HAF recently signed four new agreements with the Moroccan Jewish Community of Marrakech to build tree nurseries on land adjacent to Jewish cultural sites. These nurseries will be for the benefit of the local communities and this agricultural initiative will be incorporated into a federation of cooperatives that promote organic, fair trade agricultural and artisanal products from Morocco.
Last planting season, HAF implemented this multicultural agriculture project on land near the Akraich village (Al Haouz province), adjacent to the sacred site of the Jewish “saint” Rabbi Raphael Ha Cohen. With the generous support of the Lodestar Foundation and wife and husband Wahiba Estergard and Michael Gilliland, HAF and local partners planted 50,000 fruit seeds for the benefit of approximately 8,000 people. In the second year of this five year project, trees from the community-managed nursery will be distributed to each household (starting with single mothers) in the local Muslim community. The trees will be planted and maintained by each farming family, in their own orchards, for their sole benefit. Trees are also distributed in-kind to primary schools in the municipality, as a part of Sami’s Project.
This project, in addition to increasing household incomes, has created on a local and national level a symbol for Moroccan collaborating among Muslim and Jewish groups to advance sustainable human development. This collaboration is mirrored in our cultural projects, which promote multicultural history in Essaouira.
On January 16th, (which falls on the Jewish holiday Tu B'ishvat), the High Atlas Foundation will plant its 1 millionth tree in the 8 provinces where we currently have agricultural projects, simultaneously at noon. In Akraich, we will plant and distribute trees on that day.
In the following months, we intend to expand the project in Akraich (see attached presentation of our achievements) to four new sites on land lend by the Moroccan Jewish Community of Marrkech (we need financial support to do so). These projects include the transfer of skills to local community members in order to build and manage tree nurseries, and secure organic certification of the produce.
In our 10 year experience of fruit tree planting, we have found that nurseries sow not only the seeds of increased income and autonomy for rural and marginalized communities but also lead to further human development projects, new skills and opportunities, in addition to trust among partners.
Products from these fruit trees will be marketed and sold by High Atlas Agriculture and Artisanal (HA3), a Provincial Cooperative created by HAF in partnership with local civil associations and farming families participating in organic agriculture projects. A portion of the net income will be reinvested to implement community-identified human development projects.
The strategic underpinning of this tree nursery project is to be build fruit tree nurseries on land lent by the Moroccan Jewish Community of Marrakech to benefit the surrounding Muslim rural population in the area, and in the process forge sustainable civil society partnerships for the promotion of human development.