Recently, HAF embarked on a groundbreaking endeavor: planting trees with the Saharan nomadic community for the first time. During initial community forums between HAF and the Saharan nomads, there was significant interest in growing fruit trees despite the challenge of the desert climate.
While acknowledging the difficulty of climatic conditions, the community recognized the significant contribution of trees to a balanced ecosystem: providing shade, conserving water, and promoting a positive environmental impact within the region.
The local farmers accepted the challenge. Eager to begin planting, the nomadic farming community received a donation of 800 fig and pomegranate trees. The High Atlas Foundation team worked closely alongside these farmers during the process, providing resources and support to ensure the project’s success.
Despite the arid conditions, these farmers are displaying determination and resilience, driven by their passion for a greener future. They understand that the presence of trees will not only benefit their immediate surroundings but also have a lasting effect on the broader regional ecosystem.
The project has economic potential as well. The abundance of figs and pomegranates will provide the community with a valuable source of income, as they could sell the fruits locally or even explore regional and international markets. The economic stability associated with such markets will empower the community, allowing them to invest in other projects as desired.
As the fruit trees take root and flourish, they will become a source of pride and hope for the nomadic farmers. The transformation of the once barren landscape into a vibrant orchard will become a symbol of resilience and the triumph of human spirit over adversity.
HAF remains committed to its ongoing mission of promoting environmental stewardship and sustainable practices not only within the Saharan nomadic community but also in other regions facing similar challenges.
This collaborative project marks a significant milestone in the nomadic community. These farmers are choosing to adapt to the harsh conditions of the Sahara with sustainable solutions. By planting trees, these communities are moving toward sustainable food and income sources, fostering regional biodiversity, and mitigating the effects of desertification.
This groundbreaking initiative sets an encouraging precedent for future collaborations between HAF and other nomadic communities, emphasizing the organization's commitment to promoting environmental stewardship and sustainable practices across regions.
I'm truly excited to be hosting a virtual presentation and Q&A session about HAF's Carbon Offsets program on Wednesday, March 22 at 2:00 PM Morocco / 10:00 AM New York.
Our model is uniquely social, involving the growing and monitoring of fruit trees that represent increased and long-term earning potential for the rural Moroccan farming families with whom we plant each year.
If you are exploring ways to improve the quality of life for our planet and its people, I sincerely encourage you to join me for this session and to share your questions in advance via the registration form.
All the best,
Yossef Ben-Meir, Ph.D.
President, High Atlas Foundation
In order to complete conducting impact assessments with host organizations that benefited from F2F technical assistance in 2020, I went to Ouarzazate and Taroudant for three days and met again with people there.
Thursday morning, Mr. Hassan the Farmer-to-Farmer (F2F) driver, our tree planting colleague Safaa, and I set off from Marrakech to Ouarzazate to meet with the Members of Ahl Ezaouya Cooperative in the Ighrm N’doukal municipality. The cooperative has benefited from two paired F2F assignments in partnership-building, nursery technical assistance, and workshops in planting and irrigation. These workshops help with developing a comprehensive fruit tree nursery project design, budget, and sustainability plan.
The cooperative president mentioned in our meeting that the training was highly needed to develop now and in the future. They are excited to look for other opportunities and to discover a new way forward.
Working on growing a small nursery was a great idea to enhance the cooperative’s work with cultivating and selling aromatic plants. The cooperative began flourishing by participating in regional and national exhibitions of its new products. “From 2020 up to now we participated in 50 exhibitions either regionally or nationally and I am so proud of what we achieved”. Mr. Hamad.
On our way to Toubkal municipality, we visited the Imerdal nursery, one of the nurseries the F2F local expert volunteer visited during his assignment. The nursery began through a partnership with HAF and the National Initiative for Human Development (a financial contributor) and the Moroccan Jewish Community (the provider of the land in-kind), and immediately after the partnerships were established, the F2F program provided technical assistance with the community that was provided by Volunteer Hicham. He conducted training on how to build a tree nursery plan and the difficulties that a nursery can face. Notably, in the case of terraces, 100,000 almond, carob, cherry, and walnut saplings were planted and distributed from the nursery land.
We then arrived at 6:30 pm at Aguerzrane village, and despite the fact that it was freezing, we enjoyed the musical notes blown by the wind. All the beautiful memories were back again at that moment. I remember in 2018 when I finished the full four days of the Imagine empowerment workshop with the women and how difficult it was to say goodbye, I heard again the notes of these songs of goodbye and love driving on the road by the river. I left with the hope that these women will stay committed to their vision of creating their own cooperative and establishing their nursery. Drops of rain came and woke me from my memories which were one of the best memories in this place.
In 2020-2022, more than 30,000 cherry and walnut seeds were planted and distributed from the women’s nursery, which shows the impact of what HAF was doing in this region, with the initial Imagine workshop and now with the technical training under the F2F program. This training allowed these women to understand the essential tools of irrigation and planting. The skills learned in this workshop were translated into practice with HAF’s tree-planting project.
After finishing our conversation with the caretaker we went back to meet the women in the classroom that was used to conduct the full four days of workshops a few years ago, to dream together and enjoy the journey together. Some of the women knew me and others didn't, they hadn’t attended the workshop but they had heard about it. The work vision started from here, in this room, and with these women, and it ended in the amazing reality that is the established nursery.
Memories came back with nostalgia for the past, for innocence, for the values that gathered us for love and social work, which is a positive energy that always makes us appreciate it, despite the long trip hours, the travel fatigue, and the negative feedback from people who didn’t experience our social journey.
To conclude my trip, I participated in a tree planting day with Intelcia, our new partner. We met together in Amrzagane to plant fruit trees wishing that their impact be achievable by the upcoming generations.
Prior to my arrival in Morocco on January 30, I had spoken with Aziz, the president of the Bio-Agri Atlas Farming Cooperative of Oulad Mbark. We discussed the drought that Morocco has been experiencing and the negative effects it has had on the farmers in the cooperative and region. He expressed the cooperative's need to learn more about climate change, how it affects food systems, and agricultural practices they can put into action to retain soil moisture and manage water more effectively. I came with practical farming field experience methods of reducing soil erosion and protecting and building the microbial ecosystem in the soil.
I spent many hours researching climate change in Morocco in the past, present, and future, and reading research that has been conducted as to its effects on the environment and its people. I researched innovations and technologies for adapting to climate change in Morocco and the MENA region. I also spent time coordinating with universities and agricultural extension programs from arid regions of the USA, specifically the University of Arizona Department of Environmental Science and the University of California Davis Agriculture Extension program.
I spoke with Dr. Joseph, professor of soil ecology and soil health, from UofA about his research into soil microbial effects of climate change in Arizona and how we might perform field tests in Morocco to evaluate microbial populations. He provided valuable insight into the most important information to know when looking at living soil in arid environments as well as a donation of quick soil test kits that he believed would be valuable to the farmers of Ouled Mbarak.
I also corresponded with the University of California Davis Agricultural Extension offices about their climate-smart agriculture (CSA) programs, research, and most importantly outreach and education. They shared with me their approach to educating farmers about climate change and recommendations for adapting to their changing environment, including the use of drought-tolerant crops. Although not all of the information can be readily transferable to Morocco because of the resources and technology available, the main pillars and principles of CSA are the same. From my discussion with Aziz, my practical farming experience, my research, and my coordination with Universities I prepared a PowerPoint presentation on climate change in Morocco and how farmers can use CSA to adapt.
On January 31, I met with Si Larbi, a retired official from the Department of Water and Forest with extensive knowledge of farming and related resources in Morocco. I wanted to discuss with him the process of farmers obtaining drip irrigation reimbursement through the government's Green Morocco Plan so that I would be able to accurately share this information with the farmers of Oulad Mbark. We also discussed various strategies for soil moisture retention that he had seen in Morocco such as using rocks as mulch around trees to reduce evaporation and plastic coverings over the soil.
On February 1 we arrived at the host cooperative (Sanaad Cooperative) in Oulad Mbark to meet with Aziz Taouri, the president of the Bio- Agri Atlas Cooperative of farmers. We discussed their current crop rotations and plans for planting in the coming year. We also discussed their methods for determining soil moisture, regional rainfall predictions, available water resources, and the use of drip irrigation. Aziz also informed me of the other related activities we would be doing in Beni Mellal, specifically visiting climate change researchers at the University Sultan Moulay Slimane School of Science and Technology and a tree planting activity at a local primary school dedicated to ecological education.
The sun was shining and there was a sense of hope and anticipation that filled the morning of Monday, January 16th. It was the third Monday of January, which is the day the High Atlas Foundation (HAF) celebrates its annual tree planting day by planting different sorts of fruit trees and herbs in all of Morocco. The day was established in 2014 when HAF celebrated planting one million tree seedlings. Since that first tree planting day, HAF has gone on to plant three million more trees with farmers, schools, and community groups, and it currently maintains 15 tree nurseries with local communities in Morocco and partners around the world.
Together with Mr. Larbi, HAF´s agroforestry advisor, Mr. Mohamed, HAF´s financial manager, and Saman, a volunteer from Austria, I visited the two villages–F’tala and Tadmamt in the Asni commune, located in the Al Haouz province, about 60 kilometers away from Marrakech. We were accompanied by Ms. Kabira, the president of the ISHAM Agricultural Cooperative, who drove us through the twists and turns of the road in the mountains which she knew so well.
Filled with optimism, we arrived at F’tala amidst the beautiful landscapes of the High Atlas Mountains and started planting trees. Together with members of the community, we planted approximately 100 olive, 10 fig and 10 pomegranate seedlings. Planting trees plays an important role in counteracting climate change and its consequences, such as erosion and desertification, improving the quality of agricultural lands, and strengthening local cooperatives and the rural economy.
We finished the planting process with a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment, but our trip was not finished yet as we went on to visit the tree nursery in Tadmamt, which was established in 2012 through a partnership between HAF, the Water and Forests Department, and the United Nations Development Program.
The Tadmamt nursery is picturesque, nestled in the mountains. Three different types of tree saplings are grown there: walnuts, cherries, and almonds. Abdellatif, who is in charge of the nursery, explained that the plants are irrigated with a drip system with water from a large basin nearby. Once the saplings are grown and ready, they are distributed to local farmers and their families and local communities as part of HAF´s tree planting campaign. The Tadmamt nursery represents an ideal environment for trees to flourish and, like the rest of HAF´s tree nurseries, it is continuously monitored by the HAF team.
The sun has set in Tadmamt and HAF´s tree planting day is coming to an end. Today has once again shown how HAF´s continuous work and effort to offer people opportunities to improve their lives and increase the income and social and economic status of marginalized villages is paying off and how planting trees can help achieve that. But perhaps the most important take-away from today is that there continues to be a high demand and a lot of suitable space for the planting of fruit trees in all of Morocco.
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