By Fatima Zahra Laaribi
Office Manager and Women Empowerment Facilitator
The third Monday of January – this year on the 15th- is a day in which the High Atlas Foundation (HAF) held a special day of national tree planting across Morocco. This has become an annual event since 2014, the year that HAF planted its millionth tree.
This is the second year that HAF has planted in the mining town of Youssoufia, where we reached new places this year.
HAF’s new director, Larbi Didouqen, Fatima Zahra Laaribi (HAF’s women empowerment trainer), and Darsen Hover (HAF volunteer from New York) traveled together to plant in four schools as well as with some farmers. Throughout the day we were joined by four volunteers from the OCP Group, as part of their program, “Act 4 Community Service”.
We started our journey with rain, which is traditionally viewed by many cultures as a positive omen; Mr. Larbi and I considered it good luck for this planting season, especially because Morocco has been experienced a very long period of drought.
Throughout the day, HAF and its local partners, the Amal Elghade Association for Rural Woman and Children, Binaa Association for Sustainable Development, and of course the directors of the four schools, planted in two rural communes (Gantour and Sbiaat) in the province of Youssoufia. We planted in Abdelaziz ben Chakroun and Faouariaa primary schools, and Omar Alkhayam and Al Banae middle schools, in addition to two villages called Chhidat and Ait Oulad Taleb.
HAF hand delivered 400 olive trees, 210 pomegranate, 900 almonds, and 70 carob trees, as well as 8 palm trees for the schoolyards and for the farmers to plant in their own orchards.
As he always does, before beginning the planting process, HAF’s director with the background in Agricultural Engineering, demonstrated the proper techniques for planting trees as part of raising awareness about planting.
Throughout the day, OCP volunteers and presidents of associations showed a great eagerness and energy, and participated actively. At the moment of planting, OCP Volunteers expressed that this was the first time they had picked up the shovels to plant trees. Then we were invited by the directors of the schools to make a short visit to schoolyards where we had planted last year. We were very impressed that nearly all of the tiny saplings that we planted last year had grown beautifully and gave fruit, especially the fig trees. This assured us that students, teachers and headmasters gave great care to these trees.
Even though the planting process coincided with the period of exams and just a very few students took part, teachers, and directors showed appreciation, joy and happiness with the hope that we will continue to pursue this great environmental initiative with students.
The day ended with two farmers who received their trees with gratitude and appreciation for the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of rural Moroccan communities. I look forward returning to Youssoufia to see the continued prosperity of the trees.