“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, “What are you doing for others?'”
-Martin Luther King, Jr.
Martin Luther King Day, a holiday in the USA, is celebrated annually on the third Monday of January. On this day each year, America remembers this charasmatic leader, fighter for justice, protestor against racial discrimination, and advocate for the civil rights. HAF‘s foundation of volunteerism takes inspiration from this day, and celebrates his memory by devoting this day to tree planting in communities across Morocco, paying honor in particular to those communities who have engaged with HAF since 2000. Volunteerism is an essential core to HAF’s mission, for it teaches the individual the culture of sharing and solidarity.
On January,18th, at 10 am, HAF President Dr.Yossef Ben-Meir, Agricultural Technician Abdejlil Ait Ali, Project Assistants Lahcen Ait Ouatouch and Mustapha Id Said, and I headed toward the village of Lmrades in the Herbil Commune of the Marrakech province. Our mission was to meet with local farmers in order to plant trees.
Thanks to HAF’s coordination with the Al Jail Saeid Association, farmers are able to plant 27,000 trees in Tamnsourt’s lands this tree-planting season. The families welcomed and hosted the members of the HAF team with great joy.
Planting trees in Morocco
To begin our Tree-Planting Day celebration, HAF launched various Facebook lives throughout the day to enjoy this event with people all over the world, allowing them to also experience the moment and be part of this special day. HAF believes that by celebrating this special day planting trees, we can more easily reach a sustainable culture and community. Local farmers and associations will have a stable income from the fruit yielded from these trees, the youth will be aware of the importance of tree planting, and the physical location will become a healthy green space to live in.
Tree-Planting Day was an opportunity for the local farmers to learn the correct way of planting trees by following the steps provided by Abdejllil, a member of the HAF. In order to plant a tree correctly, Abdeljalil suggests the following steps:
- Cut the bottom of the plastic that covers the sapling.
- Place the tree in a hole that is at least one meter deep.
- Fill the hole with soil, gently surrounding the rootball.
- MakE a soil circle around the base of the sapling to act as a dam.
- Water the sapling.
Maintain an equal distance between each of the trees to allow them space to mature (about 7 meters between each olive tree, for example).
Caption: HAF team members planted over 8,000 trees with 17 communities in 11 provinces across Morocco this tree planting season.
Preparing for tree planting season
Tree planting season in Morocco starts each year in the middle of December, when farmers prepared their fertile lands for planting, and lasts through the end of March
This planting season, HAF is in the process of transplanting 1 million trees to farming communities and schools around Morocco and planting 1.6 million seeds in our 12 nurseries to prepare for the year ahead. Each nursery includes more than 220.000 seeds.
We currently grow 8 types of trees: pomegranate, fig, almond, walnut, argan, cherry, carob,and lemon. Along with the trees, the nurseries grow medicinal and Also,there are aromatic grown plants like capers, cumin, fennel, geranium, lavender, marjoram, oregano, peppermint, rosemary, sage, tarragon, thyme, and verbena.
Thanks to our generous partners at Ecosia, HAF is able to sell these trees to farmers for a fraction of the price they would normally find at market. Farmers are asked to pay a symbolic price of 2DH (about $0.20). This is to encourage and help the farmers who have limited incomes.
HAF also offers 20 free trees to schools to provide students with a clean environment as well as raise their awareness about the danger of pollution and climate change.
On Tree Planting Day, HAF’s staff went to 11 provinces to meet people from different sectors like farmers, schools, cooperatives, associations, etc. They facilitated environmental and planting workshops within each community. To include the rest of the world in the celebrations, they made Facebook lives and shared videos and photos throughout the day. (Check out HAF’s Instagram and Twitter to see more updates.).
Planting season is only three short months. When the season comes to an end in March, HAF will conduct a follow-up with the Ecosia team to monitor our effectiveness and see how widespread our impact has been. This follow-up will also be done to ensure the development of the seedlings and ensure that they are growing in good conditions so as to achieve sustainability. The table below shows statistics and results of how many trees were planted on January 18 and how many communities benefited from this event.
January 18th, 2021: Tree Planting Day Results
||Number of planted trees
||Setti Fadma / Ouirgane / Amzmiz / Imgdal / Ait Ourir
||Carob, walnut, pomegranate, almond
olive, & loquat
||2 trees and 40 seeds
||Olive & walnut
||Almond, olive, loquat,
fig, argan, & pomegranate
||Pomegranate, fig, & loquat
||Saiss / Ouled Taib / Ein Bo Ali Ouar Dour
||Olive, fig, & pomegranate
||Olive & carob
||Pomegranate, fig, & olive
|| Walnut & argan
Planting trees to reduce poverty in Morocco
The High Atlas Foundation is keen on ensuring the sustainability of fruit trees. We maintain intensive tracking after planting trees and monitor for the appropriate growing conditions. We believe that planting trees will be a great benefit for livelihood, a source of income, building a bridge of trust with the community, and contributing in making intercultural groups.
Caption: Planting native fruit trees in Morocco is one of the best ways to fight climate change while also promoting sustainable agriculture and economic empowerment for marginalized communities.
For HAF, planting trees is about more than just promoting a better environment. Food scarcity is a growing concern globally.
HAF Student Intern Jacqueline Skalski-Fouts recently reported that nearly “30 percent of the world’s 821 million malnourished people live in Africa, the highest prevalence by region. Despite socioeconomic improvements in Morocco (1.7 million Moroccans have moved out of poverty in the last decade), droughts continue to threaten agricultural production, which accounts for 20 percent of GDP and 30 percent of the Moroccan workforce. Low crop yield can exacerbate poverty, especially in rural regions, as two thirds of people who are in extreme poverty work as agricultural laborers.”
Agroforestry, or tree-farming, is an eco-friendly solution to climate issues. Planting trees diversifies farming and improves the economic power of a community. Estimates claim forest-farms can be eight times more profitable than staple crops like grain, which can increase farmers’ incomes and reduce rural poverty.
There are several objectives of promoting the organic trees: ensuring food security, moderating agriculture, enhancing investments, limiting the impact of climate change, preserving natural resources, reviving agricultural product exports, valuing local products, promoting women’s empowerment, and creating job opportunities.
HAF’s spirit of volunteerism
HAF promotes public service, activism, and engaging in volunteerism. In the last three years, we have 536 volunteers and interns from both the Moroccan and International communities.
MLK Day was established to honor the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the famed American preacher and civil rights activist. It officially became a national day of service in 1994, encouraging Americans to devote the day to volunteer acts.
HAF was first started by former Peace Corps Volunteers in 2000. Most of the staff were volunteers before they officially joined HAF. It is with this foundation of volunteerism that HAF dedicates each Martin Luther King day to the act of planting fruit trees across Morocco to benefit farming communities, schools, and associations.
We seize this opportunity to thank all the members and volunteers for developing projects and sharing the community’s voice with the world.
The impact of HAF’s partners
HAF’s partnerships are flexible and reflect the humanity, interfaith, and harmony of Moroccan culture. Thanks to our national partners, The High Commission of Waters and Forests, the Ministry of Youth and Sports, the Moroccan public-school system, the Moroccan Jewish community, cooperatives and associations across the country, and various universities and provincial authorities, who have generously donated lands and contributed in making a green life. We also thank our international partners: Ecosia, Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy, PUR, FRÉ, and USAID Farmer to Farmer program.
Because of these important partnerships. HAF had a successful Tree planting Day. Our efforts are to be continued to make Morocco a country with responsible citizens who believe in the power of volunteerism.