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FIELD TRIP TO TOUBKAL: HEADING TOWARDS MY MASTER THESIS

BY NORA MARTETSCHLÄGER
HAF INTERN

A new day, a new trip! After our visit on the Ouarzazarte nursery land Amina, Said and me traveled to the Toubkal commune in order to check the progress of expanding the nursery there.
The journey itself definitely wasn’t one of my favorites – the road was very curvy, and I felt kind of sick for the whole time. I was relieved when we finally arrived and dropped our car. We expected to walk 20 minutes to our guesthouse, but plans changed as we found out that the road was closed due to construction. So, we got picked up by a jeep and had to drive through a river to reach our destination. The skills of our driver were impressive. I had never experienced something like that before and my sickness was quickly forgotten over the excitement for the trip.

Spending the night in a beautiful guesthouse I got the chance to chat with the owner who had been beneficiary of HAF trees in 2008. My objective for this field visit was to clarify the approach of my Master thesis. My research will be to prove the positive influence of tree planting on the likelihood of poverty. Therefor I will compare two villages – one which received trees and now benefits from the increased agricultural revenue and one which doesn’t. In order to do that I will conduct a household poverty survey which I’m developing at the moment. So, my nightly chat was a first try to approach the topic and to find out which villages could be suitable for my purposes.
The next day I was able to conduct two more interviews while my colleagues were working with responsible persons of the nursery and the developing women’s cooperative.
After the probably greatest breakfast in Morocco we started our trip to the nursery. Because no transport was available, we had to hike there. I really appreciated the walk, as it gave me the opportunity to discover a bit of the area and enjoy the beautiful landscape.

Arriving at the nursery we saw the expanding in progress. 5 or 6 men where taking out earth and moving stones to build a new terrace with their bare hands. The nursery already consists of 3 terraces and now 3 more are built to achieve a capacity of 30.000 saplings growing at the same time.
I talked to the proud nursery caretaker Si Ibrahim, who is at the same time head of the association for mountain development. Poverty is still a big issue in his village and deeply connected with a lack of education and unemployment. Some villagers received trees only a few years ago but many of them are suspicious towards innovations and Ibrahim is sure they could benefit much more if they were just open to it. It was interesting to get an insight in his personal thoughts about the life in the neighborhood and it could be a suitable place to do a detailed survey.

The next person I talked to was HAFs new staff member Si Ismail. He is president of his village’s association and at the same time president of the federation of associations. He seemed to be the ideal person to talk to for getting an overview of the municipality. I got a lot of information about the area and challenges different villages are facing. He as well named education as a major problem with less than 20 children finishing high-school in the whole commune and some not even primary school.
Still in both interviews it was difficult to get a sufficient answer to one question: I tried to find out how rural poverty looks for the concerned in their daily life – besides education and employment with regard to health, food or housing. Somehow this question seemed to be hard to comprehend for both of my interview partners – even though Said who was translating for me tried to put it in different words and explain it. I didn’t expect that but probably I will have to talk to some of the poor families directly to get a more precise idea about their living conditions.

Time management is another thing which can be tricky conducting interviews. As we tried to ask the same question in different words again and again, we spent a lot of time talking around the same subject.
Regarding the selection of a village I got a lot closer but still I didn’t find the “perfect” village to conduct my survey. Probably I will have to talk to some more people to finally decide. Our trip and my interviews were a great opportunity for me to get some first ideas exploring the field. Now, I’m really excited to start my research!

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