and other cover types along with calculations of the uncertainty of their estimates. This tool provides a quick and inexpensive means for cities and forest managers to accurately estimate their tree and other cover types. Canopy can be used anywhere in the world where high-resolution, cloud-free Google images exist (most areas). Use of historical imagery can also be used to aid in change analyses. i-Tree Canopy on the other hand requires users to help assess the amount of canopy cover which is used to estimate benefits.

i-Tree Eco
This is a data collection system designed to work with newer web-enabled mobile devices.i-Tree Eco requires that users input measurements on individual trees such as stem diameter and tree species. i-Tree Eco has a mobile data collection tool built-in. i-Tree Eco produces outputs related to tree health in terms of either tree condition or tree dieback. The pest component of Eco is currently limited to USA issues but outside the US i-Tree Eco is the best tool to determine carbon sequestration and carbon storage of trees.

Both i-Tree Eco and i-Tree Canopy will both estimate annual sequestration and the total carbon stored in your trees.

How Does i-Tree Work?
i-Tree’s basic premise starts with assessing structure, which is the physical characteristics of the tree and forest resource based on direct measurements or statistical estimates. Structural data is used with local environmental data including hourly weather and pollutant data to estimate functions (e.g. gas exchanges). Functions are converted into services, such as pollution removal, and then monetized

Trees provide numerous benefits to society. Trees cool air temperatures, reducing energy use in buildings and atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2). They also improve air and water quality, mitigate rainfall runoff and flooding, enhance human health and social well-being, and lower noise impacts. Trees not only benefit the environment, but they also benefit the livelihoods of Moroccan communities. TheHigh Atlas Foundation (HAF) manages 12 organic fruit tree nurseries in 8 provinces of Morocco, with the capacity of 2.44 million seeds. HAF has a rigorous monitoring system. The monitor in each region helps to ensure the continued health of trees and to evaluate our implementation strategies, allowing us to achieve enhanced tree survival rates and sustainability.

HAF currently uses an application called Akvo Flow and i-Tree tools are very important for NGOs such as the High Atlas Foundation not only to monitor and improve its tree program effectiveness but also to increase funding opportunities.

At the end of the session, the presenters opened the floor for questions. It was an exciting opportunity to bring together the creators of i-Tree to answer our pressing inquiries about the tool and its application globally.

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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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