Plant Trees to Empower Farming Families in Morocco

by High Atlas Foundation
Plant Trees to Empower Farming Families in Morocco
Plant Trees to Empower Farming Families in Morocco
Plant Trees to Empower Farming Families in Morocco
Plant Trees to Empower Farming Families in Morocco
Plant Trees to Empower Farming Families in Morocco
Plant Trees to Empower Farming Families in Morocco
Plant Trees to Empower Farming Families in Morocco
Plant Trees to Empower Farming Families in Morocco
Plant Trees to Empower Farming Families in Morocco
Plant Trees to Empower Farming Families in Morocco
Plant Trees to Empower Farming Families in Morocco
Plant Trees to Empower Farming Families in Morocco
Plant Trees to Empower Farming Families in Morocco
Plant Trees to Empower Farming Families in Morocco
Plant Trees to Empower Farming Families in Morocco
Plant Trees to Empower Farming Families in Morocco
Plant Trees to Empower Farming Families in Morocco
Plant Trees to Empower Farming Families in Morocco
Plant Trees to Empower Farming Families in Morocco
Plant Trees to Empower Farming Families in Morocco
Plant Trees to Empower Farming Families in Morocco
Plant Trees to Empower Farming Families in Morocco
Plant Trees to Empower Farming Families in Morocco
Plant Trees to Empower Farming Families in Morocco
Plant Trees to Empower Farming Families in Morocco
Plant Trees to Empower Farming Families in Morocco
Plant Trees to Empower Farming Families in Morocco
Plant Trees to Empower Farming Families in Morocco

It was with great enthusiasm that I hit the road to Imilchil from Marrakech. I knew that the road was long, more than 400 kilometers, but I had this nostalgia to see again the land of my ancestors. I felt the urge to take in the beautiful landscapes and all of the different kinds of forest and fruit trees that you pass through on  the road from Beni Mellal to Imilchil.

Unfortunately this landscape does not last long. As soon as I arrive in Imilchil, the landscape has completely changed. The greenery has given way to an almost empty, desert-like panorama.

My main mission was to locate the land with the most potential for afforestation in the Imilchil administrative circle (Midelt Province). Afforestation is the process of introducing trees and tree seedlings to an area that has previously not been forested. Afforestation can be done through tree planting and seeding, which are main objectives of the High Atlas Foundation in an effort to promote economic empowerment and carbon sequestration.

To locate the best parcel of land, I had to meet with farmers who own communal lands in the Imilchil Circle (100 hectares in Agoudal village and 66 hectares in Outarbate). We had long conversations so I could understand the reasons they have now decided to  choose tree planting over cattle raising, which has historically been their local form of agriculture.  We also discussed the history of their village and tribes, the ability to install solar panels, what kind of organic fruit trees and forest trees they want to plant, the water resources in the region, and a multitude of other relevant subjects.

In a recent article by HAF Student Intern Jacqueline Skalski-Fouts, she reported that “despite socioeconomic improvements in Morocco (1.7 million Moroccans have moved out of poverty in the last decade), droughts continue to threaten agricultural production, which accounts for 20 percent of GDP and 30 percent of the Moroccan workforce. Low crop yield can exacerbate poverty, especially in rural regions, as two thirds of people who are in extreme poverty work as agricultural laborers.”

The impact of the “apple tree planting projects” of the Green Morocco Plan and the authorities of Errachidia province (between 1987 and 2012) have had a considerable impact on the change of mentality of Imilchil farmers, which are increasingly oriented towards plantation of fruit trees as opposed to  the breeding of cattle. In addition, soil erosion is another reason that encouraged them to plant forest trees such as cypress.

Agroforestry, or tree-farming, is an eco-friendly solution to climate issues. Planting trees diversifies farming, responds to climate crisis issues, and improves the economic power of a community. Estimates claim forest-farms can be eight times more profitable than staple crops like grain, which can increase farmers’ incomes and reduce rural poverty.

Another important element in afforestation efforts is the creation of a new nursery in the village of Agoudal. If the agreement is signed between HAF and Akhiam association, 400,000 fruit trees (walnut, almond and cherry) can be cultivated and distributed to Imilchil farmers. This is a considerable advantage since these endemic trees species happen to be the tree types which perfectly match the cold climate of Imilchil. Forest trees and medicinal plants can also be cultivated in the nursery and planted in these communal lands to control soil erosion.

A special thanks to Akhiam association (21 years of activity) and El Kheir association (9 years of activity), who coordinated these meetings and the field visits to the various sites which are the subject of the study.

If this project starts, it will serve as a model for other projects that will emerge in several parts of the Kingdom.

Stay tuned for more information as this project, and others, moves into future stages. Follow us on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter for updates. 

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"Life's most persistent and urgent question is, "What are you doing for others?'"

Martin Day, a holiday in the USA, is celebrated annually on the third Monday of January. On this day each year, America remembers this charasmatic leader, fighter for justice, protestor against racial discrimination, and advocate for the civil rights. HAF‘s foundation of volunteerism takes inspiration from this day, and celebrates his memory by devoting this day to tree planting in communities across Morocco, paying honor in particular to those communities who have engaged with HAF since 2000. Volunteerism is an essential core to HAF’s mission, for it teaches the individual the culture of sharing and solidarity.

On January,18th, at 10 am, HAF President Dr.Yossef, Agricultural Technician Abdejlil , Project Assistants Lahcen and Mustapha, and I headed toward the village of Lmrades in the Herbil Commune of the Marrakech province. Our mission was to meet with local farmers in order to plant trees.

Thanks to HAF’s coordination with the Al Jail Saeid Association, farmers are able to plant 27,000 trees in Tamnsourt’s lands this tree-planting season. The families welcomed and hosted the members of the HAF team with great joy.

Planting trees in Morocco

To begin our Tree-Planting Day celebration, HAF launched various Facebook lives throughout the day to enjoy this event with people all over the world, allowing them to also experience the moment and be part of this special day. HAF believes that by celebrating this special day planting trees, we can more easily reach a sustainable culture and community. Local farmers and associations will have a stable income from the fruit yielded from these trees, the youth will be aware of the importance of tree planting, and the physical location will become a healthy green space to live in.

Tree-Planting Day was an opportunity for the local farmers to learn the correct way of planting trees by following the steps provided by Abdejllil, a member of the HAF. In order to plant a tree correctly, Abdeljalil suggests the following steps:

  • Cut the bottom of the plastic that covers the sapling.
  • Place the tree in a hole that is at least one meter deep.
  • Fill the hole with soil, gently surrounding the rootball.
  • MakE a soil circle around the base of the sapling to act as a dam.
  • Water the sapling.

Maintain an equal distance between each of the trees to allow them space to mature (about 7 meters between each olive tree, for example).

Preparing for tree planting season

Tree planting season in Morocco starts each year in the middle of December, when farmers prepared their fertile lands for planting, and lasts through the end of March

This planting season, HAF is in the process of transplanting 1 million trees to farming communities and schools around Morocco and planting 1.6 million seeds in our 12 nurseries to prepare for the year ahead. Each nursery includes more than 220.000 seeds.

We currently grow 8 types of trees: pomegranate, fig, almond, walnut, argan, cherry, carob,and lemon. Along with the trees, the nurseries grow medicinal and Also,there are aromatic grown plants like capers, cumin, fennel, geranium, lavender, marjoram, oregano, peppermint, rosemary, sage, tarragon, thyme, and verbena.

Thanks to our generous partners at Ecosia, HAF is able to sell these trees to farmers for a fraction of the price they would normally find at market. Farmers are asked to pay a symbolic price of 2DH (about $0.20). This is to encourage and help the farmers who have limited incomes.

HAF also offers 20 free trees to schools to provide students with a clean environment as well as raise their awareness about the danger of pollution and climate change.

On Tree Planting Day, HAF’s staff went to 11 provinces to meet people from different sectors like farmers, schools, cooperatives, associations, etc. They facilitated environmental and planting workshops within each community. To include the rest of the world in the celebrations, they made Facebook lives and shared videos and photos throughout the day. (Check out HAF’s Instagram and Twitter to see more updates.).

Planting season is only three short months. When the season comes to an end in March, HAF will conduct a follow-up with the Ecosia team to monitor our effectiveness and see how widespread our impact has been. This follow-up will also be done to ensure the development of the seedlings and ensure that they are growing in good conditions so as to achieve sustainability. The table below shows statistics and results of how many trees were planted on January 18 and how many communities benefited from this event.

Planting trees to reduce poverty in Morocco

The High Atlas Foundation is keen on ensuring the sustainability of fruit trees. We maintain intensive tracking after planting trees and monitor for the appropriate growing conditions. We believe that planting trees will be a great benefit for livelihood, a source of income, building a bridge of trust with the community, and contributing in making intercultural groups.

For HAF, planting trees is about more than just promoting a better environment. Food scarcity is a growing concern globally.

HAF Student Intern Jacqueline Skalski-Fouts recently reported that nearly “30 percent of the world’s 821 million malnourished people live in Africa, the highest prevalence by region. Despite socioeconomic improvements in Morocco (1.7 million Moroccans have moved out of poverty in the last decade), droughts continue to threaten agricultural production, which accounts for 20 percent of GDP and 30 percent of the Moroccan workforce. Low crop yield can exacerbate poverty, especially in rural regions, as two thirds of people who are in extreme poverty work as agricultural laborers.”

Agroforestry, or tree-farming, is an eco-friendly solution to climate issues. Planting trees diversifies farming and improves the economic power of a community. Estimates claim forest-farms can be eight times more profitable than staple crops like grain, which can increase farmers’ incomes and reduce rural poverty.

There are several objectives of promoting the organic trees: ensuring food security, moderating agriculture, enhancing investments, limiting the impact of climate change, preserving natural resources, reviving agricultural product exports, valuing local products, promoting women’s empowerment, and creating job opportunities.

HAF’s spirit of volunteerism

HAF promotes public service, activism, and engaging in volunteerism. In the last three years, we have 536 volunteers and interns from both the Moroccan and International communities.

MLK Day was established to honor the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the famed American preacher and civil rights activist. It officially became a national day of service in 1994, encouraging Americans to devote the day to volunteer acts.

HAF was first started by former Peace Corps Volunteers in 2000. Most of the staff were volunteers before they officially joined HAF. It is with this foundation of volunteerism that HAF dedicates each Martin Luther King day to the act of planting fruit trees across Morocco to benefit farming communities, schools, and associations.

We seize this opportunity to thank all the members and volunteers for developing projects and sharing the community's voice with the world.

The impact of HAF’s partners

HAF’s partnerships are flexible and reflect the humanity, interfaith, and harmony of Moroccan culture. Thanks to our national partners, The High Commission of Waters and Forests, the Ministry of Youth and Sports, the Moroccan public-school system, the Moroccan Jewish community, cooperatives and associations across the country, and various universities and provincial authorities, who have generously donated lands and contributed in making a green life. We also thank our international partners: Ecosia, Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy, PUR, FRÉ, and USAID Farmer to Farmer program.

Because of these important partnerships. HAF had a successful Tree planting Day. Our efforts are to be continued to make Morocco a country with responsible citizens who believe in the power of volunteerism.

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“Trees are poems the earth writes upon the sky,

We fell them down and turn them into paper,

That we may record our emptiness.”
                                    -Kahlil Gibran

I always believed that trees are the source of life for humans. HAF encourages the Moroccan community to plant trees and invest in their empty lands by providing people with 1 million organic trees in Morocco in 2020. You may be wondering where the trees come from. Who is taking care of these trees? And what is the process of growing them?

On November 9, a team from HAF, consisting of Program Coordinator Hajiba, Mr. Hicham, Tree Planting Trainer, HAF Driver Lahcen, HAF's Driver, and I headed to Tassa Ouirgane village (in Al Haouz province, Marrakech-Safi region). The purpose of the field trip was to visit HAF’s nursery there. Mr. Hicham delivered a workshop  to one woman and five girls about how to plant seeds properly, as they are the nursery caretakers. He described to them step-by-step how to plant Carob seeds:

  1. First of all, the seeds should soak in warm water for 24 hours in a covered pot.
  2. Then, we remove the water and let the seeds dry for another 24 hours in the same spot.
  3. After that, we prepare a mixture of soil and dust, then add the seeds.
  4. We let this germinate for three days, each in a pot filled with earth.

Then, we take good care and water the seeds daily to grow them into saplings.

The nursery caretakers had originally benefited from the Imagine Women’s Empowerment Program. Amina El Hajjami, HAF’s Director of Projects, conducted a workshop for fourteen women in Tassa Ouirgane over the course of four days in 2019. HAF then supported the women to create  Takhrkhourt Cooperative, an agricultural cooperative whose membership includes the one woman and four girls who are now the caretakers of the nursery. They have started their nursery by planting 40,000 trees in 2020: olive, carob, fig, walnut, and pomegranate. The ladies are happy to work in the nursery daily, having created their own work environment around shared thoughts. In sharing their thoughts on the experience with me, Malika, a member of the cooperative, said: “We received all the support from Amina and HAF. We have a chance to prove ourselves and earn an income.”

HAF’s tree planting and monitoring team has assessed the main challenges that the woman and four girls face daily in order to facilitate the healthy growth of their cooperative. For example, they are working together to gain full access to water for the nursery.They also aim to build a small room to keep their materials.

The ladies of Takhrkhort Cooperative have a vision based on working at the nursery. They are looking forward to preparing 40,000 saplings for the local community by the next planting season. HAF is honored to support them as the Foundation works hard to get ready for the distribution of one billion trees in 24 Moroccan provinces starting from December 15.

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A wrinkled tree Analogy

To care for the people or for your own wellbeing is by no means a contradiction to protecting the environment. While conventional agriculture ensures efficient food production, it still risks the health of many billion people by polluting ground waters, emitting CO2 and further reducing overall biodiversity. But strikingly, the dichotomy between health and nourishment is truly fictional. Morocco is restoring ecosystems in sections of the country, as they strive to manage food production as a means to promote people’s health. Indirectly, by restoring ground water levels through sustainable farming practices, but also by reconnecting with traditional knowledge on pharmaceutical uses of native species.

It is millions of years of experience that today allows Ceratonia, also known as the carob tree, to lead by example, bluntly, and simply through its existence in Morocco. It is a trunk, like two wrinkly old arms that stretch into the hot air of a Moroccan summer. Even through dramatic heatwaves and the live-threatening challenges that climate change has confronted the people and nature with this tree shows resistance and has become a symbol of endurance and hope. Being in the family of Fabaceae this tree has a unique partnership with underground bacteria that live in root nodules incorporated into the tree’s physiology. They have throughout evolution perfected their partnership, where Rhizobacteria suck Nitrogen out of the air feeding it to the tree, while leaking some into the surrounding soil. The cooperation of these highly distinct organisms has allowed carob to grow in nutrient poor, eroded soils providing bean-like pods to feed on for a variety of animals, including humans. These characteristics has made carob a pioneer in ecosystem restoration, enriching soils with nutrients and providing habitat structure for unique ecosystems to re-establish in the Essaouira Region.

While carob powder has recently resurfaced on the global market, substituting products all the way from cacao powder, to protein bars, the unknown facet of carob pods lies hidden in the tree’s appearance. Through molecular analysis of the pod’s composition by the U.S. Department of Agriculture significant amounts of Vitamin E, B12, and K were found to make the carob powder a potential candidate for dermatological skin care products. The anti-oxidative effect of Vitamin E, together with antibacterial properties of the pod’s tannins make the carob extract a proven treat and therapeutic for wrinkled skin and skin-related diseases. The benefits of application were studied and verified in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology (2018). It surprising how one tree alone can nurture the soil, protect the climate, promote diversity, and invigorate our skin.

To care for yourself and for your own health means to care for the environment! This example is just one out of many that demonstrate how closely connected and how deeply dependent we are on nature. It shows how maintaining a thriving environment will provide solutions for future problems whether climate related, related to our own wellbeing or political dilemmas like the one created between agricultural efficiency and human health.

A common saying goes “an apple a day keeps the doctor away”, which demonstrates so clearly that our health and our own well-being depends on the goods nature provides. But really, I believe that the saying lacks a crucial component, a second part that acknowledges the need for future generations to stay healthy just like we do. I encourage you to eat that apple a day, to keep the doctor away, to plant a carob a week to create the future your children seek, to grow a forest a year to clean the worlds atmosphere… Let us demonstrate together; We can do better! With your help, we plant a carob a day.

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A WRINKLED TREE ANALOGY

To care for the people or for your own wellbeing is by no means a contradiction to protecting the environment. The European commission has just a few days ago agreed on a new framework for the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), which will continue to promote large scale monoculture, failing to address climate issues to the extent necessary. While 10% of the budget will be dedicated towards the protection of biodiversity, and 35% to environmental and climate-related measures, the CAP fails to unify farming and its potential for CO2 sequestration. Climate-friendly practice remains, in the eyes of many politicians still the antonym to effective farming. While the new policy promotes efficient food production for the European future population, it still risks the health of 446 million people by polluting ground waters, emitting CO2 and further reducing overall biodiversity. But strikingly, the dichotomy that CAP creates between health and nourishment is truly fictional and upheld mainly by the agricultural lobby. Just 14 kilometres off the European boarder, Morocco, a developing nation is leading by example. While restoring ecosystems in vast sections of the country, they are striving to manage food production as a means to promote people’s health. Indirectly, by restoring ground water levels through sustainable farming practices, but also by reconnecting with traditional knowledge on pharmaceutical uses of native species.

It is millions of years of experience that today allows Ceratonia siliqua, also known as the carob tree, to prove the European Commission wrong, bluntly, and simply through its existence in Morocco. It is a trunk, like two wrinkly old arms that stretch into the hot air of a Moroccan summer. Even through dramatic heatwaves and the live-threatening challenges that climate change has confronted the people and nature with this tree shows resistance and has become a symbol of endurance and hope. Being in the family of Fabaceae this tree has a unique partnership with underground bacteria that live in root nodules incorporated into the tree’s physiology. They have throughout evolution perfected their partnership, where Rhizobacteria suck Nitrogen out of the air feeding it to the tree, in exchange for sugars that the leaves produce through photosynthesis. The cooperation of these highly distinct organisms has allowed carob to grow in nutrient poor, eroded soils providing bean-like pods to feed on for a variety of animals, including humans. These characteristics has made carob a pioneer in ecosystem restoration, enriching soils with nutrients and providing habitat structure for unique ecosystems to re-establish in the Essaouira Region.

While carob powder has recently resurfaced on the global market, substituting products all the way from cacao powder, to protein bars, the unknown facet of carob pods lies hidden in the tree’s appearance. Through molecular analysis of the pod’s composition by the U.S. Department of Agriculture significant amounts of Vitamin E, B12, and K were found to make the carob powder a potential candidate for dermatological skin care products. The anti-oxidative effect of Vitamin E, together with antibacterial properties of the pod’s tannins make the carob extract a proven treat and therapeutic for wrinkled skin and skin-related diseases. The benefits of application were studied and verified in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology (2018). It surprising how one tree alone can nurture the soil, protect the climate, promote diversity, and invigorate our skin.

To care for yourself and for your own health means to care for the environment! This example is just one out of many that demonstrate how closely connected and how deeply dependent we are on nature. It shows how maintaining a thriving environment will provide solutions for future problems whether climate related, related to our own wellbeing or political dilemmas like the one created by the European Commission just two days ago.

A common saying goes “an apple a day keeps the doctor away”, which demonstrates so clearly that our health and our own well-being depends on the goods nature provides. But really, I believe that the saying lacks a crucial component, a second part that acknowledges the need for future generations to stay healthy just like we do. I encourage you to eat that apple a day, to keep the doctor away, to plant a carob a week to create the future your children seek, to grow a forest a year to clean the worlds atmosphere… Let us together prove the European Commission wrong, let us demonstrate that we can do better. With your help, we plant a carob a day.

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Organization Information

High Atlas Foundation

Location: New York, NY - USA
Website:
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @AtlasHigh
Project Leader:
Yossef Ben-Meir
President of the High Atlas Foundation
Marrakech, Morocco
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