By Dr. Yossef Ben-Meir - President of the High Atlas Foundation
HAF's project manager visiting tree project site
The planting season begins in January 2012. Now is when you can make a profound difference in the lives of rural Moroccan families. Eighty-five percent of rural households earn less than the national average. The low market-value of traditional staples barley and corn (grown on approximately 70 percent on Moroccan farmland yet generate 10-15 percent of agricultural revenue) has compelled farmers to transition to plant cash-crops, most commonly fruit trees, to generate significantly greater income.
This community fruit tree nursery project integrates solutions to socio-economic and environmental challenges facing rural Moroccan communities. The project benefits include:
Increasing multiple-fold average household incomes from fruit sales;
Diversifying the rural economy and creating employment;
Strengthening the natural environment by planting fruit trees that do not require pesticides and that will prevent soil erosion and desertification;
Developing the agricultural technical skills of rural farmers, specifically in regard to tree nursery management (including, grafting, planting, treatment of diseases, and marketing);
Diversifying diets and contributing to public health; and
Strengthening democratic processes and creating diverse partnerships to alleviate poverty.
Further, the approach of building a community-managed nursery provides special advantages:
Saplings are a fraction of the cost of two year old trees ready to be planted in orchards;
Community nurseries involve the transfer of important technical skills that enable rural people to replenish their orchards in the future; and
Nurseries are new and innovative profit-making enterprises and are needed to expand to meet the immense demand for fruit trees by rural Moroccan communities.
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