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Tree Nurseries to Benefit 10,000 Rural Moroccans

by High Atlas Foundation
Tree Nurseries to Benefit 10,000 Rural Moroccans
Tree Nurseries to Benefit 10,000 Rural Moroccans
Tree Nurseries to Benefit 10,000 Rural Moroccans
Tree Nurseries to Benefit 10,000 Rural Moroccans
Tree Nurseries to Benefit 10,000 Rural Moroccans
Tree Nurseries to Benefit 10,000 Rural Moroccans
Tree Nurseries to Benefit 10,000 Rural Moroccans
Tree Nurseries to Benefit 10,000 Rural Moroccans
Tree Nurseries to Benefit 10,000 Rural Moroccans
Tree Nurseries to Benefit 10,000 Rural Moroccans
Tree Nurseries to Benefit 10,000 Rural Moroccans
Tree Nurseries to Benefit 10,000 Rural Moroccans
Tree Nurseries to Benefit 10,000 Rural Moroccans
Tree Nurseries to Benefit 10,000 Rural Moroccans
Tree Nurseries to Benefit 10,000 Rural Moroccans

New adventure.  New excitement.  After an amazing day in Skoura M’daz, part of the HAF team continues the five-day tree planting campaign. We met farmers from Azrou, in the Amghas commune. Abdelilah accompanied us; he is the caretaker of the HAF Ifrane nursery which is located at the Salaam School. We spent the afternoon distributing the trees to the farmers. In total, we distributed 275 fruit trees, 225 almond, 10 fig, 20 pomegranate, and 20 quince trees. 

We finished our afternoon of planting and conversing with the farmers of the region. They thanked us for all our effort and expressed hope that we will continue HAF activities together.

On the next day, we travelled to Meknes. In a program from the Leadership Development Institute at Akhawayn university in Ifrane, the Cemetery Workers Association from Meknes was rewarded almost 2000 trees last year for being the best association in the Fes-Meknes region. They decided to distribute those trees to several institutions in the region.

With the lead of Si Hicham (the association’s president), our first step was to visit the Ibn Zaydon Elementary School where we planted about 125 almond trees. According to the director, most of the students are orphans.  He also explained the proper way of teaching future generations and guide them towards a better future. He passionately believes that to prepare our students for the future, we must prepare them for change by teaching them to inquiry and think, and to adapt with new circumstance as well as explains how the school system works, and which activities children do in the school.

We moved on to another school nearby (the Ibn Outman High School). We spoke with the director and Said, HAF Project Manager, explained everything about the High Atlas Foundation. The director was very happy and welcoming and in return, he explained everything about the school and how grateful he is that the school is going to be more beautiful with the trees which are going to be planted there. On this day, the students planted 40 almond and 10 pomegranate trees.

In the next two days, Si Moha, from the Moroccan High Comission of Waters and Forests and combating Desertification joined us. We went from one school to another, to a health care center, a cemetery, and to the Office of Professional Formation and Promotion (OFPPT). We planted 318 fruit trees in total (259 almond, 30 fig, 10 carob, 9 pomegranates, and 10 quince trees). Si Moha explained to all the children and the participants how to preserve the environment and the trees which give us so much in return. Moreover, by planting a tree, we are all contributing to the word’s balanced environmental system.  

We can be a problem of the environment, by polluting and not careing for it. However, we are also it’s solution. By planting trees, we are preserving the environment which takes care of us, thus healthy environments create healthy societies. As a popular saying says “They planted and we ate, we plant and they will eat.”  We are planting trees for the next generation so they can benefit from them as we did from the past ones.

Thank you to Si Hicham from the Cemetery Workers Association for the most welcoming hospitality. I hope we can meet again someday! Importantly, a big thank you to the High Atlas Foundation and to ECOSIA (a green search engine and the investor in HAF nurseries) for the amazing opportunity for helping to make the environment a better place and meeting great people on this journey.

Early morning on Tuesday, February 19th, we went to Tassa Ouirgan passing by the magnificent view of snowy mountain peaks, wildflowers, and small hills. At a distance of approximately 70 kilometers from the ochre city, Marrakech, the Tassa Ouirgane village stands in its beautiful Azzaden valley.

The day started with a meeting next to where the HAF-community olive tree nursery resides. The meeting was facilitated by Amina El Hajjami, HAF’s Director of Projects, with the farmers from the region. It started with a brainstorming of the achievements, challenges, and recommended solutions. The farmers planted almond and walnut trees and they planned to plant more olive trees. Thus, the challenge is finding high-quality cuttings. They suggested to bring the cuttings from the surrounding farms and they thought that they may plant lemon trees as well.

We met village members, the UNDP’s National Coordinator Badia Sahmi, the UNDP’s Legal Counsel Najwa Alyassari, and Zahra Alyoubi the UNDP’s Assistant, in addition to Soufian Msou, a member of the Moroccan Association for Environment Protection and Human Development.

The meeting was followed by a traditional lunch meal prepared by a local family. We were warmly welcomed by the family members and served tea and nuts as soon as we took a seat. After lunch, mineral water from the well in Tassa Ouirgane was served. The members of the committee had another meeting in a nearby village and so they bade us farewell.

At the same time, a group of girls and young women were waiting for us at the office of the local association of Tassa Ouirgane. It is like a classroom with desks and a blackboard. The light of a sunny day, that the various windows of the classroom allowed, was reflected on their enthusiastic faces. The workshop was facilitated by Amina who succeeded in brainstorming ideas and pushing the girls and young women to speak up and voice their opinions.

Among the various resources in the region, olive trees, honey, aromatic herbs, and natural views, are just a few to state. Most of them agree that they need to establish a woman’s cooperative that would help to create job opportunities and generate income. The young women show a great interest in developing themselves. They believe that they can make a change because they have recognized the importance of economic independence in their lives.

The workshop was concluded with high expectations and a promise to meet as soon as possible after thinking over the findings from today. I was amazed by the warm welcome and positive environment offered by the local population. Heading back to Marrakech, the golden sun of the afternoon relieved the trees on the road from the flakes of snow and enlightened the white peaks of the surrounding mountains.

Trees ready for being planted, donkeys ready for taking the trees to the field and members of the local association

  

In January, as part of the HAF team, project manager Said and interns Nisreen and myself, travelled from Marrakech to Fés and then to the Mideltarea. To learn about our first days in Fés, have a look atour former blog articles.

  

On January 17thwe went to Mougeuer and TiteNali, two villages in the Gourrama commune in the Mideltprovince, to watch the 7,100 fruit trees from the tree nursery in Fésbeing distributed to the local farmers and planted. At first, we gathered together with thefarmers and provided a discussion about the challenges the communities face and the needs they have. We were joined by Tarik from the local associations “El Karama” and“Mougueur-Zetouar du Development et d’ActionSociale” and by ProfessorAlami from the association “Experts Bénévoles” for development, in Fés.It was a bright day with a blue sky and the cleanest air I’ve experiencedfor a few weeks.

  

Many people raised their voice and expressed their needs. They told us that they have tremendous problems with flooding and erosions, that electricity for pumping water is very expensive,that some of their fruit trees are sick, that they face a high unemployment rate and that the youth do not have a place to play soccer or to do activities together. What was mentioned the most, were the challenges with the consequences of flooding and erosions. For example, bridges where pulled down, huge stones ended up on the fields, so farmers cannot grow crops there anymore, for several months the children werenot able to go to school, because their paths to the schools were flooded.

  

One of the village elders raised his voice too. He was wearing a grey Jelaba, beige shoes, hehas a white beard and a friendly expression on his approximately 70 years old face. He gave a long speech and the others expressed their agreement with nodding and with their voices. He didn’t only speak about the challenges, but also about their needs and ideas for solutions.  To fight erosion the community plans to build terraces and to reforest their lands so the soil holdstogether. Furthermore, they would like to install solar pumps instead of using the electric ones to pump the drinking and irrigation water. He also mentioned that children need to walk too far to school and that they at least need to build a bridge, so the kids have a safe way to school. Others also spoke about the sicknesses their olive and almond trees face and that they are striving for solutions. A representative of the youth also took the chance to speak and expressed the youths wish to have a place where they can gather together, plan activities and play soccer. He also said that the school bus has not enough space for every student and that many young people leave to the village to study at the universities in bigger cities like Errachidia.

  

A young man from TiteNali, who holds a bachelor’s degree in environmental geography raised his voice by saying that protecting the environment is of utmost importance. To fight the problem of erosion, people donot need to build expensive things like gabions, but should rather reforest their lands. Another problem which needs to be solved is, according to him, the pollution of water and the sanitary systems which lead to dirty water in the ground and pollutes the ground- and drinking water. He is against using fertilizers who as he says, damage the environment. He promoted organic agriculture instead. This seems to be an important topic; many farmers start to get into the discussion. This young man himself received 200 fruit trees on that dayto plant them on his 2hectares of land. Later we visited his sites, which are quite far away in the mountains in the middle of a beautiful landscape.

 

To see where the trees found a new home, we also visited the fields of other farmers and did monitoring there. For me personally, this was a great experience because I got the chance to see how agriculture works in this rural area of Morocco. This afternoon and the next morning we spent by walking from one field to the other, again surrounded by the beautiful nature, the mountains, the clean air and the quietness of the countryside, accompanied by men from the local association and by local farmers. We saw the first trees, which were grown in Fés by the tree nursery at the ChildrenProtection Center with funding from ECOSIA (the search engine that plants trees), being planted in this great scenery. Here they will continue their living by, in a few years, providing a sustainable income for the community with the fruits they produce, which can be sold on the markets, and by protecting the environment, holding the soil together against erosions, with producing oxygen and filtering CO2 from the air. The farmers also signed contracts, that those trees later can be part of the carbon credit project and like this, they will generate income for the community.

  

We also got the chance to see a corn mill which runs with hydraulic energy and an olive mill and oil press. I grew curious and learned a lot from our host Jamal who explained to me the processing.

 

During my weeks in Morocco, I realized the value of the work such local associations do. I am eager to get to know more about their work and about what kind of people they are. The local association is working hard on fulfilling their goals to prevent migration to the cities. To encourage tourism in this area, they already started to repair a huge, old and beautiful Kasbah, they already have the rooms for a museum and are collecting traditional and local objects, and they are planning to launch a guesthouse in the village. They say, like this, tourists can benefit from the beautiful landscapes and nature and the community can benefit from the income this would provide. Broader, the local association has plans to work on improving education for the children and agriculture.

 

The days we spent in Gourrama were shaped by rememberable breakfasts, lunches, dinners, tea breaks and last but not least, inspiring and thoughtful discussions full of plans for the future! The evenings, we spent sitting in a room with an oven, being nicely warm, havingsoup and discussing with members of the local association and with local farmers. We learned that the tree distribution day was a special day for the villages and many people, who havenot visited the village for 40 years came back to be part of this event. We were wallowed in memories of the past and discussed ideas and plans for the development of Gourrama. The High Atlas Foundation plans to work further with the communities of Gourrama by doing a participatory community mapping and a women empowerment workshop in the next months, InshaAllah. 

 

Distributing trees to the local farmers

On Monday, project manager Said Bennani, volunteer Celina, and I began our weeklong excursion to Fez and Midelt for environmental workshops and tree-planting activities.  On Tuesday, we visited the Abdelaziz Ben Driss child protection center to conduct an environmental workshop with the boys, plant trees, and help load 7,100 saplings to be planted in Midelt this week.  Students from the Spring Arbor University in Michigan, USA, joined us for the tree-planting activities.  We had a lively day, inspired by the caretaker’s thoughtful tree nursery management and the boy’s enthusiastic involvement.

  

We started the day by visiting the tree nursery, which was spread across different plots within the center.  The local association, which organizes activities for the boys at the center, began the nursery in collaboration with HAF in May 2017.  On the way to the nursery, we admired a solar pump, supplying the energy required to extract water from a well.  Then, we met with the nursery’s caretaker, Khalid Naji, and he described the nursery conditions and progress in caring for the saplings, which were of the almond, olive, fig, carob, cherry, and pomegranate varieties.  Moreover, he showed us various aromatic and medicinal plants cultivated at the center and explained their beneficial properties.  All HAF partner nurseries are raised organically, and HAF encourages sapling recipients to continue to cultivate trees organically, for not only the environmental benefits but also for the increased value of accessing the organic market.

  

When the group of 23 students and their professors from the Spring Arbor University arrived, we began our environmental workshop with a group of boys from the protection center.  The University students came from a variety of majors and they were all interested in increasing their understanding of multiculturalism.

  

Said facilitated a workshop for the boys to better understand their relationship with their environment.  The University students participated by listening and asking the boys questions.  When Said asked the boys about their experiences with the agricultural activities in the center, one boy described how much he liked outdoor activities and how he had learned so much from Khalid about planting trees and using drip-irrigation techniques to water them.  Another boy added how his family used to purchase large trees and manually water them, but after engaging with the centers nursery, he now understands the transformation of trees from seeds and how to use drip-irrigation techniques to more efficiently care for seedlings.  When a University student asked the boys about their favorite part of the tree-rearing process, they nearly simultaneously agreed on the satisfaction of harvesting (and consuming!) tree fruit.

 

Following the workshop—together with the university students and the children—we planted six cherry trees, that the nursery plans to use for seed saving, rather than consumption, contributing to efforts to keep the nursery self-sufficient.

  

In the afternoon, we began loading olive, pomegranate, fig, and almond saplings into a truck for a tree-planting event in Midelt this Thursday.  Prior to loading them, we carefully extracted them from the ground and bagged them to preserve root moisture and, thus, maintain plant viability.

  

Said and Tarik Sadki—a member of the Karama association in Midelt—reminded the boys of the value of their contribution: as the ones who helped sow and care for the saplings, the kids were directly improving and supporting people’s livelihoods for years to come.  The HAF team and the local association are now in Gourrama commune, where we will facilitate environmental workshops and distribute trees to communities.  In this week, we have seen how tree-planting can be a vehicle for promoting cross-collaborative sustainable development, led and defined by communities, involving children, youth, adults, and local associations, to improve people’s lives across regional boundaries.

 

We thank Ecosia for funding the Abdelaziz Ben Driss nursery; without their support, these transformative experiences could not have been possible.
  

 

This week, part of the HAF-Team is travelling from Marrakech to Fes and then to Midelt area to collect and distribute 7100 trees to local communities.

 

Our first stop was Fes, where we picked up the 7100 trees for the communities. We arrived in Fes and went to the Abdelaziz Ben Driss Child Protection Center. The land used to be a farm, like many others in this area, which explains why the area is an open space and full of nature. You can find a variety of trees, plants, and animals and can hear the birds sing in the trees throughout the day.

 

The center has two wells, one of which powered by a solar pump (!). The center also has a tree nursery, which HAF and its partners in Fes started in the summer of 2017 with funding from ECOSIA, the search engine that plants trees.

 

Khalid, the HAF caretaker who is in charge of the nursery grows various fruit trees—including pomegranate, olive, fig, and almond varieties—as well as medicinal and aromatic plants and herbs for use in the center’s kitchen. As we walked around this garden, I grew curious as Khalid introduced us to the herbs and their uses. We learned about lmhinza, a plant with small grey-green leaves, that if mixed with orange and onions, helps heal headaches. Khalild also showed us the different kinds of lavender that he grows, as well as oregano, sage, and thyme. The smell of atarcha kept me interested; it has a lovely floral, lemon scent, and the plant is used for beauty products for hair and skin care.

 

After getting to know the area and enjoying its beauty and openness, we met a group of students with interdisciplinary majors from the Spring Arbor University of Michigan. They are traveling through Morocco for 3 weeks to explore Moroccan culture through what they consider the five windows of culture: education, government, family life, religion, and economics. They were very interested in HAF’s work and asked why the foundation distributes trees to communities. Said, project manager of the Fes-Meknes region, answered that a lot of farmers normally only grow barely and corn, but the problem is that they only get a very small income from these sales. Fruit trees provide far better income and diversify the crops on the land. Said also discussed how fruit trees revive rural livelihoods, contributing to efforts to reduce internal migration of people from the countryside to cities. We also talked about HAF’s participatory planning approach for community development as a way of ensuring communities are leading their own development processes. Then we met altogether with the children from the child protection center. Said provided a shared environmental workshop outside and we planted cherry trees together and these trees are meant to provide the center with cherry seeds for their nursery.

  

In the afternoon, we had the big task to pack all 7100 trees into a truck, which would bring them to the Midelt area. The children of the center did a great job! We put already-bagged olive trees in the truck, and dug out and bagged almond trees to store them in the truck as well. This was my favorite part of the day, as we worked alongside the kids and I had a lot of fun together. I could see how some kids were very engaged and knew exactly how to care for the trees. Said and Khalid told me that those kids are the ones who come often to the nursery and help Khalid with taking care for the saplings. In this way, they learned a lot about organic agriculture and the environment. Many found that they could apply what they learned in the nursery to their family farms.

  

By engaging with the tree nursery, they learned that they can be an active part of society, because the trees they planted help rural communities to improve their livelihoods. You could really feel the positive atmosphere being in this center surrounded by nature. As Said said while we were talking about the advantages of a tree nursery at a youth center: this open space could help the children to open their minds.

 

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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
$25,284 raised of $50,000 goal
 
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