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Tree Planting Day 2023: Standing Together, Growing Together

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byEllen Hernandez
onJanuary 20, 2023

Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, “What are you doing for others?” – Dr. M. L. King, Jr.

From Al Hoceima to Tadmamt, at some two dozen locations around Morocco, the High Atlas Foundation’s team planted more than 2,300 fruit trees with local community members, women’s cooperative members, school children, and representatives of HAF’s partner organizations on January 16, 2023. In recognition of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day and the commitment to service, community, and peace, HAF has hosted Tree Planting Day since 2014, when it celebrated its one millionth sapling planted in Morocco since the organization’s establishment in 2000. In the past nine years, HAF has planted an additional more than three million trees with farming families, schools, and other groups. It currently supports 15 community-managed tree nurseries.

Supporting the transition to fruit tree crops and agroforestry is a major part of HAF’s overall mission of creating sustainable development in Morocco. This is accomplished through generous funding from (currently) over 20 national and international institutional partners and many more individuals and families from around the world.

The event began with planting 20 fig and pomegranate trees with teachers and students at the Abdellah Ouled Bahia school and another 20 of the same at the Bir Gandus school, both in the Dakhla Oued Ed-Dahab region. Tree planting here and at other schools, including the youth center in Bouderhame and the Oulad Mkoudou school in the Sefrou province, teaches the children to become environmental stewards with new green spaces for them to learn and grow. The children and staff at the Dar Tifl orphanage in Marrakech happily participated in the day’s activities with HAF staff joining them, having previously benefited from a greenhouse built with a generous donation from USAID Farmer-to-Farmer volunteers Afra and Jan Stenstrom. The structure continues to serve as a learning lab and extension of their work teaching the children about planting and care of seeds and saplings.

As a testament to HAF’s commitment to interreligious cooperation, an essential part of achieving sustainable development in Morocco, the HAF team joined a member of the Christian community that supports the tree nursery in Mohammedia and two representatives of Casablanca’s Jewish community from Association des Marocains pour la Tolérance. In solidarity, they planted trees on this day and celebrated the effort with prayers, joined by HAF President and Co-founder, Dr. Yossef Ben-Meir. Later, from the Taza area, the HAF team tuned in live from the one-year-old Bouhlou nursery, HAF’s largest, with the capacity to grow 400,000 saplings.

“Humanity is but a single brotherhood.” – Qur’an 49:10

HAF’s Family Literacy teams in Beni Mellal-Khenifra and Marrakech-Safi regions also planted trees at Khalid Ben Walid School (Beni Mellal) and the Ait Taleb commune of Douar Ba Hssina in Rhamna province (Marrakech) to raise environmental awareness and celebrate the spirit of cooperation among the participants. The program supports literacy classes for 400 Moroccan women and their children and entrepreneurship for the women through a grant from the European Union.

Elsewhere in Morocco, in the village of Tadmamt, HAF team members joined the Isham Cooperative to plant 100 olive trees as well as 10 fig and 10 pomegranate in the beautiful landscape of the High Atlas Mountains. The Amazigh people who live in this area just celebrated Yennayer, or Amazigh New Year, on the 13th of January. It is said that Yennayer is about living in harmony with nature regardless of conditions of heavy rain, cold, or famine. The Amazigh people have faced such hardships and overcome them for thousands of years, and with the assistance of the HAF team, they are changing their economic prospects.

Dr. Ben-Meir conveyed in his end-of-day comments that we are grateful to have planted this year with a national effort in 26 different communities. We end with a feeling of inspiration, having reminded one another of what is possible. The planting season opens in December and closes at the end of March, so we recognize that we have just this fleeting moment to plant as many trees as we can, “with everything that potential and resources and time allows.”

He continued that, each year we have done more than the previous year, yet we reflect and lament that we might have done more because “the demand for trees is always more than we can deliver. The short planting season embodies so many themes of life’s potential never quite fulfilled, a moment that passes so quickly, with an energy, solidarity, and intensity that subsides and then builds for the inevitable next season. We are always leveraging this time period to plant now, because ten months can feel like forever.”

He reflected in closing, “We have just now—just this season—all we can count on, so whatever we can do, wherever we are, let’s maximize this special moment and let’s plant where we are, in the mountains, in the desert, in every direction, ecosystem, biozone, with all the varieties we can. Let’s plant together in all the diversity of this wonderful country.”

Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to act. – Proverbs 3:27

A member of the HAF team plants a tree with Muslim, Jewish, and Christian people of Morocco at the Christian cemetery in Mohammedia during the organization’s Annual Tree Planting Day, January 16, 2023.
Photo: High Atlas Foundation

Photo and live video content from the day’s tree-planting activities can be found on Facebook, Instagram, and Flickr.