We often neglect the importance of trees in our daily lives, passively accepting their shade, beauty, and fruit as we walk beneath their leafy branches and sturdy trunks. Yet, to small farmers, just one fruit tree can help generate an income while also sequestering carbon and reducing society’s carbon footprint. Rather than demolishing trees to farm land, High Atlas Foundation (HAF) plants fruit trees on small farms, aiding both local farmers and the environment in the process. If just a few fruit trees can provide long-term benefits to farmers, we should be actively appreciating their importance by supporting initiatives, such as HAF’s carbon offset program with fruit trees.
Each year, small farmers across Morocco reach out directly to HAF to receive fruit tree seeds, hoping to cultivate a sustainable and profitable project. Working directly with the farmers, HAF helps with the initial planting of a fruit tree or creation of a nursery, determining if the trees can maintain good health. The healthiness of trees is of utmost importance, requiring certification from the Ministry of Agriculture, as one unhealthy tree can ruin all the trees. For the trees to truly be sustainable, HAF monitors their health over the years, making sure farmers can maintain their long-term cultivation.
As the trees grow, they sequester carbon through photosynthesis, capturing carbon dioxide from the air, which reduces the overall amount of carbon released into the atmosphere and, thus, our carbon footprint. Equally important, though, the fruit trees provide a sustainable income plan for small farmers, as the fruits from the tree can be sold and eaten as long as the tree lives. Traditionally, the subsistence types of crops of small farmers (corn and barley) yield small incomes and unsustainable practices, such as deforestation and pesticide use. With HAF’s organic fruit trees, however, small farmers can reforest and grow trees without using harmful pesticides while also earning a longer-term income. Through this process, farmers promote sustainable development at an individual and local level, as they see first-hand the ongoing benefits of fruit trees.
Not only do farmers learn and participate in sustainable development through planting trees, but they also perform an act of peace. The concept of peace involves collaboration among parties to establish tranquility and benevolence, so by working with HAF and local communities, small farmers promote peace. Moreover, planting trees creates job opportunities within local communities, specifically for youth, which advances environmental stewardship amongst younger populations and promotes sustainable development. The creation of jobs and incomes for small farmers benefits the wider community; as one farmer increases his/her income, he/she can support local businesses, sustainably advancing the community’s economy.
In the past year, HAF distributed approximately 700,000 trees across Morocco, with a goal to plant 1 million fruit trees, such as carob, Argan, almond, and cherry. Each one of these trees makes an impact at the individual, local, national, and international level, providing incomes for small farmers, which advances sustainable development. Typically, large farms tend to unfairly control economies and decimate fertile land with ecologically harmful practices, only to grow unsustainable crops that provide temporary incomes. In contrast, small farmers planting trees can intimately collaborate within their communities to grow organic crops.
In order to actively appreciate the full potential of trees, we need to support initiatives like the fruit tree planting program at HAF, which places focus on the small farmers. HAF helps build the foundation for sustainable development by working directly with farmers, who learn through participatory and self-realization workshops how to promote sustainability at the individual and ecological level. By developing first at the individual level, small farmers learn how their participation directly impacts development and the environment. We, too, need to recognize our ability to make real, global change, especially at a time of increasing surface temperatures, increasing storm severity and frequency, and increasing sea level rise, all caused by greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide. Therefore, mitigating the impending and current climate crisis requires us to take action, and by supporting small farmers planting carbon sequestering trees, we can directly impact our climate future.
Gabrielle Rosario is a student at the University of Virginia studying Global Sustainability and Foreign Affairs, and an Intern at the High Atlas Foundation.