Multicultural Cooperation for Fruit Tree Planting

by High Atlas Foundation
Vetted

Morocco is a gateway between Europe and Africa and as a result, different ideas, cultures, and languages have influenced the country greatly. The discord that echoes throughout North Africa as a result of extremist groups and governments has so far passed by Morocco, where it remains relatively peaceful. Historically, there was a Jewish population in Morocco but it has dwindled over the years. As a result, ancient Jewish cemeteries are spread out across the country. Recently, initiatives have been started to recall and advance the unity of the Jewish and Muslim Moroccans.

It is unusual to hear of projects that are attempting to bridge this tumultuous gap through tree planting, let alone planting trees beside Jewish cemeteries. However, the High Atlas Foundation saw the importance of bringing these two communities together. It is a rare situation where a nonprofit is led by an American Jew, Dr. Yossef Ben-Meir, who speaks fluent Moroccan Arabic and is committed to the betterment of Morocco and its peoples no matter their religion.

As the tree saplings grow, so does the trust and respect between the rural Muslims and the urbanized Jews. Morocco is attempting to overcome a deep rooted prejudice that has, and still does, impact people all over the world. Instead of rocks being thrown at each other, trees can be planted together to improve the environment and heal old wounds. Morocco is an example for other areas of the world where Muslims and Jews have lived side by side but in situations can become disparate and where hope, in more forms than one, awaits to be planted.

Morocco: Supporting economic development in a way that enriches us all – High Atlas Foundation House of Life intercultural organic agriculture initiative and Clinton Global Initiative Commitment to Action

 

Monday, January 25th, 2016 – Akrich, rural commune of Tamesloht, Al Haouz province (27 km south of Marrakesh): A spirit of unity and hope reigned at Monday’s intercultural celebration of the new planting season, which was graced by The Honorable Dwight L. Bush, Sr., Ambassador of the United States of America to the Kingdom of Morocco and Mr. Younès Al Bathaoui, Governor of Al Haouz province, and which represented a further milestone for the High Atlas Foundation (HAF) under its President, Dr. Yossef Ben-Meir.

The definitive shift in scope and scale of HAF’s innovative House of Life initiative was publicly fêted at the event.  This builds on and strengthens intercommunal relationships between Moroccan Muslim and Jewish communities and commenced in 2012 as a pilot organic project at Akrich itself – where a total of 90,000 fruit seeds and saplings have been planted to date.  In July 2015, under the terms of a Clinton Global Initiative Commitment to Action, HAF embarked on a three-year program to plant a further one million trees in nurseries adjoining rural Jewish burial sites in the provinces of Azilal, Essaouira and Ouarzazate, for the benefit of local, disadvantaged Muslim farmers.

House of Life forms an integral part of HAF’s ongoing One Billion Tree Campaign, which also includes a junior educational initiative,Sami’s ProjectAs a whole, this transformative scheme has already succeeded in planting over a million organic, indigenous trees and medicinal plants in 13 Moroccan provinces, with the commitment representing a significant amplification of the process.

Monday’s event, with its interfaith, agricultural and communal emphasis brought together the communities of Akrich, Asni and Ourika involved in HAF projects, as well as members of the Moroccan Jewish community, Moroccan and United States government officials and prominent supporters of HAF.

Coinciding with Tu B’Shevat, the Jewish new year for trees, it was framed around four elements; a visit conducted by Mr. Jacky Kadoch, President of the Jewish community of Marrakesh-Essaouira, to the 700-year-old shrine of Raphael HaCohen adjoining the nursery, including the prayer for rain requested by H.M. King Mohammed VI in view of the significant lack of rain this winter; the planting of a single fig tree; the symbolic distribution of mature trees – almond, fig, grape and pomegranate – to local farming families: and the signing of the Clinton Global Initiative certificate that took place at the opening of a communal lunch attended by around 250.  Children in particular played a prominent role, as future trustees of the land and educators regarding its care.  Ambassador Bush summed up the event as a unique opportunity to celebrate Morocco’s multiculturalism and support economic development in a way that enriches us all.

 

Please click here to enjoy photos of the event.  

 

The High Atlas Foundation (HAF) has been implementing development projects in predominantly rural areas throughout Morocco since 2000, building on the Peace Corps experience of its founders. HAF is both a U.S. 501(c) (3) organization and a Moroccan non-profit association. Since 2011 it has held special Consultative Status at the United Nations Economic and Social Council. 

HAF utilizes a participatory, democratic approach to the management of all its projects, which are determined and managed by local communities, to support the Kingdom of Morocco in its twin bid to overcome subsistence agricultural practices that lie at the root of systemic rural poverty and to offset severe environmental challenges, including soil erosion and deforestation. 

The foundation actively seeks expertise within Morocco and is supported by Moroccan and international volunteers. The dynamic created by this intercultural team affords HAF a unique capacity to advance human development

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This January 25, 2016, the High Atlas Foundation will be hosting a multicultural tree-planting event. This Moroccan Muslim-Jewish initiative and celebration will take place in the Tomsloht commune of the Al Haouz province at the fruit tree nursery that is planted adjacent to the sacred burial site of the notable Hebrew figure Raphael HaCohen, at the village of Akrich. This House of Life project involves the dedication of land by the Moroccan Jewish community in order for rural farming families to plant their community-managed fruit tree nurseries. 

At this first project site, located at Akrich, a total of 90,000 fruit seeds and saplings were planted, including almond, fig, lemon, pomegranate and olive. During this upcoming 2016 planting season, 30,000 of these trees will be distributed in-kind to the surrounding communities. House of Life is a commitment to action with the Clinton Global Initiative. The commitment involves planting one million seeds on lands located nearby notable figures buried in the provinces of Azilal, Essaouira and Ouarzazate. 

The High Atlas Foundation thanks you for your support in making this special event possible! We look forward to our continued collaboration in 2016! We wish you and yours a very happy new year.

During what has been a very exciting summer for the High Atlas Foundation, the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) has endorsed the High Atlas Foundation as we presses on into the fall through the “House of Life” project. The term “House of Life,” denotes a traditional name for a Jewish cemetery. The Governor of the Al Haouz Province, Younès Al Bathaoui, to employed the phrase in respect of the project, led by the High Atlas Foundation (HAF) in the Kingdom of Morocco and endorsed by the Clinton Global Initiative in three provinces: Azilal, Ourzazate, and Essaouira. 

The “House of Life” project works to allow low income farming families access to a new source of income and an alternative to subsistence farming by starting nurseries on land donated by Moroccan Jewish communities. Not only does this cultivate economic opportunity for those involved, it also promotes a cultural exchange between religious communities. The uniqueness of the scheme lies in its intercultural aspect. The “House of Life” project facilitates the free loan of land adjoining Jewish burial sites, in order to establish organic tree and medicinal nurseries for the benefit of neighboring Muslim farming communities.

Aided by the creation of HA3 (the High Atlas Agriculture and Artisanal social enterprise), a complete process from farm to table is envisaged, thus addressing existing gaps in the organic agricultural entrepreneurial system. Organic certification, fair trade prices and wider markets – national and international - are secured for local farmers, whose communities go on to benefit from reinvestment in further projects. This endorsement with CGI poses a wonderful opportunity to continue and develop HAF’s work in Morocco. We look forward to continuing into the fall!

Sacred Land & Nursery in Akrich
Sacred Land & Nursery in Akrich

Dear all,

Ramadan Mubarak!

While the “One Billion Tree” campaign continues to extend its roots over the generously donated sacred Jewish lands within Marrakech’s Tensift-Al Haouz region, something new is sprouting up in the village of Akrich, located in the Tamesloht region.

Using the participatory method, Amina Samkane, one of HAF’s dedicated and diligent team members, has recently begun collaborating with the women of Akrich to facilitate the emergence of the Association of Al Amal for the Promotion of Rural Women and Children in Akrich. The association has 11 official members, and will benefit over 60 families within the community.

The start of the organic intercultural agricultural initiative on February 9th, saw the planting of 30,000 saplings, seeds, and two year old trees--with the ultimate goal being 80-120,000 saplings, and is projecting to benefit as many as 10,000 people. While women, men, and children alike are included in the projected beneficiary group of 10,000, men have typically been the agricultural caretakers of the community, which has left women without direct involvement in these initiatives. As Amina noted, if there is anything the women of Akrich are, it is active- in the past the women helped build the mosque in Akrich, as well as organized a program for illiteracy.

The Association of Al Amal for the Promotion of Rural Women and Children in Akrich is an initiative dedicated solely to the women of Akrich for economic empowerment. The association, as decided by the Akrich women themselves, hopes to span some 200 meters on the donated Jewish land (each meter costs 200 dirhams). Establishing this space for the association is the women’s current and top priority, followed by the development of profitable projects--such as selling cakes and artisanal crafts--and organizing the construction of a sewage system, play space for children, and a formal trash collecting service and storage facility.

Meanwhile the future of the “One Billion Tree” campaign looks bright, as the relationship between the Muslim and Jewish communities remains as strong as ever.

The High Atlas Foundation would like to extend its gratitude to all of its supporters! Thank you for helping us to achieve our mission of harboring sustainable prosperity in Morocco!

Wishing everyone a very happy Ramadan and/or wonderful summer thus far!

~The High Atlas Foundation Team~

Amina and Akrich Women Collaborating
Amina and Akrich Women Collaborating
Participatory Method-Social Mapping Up Close
Participatory Method-Social Mapping Up Close

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Organization Information

High Atlas Foundation

Location: New York, NY - USA
Website: http:/​/​www.highatlasfoundation.org
Project Leader:
Jacqueline Seeley
New York City and Marrakech, Morocco
$8,084 raised of $28,000 goal
 
 
55 donations
$19,916 to go
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