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

Early in the morning of June the 13th, the HAF’s Farmer-to-Farmer team (F2F) accompanied by the UVA student Costello paid a visit to Demnate Commune, Azilal Province, in order to meet with two agricultural cooperatives.

The first stop was at the Agricultural Advisory Office (ONCA) where we met with a committee who welcomed the idea of joining us in our visit to Wachmat Cooperative. This latter is a newly established cooperative, and it consists of three women and two men. The initial goal of this cooperative was to extract essential oils out of the medicinal and aromatic herbs that grow in the local areas of Demnate. The members of this cooperative also intend to make different products out of carob, but they lack the technical knowledge of dealing with the carob pods.

After a detailed discussion with the members of this co-op, it was agreed that they first need to benefit from initial training that provides further information about the notion of a cooperative.

One of the good things both the HAF-F2F team and the ONCA member noticed about the members of Wachmat Cooperative is that they are looking forward to attending the training as an initial step. “We are still at the start line and need to be competent first, then we can apply for funds,” said the president of the co-op.

Eventually, the ONCA members happily suggested delivering these awareness and information workshops to this cooperative, and reminded the co-op’s team that it is this committee’s job to assist with them during their first steps to success. After the ONCA’s move, comes the team’s task to provide technical assistance in the field they will eventually choose to take.

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On the 25fth of February 2022, there was a meeting about how to build a platform for Research and Innovation Partnership on Food and Nutrition Security and Sustainable Agriculture.

Dr. Loannis started by talking about the challenges for this collaboration, such as no one knowing who is doing what or when, the fact that there are limited tools, that best practices are not shared,or not systematically managed, and that there are not a lot of resources.

She also talked about the objectives of this work like how to improve quality, how to map the project, and how to make new instruments for data analysis.

“We should make countries work together and promote more maintenance. Joining forces is important for the future. Finding the right information is very difficult. We hope in the future we will have advanced tools.”

The LEAP4FNSSA project was mandated to establish a sustainable structure or platform for the efficient and coherent implementation of the EU-AU research and innovation partnership as described in the FNSSA roadmap

Dr. Irene went on about the criteria of the platform, that it should be bi-continental, uniting Africa and Europe for the benefit of both continents, and dealing with common priorities. It also should be operational and open to all institutions, public and private.

Dr. Irene also talked about the international research consortium (IRC): a group of committed institutions that agree to work for the mid- to long-term toward a commonly defined goal. So who can join the IRC? Every institution that is willing to contribute to the FNSSA,

What are the benefits of joining the IRC?  Becoming a member of the IRC may help to increase the impact of your initiative, optimize the utilization of your work and results, and gain greater recognition and visibility for your contribution to the success of the EU-AU platform supported by the highest authorities.

Lastly, eight  months from now, in September 2022, there’s going to be the final write-shop and the launch of the AU-EU platform IRC.

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On February 11th, HAF’s  Farmer-to-Farmer team visited the village of  El Gouassim in the Jbilat commune of Rhamna province (Marrakech-Safi region).

As one local woman was quoted as saying about the people who live in El Gouassim, "We are the people who move. From the beginning that has been our way and there really is not any other way to survive in El Gouassim land.'' This is true for the vast majority of El Gouassim, as much of the region is dry and rocky, and therefore unsuitable for agriculture. Cultivated and arable land constitutes a small percentage of the large area and rainfall is erratic and scarce.

Probably the only fertile soil in the region is in the El Gouassim village, where the group of local women the Farmer-to-Farmer team met with is located. For over 10 years, this small fertile strip of land has seen agricultural developments with small commercial farms. Olives, for example, have been the longest and largest crop produced in this area. As a result of these farms, many of those from the El Gouassim area have become semi-nomadic, working as laborers on these farms.

The community and its leaders requested that HAF's initiatives assist them in setting up an agricultural cooperative so that they would be able to grow their own food and receive a cash income. The Farmer-to-Farmer program saw this project as a wonderful opportunity for the community to improve their livelihood, their food security and their own sustainable development, and have willingly gotten on board to support them.

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On 14 January 2022, the Farmer to Farmer (F2F) team met with two agricultural cooperatives in Mzouda (Tamatoust and Tamount Ntourite).

Tamatoust is an agricultural cooperative established in February 2020 by seven members. It’s located in Zaouia Nahliya Village, Mzouda commune, Chichaoua province, Marrakech Safi region. The members work to maintain the longevity of the land where they grow crops through sustainable farming practices. Tamatoust cooperative brings together small scale farmers working in the Zaouia Nahliya village. With a current membership of 30 young farmers, they saw it as an opportunity for business development and future prospects.

The members came together to help with production and consumption. Those rearing livestock receive feed produced by the farmers who in turn receive manure for their farms making it easier for them to access organic matter for soil fertilization. This is creating a solution to the problem of accessing quality agricultural products, a big challenge for farmers in the Zaouia Nahliya village.

They have pledged to implement a carob tree-planting project on lands in 50 hectares; however, they still need to adjust their business. The F2F team will arrange an assignment to assist the cooperative in this regard and High Atlas Foundation (HAF) can provide carob trees.

Then, the F2F team met with the members of Tamount Ntourite cooperative, which is not far from the other.

At first glance Mrs. Nezha Bazzi, Mrs. Hafida and Ms. Hassna look no different from any other rural women in Morocco. They live in a far-away area called Tourit in Chichaoua Province and lead a mundane country lifestyle looking after their households. But, that is what appears on the surface. Unlike most of the rural women in the Tourit village, they are more independent and proactive in many ways. Above all, they enjoy a degree of financial independence and can support their families.

Their lives changed when a women’s cooperative was established in their area in 2021.

The cooperative produces, markets and sells a range of value-added products such as couscous - a national dish usually made of several crops including wheat, maize and barley…

Led by Mrs. Mnouch, president of the cooperative, all women who work here have different stories to share but one common goal: to make a living for themselves and their families and create employment opportunities for other women in their community.

Now, the women of Tamounte Ntourite need training on marketing and organizational operations, but, more importantly, they would like to participate in the women's empowerment program and learn about life skills.

The F2F program can help by organizing a women's empowerment training workshop for these cooperatives' members, and follow up with an assignment in order to deliver training on marketing and organizational operations.

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On the third Monday of January 2014, the High Atlas Foundation planted its millionth tree, and with that it reached one of its major goals related to sustainability. Ever since, planting trees on that date became the foundation's ritual. This year, the event took on a national dimension when the foundation decided to plant trees all over Morocco.

The symbolic importance of this occasion was reinforced when the event coincided with the Jewish holiday of Tu Bishvat, which encourages tree planting and the environment's preservation. In addition, January 17th, 2022, happened to be King, Jr. Day of Service. Having these three occasions on the same day, called green hope, was a precious moment for HAF and the community, not only to plant trees, but also to consider trees in particular, and the environment in general, from a cultural perspective. Therefore, the tree planting event was an opportunity for the communities to have an educational experience and to contribute to improving their local environment.

The tree planting in the Fez-Meknes region took place in different locations such as Fez and El Menzel. I was one of the participants who attended the event in Fez, where we planted almond trees at Bouaabid-Saiss high school. The school has already prepared a place in the yard in order to plant trees, which they have already started doing. Therefore, the HAF initiative came at the right time and place to support and complement their plans. Prior to the planting activity, the principal gathered the students, presented the context, and let the HAF staff take the lead to present the foundation and explain the objectives of the activity.

The students were very excited and participated, along with the principal and HAF staff, in the tree planting. They listened attentively when we were explaining the procedure of planting the tree and helped implement it. This was not the first time the students had heard about sustainable development, the importance of protecting the environment, and the benefits of trees, because they had school subjects related to these aspects. In that context, it was amazing to see that the school has all 17 of the sustainable development goals painted on the walls, which is a great way to raise awareness about that topic and help the youngsters learn more about it in an implicit and creative way.

To conduct the cultural activity, I went back to the nursery in the faculty of Chariaa, where we initially took the plants, along with four participants from the legal clinic. The activity was designed in a way that allows us to think deeply about how certain stories make us associate particular values and concepts with different kinds of trees and how each of us defines the trees according to our experience and cultural background. The goal is to uncover the hidden connection between nature, culture, and identity.

When asked about the importance of tree planting, all the participants agreed that humans need trees to survive and that trees play a vital role in our lives in providing us with oxygen and removing pollutants from the air. Not only do they help us stay physically healthy, but trees also help reduce stress and improve our mental health. "When I'm in a place where I'm surrounded by trees, I feel very comfortable and at peace," said one of the participants. Living in a place where trees are planted encourages nature-based and outdoor activities.

The activity served as a reminder that we need more events to commemorate the planting of trees in our communities. Through our conversation, we got the chance to contemplate our ancestors' lifestyles, which evolved around tree planting since the majority worked in agriculture.Trees impacted their lives economically, socially, and environmentally. But with industrialisation, people started gradually forgetting about the importance of preserving green and agricultural spaces. Therefore, nowadays we are witnessing an increase in natural disasters and environmental crises such as climate change.

Moreover, through the activity, we were able to revisit some of our childhood memories that are related to trees. In that regard, when asked about how trees affected their identities, a participant replied: "In my hometown there was a big grape tree called laanqud, which means a sprig in Moroccan Darija and classical Arabic. Families used to gather there for picnics, and I used to play with my friends there all the time and eat grapes. It was a landmark. Also, it used to produce important quantities of grapes that all the community shared. Sadly, because of the drought, the tree died and became harmful, so the community had to cut it.”

We also discussed how particular trees symbolize the same concepts for different people regardless of their nation, culture, or religion , such as how olive trees symbolize peace and cedar trees symbolize greatness. The fact that a tree has this power to bring people together to agree on one thing is what the USAID Dakira program aims to discover and explore.

During our conversation on how to preserve the environment and instill it as an act in our culture, it was great and heartwarming to hear one of the participants say: "I personally don't need someone to remind me that I need to protect trees, it just comes naturally. I will never hesitate to participate in events like this because, in the end, it makes me feel satisfied and valued. With this simple act, I know that I contributed to making a change and improving the environment. " 

This article was completed with the support of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), and the High Atlas Foundation is solely responsible for its content, which does not necessarily reflect the views of the USAID or the Government of the United States.

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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
Marrakech, Morocco
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