All Insights

An Open Space for Open Minds

byCelina Böhmer
onJanuary 21, 2019

Celina Boehmer, HAF Intern

This week, part of the HAF-Team is travelling from Marrakech to Fes and then to Midelt area to collect and distribute 7100 trees to local communities.

Our first stop was Fes, where we picked up the 7100 trees for the communities. We arrived in Fes and went to the Abdelaziz Ben Driss Child Protection Center. The land used to be a farm, like many others in this area, which explains why the area is an open space and full of nature. You can find a variety of trees, plants, and animals and can hear the birds sing in the trees throughout the day.

The center has two wells, one of which powered by a solar pump (!). The center also has a tree nursery, which HAF and its partners in Fes started in the summer of 2017 with funding from ECOSIA, the search engine that plants trees.

Khalid, the HAF caretaker who is in charge of the nursery grows various fruit trees—including pomegranate, olive, fig, and almond varieties—as well as medicinal and aromatic plants and herbs for use in the center’s kitchen. As we walked around this garden, I grew curious as Khalid introduced us to the herbs and their uses. We learned about lmhinza, a plant with small grey-green leaves, that if mixed with orange and onions, helps heal headaches. Khalild also showed us the different kinds of lavender that he grows, as well as oregano, sage, and thyme. The smell of atarcha kept me interested; it has a lovely floral, lemon scent, and the plant is used for beauty products for hair and skin care.

img1 img2 img3

After getting to know the area and enjoying its beauty and openness, we met a group of students with interdisciplinary majors from the Spring Arbor University of Michigan. They are traveling through Morocco for 3 weeks to explore Moroccan culture through what they consider the five windows of culture: education, government, family life, religion, and economics. They were very interested in HAF’s work and asked why the foundation distributes trees to communities. Said, project manager of the Fes-Meknes region, answered that a lot of farmers normally only grow barely and corn, but the problem is that they only get a very small income from these sales. Fruit trees provide far better income and diversify the crops on the land. Said also discussed how fruit trees revive rural livelihoods, contributing to efforts to reduce internal migration of people from the countryside to cities. We also talked about HAF’s participatory planning approach for community development as a way of ensuring communities are leading their own development processes. Then we met altogether with the children from the child protection center. Said provided a shared environmental workshop outside and we planted cherry trees together and these trees are meant to provide the center with cherry seeds for their nursery.

img4 img5

In the afternoon, we had the big task to pack all 7100 trees into a truck, which would bring them to the Midelt area. The children of the center did a great job! We put already-bagged olive trees in the truck, and dug out and bagged almond trees to store them in the truck as well. This was my favorite part of the day, as we worked alongside the kids and I had a lot of fun together. I could see how some kids were very engaged and knew exactly how to care for the trees. Said and Khalid told me that those kids are the ones who come often to the nursery and help Khalid with taking care for the saplings. In this way, they learned a lot about organic agriculture and the environment. Many found that they could apply what they learned in the nursery to their family farms.

img6 img7

By engaging with the tree nursery, they learned that they can be an active part of society, because the trees they planted help rural communities to improve their livelihoods. You could really feel the positive atmosphere being in this center surrounded by nature. As Said said while we were talking about the advantages of a tree nursery at a youth center: this open space could help the children to open their minds.