Multicultural Cooperation for Fruit Tree Planting

by High Atlas Foundation
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Multicultural Cooperation for Fruit Tree Planting
Multicultural Cooperation for Fruit Tree Planting
Multicultural Cooperation for Fruit Tree Planting
Multicultural Cooperation for Fruit Tree Planting
Multicultural Cooperation for Fruit Tree Planting
Multicultural Cooperation for Fruit Tree Planting
Multicultural Cooperation for Fruit Tree Planting
Multicultural Cooperation for Fruit Tree Planting
Multicultural Cooperation for Fruit Tree Planting
Multicultural Cooperation for Fruit Tree Planting
Multicultural Cooperation for Fruit Tree Planting
Multicultural Cooperation for Fruit Tree Planting
Multicultural Cooperation for Fruit Tree Planting
Multicultural Cooperation for Fruit Tree Planting
Multicultural Cooperation for Fruit Tree Planting

Over 40% of the Moroccan population is employed in the agriculture sector. Fresh fruits and vegetables belong to the top five export categories, which represent about 25% of the total Moroccan exports. The pomegranate cultivation occupies an area of 5,000 ha and provides an average yearly harvest of 58,000 tons of fruit (Hmid et al., 2018; pp. 302-9). Over the past ten years, as a part of the Green Plan, the Moroccan Department of Agriculture has been supporting the planting of pomegranate varieties to reduce poverty among farmers in rural areas across Morocco. Moroccan pomegranates are significant because of their specific chemical composition of cultivars, implying great potential for both the fresh market as well as juice processing.

Moroccan pomegranates

Alkhalid - in his paper “Pomegranate juice production in Morocco” - references studies led by Hamid (2016) about the characteristics and chemical properties of Moroccan pomegranates. He tested 18 different varieties of pomegranates grown in Morocco, local and foreign, and has found that the local cultivars ‘Djeibi’ and ‘Sefri’ have the greatest volume of juice per kilogram of fruit, which makes them of special interest for industrial juice production. Additionally, it was discovered that ‘Onuk Hmam’,‘Djeibi’ and ‘Sefri 2’ cultivars contain high polyphenol and anthocyanin content, and that may be interesting to pharmaceutical and food industries to extract these bioactive compounds. As for fresh fruit consumption, the local cultivars ‘Chioukhi’, ‘Bzou’ and ‘Sefri 2’ have a good combination of highest aril percentage, least skin percentage, and least seed percentage, which are all highly desirable qualities by consumers.

According to volunteer experts of the John Ogonowski and Doug Bereuter Farmer-to-Farmer program, the variety of pomegranate which is desirable to grow is Sefri. On average it produces - given the area, water conditions, and growing season - 450 kg per mature tree. The High Atlas Foundation’s research reports: “The Board president Mohanned Kouyes expressed the need to add value to the current crop through the installation of pressing, packaging and labeling equipment which now is provided to this cooperative through the Moroccan Department of Agriculture. As a part of our talks with the cooperative board they indicated that they needed technical assistance in the form of a marketing specialists and a food/agricultural engineer.”

Problems for local farmers

Pomegranate in Morocco is mainly being sold to market vendors in October, November, and December. Additionally, local farmers, due to lack of technology, do not have sufficient capability to process fresh pomegranates into juice. Foreign countries capitalize on this problem by processing in Europe and shipping the bottled juice to Morocco during the off-season months (January through September). Therefore, the farmers lose the opportunity to reap the benefits of a higher price for their product and become a contributing member in the pomegranate value chain.

Heath benefits

Moroccan pomegranate can act as a potential nutraceutical, which can provide medical and health benefits, including the prevention and treatment of a diseases such as cancer, cardiovascular disorders, diabetes, male infertility, Alzheimer’s disease, aging, and AIDS. (Arfeshany, et al., 2014). The assessment of pomegranate chemical compositions implies the great potential of Moroccan cultivars for both the fresh market and fruit processing (Legua, et al., 2012). The studies also found that “pomegranates showed a much higher antioxidant capacity than most commonly consumed fruits and juices”.

United States-Moroccan pomegranate trade forecast

According to CBI Ministry of Foreign Affairs, antioxidants found in local pomegranates have a great potential to increase global demand for this product. The global pomegranate market in 2018 was valued at USD 8.2 billion and is expected to reach USD 23.14 Billion by year 2026.[1] Also, the trade between US and Morocco is improving every year. The U.S. goods trade surplus with Morocco was $1.4 billion in 2018, a 39.8% increase ($393 million) over 2017.[2] In 2018 Morocco was the United States’ 70th largest goods export market.

To analyze global trade, it is important to understand the end-market price. Just 25% of the end price is export, further 15% shipping, another 15% import. The last 45% is the retail cost.[3] US mainly imports pomegranate from India, as it is one of the largest world providers. The distance between US and India which is 8, 431miles, the distance from US to Morocco is almost half that - 4,867 miles. Cutting the distance would be a great way to cut the shipping prices.  

References

A. Arfeshany, S. Asgary, S. Haghjoo Javanmard; 2014. Potent health effects of pomegranate. Adv Biomed Res.  doi: 10.4103/2277-9175.129371

Cbi.eu. (2019). Available at: https://www.cbi.eu/node/1892/pdf/ [Accessed 26 Aug. 2019].

Hmid et al., 2018. He physico-chemical characteristics of Moroccan pomegranate and evaluation of the antioxidant activity for their juices, Journal of the Saudi Society of Agricultural Sciences. Journal of the Saudi Society of Agricultural Sciences. 17(3), pp. 302-309.

Legua, P., Melgarejo, P., Abdelmajid, H., Martínez, J. J., Martínez, R., Ilham, H., Hafida, H. and Hernández T, F. (2012), Total Phenols and Antioxidant Capacity in 10 Moroccan Pomegranate Varieties. Journal of Food Science, 77: C115-C120. doi:10.1111/j.1750-3841.2011.02516.x

Ustr.gov. (2019). Morocco. Available at: https://ustr.gov/countries-regions/europe-middle-east/middle-east/north-africa/morocco [Accessed 26 Aug. 2019].

Reports and Data, h. (2019). Pomegranate and Pomegranate Arils Market Size, Analysis (2018-2026). Available at: https://www.reportsanddata.com/report-detail/pomegranate-and-pomegranate-arils-market [Accessed 26 Aug. 2019].

[1]https://www.reportsanddata.com/report-detail/pomegranate-and-pomegranate-arils-market

[2]https://ustr.gov/countries-regions/europe-middle-east/middle-east/north-africa/morocco

[3]https://www.cbi.eu/node/1892/pdf/

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Electricity and energy are two of the key challenges in Africa - 2/3 of Africa’s population still has no access to electricity. Additionally electricity demand is assumed to triple until 2030. Increased use of renewable energy (RE) can help address these challenges. Africa has a considerable and largely untapped potential of renewable energies. Tapping into this potential can help to increase investment as well as broaden electricity access. Additionally renewable energy can allow African countries to become climate leaders and become the first continent to propose a different model for energy and electricity issues through a participatory and people-centred approach. African nations’ energy policies are essential to achieving these goals.

The High Atlas FoundationGermanwatch and Bread for the World organised a workshop on decentralised renewable energy in Africa during the UNFCCC Climate Change Conference in Bonn, Germany. This workshop aimed to build capacity for African actors and international organisations working on energy and/or in Africa. Attendees from Vietnam, India, Kena, Zambia, Gabon, Germany and England  identified access issues, unfavourable policies and structures and impacts on people’s livelihoods and the environment as key challenges for a sustainable, participatory and people-centred energy transition on the African continent.

Access issues are centered around finance, data, technology, skills and quality. Funding for energy projects is often hard to access. Public funds are still too tight and the private sector is often reluctant to invest because of a lack of security and transparency in the energy sector and market. Consequently, often low quality hardware has been installed, which led to a negative perception of renewable energy and created e-waste. Furthermore, the lack of weather data providing information about the availability of resources as well as potential climate risks impedes effective planning of new projects. Last but not least, especially in rural areas, the lack of access to the necessary technology and skills needed to install and maintain RE technology hampers the sustainability of RE installations.

Unfavourable policy and structures are another key challenge. In many places, top-down governance of the energy system and a centralized approach to electrification is the common approach. Decentralized solutions are often only seen as interim ones and their potential is not acknowledged. Furthermore, government-led  renewable energy projects are often not transparent because information is not accessible to all stakeholders. This can make it challenging for actors from civil society, local small and medium businesses, academia, youth and women to engage with the government and participate in the energy transition. Most importantly there is a lack of coordination and planning among relevant institutions and policies, such as energy and development ministries, leading to uncertainty and unfavourable investment environment. This is relevant on the regional as well as the continental level, where cooperation in the energy sector is missing.

Renewable energy projects often intersect with human rights and can have negative impacts on the environment. Renewable energy projects, especially the bigger ones, can for example induce water scarcities, displacement and other forms of land use conflicts as well as destroy important habitat for endangered wildlife. Furthermore, when planning a renewable energy transition workers employed in the fossil fuel industries need to be accounted for and good working conditions in the renewable energy sector need to be ensured.

Proposals to tackle these challenges were discussed, which led to the development of the following key recommendations for Africa and the world to achieve a decentralised, participatory and people-centred energy transition on the African continent:

  1. Role of civil society: An empowered civil society is needed to lobby, support, and pressure institutions and stakeholders to facilitate capacity building, develop safeguards to protect people’s rights and livelihoods as well as the environment, increase community participation and influence governments to include decentralised renewable energy projects in their NDCs to enhance ambition. Capacity building is necessary to a) facilitate scientific research in Africa on the local scale in order to solve the lack of data on social and environmental impacts of renewable energy and lack of weather data and b) to enable local communities to participate in decision-making processes and install and maintain decentralised RE technology.
  2. Role of government: The government needs to enhance cooperation across sectors (e.g. energy and environment) and the continent as well as facilitate vertical and horizontal integration and collaboration of the individual government departments to enable the development and exchange of best practices for successful implementation of decentralized energy projects. Furthermore, the government needs to develop a safe and transparent policy environment to create certainty for all actors, attracting long-term investments.
  3. Role of finance: Investment in the energy infrastructure and long-lasting, high-quality renewable energy technology is needed. To achieve this the development of national quality standards for RE technology is imperative. Furthermore, funding needs to be easily accessible for local communities. Finding green financing solutions through green bonds or the sale of carbon-credits could be an innovative way to solve the finance issue.

The considerable RE potential presents an enormous opportunity to tackle electricity access issues and the rising electricity demand on the African continent. Furthermore, promoting the use of decentralised, participatory and people-centred renewable energy can allow African countries to become the world’s climate leaders and the first continent to propose a different model for energy and electricity issues. This workshop helped African and international actors to develop tools to advocate for such a new and innovative model. We thank all participants for their active contribution and Germwanwatch, Bread for the World and the High Atlas Foundation for organising the workshop.

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Marrakech, 9am.  My first field trip.

We boarded the vans that would lead us to our hosts for the day. We had two hours of travel through the Atlas Mountains ahead of us to reach Tassa Ouirgane; a village perched somewhere in the mountains. We left the city, its constant noise and movement, to discover the quietness of the fields, villages and people that populate the surrounding area. Soon, we are at the foot of the Atlas Mountains, ready to begin our winding ascension.

The road follows a narrow, precious stream that winds through a gorge. On the right, appeared the first village; donkeys, men, land, the rurality is apparent... Going up the river, the landscape opens up a bit, and gives way to a valley, narrow and green, descending from the mountains between the bright red mountain sides. Emerging from this oasis, a few slender white creatures fly over the valley. The contrast is striking and of a singular beauty; here, water is scarce, and one can feel it.

We will stop in a lively village upstream. The cool mountain air is cut with the smoke from the fresh lamb and chicken being cooked. The stillness of life is replaced with the lively bustle of the souk. Men are agitated in front of the stalls, they want to sell us a bracelet, a stone, a meal; offers abound for visitors like us, all with the promise of “For you, I give good price.”

Wandering away from the souk, I found company in the big trees along the road. On my right, I had a nice view into the lush green valley. I advanced slightly, finding myself immersed in the scent of almond trees and the sounds of white birds. I felt for a moment the intensity of this prosperity- the rareness of it- considering its value in these desert mountains.

We continued our journey through several more villages, valleys and landscapes, all equally as breathtaking... The road soon led us to a dirt track, on which we drove following its gentle curves and marveling at nature’s decor. The higher we went, the more rivers became streams; everything was affected…

Finally, we reach a quaint, sleepy village, near an empty old building in mud bricks. It is here, or rather slightly below, that we will stop. Down a narrow path, we walk through olive plantations in terraces on the hillside. Theshade is nice, and one can almost feel the resilience they have shown to thrive here.

A little ahead, we stop for a time to visit the nursery where a great number of olive saplings (their little brothers) are kept in black plastic bags, all ready for planting. We could feel the release of energy of an organized life, the will to raise and create prosperity was palpable.

This was an opportunity for us to meet one of the villagers. Through the translation of his Arabic, he told us about his situation, concerns, and vision. This man seemed torn about his rural roots in his way of expressing himself, his modern features, expressed in his appearance, perfectly trimmed beard and modern clothes, came in sharp juxtaposition to the rural village and setting to which he called home. In the discussion, he stressed the importance of the plantations for him and his community. It was not a question of purely agricultural notions, it was a question of prosperity, future, and quality of life for himself and his family.

We walked down to the heart of the village, stopping at an orchard overlooking the valley. The charm was there, and the trees gave away their fruits with little effort.

We then met a group of women, all dressed traditionally. A deep gap seems to separate them from our western group. Through their words, we could easily discover that their lifestyle, their concerns, their expectations were rather different from ours. However, something still seemed to connect us. Despite their relative isolation, they are rather content and feel comfortable in the place that is theirs. A singular humanity emerged from them.

Later in the afternoon, they invited us to join them in a large room, where we shared a traditional meal of couscous. We sat together on the floor in more or less mixed groups, the room was filled with a good atmosphere rich in discussions and sharing. The food was delicious steeped in the flavor of tradition.

I alternated discussions with colleagues in the room and going outside to escape the noise. Curiously enough, it is outside that I engaged in the most contact with the local people, exchanging with them through brief discussions. A simple and authentic connection was established. For a moment, I stopped and sat down to admire the place and the mountains. There is something slow, static and great; feeling that time is passing beyond us, flowing slowly, surely and peacefully; one should only let go and be carried away by this flow and merge with it.

At a street corner, I met some children, laughed with them, and then passed a mosque where women go for their prayers. Here, there is not much, and the weight of tradition is present.

I finally joined the group, where a final dialogue and a farewell took place. It was a pleasure to share a moment and a slight emotion of benevolence. We left our hosts leaving them to their peace and boarding our vans to go back to town. It was a visit rich in feelings and impressions.

Thanks to the United Nations Development Program, which funded the nursery, the village irrigation system and gabion baskets to prevent erosion of the river; not to mention the empowerment workshops in Tassa Ouirgane.

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HAF Volunteer Peter Wu from China watering the olive tree planted by the people of the three faiths at Synagogue Slat Attia in Essaouira.

Essaouira may stand as a great example to the world for how religious diversity should prevail: Jewish, Muslim, and Christian communities have historically co-existed in Essaouira peacefully. While other regions of the world are endlessly fighting over religious matters, it is both interesting and delightful to observe how the Essaouira people get along with each other so well.

I am Peter Wu, a Chinese student currently studying at Western University in Ontario, Canada. During my third week in Morocco, I was brought on a journey with the High Atlas Foundation (HAF) to the city of Essaouira.

So, what was my expectation before the trip? Frankly speaking, my knowledge of the area was so limited that I had no sense of what to expect in Essaouira. Nonetheless, it turned out to be a very insightful experience; even with no expectations to fulfill, there was still a sense of fulfillment in the journey.

Morocco is an Islamic state—a fact that was rooted in my mind. Therefore, it was a surprise to me inEssaouira that the land is not only home to Muslims but also Jews and Christians, whom equally enjoy everyday life and have the right to practice their own religions. A Christian church was the first place we visited; then we went to a mosque, where we sat on carpets and listened to a choir of local Moroccan kids sing. Lastly, we visited a Jewish museum where Jewish ancestors’ histories were commemorated. “Rich history rich culture,” I thought.

What could I relate to from this journey?

I grew up in Guangzhou, China, a megacity located in the country’s southern region. People there are kind and welcoming, and many hold a sense of pride to their hometown. Guangzhou is home to a unique language spoken only by locals, and which is relatively distinct from Mandarin (China’s official language): Cantonese. You get used to people not speaking Cantonese on the street. Locals of Guangzhou are proud of their culture, but that is not the only thing that makes the city special. Guangzhou is fast-growing—the population continues to increase. As a result, car traffic is congested, leading government leaders to constantly look for new solutions to alleviate it. However, attempts to avoid the traffic by taking public transportation has resulted in crowds at the train station to pour in and out like water flow when a train comes by. Also, on the streets, large crowds quickly walk by Canton Tower every night, resembling ant colonies. Insofar, sometimes you might wonder if Guangzhou has changed from the culture and the distinct linguistic feature it once represented.

Nevertheless, I am glad that the city in which I grew up has a value of tolerance for all, just like Essaouira. There was never hatred for newcomers or outsiders from Guangzhou; the city welcomed all people with open arms. Guangzhou is not fearful of others who try to settle and be a part of the city—the culture continues to absorb and to renew itself from “the new.” People have mutual respect for each other and try to understand the differences between them without judgment. Perhaps this is why the city is always marching forward: it gains strength from new people, and when those people become a part of the city, Guangzhou is strengthened as a whole. Of course, there are problems and disputes at times, but the city’s attitude is always positive.

Guangzhou is great, but there was something else I was lacking the knowledge of when I grew up. Guangzhou believes in diversity, however, you rarely witness diversity of religion there. As you can guess, this is the aspect I liked about Essaouira: a perfect example of what I had previously been unexposed to, where the Jewish, Christian, and Muslim people are living harmonically in the same city.

There are 77,966 people living in Essaouira—a small population—making it unusual to see such a religious mixture. While it is a small region, I feel a much greater sense of inclusion. I suppose people in Essaouira are living happily. Vivid proof, to me, includes the people I observed walking the streets before Iftar and the peddling vendors by the roadside. One question I have to ask is: did the peaceful and happy lives of people in Essaouira bridge the gap between religions, or did the religious harmony provide the foundation of pleasant life? In other words, which of the two came first in Essaouira’s history, and which of them is more of a determinant?

This may be a tough question to answer, but regardless of what you think, the reality is that communities in Essaouira enjoy cohesion and peace. Therefore, the question I posed becomes less significant. The message many other parts of the world could take from Essaouira is: let the people have a good quality of life and embrace the diversities in their religions. After all, we are all the same in that there is no real difference among us in the existence of humanity.

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In order to promote and preserve the multicultural past that Morocco is known by, HAF has taken immediate action in partnership with local communities. These actions aim to protect the endemic tolerance and peace in Morocco and the long coexistence between the Muslim, Jewish, and Christian communities. The mission of HAF and its partners is to value this history and record among the local communities and especially among Moroccan youth through cultural dialogue.

On the 17th of May HAF team headed to Essaouira in the morning of a sunny day. HAF’s president, Dr. Yossef Ben-Meir, two staff members, and two volunteers went to Essaouira to take part in an event organized by Marock Jeunes association. “Falnazraa al Okhowa” which 

means in English “Let’s plant fraternity” is an event that took place in different cities in Morocco at 3:00 PM.

The holy month of Ramadan is an exceptional opportunity to demonstrate fraternity, solidarity, and respect values. Under the label Morocco Alghad, Marock Jeunes association suggested planting three olive trees in different religious places. As a sign of fraternity, the initiative aims to plant three olive trees in a church, mosque, and a synagogue at the same time.

The field visit started with visiting the Christian cemetery in Essaouira. This cemetery is one of the cemeteries, including the Muslim and the Jewish cemetery that HAF restored and still taking charge of the cleaning and the planting activities. HAF and its local partners have also developed proposals in order to restore the Franciscan Church that can be used as a suitable space where local civil associations can work and meet together.

As it was planned, at 3:00 PM when the participants from different religious background met at Essaouira’s Church.  There were participants from different ages, primary school student, university students, employees, retirees, and members from the local civil society who came to be part of this initiative.

After planting the olive tree in the Church, all the participants walked to Bayt Adakira museum in Essaouira. The museum sheds light on the history of the Jewish community that was living in this small port city. This museum holds memories of the Jewish families who were living in the city but immigrated after decolonization to Israel or to the West, as it is the case in the rest of the cities throughout Morocco. The construction of this museum was supported by the high royal patronage, and special care of the Royal counselor, Andre Azoulay.

The Headquarter of the Zaouia Alkadiria was the last place to plant an olive tree in Essaouira. It represents one of the few landmarks in Essaouira. The building itself witnessed the long history and great importance in the life of the Muslim community. Soon after getting in the main room of the Zaouia, we were warmly welcomed by beautiful songs sung by the young school children who attended this Zaouia each week to study verses from the Koran and religious local songs. After a small word delivered by the Director of the Zaouia, we planted an olive tree and we took a group picture with all the participants.

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High Atlas Foundation

Location: New York, NY - USA
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Twitter: @AtlasHigh
Project Leader:
Yossef Ben-Meir
President of the High Atlas Foundation
New York City and Marrakech, Morocco
$15,930 raised of $28,000 goal
 
308 donations
$12,070 to go
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