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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

The successful partnership between the High Atlas Foundation (HAF) and Ecosia, a social business based in Germany, provides a special example of the utility of such unions, evidenced in the project for sustainable development in Moroccan communities. 

The idea of sustainability development stems from people’s participation in their own development, community-based natural resource management, and a multiplicity of other factors, including achieving income-generating opportunities by farming families. With Ecosia’s partnership, we are building a sustainable future for the coming generations by assisting farmers in their growing of organic fruit trees and green spaces.  We aim together to also protect and preserve biodiversity using the existing natural resources.

The efforts for the creation of this project were not singular, and we wish to thank those who helped us materialize and implement this project, here as it unfolded in the Fes and Ifrane regions.

We started working on building fruit nurseries in Fes and Ifrane a year ago, with the aim of providing communities and farmers agency to practice organic agriculture on their own lands. We were able to see the first tree nursery’s incremental growth in Fes, at the ‘Abdelaziz Ben Diss’ Center for the Protection of Children, where HAF partners with the Ministry of Youth and Sport, in order to create a productive green space for the youth living at the center.  

The project hopes to give these disadvantaged young people an opportunity to partake in agricultural activities such as watering the plants, seed cutting, planting and fixing the drip tape. While providing them an opportunity to learn about agricultural practices, this project also involves local stakeholders such as farmers, who also assist in the cutting and planting of the fruit tree seeds. Additionally, the youth learn techniques on how to take care of the seedlings during growth stages, until the trees become strong.

These trees will be transplanted to farms, where it will find warm hands, from the farmers who will benefit and care for the trees from the nursery.  By involving multiple stakeholders of the community such as youth and local farmers, we aim to provide a ‘hands on’ approach to the process of learning and implementing new skills, while benefitting the community in a sustainable manner.

At this Center, we are growing more than 290,000 fruit tree seeds and cuttings.  While it might seem that we planted many seeds in one place, we are expecting to produce and plant many more seeds this year with the help of the youth at the Center (as well as a dedicated technician and local farmers). Our plan for the coming months will be to plant more seeds using small sacks in greenhouses, in order to enhance growing conditions.  

To provide the appropriate suitable conditions for all the seeds we planted, we prepared the land with a group of local farmers, who cultivate the land, build seeds beds and do the weeding.  We also supplied, with the help of Ecosia, all the needed equipment, such as the irrigation system, by feeding all the seeds with drip tape and pipes and fittings. In addition, we put a new well connected with a solar pump, which we are using to irrigate the nursery.

Nearby, in the Moulay Yacoub province, we have small nursery land at the middle school, ‘Lhoussine Ben Ali’. We have already produced a thousand pomegranate, grapes and fig seedlings since last year, and we had the chance to plant some of these seedlings with students in a land owned by a farmer near the school! The students were able to watch the seeds in the school nursery grow day by day, month by month. When asked what the nursey meant to them, the students responded that “the school looks so different before we built the fruit tree nursery”, indicating that “it was like the desert” previously. The school is using the nursery in the environmental education teaching program and encouraging students to make their school a green region.

We planted grapes, pomegranates and figs, with students and teachers from the school and other community stakeholders such as local farmers and staff from the Education Delegation of Moulay Yacoub. We took the trees from the nursery to the farmers land after planting them together with the students and the local farmers. The farmer and his family who benefited from the trees were incredibly grateful to be working the children and the HAF team.

This year, after we met with more local farmers and their communities. We told them more about the nurseries that HAF has built with its partners.  We also asked the students (who were instrumental in building the fruit nursery) to discuss with their families the kinds of trees that are needed the most and would benefit their communities considerably. Based on their responses, we decided to plant only olives seedlings this year due to its growing need in the community.  HAF was able to plant 26,000 olive cuttings at middle school nursery for Moulay Yacoub communities.

In Ifrane, we built two nurseries, one at Al Akhawayn University’s Annex, and the other at the Salam School. At the first nursery, we distributed 24,000 almond trees in the regions of Ifrane, Azrou, Figuig, Bouarfa, Errachidia and Al haouz.

The picture above is of the Salam School nursery after we installed a new solar pump for its new well.  We bought soil, after which, a machine was used to spread it on the land. This land now grows 121,000 almond, fig and olive trees and cutting.

I would like to congratulate our partnership for planting such a vast amount of seeds. With the help of Ecosia, youth, farmers, schools, the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Youth and Sports, Al Akhawayn University, and the High Commission of Waters and Forests, we were able to implement our project and, in the coming months, we will be able to plant more seeds in the regions of Fes and Ifrane, and also Oujda at its Center for the Protection of Children.

We deeply appreciate all the efforts and the financial giving of Ecosia, who is bringing more green life and opportunities to Morocco! Thank you for all those who have been encouraging and enabling us to do more, for the environment, for our collective future, and for this planet.   

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The Farmer to Farmer (F2F) program is a USAID development initiative that is implemented throughout the world. During the past 20 years, I had the opportunity to volunteer for 80 assignments in 14 countries. In Morocco, the F2F program is administered by Land O’Lakes International Development (LOL), a U.S. agricultural cooperative, who provided me with the opportunity to volunteer in Morocco for the first time.

 

My assignment title was (Improvement of schools tree nurseries) and was hosted by the High Atlas Foundation (HAF) in Marrakech.  HAF is a US non-profit organization founded in 2000 for the purpose of advancing sustainable development in Morocco and assists communities in achieving their projects in agriculture, education, health, and multiculturism. HAF is headed by Dr. Yossef Ben-Meir and very dedicated staff members.

SAMI’s PROJECT enables students to thrive in a healthy school environment. The Project spreads the culture of planting among students so that they may discover and practice innovative agriculture techniques. HAF assists primary schools through to universities to develop and establish plant nurseries and wild gardens. These school nurseries provide students with hands-on learning opportunities in organic green culture and sustainable income development.  The Project also promotes school infrastructure, such as building classrooms, bathrooms, and clean water systems.

 

The High Atlas Foundation has eleven nurseries in five provinces of Morocco, where they produce varieties of organic fruit trees, forestry trees, and herbal and wild medicinal plants. Trees include; almond, Argan, carob, cherry, fig, grape, lemon, olive, pomegranate, quince, and walnut.  Plants also include Calendula officinalis.

 

Since 2003, HAF planted approximately 3 million seeds and trees with farming families and schools, which impacted thousand household incomes. During this 2018 planting season (January through March), HAF’s SAMI’s PROJECT planted 15,000 trees with 155 schools engaging 18,000 students in 23 provinces.

 

During my assignment I visited middle and high schools, met with staff and observed students while they planted trees in their schoolyards. School boys and girls worked together, were full of energy and enthusiasm, and expressed connection with the environment.

 

Planting trees helps the environment, builds forestry, produces food and a source of income for families, connect students and communities with nature, and promote organic green growth. HAF provides a good model that is transferable beyond Morocco for green organic growth and development.

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By Erracihd Montassir, Sami's Project Manager 

 

This morning we planted with schoolchildren in Rhamna.  I had a great day with the kids and there will some surprises.

 HAF’s Sami’s Project still celebrating the Big Event of the 15th January with schoolchildren.  After we planted in many provinces already, our direction was to Rhamna province this morning, making other green touches with the kids, by planting hundreds of almond and pomegranate trees, which are definitely a future source of income for the schools.
 
In our action this morning was a moment when I was delivering each tree to every two children as a small project for them.  They can take care of the tree until it gives fruit.  It happened that I met with my nephew by accident! He is studying in one of the schools that we planted in. He was extremely happy to see me and plant trees together in his school, which was a really emotional moment for me. 

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I am a late career American businessman.  Currently I spend up to half of each year volunteering with NGOs in developing and middle income countries.  I assist across a range of business disciplines (marketing, sales, strategic planning, and organizational improvement.) Over the past 8 years I have conducted 45 volunteer assignments in 20 or so countries.

Just recently, I spent three weeks in September 2017 conducting a volunteer business assignment in Marrakech, Morocco.  Two US-based NGOs, IESC and Land O’Lakes, sent me on this assignment.  Our client was the High Atlas Foundation (HAF), a United States and Moroccan NGO reaching twelve provinces throughout Morocco. HAF trains communities to integrate agricultural and other human development initiatives. HAF invests in projects in participatory democratic governance, sustainable agriculture, school environment, health and sanitation, integration of women in economic and social environment, and environmental resource management. 

My specific assignment was to address HAF as a crop nursery business. Since 2003, HAF and its partners have planted 2.2 million trees and are currently engaged in a campaign with its public, business, and civil partners to plant one billion trees in Morocco. HAF and community tree planting efforts benefits 5,000 households (about 45,000 people) throughout Morocco. 

HAF is the only non-profit tree-providing nursery in Morocco. Thus it has no direct competitors. The foundation views commercial nurseries, not as competitors, but as business collaborators.  Some 50% of the seedlings HAF donates to beneficiaries are sourced from commercial nurseries. HAF offers multiple fruit and nut trees as well as herbs and medicinal plants to its customers. 

HAF donates its nursery crops free to beneficiaries, usually funded by donor grants. In 2017 to date, 101 organizations (cooperatives, communities, and schools) have received various trees and plants from HAF. 

HAF offers multiple fruit and nut trees as well as herbs and medicinal plants to its customers. Demand likely exceeds supply for the most popular trees provided by HAF nurseries. The foundation will benefit by focusing on a more limited number of products offered.  It is difficult to be efficient and successful when trying to be all things to all people. Consequently, HAF requested assistance to develop a business plan for their tree and plant nurseries. 

The following organic trees plus various plants are offered or under consideration by HAF.

  1. Almond
  2. Argan
  3. Carob
  4. Cherry
  5. Dates (under consideration)
  6. Figs
  7. Lemon (under consideration)
  8. Olive
  9. Pomegranate
  10. Walnuts
  11. Plants (oregano, thyme, wormwood, fennel, rosemary, verbena, lavander, marjoram, sage, geranium, peppermint, capers) 

I conducted a strategic analysis of the HAF nursery business in order to identify action steps required for the organization to take and included this information in the development of a business plan.  The recommendations provided were designed to be realistically implementable and to offer paths of improvement to HAF. 

In order to prioritize HAF’s crop offerings ideally we would evaluate such measures as:

  • Production for the domestic market
  • Production for the export market
  • Sales value of seedlings and of harvested crops
  • Cost of production
  • And so on... 

However such metrics are not easily available, consequently we elected to rely on estimates and qualitative criteria in order to prioritize the products. The following list shows eight metrics that we have used to prioritize our product offerings. 

  • Uses (food, medicine, cosmetics, environmental, fuel)
  • Years until transplantable as a seedling
  • Years until commercially viable
  • Life of orchard in years
  • Current demand for seedlings
  • Production metric tons 2014
  • Seedling sales price
  • Water demand 

The result of our analysis showed that the most attractive trees to concentrate on were olive, pomegranate, carob, fig, and walnut.  Next in line were almond, cherry, and medicinal plants and herbs. 

I thoroughly enjoyed my three week volunteer assignment with the HAF organization.  I hope to be able to assist them again in the future. 

Finally, HAF is an NGO with noble goals and with substantial skills.  The foundation has achieved notable success to date.  Even if none of the recommendations offered in our business assessment are implemented, HAF and its organic nursery business would continue to be a force for good in Morocco. However, the organization has even greater potential to achieve good in the country.  With the implementation of the business plan presented, I believe that the High Atlas Foundation, its partners, and particularly its beneficiaries will all reach an even higher level of success.

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During the 2006-2007 planting season, HAF planted over 80,000 fruit trees and saplings with rural communities in Morocco as part of its One Million Tree Campaign.

For the Kate's Jean-Gail Memorial tree nursery we planted 60,000 saplings in February 2007 with communities in the Taroudant Province. In October 2007 the grafting of the saplings took place and the saplings are thriving and healthy. We look forward to monitoring the progress of this nursery in the years to come and to continue our work with this community.

Since this community only had the capacity to grow 60,000 saplings we will be planting an additional 40,000 saplings in 2008 with communities in the Azaddene Valley of Morocco as part of this project. Plans are also underway to plant trees with communities in the Imenane and Azaddene Valleys in 2008 - our goal is to at least double the number we planted last year, planting 160,000 trees and saplings in 2008.

We thank all of you who donated to this fruit tree planting project and look forward to the many things we can together accomplish for rural Morocco.

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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
$31,533 raised of $50,000 goal
 
361 donations
$18,467 to go
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