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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

On July 27-28, a HAF team composed of Field Technician Abdeljalil, driver Mustapha, and I hit the road to Taroudant Province for the distribution of food and hygiene materials, a project implemented in partnership with Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy as an act of social solidarity with people who have been severely impacted, economically and socially, by the repercussions of COVID-19.

Indeed, COVID-19 has harshly impacted the Moroccan economy since the beginning of the pandemic and subsequent lockdown in March, and many businesses have been unable to endure in the meantime. This has also led to a severe social impact and increase in unemployment around the country. Moreover, the two consecutive years of drought have severely impacted most agricultural regions in Morocco, and Taroudant province is one of them.

For these reasons, Taroudant province was chosen as one of the locations to benefit from the distribution of basic supplies in late July. The distribution benefited 95 families in three villages: Tassosfi, Adare, and Wizlane.

It was not the first time that I participated in a food distribution, but this is the one that touched me the most. As I called the names of each beneficiary, I saw the villagers passing in front of me, extremely excited and happy, and coming from all over the village. They shyly took their bags of basic supplies and food and thanked us with all of the most beautiful expressions that can be uttered in the Amazigh and Arabic languages. We ourselves were extremely pleased to have brought these people who live in extreme poverty a little joy.

Thanks to the assistance of local authorities, the distribution was successful, and importantly, health safety measures such as social distancing, wearing masks, hand washing, and sanitization were respected by all in attendance.

Last but not least, and as I always say, the most beautiful reward for us, as HAF’s field coordinators, is the smile of people and the beautiful landscape that surrounds us. This will only keep us more optimistic about a bright future in this world.

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As this was my first opportunity working on a grant proposal, I did not know much about the content and format of proposals previously; however, I knew that writing one was an important skill to acquire. Furthermore, I was able to explore new areas of the High Atlas Foundation’s work. I was intrigued not only by their agricultural projects and economic development and sustainability, but also by their work promoting women’s empowerment, on which my project focused. Researching for this proposal, I learned the ways trees are planted, monitored, and all of the work that needs to be done in preparation.

I admire HAF’s mission to advance education, environmental conservation, and socio-economic development through a participatory approach. Through the process of growing fruit trees at education centers, HAF raises awareness for the preservation of the environment, while also promoting the benefits of small-scale tree cultivation. This project reaches a vast number of schools and communities, spreading environmental and community benefits to all. As a result, students will have a deeper understanding of significant economic and environmental viability of organic fruit tree agriculture, the preservation of traditional seed diversity, and approaches to ensuring continued tree cultivation in the face of water scarcity and rapid climate change. In areas where 80% of incomes are derived from agriculture, it is essential for youth to learn skills in this field. This project is extremely important for spreading awareness and teaching community members agricultural skills.

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The Qur’an speaks about water as the life force: the heavens and the Earth were a joined entity, and then they were separated and every living thing was made from water [21:30]. Everything needs water to survive, and among these, of course, are trees. Trees help us to have an abundance of water as well. Between them is a symbiotic relationship.

High Atlas Foundation started its tree-planting efforts in 2000 because we listened to the people of Morocco. They wanted this because they were trying to transition from barley and corn, which are important staples but which were not meeting their household needs. They wanted to grow what would provide much more income for them: fruit trees. Ecosia, the National Initiative for Human Development, Robert Bosch College, FRÉ skincare, and many other organizations, and thousands of individuals have enabled HAF to fulfill the people’s desire, planting 1.38 million seeds in 11 nurseries in six provinces this year. More than providing much-needed increases in income, tree-planting is a vital activity for Moroccans. For HAF, we expect that 20% of what we plant might not grow. But when that happens, we are dedicated to re-planting in that very spot to ensure the bounty.

Tree-planting is a way to achieve sustainable development. In January 2020, a campaign was held to honor Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Birthday by planting as many trees as possible. This was followed by conversations about how else to offer people who might not know where or how to access a tree sapling the opportunity to get one from among the many organic varieties with which Morocco has been blessed.

HAF determined that each citizen on Earth, especially in Morocco, could have this opportunity through an e-store, which is now available on the HAF website: https://highatlasfoundation.org/store/. HAF Marketing Director, Imane Akhezzane, notes that this allows people who might not have the time or resources to visit HAF nurseries or attend planting events the chance to buy trees without leaving their homes. HAF will even deliver them to the planting sites: farming families, schools, hospitals, centers for the protection of youth, women’s cooperatives and more. Donors will also receive a certificate in recognition of their contribution, or the beautiful certificate can be given in another’s honor or memory.

HAF President, Yossef Ben-Meir, reflected that, in 1995, at his first tree-planting experience, he was sitting with the sheikh, in a village called Tissaldai, the very last village you get to in the High Atlas Mountains before the area becomes uninhabitable. The terrain is straight rock going up from the valley and the climate is bitterly cold in the winter. Looking over the agricultural terraces down into the valley, they could see the people planting the trees that had just been distributed. This sheikh, this strong, proud man, was crying, unheard of for such a man to do in front of someone else. This memory illustrates that tree-planting is deep in the heart of the Moroccan people, the Moroccan culture, the Moroccan way, maybe the human way.

King Hassan II once said, “Planting a tree is an act of faith.” When this was shared in 2003 with the U.S. Ambassador, Margaret Tutwiler, and her team in a meeting about the organization’s first funded project, she stood up and said, “Let’s spread some faith.” Directing the head of the U.S.A.I.D. to support the project, she added, “Give to HAF what you can as soon as possible so they can plant trees.” How the trees are grown - from local seed, on donated land, with organic practices - is as beautiful as the trees themselves.

The trees that were planted then yield fruit for us to eat today. We need to continue to plant trees for future generations, and it does not have to be thousands but rather what each person can give, even if it is just a single one. If we each plant one tree, we will be sure that the future generations can find something to eat on this Earth to sustain them. We must do this to be good citizens and to think about each other unselfishly.

“And it is He who sends down rain from the sky, and We produce thereby the growth of all things. We produce from it greenery from which We produce grains arranged in layers. And from the palm trees – of its emerging fruit are clusters hanging low. And [We produce] gardens of grapevines and olives and pomegranates, similar yet varied. Look at [each of] its fruit when it yields and [at] its ripening. Indeed in that are signs for a people who believe.” [6:99]

Calling tree-planting an act of faith is saying that we don’t know about tomorrow. We don’t know about our children, our children’s children, the next one hundred or two hundred years. A walnut tree can live 500 years. We plant, knowing that there can be famine and drought and that the future is never guaranteed. This act of faith is saying, “I am still going to do the best I can do today, and I’m still going to plant it and water it the best that I can even though I don’t know if the next generation will. It will be there for them, and hopefully it will be carried on.” Imagine how many generations of faith – for a walnut tree, perhaps 15 – so that every generation can eat from it? Imagine every generation that watered it and pruned it? For each, it was an act of faith.

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It was with great enthusiasm that I took the road to Amizmiz a week ago to evaluate the trees distributed by the High Atlas Foundation to various farmers in this region.

Tree monitoring is a process rooted in the activities of the Foundation. This is a crucial and necessary step which allows us to assess the survival rate and the development conditions of the fruit trees distributed by the Foundation to farmers during the year 2020, and that were funded by Ecosia.

Thus, in the company of Mouaad, HAF’s Monitoring and Mapping Officer, Mohamed, HAF's driver, and Abderrahmane, our local guide, we traveled through several villages near Amizmiz to meet a dozen farmers. It was a real pleasure to see these trees growing in good conditions and well maintained. We also discussed with the farmers different problems concerning irrigation because this year was very difficult in terms of drought. Hence the importance of the use of renewable energies (solar panels) in irrigation, since they prove to be less expensive and less polluting. But above all, solar panels can be beneficial on a large scale at the village level, and these materials can be used for needs other than agriculture.

On the other hand, this trip was an opportunity for me to discover unusual and unknown places. We stopped several times to observe a falcon or a wild pigeon flying overhead in Ait Tirghid and squirrels running across the road in Imi Isl. The mountains which surround Amizmiz offered to us an exceptional spectacle not only in terms of animal species, but also in terms of vegetal species as we saw different medicinal plants that have been used for centuries by Amazighs tribes and other very mature trees. These mountains are tourist spots where walkers can revel in the gentle nature and the exceptional landscape that the region offers.

This trip was also an opportunity to discover the very rich history of Amizmiz. From the first medieval military forts built by the Almoravids in the 10th century to the site of the forest guards built by the French, we passed  through the first mines operated in Morocco by the French in 1926. All along the road from Amizmiz to Anougal, the ruins of colonial houses remind us of the existence of the French settlers and soldiers in the High Atlas Mountains.

When I returned to Marrakech, I knew that this trip was only one of several explorations to come. While smiling, I imagined myself as Ibn Battuta of the 21st Century. What will be my next destination? What archeological, natural, and historical treasures are still waiting for me?

To be continued.

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World Rainforest Day was started in 2017, with the hope that we take time to collectively recognize the preciousness and the importance of our world’s rainforests and take action to protect and preserve them. This year, World Rainforest Day is being celebrated Monday, June 22, and it is truly worth celebrating everywhere because rainforests and forests all over the world are vital for our ecosystem, climate system, and human and animal livelihoods.

Extensive deforestation is happening around the world. Deforestation for mining, logging, and animal agricultural purposes contribute to 20% of greenhouse gas emissions, which is a significant contributor to climate change. Even in Northern Africa and Morocco, deforestation and human impact are high, largely due to the growing population and increasing land conversion for agriculture, a large sector of the economy. On one hand, agriculture (especially animal agriculture) is a primary reason for forest degradation, soil erosion, overexploitation of land, and hence 20% greenhouse gas emissions worldwide. However, agriculture can have a positive impact on the environment, if done environmentally- and climate-consciously. Studies suggest that planting a billion hectares of trees--more than half a trillion trees--can capture approximately 205 gigatons of carbon, reduce atmospheric carbon (a greenhouse gas) by roughly 25%, and mitigate, to some extent, negative effects of climate change.

While reforestation can help reduce our carbon footprint, this is only a fraction of the climate change “solution.” There are many ways to help the earth, the environment, and inhabitants, and educating ourselves is an integral first step. We need to be more aware of the long term effects of our personal decisions--from the food we eat and the products we buy--and we need to keep large corporations and industries accountable for their role in contributing to climate change. As consumers, we hold the bargaining power to make immense and sustainable change. We can consciously choose how to spend our time and our money to best have a positive impact on the environment, and choosing to support locally, sustainably grown food and farmers is another step in the right direction.

Since its inception in 2000, the High Atlas Foundation (HAF) has wholeheartedly put sustainable development and Moroccan communities at the center of its mission, implementing local initiatives in areas of sustainable agriculture, education, health, women’s and youth empowerment, and capacity-building. Growing trees, registering carbon credits, and certifying organic have been some of the many important ways HAF has consciously put the earth, its inhabitants, and its future generations at the forefront of sustainable development. Since 2003, HAF and communities have planted more than 4 million seeds and trees with farming families and schools, and approximately 10,000 household incomes are impacted (60,000 rural people). Additionally, HAF partners with various government, civil, and private agencies in Morocco and internationally that also prioritize reforestation to create connections and to assist Moroccan communities. The HAF-Ecosia partnership is planting 2.4 million seeds in two years from 2019-2021, which will greatly contribute to Moroccan livelihoods. By allowing the Moroccan people to reap the fruits of combined efforts of many actors’ labor, sustainable agriculture goes far beyond the fields--supporting the environment and livelihoods, as well as building relationships between the people, the government, and various intercultural groups.

The people and our environment are intricately interconnected. Our actions have the power to create a sustainable future that takes into account both the positive and negative impacts we can have on our environment. All people need to be aware of how their actions can hurt or help the earth. Educating yourself, donating money or time to rainforest protectors, and spreading the word is a huge step in protecting the earth and its rainforests, because our actions--conscious or not--impact our world, and people all over the world more than we often realize.

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Organization Information

High Atlas Foundation

Location: New York, NY - USA
Website:
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @haffdtn
Project Leader:
Yossef Ben-Meir
President of the High Atlas Foundation
Gueliz - Marrakech, Morocco
$33,022 raised of $50,000 goal
 
399 donations
$16,978 to go
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