Productively (and Joyfully) Meeting (Again) Members of the Aguerzrane Women's Cooperative
By Dr. Yossef Ben-Meir | President
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.
By Samirah Jaigirdar | HAF Intern - Student at Connecticut College
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.
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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