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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

“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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On September 9-10, 2020, the Red Cross Red Crescent (Climate Center) network, their partners, and a fascinating array of speakers gathered at a virtual climate summit to inspire climate action. The summit comprised more than 200 engaging sessions to ensure the ambitions toward the climate.

High Atlas Foundation (HAF) project manager Errachid participated as a speaker and a workshop co-host in this climate summit. Below you can find a summary of Errachid’s address to the summit participants.

Errachid’s address at the summit:
“On behalf of HAF, I would like to sincerely thank the Red Cross Red Crescent (Climate Center) for organizing this important summit. But we must know that we are not here today to celebrate progress, we are here because there is a lot of progress to be made, and a lot of work to be done. Obviously, there are many challenges ahead of us in order to act, but the difficulty is not an excuse to comply. We must therefore not allow anything to become an enemy of progress, as we must not allow the old divisions that have characterized the climate debate for many years to derail our progress.

“Each one of us must do what they can to grow the economy without endangering our planet, and we must all do it together. We must view the climate agreements (the Paris Agreement, for example) as important steps forward against climate change.

“For developed countries that are causing a lot of damage to the climate, they must take on a responsibility to increase investment in renewable energy and promote climate actions such as funding environmental initiatives and projects designed by local communities, to reach the short term goals, updating Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) on the top of them. And they should link NDCs to long-term mitigation strategies such as protecting coastal wetlands, promoting the benefits of sustainable agroforestry, decentralizing energy distribution, securing indigenous peoples’ land rights, and improving mass transit. This will be the key in ensuring efficient use of resources, particularly crucial for responding to climate change amidst and following the COVID-19 crisis.

“The good news is that there is a clear willingness of the United Nations and decision-makers to engage young people in the journey of fighting current matters, as well as in organizing major climate summits. The tremendous energy of young people clearly contributes to driving and managing global matters and development projects.

“My message today to decision makers; please as you base your economic growth on scientific studies, do so for climate change solutions. And put more trust in young people in leading the climate movement.

“I call upon the youth to act more in their own communities by addressing the sense and reality of climate change’s future impacts through a participatory approach principle.

“Thank you.”

Building a better tomorrow:

As one of the Moroccan young people, I’m taking climate action with the High Atlas Foundation by facilitating participatory meetings with local communities, in order to help them figure out their needs and challenges, and to reflect what they carry in their hearts for decision makers. HAF ensures that schoolchildren, women, and farmers are involved in designing and managing their environmental projects, particularly through USAID’s Farmer-to-Farmer initiative that sends highly-skilled volunteers to help people access the tools and information.

I had a priceless chance to manage an environmental initiative (Sami’s project), which works directly with schools in Morocco benefiting kids by planting organic fruit trees and conducting environmental training workshops with them.

Obviously this action alone is not enough contribution toward climate solutions to make a large impact, but I guarantee that there will be a completely different and positive impact for our planet as long as we believe in enhancing the quality of our schools in all levels (ie. better education system that is environmentally-conscious, with suitable and good facilities to promote permanent guidance).

Engineers, entrepreneurs and scientists, should put more emphasis and power on climate change to build a better world based on the reality of what local people are facing.

We should all come together in a very strong way to contribute in this long and hard journey, we don’t have much time left. This journey requires each of us to defend our climate on every little step of progress toward a safe planet. As we aim to fight climate change, we must have a common effort in order to achieve a common purpose, so we and next generations will have a world that is safer, healthier and cleaner.

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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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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
Gueliz - Marrakech, Morocco
$34,566 raised of $50,000 goal
 
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