By Yassmine Zerrouki
By Yassmine Zerrouki
Morocco World News
Fez, Morocco, November 14, 2011
“When you spend $12 to watch a great Moroccan movie, you actually plant at least 12 trees in Morocco and contribute to human development,” The High Atlas Foundation.
This is one of the esteemed projects that the High Atlas Foundation is working on by holding a Moroccan film festival in the United States. The purchase of a ticket to watch a movie will directly enable rural Moroccan communities to plant fruit tree nurseries, and advance HAF’s 1 Million Tree Campaign. The Second Edition of this festival, which takes place November 18-19th, 2011 at New York City’s Tribeca Cinemas, is a great opportunity for Moroccans to introduce and showcase their culture within a Western context and consequently allow a cultural exchange. The event also provides a great chance for Moroccans to contribute to their own country in a concrete way.
The High Atlas Foundation was founded in 2000 by former Peace Corps Volunteers. HAF is a U.S. 501(c) (3) organization and a Moroccan association. Since 2011 it has had Special Consultative Status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council. The Foundation and its many partners have planted 329,800 fruit trees, greatly benefiting approximately 2,500 Moroccan families as the trees mature.
HAF works to establish development projects in different parts of Morocco that local communities design and manage. These are in partnership with government and non-government agencies.
Vital elements of HAF’s 1 Million Tree Campaign:
• Community Tree Nurseries: HAF supports building community-managed fruit tree nurseries of varieties that grow without the application of pesticides – including almond, cactus fruit, carob, cherry, fig, olive, pomegranate, and walnut. Each household of the villages that compose entire Rural Communes are the beneficiaries of the nurseries. Community members contribute labor in-kind to the projects.
• Value-Added Initiatives: The cost of saplings that are planted in nurseries for two years are usually less than 5% of the cost of two-year old trees – so the value-added remains in the communities. After six years, the grown trees are able to provide the needed saplings, so farm families can replenish their own orchards in the future. HAF and partners also seek to build a women’s and girls’ coop in the Taroudant province that includes nurseries and fruit drying. They also are seeking to implement the first walnut oil press in the Al Haouz province, which produces 20% of Morocco’s walnuts.
• Training: HAF projects transfer to community members the skills needed to maintain the nurseries over their growing cycle, and other important technical and project management skills. HAF created in partnership the participatory development Training Center at Hassan II University in Mohammedia, and a field-based Center in Tahanaout of the Al Haouz province.
• Partnership: HAF partners with local Communes and associations, regional offices of the Ministry of Agriculture that support skills-building, as well as with Morocco’s High Commission of Waters and Forests to create community-driven projects (including agricultural, health, women and youth initiatives, and training) among the villages that neighbor the country’s ten national parks. The High Commission provides in-kind arable land for HAF community fruit tree nurseries.
• Tree for Kids: Sami’s Project, launched in 2011, is now an ongoing initiative based on earlier success that seeks to plant 4,000 fruit trees with 50 rural elementary schools, while creatively sharing information related to the environment and health. Sami was a young boy who passed away from cancer, and his father, Dr. Rachid El Kouhen, spearheaded this project in his son’s memory.
Goals for 2012:
HAF and its partners seek to build 7 community tree nurseries during the 2012 planting season (from the beginning of January to mid-March) in 6 provinces, totaling 600,000 fruit saplings at a cost of $300,000. From an economic and environmental perspective, this will benefit approximately 45,000 people. The provinces include Al Haouz, Essaouira, Ifrane, Khenifra, Taroudant – Kate Jeans-Gail Nursery Memorial, and Taza – Tom Tolen Tree Nursery Memorial (Kate and Tom were former Peace Corps Morocco Volunteers – in their very loving memory).
Yassmine Zerrrouki is Morocco World News’ correspondent in Fez, Morocco.
Editing by Benjamin Villanti.