My name is Nora, and I am a new intern at HAF. Over the next 4 months, you can follow my internship journey on the HAF blog.
Allow me to first introduce myself. I am 29 years old, and I study International Social Work in the master’s program at the University of Applied Science in Erfurt, Germany. The third semester of my program consists of an internship abroad which also encompasses the initial research for my master’s thesis. As I am interested in Arabic language and culture and always wanted to travel to Morocco, working with HAF seemed to be a perfect opportunity to find out more about the country’s ongoing developments and social projects. So, here I am.
I’m not certain about the topic of my thesis yet, but I hope the following months interning with HAF will help to steer me in the right direction. In general, I hope to find out how to develop and implement sustainable projects that have positive effects on the environment, contribute to poverty alleviation, and improve the living conditions of disadvantaged people. HAF’s work seems highly promising to me, and I’m looking forward to gaining insight into their projects and contributing to their work.
In my first week as an intern, I was entrusted with research and administration tasks. I was ready and very excited to go on my first field visit yesterday. Together with my colleagues, Said and Abduljallil, our driver, Hassan, and Pieter, Chief Tree Planting Officer from Ecosia, I visited several of HAF’s tree planting sites.
Ecosia: An Eco-Friendly Search Engine
You may be familiar with the Ecosia search engine, which is similar to Google but has the incredible advantage that the profit generated by the company is used to plant trees. If you ever wondered how Ecosia finances their tree plantings with your search requests, let me tell you a bit more about their work, as I had the opportunity to talk to Pieter about Ecosia’s projects and ask him all of my questions.
Pieter told me that the number of trees planted by Ecosia all around the world reached 50 million in February 2019. That number has already grown to more than 70 million! In Morocco, Ecosia is funding the planting of 1.2 million trees in partnership with HAF. It was really interesting for me to find out how search requests are translated into trees, mainly based on the revenue Ecosia generates from advertisements. Basically, this works based on the number of clicks per ad on the Ecosia site. But even if you never click on advertisements, you still contribute to the movement because the more active monthly users the website has, the more relevant it becomes to advertisers. On average it takes about 45 search queries to plant a tree. This number varies according to location.
To make sure that all tree plantings are measurable and traceable, sites must be carefully monitored. The methodology of doing so was a primary reason for Pieter’s visit to HAF. The purpose of our field visit was to show Pieter a number of HAF nurseries and the progress of the trees as well as to discuss future collaboration between Ecosia and HAF.
Into the Field
First, we visited a remote village in the Marrakech region. The trip there was amazing. The only possible way to reach the village is a curvy, bumpy dirt and gravel road. Once we arrived, the landscape was simply stunning. As or even more impressive, however, were the people and their trees. Three young men from the local farmers’ association showed us their planting sites, and we were able to converse with some of the proud owners of the land. Even Pieter, who has a deep knowledge about trees, was deeply impressed by the size and the condition of the trees. For example, some of the olive trees planted only 2 years ago are already head-high and have fruit ready to harvest. Abdeljalil, who works on-site with the farmers most of the time, told us that the progress is simply owed to the care and attentiveness offered to the nursery.
In the afternoon, we visited a beautiful garden where saffron is grown. Here, we saw how to practically use space between trees to grow high-value plants and at the same time preserve the good quality of the soil in a natural way.
Later, we visited the school, where HAF with support from Ecosia could enable children and teachers to plant shade-giving trees for the schoolyard.
Conclusions and Remaining Questions
It was fascinating for me to see the different planting sites and gain deeper insight and understanding into the operations of a big company like Ecosia. I still have many questions. For example, I still am interested to know how trees are distributed by HAF and how farmers are selected. Also still on my mind is water supply for farmers--a major issue and consideration in all such projects. I hope to gain a better understanding of these processes throughout my next field trips. These topics are discussed in depth throughout a HAF-Ecosia partnership.