HAF Promotes Tree Planting and Value-Addition for Rural Farmers in Morocco


Gregory Sullivan, HAF Visiting Expert 


International Executive Service Corps (IESC)

USAID’s Farmer to Farmer Program


April 18 to May 5, 2017

The High Atlas Foundation (HAF) in Morocco is using innovative approaches to tackling poverty in this North Africa country, as well as addressing the challenge of climate change.  HAF is a non-profit organization dedicated to improving the livelihoods of rural households. The foundation was established in 2000 and registered in both the USA and Morocco.  It set an ambitious goal to plant one million trees and successfully met that challenge in the year 2014. HAF is not stopping and has agreed to support the Government of Morocco to reach its target to plant one billion trees by 2030.

At the HAF’s headquarters is in Marrakech, the office is constantly buzzing with the enthusiasm of young volunteers from Morocco, Europe and the USA committed to make a positive impact on Morocco.  HAF is at the center of the wider global initiative to address climate change.  The United Nations’ climate change conference was held in the city in November 2016.  HAF’s goal is to empower people to improve their livelihoods and the climate through community action. For HAF it all starts with the establishment of its eleven nurseries. HAF partnered with several organizations both government and non-government and from inside and outside Morocco to establish these nurseries. The German organization – Ecosia - provides funding for three new nurseries.  At the same time, HAF continues to evaluate the possible addition of new nursery sites.  In some cases, a nursery site was provided by the local council, the local cooperative or even a religious organization.  This reflects buy-in from a wide spectrum of the stakeholders in the donor community.


HAF’s nurseries are in different ecological zones which offer a diversity of trees and plants to meet the needs of rural households and schools in different planting zones (see Figures 1 and 2). Most of the nurseries are in the hotter, drier zone having a continental climate. Temperatures can exceed 40 Celsius and a dry season can last three to four months. Tree and aromatic seeds are collected locally for the nurseries for better adaptability to growing conditions. Some popular tree species are walnut, almond, pomegranate, olive, and fig. A few nurseries produce aromatic plants (Verbena, mint, sage and thyme) which are popular items added to tea. Aromatic plants are distributed to women to be grown for both home use or sold fresh or processed in the local markets to provide additional income for women. Water availability in this drier climate is a challenge, and HAF promotes the use of drip irrigation systems conserving scarce water.

HAF’s mission is to address challenges along the value chain facing producers, and it invests in value addition activities in processing and marketing, not just planting trees.  In the town of Asni, HAF supported the establishment of a walnut processing facility with the local government and the Idraren cooperative. HAF purchased some of the equipment installed in the plant and helped to train the staff. The cooperative with the help of HAF will find markets for producers’ nuts and bottled walnut oil.  The market plan is to develop branded organic walnut products which are sold in both the domestic and international markets.  In the first year of operation in 2016, the cooperative sold 6,000 kilograms of nuts, as well as, 1000 liters of walnut oil for cosmetic use 

Where possible, HAF works to build the capacity of women cooperatives to empower them for positive economic and social change in their communities. HAF teamed up with the French cosmetic company, L’Oriel, to contract with the women’s cooperative in the Ouirka Valley, which is approximately 30 kilometers southeast from Marrakesh. The cooperative has 40 women, and they grow the flower, Calendura officinalis (pot marigold), used by L’Oriel in the manufacture of their cosmetics. HAF and L’Oriel supported the women with training and made initial start-up investments in a small building with a bathroom, irrigation equipment (see Figure 4) and a water tank for storing water during the dry season to extend the production season when water levels in the nearby river fall. The women have learned how to collect seed from nearby fields, propagate and transplant seedlings (see Figure 5). The women then harvest the flower, transport in local basket (see Figure 6) to their homes where they dry the petals and then pack and ship them to France. These value-added processes allow the women to be paid 1,000 MAD (approximately U.S. $100) per kilogram for dried petals. The women expect their first shipment of 50 kilograms of dried petals in 2017 and will receive about 50,000 MAD (US $5,000) to be shared among members of the cooperative.



HAF is making a significant difference for large numbers of rural households in Morocco through tree planting, and it is turning producers into entrepreneurs evident by the success in establishing the walnut cooperative in Asni and the Calendula cooperative in Ouirka.  These business models will be replicated in other villages and towns in Morocco and will directly increase rural incomes and at the same time address the threats of climate change facing Morocco.  By mobilizing communities to plant trees and aromatic plants, HAF is helping rural Morocco on its path to economic sustainability.


Planting Seeds


Tim Ager

Vising Engineering Expert  

USAID Farmer-to-Farmer Program


My image of Morocco was dry, a desert, and not a place of agricultural growth.  I was surprised by the vast olive groves and orchards of fruit trees often visible from the window of my train as I travelled from Marrakech, through Casablanca and Rabat, to Fez.  Unfortunately, not all Moroccans experience the financial benefits that such trees can provide.

Most rural Moroccans are subsistence farmers who survive by growing corn and barley – the low market value staple crops that are planted on 70% of Morocco’s agricultural land, but account for only 10-15% of the country’s agricultural revenue.  This way of life is no longer sustainable, and the High Atlas Foundation (HAF) has taken on the challenge of breaking the cycle of poverty that entraps those who depend upon agricultural production.

HAF has developed nurseries across the country to grow fruit and nut trees including pomegranate, fig, olive, almond and walnut.  After a couple of years these trees are mature enough to be given to individuals in rural communities to help them increase their agricultural revenue.  The trees are also distributed to schools, providing the opportunity to teach the next generation of Moroccans how to plant and care for trees.  And the planting of trees brings additional environmental benefits: soil erosion prevention, deforestation reversal, and climate change mitigation.

Over the last two weeks, I visited many of these nurseries on a Farmer-to-Farmer assignment funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).  My job was to assess existing drip irrigation systems and to design irrigation systems for future nursery sites.

One of these sites is located in Fes, at the Center for the Protection of Children – Abdelaziz Ben Driss, a welfare institution that serves children in vulnerable situations, those with legal problems, and/or minors in detention.  The Center provides vocational training in carpentry, ironwork, IT, literacy, and gardening.  On my visit to the Center I saw a large garden plot (approximately 800m2) already tilled and partially planted with aromatic and medicinal herbs.  All that was lacking was an irrigation system.  The design for this nursery includes two plots totaling nearly 3,000m2, with a drip irrigation system that will water the garden plot as well.  The opportunity to help install and maintain this irrigation system and the day to day care of plants will help engage the minds and bodies of the young people who live at the Center.

I visited nurseries at the Collège Housseine Bin Ali in Moulay Yacoub (Fes region), and the Al Akhawayn University in Ifrane, which are models for future nurseries at the Universitè Sidi Mohamed Ben Abdellah – Appied Sciences campus in Fes and at the Salam School in Ifrane.  These nurseries will provide opportunities for children and young adults to learn about improved irrigation practices, caring for plants, and to spread their knowledge across Morocco.  But the skills obtained from working directly with these nurseries can be much greater – including critical thinking, problem solving, engineering and design, communication, mentorship, and community service.


There is no disputing the positive effects of HAF’s nurseries – from educational, to environmental, to financial.  But in reality, how much good can a few trees do?  It’s all a question of scale.  HAF has already planted over two million fruit and nut trees in Morocco.  While this is a significant number, it’s only a fraction of Morocco’s national goal of planting one billion trees to overcome the inherent problems of subsistence agriculture.  Consider that number: one billion.  It seems impossible.  How do you grow a project from one million trees to one billion trees?  It all starts with the next nursery, the next seed.  Another seed planted in the ground.  Another seed planted in the mind of a child.

HAF Event in Rabat

                                 By: Errachid Montassir 
                                     HAF Volunteer
The High Atlas Foundation with the Academy of Education in the capital city, Rabat, and on the occasion of Morocco coming back to the African union, organized an event - "Afrique en capital" - with many African Ambassadors at the Dar Assalam High School.
There were many good steps that composed the day:
First step: We had the honor to participate with African Ambassadors in planting trees ar Dar Assalam High School.
Second step: We had a group picture with the High School Students, Ambassadors, and HAF Members with the flags of all 48 African countries!
Third step: An African student who graduated from the high school started the event by reading the Koran.
Fourth step: The words of welcome spoken by the director of the school Mr. Mohammed Boudil and kind words he spoke about the High Atlas Foundation.
And the last steps were by the many students: Their Gnawa dance, a symbol of African roots.
But the thing that I adored most was a play presented by Dar Assalam students about Morocco and her coming back home to the "African Union."
Finally, I would like to thank My Home - the HAF - for giving me this chance to be more close with the environment, children and my African self.

Agriculture Training for Women of the Aboghlou Cooperative

                                          By Amina El Hajjami

                  Project manager with High Atlas Foundation

Sustainable development fornew projects requires sustainable training for people. In this regard, the High Atlas Foundation signed a partnership agreement with JLM IAV Hassan II, in Rabat, with the objective of training the women of Aboghlou cooperative. The students educated the women in advanced agricultural technologies within the Ourika Commune.

On April 16th, 26 women of cooperative learned theoretical and practical techniques about agriculturein the nursery YSL in Ourika. After a grand traditional Moroccanbreakfast, the HAF team and 5 students of JLN IAM Hassan II initiated the training in the nursery,beside a beautiful landscapewith open fields filled with aromatic calendula flowers.


The women were divided by 3 groups; the training covered the following aspects:

·         Planting,harvest and grafting almond tree.

·         Time of irrigation.

·         Planting, harvest and dryingcalendula.


·         Problems of the current irrigation system in the nursery and solutions.


The student group shared the design of new labels for cooperative products, as well asprovided a booklet, which had been prepared to include a fully detailed presentation about the cooperative efforts.


At the end of training the women Student facilitator, Soufiane, shown the method of grafting almond trees. The women showed their desire to learn this method and engage in the process.


The women were very happy about the training and they asked many questions to develop the work in the nursery and improve their marketing strategy. They also shared with the students their knowledge in agriculture.


Not just the women who attended the training but also the children were part of that training  and they were sitting in a circle like women and Aya Who is four and a half years old who took the initiative and speak with the group with self - confidence.



In behalf of all High Atlas Foundation we deeply thank the students of JLM IAV Hassan II in Rabat Ahmed El Khawlani, Hajar El Khalfi, Khaoula Jellal, Ibtissam Haouari and Soufiane Kadiri. We’d also like to thank the Agronomic and Veterinary Institute Hassan II in Rabat for supporting trainings in women’s agriculture. Lastly, a huge thank for our partners YSL L'Oreal and PUR project for contributing  significantly to the success the project of the Aboghlou cooperative.

Moving my Home Community Forward

Another Touch in Rhamna with HAF



By Errachid Montassir

HAF volunteer


After three months with the High Atlas Foundation, I returned again to my origins in the Rhamna province, where I had the chance to earlier bring the benefit of more than 400 trees on the 16th of January – for the planting event on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.


Today – the 3rd of April – I visited those seven schools to:

- Distribute the certificates - appreciating all the efforts of students and teachers as they take care of the trees

- Inspire the students to smile

- Build upon the health of the trees that we planted

- Discuss future projects with HAF


I can say that I still really get priceless information about the environment with the High Atlas Foundation.  I appreciate the good work of the active students and teachers as they create more than green spaces at their schools.


The distribution of certificates reflects our sincere gratitude to the students and teachers at Rhamna schools who planted the 400 almond, fig, and pomegranate trees.


When we planted the trees at the event, I noted the many smiles of students.  That is exactly the what happened when we gave them the certificates.


That was a precious feeling when the students came running and hugged me.  I really learned many things about responsibility from these moments.


As I look at the trees, I was surprises that I found they grew with green leaves.  The schools’ spaces became so green, and here I can say that we already achieved one of many goals.


The last step was to discuss with Mr. Mehdi, the president of the association WASSIL, about future projects with HAF; one of them is an action to plant more than 2,000 trees around 7 villages, with more than 1,000 beneficiaries.


With this collaboration, we are making green spaces for our youth and communities of the Kingdom of Morocco.



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HAF tweets

HafFdtn Another wonderful experience in #Ouirgane_Commune with the active population by meetings and workshops. #HAF #Environment #Morocco
HafFdtn Maurice, Jana and I are extremely happy to help farmers in their fields and note their needs and problems. #HAF #Sustainable_Development
HafFdtn RT @bradjanocha: Use @Ecosia to help @HafFdtn plant trees in Morocco! Excited to see this partnership in action #MondayMotivation https://t…
HafFdtn New blog post written by one of our interns, Davide, about a meeting that took place in Ouikaimeden
HafFdtn A big example of the #sustainable_development between the #HAF and our communities is going to meet the farmers in #Ouirgane_commune
HafFdtn Regarding the #HAF projects with #El_Haouz province, HAF sent two german volunteers to Ouirgane in order to figure out the needs over there
HafFdtn My week on Twitter 🎉: 15 Favorited, 1 Retweet, 89 Retweet Reach, 14 Tweets. See yours with
HafFdtn YSL and PUR project visited the project of the women cooperative and carbon project

HAF in Morocco

High Atlas Foundation
4 Rue Qadi AyaadAl Manar 4A - 3rd floor - Appt. 12 El Harti, Guéliz, MARRAKESH 40.000 - Morocco

Tel: +212 (0)5 24 42 08 21
Fax+212 (0)5 24 43 00 02 

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Directions to HAF Marrakech Office


High Atlas Foundation
High Atlas Foundation 332 Bleecker Street, #K110, NEW YORK, NY 10014

Phone: +1 (646) 688-2946
Fax: +1 (646) 786-4780

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