By Rachel Bartkowski, HAF intern
January 16th marked HAF’s Annual Tree Planting Day, with thousands of trees being planted in a variety of different sites in Moroccan communities. As a new volunteer at HAF, such a hands-on day in the field made for a very exciting first day. It was an honor to be able to join this long-standing project that centers around environmental sustainability and engaging the community.
Our team was guided by HAF’s Program Director of Community Tree Planting and Tree Monitoring, Said El Bennani. Additionally, we joined forces with around fifteen employee volunteers from Intrepid Travel, an adventure travel company. Our team drove south of Marrakech, through the mountains into the Aghbalou community in Setti Fadma. As our van slowly drove up the mountainside, it was remarkable to see such beautiful views of the region.
Looking out the window, we were able to observe several trees that had previously been planted and were doing well. When we reached our site, we met with Aghbalou locals who also joined in the tree planting. From here we began the process of digging the hole, strategically placing the tree sapling, and watering the surrounding area. Between the Intrepid volunteers, HAF staff, and community members, we were able to plant about fifty carob trees along the mountainside.
It was a wonderful sight to see all different companies and groups coming together for the purpose of tree planting around Morocco. Initially, to me it seemed unusual for a tourism company such as Intrepid to partner with HAF to engage in tree planting. However, an Intrepid employee shared an important point; if there is no effort to improve Morocco through the lens of agriculture, sustainability, and tree planting, there will be no Morocco to share with visitors and tourists! This point certainly broadened my perspective on the intersectionality between the work of seemingly different institutions and the potential of corporate social responsibility. Since Intrepid leads tours focused on responsible travel and environmental accountability, such partnerships have the capability to enrich Intrepid’s practices and spread awareness of HAF’s work. Trip leaders are now able to take their new understanding of tree planting benefits on their tours, incorporating environmental sustainability into the tourism experience they curate.
Collaboration with the local community members was another piece I found crucial in creating sustainable ways to improve the region. It was encouraging to see the work they had already accomplished and that their partnership with HAF was continuing to create planting opportunities. Overall, it was truly a pleasure to join alongside so many different institutions with the common goal of tree planting and improving the land in Morocco.