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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

High Atlas Foundation team, were in Rabat to plant trees with children at the El Akari Orphanage.

We started our activity with a speech from Mr. Chames Eddin discussing HAF and its missions with Moroccan communities, as well as HAF’s initiative to plant trees all over the country each year on the third Monday in January.

During my visit yesterday, I had the chance to talk with the kids at El Akari, and tell them about the importance of tree planting, how to do it, how to take care of their trees, and why HAF has undertaken this project. They were so happy to be with us, and I took pride in encouraging them to be outdoors and learn experientially about their environment by planting fruit trees with their hands. They were overjoyed with their experience and could not have been prouder when they saw what their hard work became.

In total, we planted ten fruit trees, of pomegranate, almond, grape, and walnut varieties.

The staff from the Center were all very welcoming and actively participated in our activity with the children. The workshop ended with a thank you to everyone involved, and celebratory cookies for kids.

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My Tree Planting Day began with a rain-soaked Marrakech morning. For the first time since I had arrived in Morocco, I felt the chill of winter cutting through me. This biting cold wormed its way past my meager layers and rested an icy hand on the back of my neck. My breath came in thick opaque clouds, pushing its way out my nose and mouth and reaching its slender fingers towards the steely sky above.

I met High Atlas Foundation staff members Amina and Imane, along with fellow volunteer Taoufik at the foot of the steps before HAF’s office building. From there, we drove, weaving through early morning traffic, to the town of Asni. Asni seems a placid village, nestled in mountain foothills, where the pulsing restless energy of the city is a distant and extraneous echo. There, we shared a hearty Moroccan breakfast, while warming our hands with the ever-present tall glasses of sweetened mint tea locals and visitors alike enjoy at all times, occasions, and places on a given day.

Soon after this, Amina and I continued on to our first destination, the village of Tassa Ouirgane in the Al Haouz province. However, before we were scheduled to meet with the local women’s cooperative there, we first had to make a stop at a nearby tree nursery to collect the saplings we would be planting. Upon arrival, we met up with a HAF affiliated tree nursery manager named Hasan. After a short collection process and with the necessary trees in our possession, we drove the remaining distance to the village following a twisting serpentine road along the sheer hillside.

At Tassa Ouirgane, the participants in the morning’s activity slowly made their way over to where we had unloaded our trees. HAF’s years of work with this community, since partnering with them in 2011, was on full display when more than thirty men, women, and children came to greet us. Yesterday, just two weeks after officially founding the Tassa women’s cooperative for the management of trees planted in the area, these women showed that they were ready, willing, and able to take on this communal responsibility.

The rain-soaked day would not dampen our spirits or resolve, as we trudged up a hill overlooking the village to reach our planting site. In total, we had thirty carob saplings, fresh from their nurseries to plant. We began our work excitedly, breaking the earth to make shallow indentations in the hillside, before carefully lowering the young trees into their holes, after stripping away the black plastic sheaths that had contained them in their fertile cocoons.

Laboring together, all participants willingly ceded responsibilities to each other. We worked in unison, quickly and effectively finishing our task. When the planting was complete, all eyes were turned to Amina as she started her presentation on climate change, the environmental impact of planting trees, and what role the people of Tassa Ouirgane could play in this initiative.

For me, the sight of these people, of which more than two-thirds were children no older than thirteen, offered a powerful moment of reflection on the true impact of this day. It is the hope that despite shortcomings of past generations and leaders, we, the next in line, who only know the world as it is, are willing to be the engines of change. The children of this village hear stories of the days when their parents, grandparents, and their parents before them walked through mountain hills not filled with piles of trash or drew water from overflowing streams where now there are only dry lifeless river beds that serve as reminders of things that have been taken away. These people show that despite this bleak reality, they will fight for themselves and their communities.

After concluding the discussion, we returned to the nursery we had visited earlier that morning with a handful of members from the cooperative. Once there, Hasan gave a demonstration for the women about how to properly transfer seedling walnut trees into small plastic bags for distribution to their final planting locations. The goal of this explanation was the continued promotion of self-sufficiency. The system of HAF’s partnerships that span across Morocco and the globe function best when groups play to their strengths and offer their expertise to others.

In the mid-afternoon, we reached the center of Ouirgane, our second destination. In conjunction with the area’s hospital and local association, we were to plant ten almond trees, ten pomegranate trees, and two carob trees. These nascent plants would both beautify the environment around the medical buildings and provide locals a means for future prosperity. We labored together, trading off between digging, shaping perimeters for the freshly planted trees, and scouting other possible planting locations in the surrounding area.

After all trees were laid in their places, Amina launched into a second rendition of her environmental presentation. However, this iteration was more participatory than the first because of our much smaller group size. Many of the same issues from the previous discussion were brought up once more. People spoke of how the renowned beauty and biodiversity of Ouirgane had withered and disappeared in recent years, with several of the local participants pointing to the creation and management of the Ouirgane dam as a source of this plight. Nonetheless, all left the afternoon’s event hopeful for what the future would bring, and what each individual’s role would be in helping to shape it.

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Dear Friend,

The year has almost reached its end. For HAF, it’s the time to plant trees.

Planting trees with farming families and schools in Morocco is an act of empowering recognition and strategic development. It acknowledges the priorities of rural communities and is a vehicle for people’s driven change and transformation. With complete hope and dedicated capacity, we ask you to plant with us.

You can become a direct sponsor of trees in Morocco and receive a certificate with the location and number of trees planted on your behalf. You can also have trees planted as a gift in the name of others.

Grow with us walnut trees that live 500 years or almond trees which only flourish in a handful of countries. Plant carob trees which bear social and environmental benefits for generations. Let’s plant endemic fig varieties to strengthen biodiversity. Plant with us Argan and help stop its decline or support planting pomegranate for processing into juice by cooperatives. Plant now for food security for time to come.

The High Atlas Foundation has the goal to plant 300,000 trees this season with all who are dedicated to their long-term care. With the help of Ecosia, we will plant 2.4 million seeds in 11 community nurseries in the next two years. Help us achieve this monumental initiative with the people of Morocco.

 Thank you for planting tree-lives with us. We wish you joyful and healthy New Year.

 United for trees, yours sincerely,

 The High Atlas Foundation, Marrakech

Yossef, Amina, Hassan, Fatima Zahra, Kerstin, Errachid, Karam, Ibtissam, Hana, Imane, Katie, Said, Sanae, Abdelhadi, Naima, Moulay Hassan, Touria, Abdeljallil, Kamal, Hajiba, Mohamed, Yaniv, Hiba, and Nora.

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This Newsletter presents the sustainable development work of the High Atlas Foundation and our fulfilling the Special Consultative Status at the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations that we have enjoyed since 2011.
We are facilitators of development that local communities of Morocco seek, and advocates of the people in order for society to achieve sustainable and shared prosperity. HAF's abiding connection with the human development purpose of the U.N. derives from these core elements of who we are.

The articles by HAF in this Newsletter celebrate this longstanding commitment.

Giving to HAF gives to the people’s projects and to fostering a country and world that enables communities to achieve inclusive growth.

Finally, the planting season begins next month. Let’s make this season for the ages by planting trees with families and schools that bare fruit for generations.
Happy winter, and rains, and best wishes for all good possibilities.
Yours faithfully,

Climate Protection and Sustainability at the UN Climate Action Summit

International Day of Childhood 

Participatory Development: An Alternative to Migration

Framing the humanitarian action: HAF in Qatar

Accelerating Sustainable Development Toward 2030

Ethics in Action an Event with Ban Ki Moon

Global Bottom-Up by 2030?

HAF Statement; 4th World Conference on Women

Yaounde: Government & CSOs Discuss Water & Development

Youth at the UN Plan Sustainable Development

International Day of Democracy: Engaging Youth

Build World Peace, Locally

The Hidden Gems of Morocco

Civil Society Matters to the Sustainable Development Goals

The next step for cooperatives is certification

Morocco provides 'Safe Spaces' for youth

HAF Action Efforts at the COP22 In Marrakech

Statement by HAF; ECOSOC High Level Segment

Implementing the UNs sustainable development goals

Meet a 2015er: Yossef Ben-Meir

Happy Tears: Human Connection Leading to Human Development

Mountain Life on Mountain Day

World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought

World Environment Day


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As a retired agricultural economist, I participated in the United States Agency for International Development's (USAID) Farmer-to-Farmer (F2F) program in Morocco, administered by the High Atlas Foundation. F2F's main goal is to generate sustainable, broad-based economic growth in the agricultural sector through voluntary technical assistance.  F2F sponsored my travel and stay in Morocco to brainstorm with pomegranate growers on steps that could be taken to increase their household incomes and reduce poverty.

I volunteered to identify factors that keep pomegranate farmers poor and, working with the farmers, come up with measures that could improve their well-being. 

Pomegranates are round fruits with hard, shiny red-yellow skins. The fruit is composed of jewel-like inner seeds, known as arils, that people can eat either raw or juiced. Not only is the fruit delicious, it also offers incredible health and nutrition benefits.

Pomegranates are a good source of fibre as well as vitamins A, C, some B vitamins and minerals such as calcium, potassium and iron. Two components - punicalagins and punicic acid – are responsible for most of the health benefits of pomegranate. Pomegranates also have antioxidant activity three times higher than that of red wine or green tea.

Pomegranates trees are low maintenance, offer good yields and can thrive even with limited moisture. Pomegranates are among the best high-value crops to reduce rural poverty (FAO). In Morocco, unlike in other producing countries, the fruit is non-GMO and cultivated using organic and sustainable farming practices.

The dilemma is, if pomegranates are sold in the supermarkets in the United States and Europe for over three and even four dollars a fruit, why do the pomegranate growers in Morocco experience poverty? Part of the answer lays in the fact that for that same piece of fruit, the farmer received 25 cents only. One of the reasons for this is, while the farmers are gifted and their pomegranate fruits are of the highest quality, the farmers require the knowledge and the skills to compete in today's' markets. Inexperience in marketing and finance, and limited exposure to product innovation have greatly stymied the farmers in their efforts to make a good living.

The farmers over the course of our work decided that they should embark on a program to become more competitive, add value to their harvest and launch an aggressive marketing campaign. Because of these consultations, a modernization project was designed.

First, the farmers want to preserve and promote the golden pomegranate variety indigenous to this region in Morocco and their sustainable organic farming practices. However, some fruits suffered from peel bursting. The farmers want technical assistance to eliminate this agronomic issue.

To be more effective and engage in today’s commercial activities, the farmers’ cooperative will begin to hire a small cadre of skilled young women and men, including a marketing manager, an accountant, an information and computer specialist, a mechanical engineer and an administrative assistant. 

To date, the farmers only sell fresh fruits. The farmers know that if they were to add value to their harvest through processing, their returns would significantly increase. The farmers’ cooperative and I prepared a business plan for a proposal to buy the equipment to extract and bottle juice. The business plan indicates that producing and selling pomegranate juice is highly profitable. In addition, such an operation would generate employment for young skilled women and men, as well as many laborers.

Finally, farmers agreed that they needed an aggressive marketing campaign to generate demand for their bottled pomegranate juice. The marketing campaign would promote the high quality of their organic, non-GMO “Moroccan Golden” pomegranate, which uses the state of the art manufacturing equipment to make a sanitary, pasteurized 100 percent bottled pomegranate juice, available year round. In addition, the marketing manager would negotiate contracts with domestic supermarket chains, restaurants and hotels for their fruit and processed products.

A marketing survey indicated that Moroccans love pomegranate juice, but they can only enjoy juice during the three-month harvest period; between September and November. The farmers’ cooperative could become one of the very few suppliers of hygienic pure pomegranate juice year round in the domestic market. Once the cooperative has gained sufficient processing experience, it would export into the premium European and US markets.

Their proposal has already generated donor’s interest in providing the funds needed to implement their program.

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Organization Information

High Atlas Foundation

Location: New York, NY - USA
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @haffdtn
Project Leader:
Yossef Ben-Meir
President of the High Atlas Foundation
Gueliz - Marrakech, Morocco
$31,355 raised of $50,000 goal
357 donations
$18,645 to go
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