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

On a sunny, winter morning, our team leaves the HAF office for Al Haouz province. Today, we will visit two nurseries with an American business expert – a USAID Farmer-to-Farmer Volunteer – who will devise a plan for each cooperative to help improve productivity. Our team includes our driver, the project manager/translator, the management and evaluation officer, the business expert, and me. I am here to observe only and to give my impressions. What I see is people from small villages who are earnestly trying to improve their lives and those of the people in their community. They are open to receiving help and advice. They want to do their best.

For the caretaker of the nursery in Imgdal, Hassan, the issue is water. They have moved plantings from the traditional, uncovered terrace method to a temporary greenhouse of pipe-and-netting construction with an irrigation system he designed. The carob, argan, almond, pomegranate, walnut, cherry, and grape saplings are thriving in this new setting, but the plan is to create a more stable structure with plastic walls. The supplies are starting to come in. The rich, organic compost is set aside. His biggest concern is how to secure a reliable supply of water for irrigation from the river below. The river water is free for their use, but the pumping process will cost money.

The eight-woman cooperative in Tassa Ouirgane has a different story. Theirs is a more lush, verdant area with plenty of water. It is an idyllic setting as we exit the vehicle to the 2:00 Duhr call to prayer. Walking to the nursery of healthy olive, fig, and other trees, I notice two shy little girls watching and giggling from behind a large tree trunk. The women admit that they have only taken over management one week before from the men’s co-op, and what they most desire is training for how to market the already-growing plants. They want to expand to include medicinal plants, and though there are challenges for them, they are committed to making this work.

As we return through the mountains to Marrakech, making our way along the switchback roads, I think about these people and what they are trying to accomplish. What makes it worth it? How does one measure the intrinsic value of a tree? I am reminded of a poem by William Carlos Williams, “So much depends upon a red wheelbarrow, glazed with rainwater, beside the white chickens.” So much depends upon the wheelbarrow next to the greenhouse, the tool held in a woman’s hand, the water from the spring or the river. So much depends upon a tree.

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A new day, a new trip! After our visit on the Ouarzazarte nursery land Amina, Said and me traveled to the Toubkal commune in order to check the progress of expanding the nursery there.

The journey itself definitely wasn’t one of my favorites – the road was very curvy, and I felt kind of sick for the whole time. I was relieved when we finally arrived and dropped our car. We expected to walk 20 minutes to our guesthouse, but plans changed as we found out that the road was closed due to construction. So, we got picked up by a jeep and had to drive through a river to reach our destination. The skills of our driver were impressive. I had never experienced something like that before and my sickness was quickly forgotten over the excitement for the trip.

Spending the night in a beautiful guesthouse I got the chance to chat with the owner who had been beneficiary of HAF trees in 2008. My objective for this field visit was to clarify the approach of my Master thesis. My research will be to prove the positive influence of tree planting on the likelihood of poverty. Therefor I will compare two villages – one which received trees and now benefits from the increased agricultural revenue and one which doesn’t. In order to do that I will conduct a household poverty survey which I’m developing at the moment. So, my nightly chat was a first try to approach the topic and to find out which villages could be suitable for my purposes.

The next day I was able to conduct two more interviews while my colleagues were working with responsible persons of the nursery and the developing women’s cooperative.

After the probably greatest breakfast in Morocco we started our trip to the nursery. Because no transport was available, we had to hike there. I really appreciated the walk, as it gave me the opportunity to discover a bit of the area and enjoy the beautiful landscape.

Arriving at the nursery we saw the expanding in progress. 5 or 6 men where taking out earth and moving stones to build a new terrace with their bare hands. The nursery already consists of 3 terraces and now 3 more are built to achieve a capacity of 30.000 saplings growing at the same time.

I talked to the proud nursery caretaker Si Ibrahim, who is at the same time head of the association for mountain development. Poverty is still a big issue in his village and deeply connected with a lack of education and unemployment. Some villagers received trees only a few years ago but many of them are suspicious towards innovations and Ibrahim is sure they could benefit much more if they were just open to it. It was interesting to get an insight in his personal thoughts about the life in the neighborhood and it could be a suitable place to do a detailed survey.

The next person I talked to was HAFs new staff member Si Ismail. He is president of his village’s association and at the same time president of the federation of associations. He seemed to be the ideal person to talk to for getting an overview of the municipality. I got a lot of information about the area and challenges different villages are facing. He as well named education as a major problem with less than 20 children finishing high-school in the whole commune and some not even primary school.

Still in both interviews it was difficult to get a sufficient answer to one question: I tried to find out how rural poverty looks for the concerned in their daily life – besides education and employment with regard to health, food or housing. Somehow this question seemed to be hard to comprehend for both of my interview partners – even though Said who was translating for me tried to put it in different words and explain it. I didn’t expect that but probably I will have to talk to some of the poor families directly to get a more precise idea about their living conditions.

Time management is another thing which can be tricky conducting interviews. As we tried to ask the same question in different words again and again, we spent a lot of time talking around the same subject.

Regarding the selection of a village I got a lot closer but still I didn’t find the “perfect” village to conduct my survey. Probably I will have to talk to some more people to finally decide. Our trip and my interviews were a great opportunity for me to get some first ideas exploring the field. Now, I’m really excited to start my research!

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Last week, I had the chance to experience part of developing our new HAF tree nursery. Together with my colleagues Amina and Said, I traveled around 200 kilometers from Marrakech to Ourzazarte, to meet relevant stakeholders of the new project at the governor’s office. The new HAF nursery will be the 11th of its kind and the second built on Jewish community land. Like in Akrich the nursery will beside a sacred burial ground of a Moroccan Jewish saint and therefor stands as an example of interfaith collaboration.

Our meeting took place in order to identify the necessary steps that still need to be taken for starting the work on site. Besides the technical director of the governor, it was attended by representatives of the province’s administration, the planning and the building company, the National Initiative for Human Development (the Moroccan program) and the High Commission of Waters and Forests. I was excited to participate and I felt really honored when they spoke French from time to time just for me to be able to follow the conversation. Also, Amina and Said did their best to keep me updated and towards the end I could even bring in some of my own questions.

It turned out to be a very long session though. They discussed all the necessary steps and technical details which I could sometimes hardly follow. I also had a quick look at the building plans - I didn’t know that building a nursery is so complicated! Finally, we finished our meeting three hours later with everything being prepared for starting to build the nursery in early January.

Most important is the extension of the current well because it is too small for using a big pump which can lead to problems in the future. Also, building the greenhouse has priority in order to start planting end of January and not lose a planting season. The land needs to be ready and plans need to be validated by the Moroccan Jewish community. It is this collaboration with the Jewish community I’m most interested in and so I took the chance to ask the officials about how this partnership exactly looks. I wanted to find out how it effects the perception of the Jewish religion in the daily life of the Muslim community.

In discussions with my colleagues I found out that there aren’t any Jews living in the area anymore and also the cemetery is been taken care of by a Muslim family. But every year lots of Jewish people go on a pilgrimage to the burial site and celebrate a big festival. The governor and his representatives had also participated before and highlighted that it’s not the first time that there is a collaboration between the Muslim and the Jewish community in Ouarzazarte. The province’s administration ensured us their full support and said that they will do everything possible to assist HAF in realizing the project. They are sure that this form of sustainable development helps to bring people closer together.

After we finished our meeting, we headed towards the nursery site. When we arrived there, it was almost dark so I could just get a glimpse of the area. My first impression was moving. Surrounded by mountains the nursery land is located on a steep hill. There’s a lot of work to do in order to build terraces and all the necessary infrastructure to get the nursery working.

Even more impressive however was the cemetery itself. White gravestones nestled like a small town on the hill and the beginning darkness was illuminated by candles at the entrance of the cemetery. The place exuded an almost mystical atmosphere. What a great place for a nursery, I though. Life and death are only two points on a straight line and are inseparably connected. So, it is a great metaphor to grow trees next to a cemetery. The name “House of Life” - which was given to the project by the former Governor of the Al Haouz province, Younes El Bathaoui, and is also the English translation of cemetery from Hebrew - gets a whole new dimension when you add this philosophical component.

 I was glad to go on this trip and experience the magic of this place myself. May it be a fruitful collaboration and bring life to a great many of trees.

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On 4 and 5 November 2019, the High Atlas Foundation (HAF) organized a Multi-Stakeholder Partnerships (MSP) workshop in collaboration with Germanwatch, a German NGO. The workshop aimed at developing a common understanding of the challenges and solutions for a decentralized energy transition towards 100% renewables in Morocco and all Africa.

This seminar is part of the MSP project for the energy transition towards 100% of renewable energies in Africa, which has two components: the first at the continental level, promoting the ambitious implementation of the African Renewable Energy Initiative (AREI) in Power Shift Africa Partnership by building a multi-stakeholder partnership to support this initiative. The second component aims to highlight the benefits of decentralization of the renewable energy sector for sustainable development and the energy-water-food nexus. The second component will be implemented together with Moroccan communities.  

The idea is to create a project based on the decentralization of renewable energies that will improve sustainable development in Morocco. The first steps of this project will begin in a village, still being identified by the MSP, and its impact will be evaluated with and on the local people. The idea is that the project will be replicated with other villages leading to advancing decentralization of renewable energies in the kingdom.

It was really great to attend this seminar. It was an opportunity to develop my ability to communicate with experts in many fields. I also had the opportunity to benefit from the experience of teachers and frameworks in renewable energies, its important role in developing the standard of living, and how projects of this nature can provide job opportunities for people with significantly diverse backgrounds.

I became aware of how to develop a project idea and how to manage it. In addition, what I learned from the seminar is the method of participatory and respectful dialogue between participants, and how they discuss their opinion publicly and personally. I learned a lot.

The good organization of everything, the arrangements, and the good division of tasks between the organizers greatly contributed to the success of the conference. The HAF team is characterized by a spirit of sharing. They are good leaders who have played a very important role in guiding and helping me to participate and contribute to the success of the seminar.

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This Newsletter presents the sustainable development work of the High Atlas Foundation and our fulfilling the Special Consultative Status at the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations that we have enjoyed since 2011.
We are facilitators of development that local communities of Morocco seek, and advocates of the people in order for society to achieve sustainable and shared prosperity. HAF's abiding connection with the human development purpose of the U.N. derives from these core elements of who we are.

The articles by HAF in this Newsletter celebrate this longstanding commitment.

Giving to HAF gives to the people’s projects and to fostering a country and world that enables communities to achieve inclusive growth.

Finally, the planting season begins next month. Let’s make this season for the ages by planting trees with families and schools that bare fruit for generations.
Happy winter, and rains, and best wishes for all good possibilities.
Yours faithfully,

Climate Protection and Sustainability at the UN Climate Action Summit

International Day of Childhood 

Participatory Development: An Alternative to Migration

Framing the humanitarian action: HAF in Qatar

Accelerating Sustainable Development Toward 2030

Ethics in Action an Event with Ban Ki Moon

Global Bottom-Up by 2030?

HAF Statement; 4th World Conference on Women

Yaounde: Government & CSOs Discuss Water & Development

Youth at the UN Plan Sustainable Development

International Day of Democracy: Engaging Youth

Build World Peace, Locally

The Hidden Gems of Morocco

Civil Society Matters to the Sustainable Development Goals

The next step for cooperatives is certification

Morocco provides 'Safe Spaces' for youth

HAF Action Efforts at the COP22 In Marrakech

Statement by HAF; ECOSOC High Level Segment

Implementing the UNs sustainable development goals

Meet a 2015er: Yossef Ben-Meir

Happy Tears: Human Connection Leading to Human Development

Mountain Life on Mountain Day

World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought

World Environment Day

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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
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