At HAF we have had a very busy and successful few months. We are currently developing new projects and applying for funding to continue our work on sustainable community development in Morocco. However, it is useful to reflect on our achievements when considering the way forward…
HAF has had diverse and sustainable achievements since it began operations in Morocco in 2003. Since then, we have planted nearly 700,000 planted (about 18 times the number of trees in New York City’s Central Park), impacting about 5,000 marginalized rural families. These projects not only tell the story of how Morocco can most cost effectively produce the billions of trees and plants it needs (according to its own projection, to break subsistence agriculture), but indeed overcome the existential challenges that also other nations of the region and world face – pervasive rural poverty, gender and youth marginalization, and land degradation.
Other HAF projects include: building 15 clean drinking water systems in villages that are among the most remote (halving infant mortality in a population of 4,000 people); establishing five women’s and girl’s cooperatives, including agricultural terraces and the installation of pressure-drip irrigation systems (providing 180 families social service and employment opportunities); building 3 schools and teachers’ housing and school bathrooms; and training in facilitating participatory planning about 250 people–university students, civil society members, and communal council members, and 1,400 agriculturalists in arboriculture and organic farming.
Specifically in the past six months, we planted 235,000 fruit trees with Moroccan communities, a record for the High Atlas Foundation in one planting season. This has very significant economic and environmental impacts for the communities in which we’ve planted. 100,000 walnut seeds and 15,000 almonds were planted in a community nursery in the rural commune of Toubkal in Taroudant Province in the High Atlas Mountains, where HAF works with local farmers to certify organic their products and connect them with purchasers. HAF and communities also planted 50,000 fruit saplings in a nursery at the historic cultural site of Akraich in Al Haouz Province, on land lent by the Moroccan Jewish Community of Marrakech, to benefit twelve neighboring villages in the region where HAF is also implementing the organic certification and commercialization initiative.
In the arid Rhamna province, 12,000 olive trees irrigated with pressure-drip systems and 70,000 cactus were planted. We are working with a women’s association to establish a cactus oil factory – also planned to be organic certified. We’ve planted and distributed an additional 4,000 trees with rural children at 25 primary schools, with some to take home and plant in their family orchards, incorporating also environmental lessons to build their role as stewards of the earth.
With regards to organic certification, HAF has interviewed and worked with 820 family farmers to inspect their land, teaching organic farming techniques and business planning with these stakeholders, in order to secure certification of their walnut and almond product.
We trained 133 people this year in facilitating participatory development, including university students, women elected to local municipal councils and civil society members. (Tens of thousands of facilitators are needed in Morocco for transformative social change, and training by way of learning-by-doing can lead to community projects and the federation of civil associations to achieve broader goals.) HAF also formalized the creation of two federations of civil associations in Mohammedia Province, in order for them to advocate and achieve larger-scale projects including municipal community centers. These are among the first such federations in this area, and serve as a model for democratic community development.
HAF conducted the preservation, cleaning, and planting inside the cemeteries of the 3 faiths in the coastal city of Essaouira (through community activities and the hiring of experts and some manual support), and engaged more than 400 local youth in workshops, lessons and visits around Morocco’s historical intercultural cohabitation which epitomizes the natural integration of unity and diversity.
In the southern province of Boujdour, HAF created a local association and completed a participatory training and assessment. We are currently completing project proposals on clean drinking water and education, and assessing the viability of the “miracle” Moringa tree in the region.
All of these accomplishments are integrated and codependent for development. For example, a fruit tree’s yield cannot be certified organic without building local capacities through training; sustainable community projects cannot be identified and developed without the assistance of capable participatory facilitators of community dialogue; and individuals and small associations can’t impact the market without federating to increase purchasing power.