The High Atlas Foundation commits to plant one million seeds in three provinces: Azilal, Ourzazate, and Essaouira by training local community members to plant three tree and medicinal plant nurseries on land lent by the Moroccan Jewish community. When the trees and plants mature in the nurseries after two years, they will be distributed without cost to rural communities and planted in their private household plots. The farming families are the sole beneficiaries of the income generated by the sale of the fruit, which will be certified organic. Certification (which is granted and monitored by the USDA and EU recognized private company called, ECOCERT) involves extensive field analysis, village level contracts committing farmers to organic practices, water and soil testing, and experiential training in the caretaking and harvesting procedures. The financial cost of securing certification is included in this project budget. Farmers benefiting from this initiative are the most marginalized (determined through participatory community assessments) within the three rural municipalities where the Jewish sacred sites are located.
The High Atlas Foundation, the Moroccan communities, and HAF's social enterprise High Atlas Agriculture and Artisanal (HA3) engage in activities from nurseries to product marketing. HA3 is a Moroccan and U.S. corporation (established in 2014) entirely owned by HAF and it conducts the purchase of organic certified product directly from farmers, sells the product in the U.S, Europe, and domestically, and invests the proceeds in community priority projects in education, health, and initiatives that benefit women and youth.
HAF has been working with rural communities since 2003 to advance agricultural development, and has successfully implemented projects in all of the following activity areas of this proposed commitment, including: planting community-managed fruit tree nurseries; coop-building with farming families; irrigation infrastructure (terracing, basins, wells, piping); securing organic certification; experiential training in organic methods and coop/project management; establishing processing (with a zero waste commitment through biomass for clean energy and offsetting emissions) and storage facilities and delivering the products to global buyers; and disbursing net profits as dividends for family farmers and local cooperatives to support their implementation of human development projects.
The added value created are organic, fair trade (which will also be secured) and environmentally and socially responsible products which will generate a multiplied return by investing in education, health, water infrastructure, and business development for women and youth (specifically through the herbal and medicinal plants). The project cost of $650,000 to plant one million seeds in nurseries is only one-quarter of the purchase price of one million trees that are already two years old ready to be planted in orchards.
HAF-HA3s model is needed and can be effective throughout the region as a sustainable means to address food security and development opportunities. Even as the goal of the commitment is to plant 1 million organic fruit seeds in nurseries and implement the value-chain in three provinces, there are significant opportunities for greater expansion in Morocco that can be pursued following or even simultaneous to this commitment.
Phase 1: July 2015 April 2016 (10 months):
Organize and facilitate community meetings to identify the amount of each seed type, the agenda for nursery implementation, and village and municipal action plans for priority human development projects.
Identify 12 community members (four from each of the three provinces) to participate in the experiential training program in developing the nurseries and facilitating community planning meetings of projects.
Conduct workshops to advance competencies in managing nurseries, cooperatives, and projects, as well as applying with communities participatory development methods;
Build agricultural terraces for nurseries, including delivering earth and natural fertilizer to the sites and tilling the soil.
Build water delivery systems and competencies in installation and maintenance of drip-system pipes, water basins, and pumps.
From January to April 2016, plant 500,000 seeds (almond, argon, carob, fig, olive, pomegranate and walnut; and medicinal/aromatic plants including oregano, thym, armoize, fenouil, rosmarin, lavander, marjolaine, sage, geranium, peppermint, saffron, ricinus communis (castor oil), and capers).
Phase 2: May 2016 April 2017 (12 months):
Continue skill building in nurseries and maintenance, and project management including participatory evaluation this occurs through the entire nursery and project cycles.
Muslim-Jewish dialogue on Moroccan life and human development opportunities.
Distribute 250,000 fruit trees and plants to farming families in region that neighbor the nurseries (January 2017), who plant the trees in their own orchards with HAF training and technical support;
Plant 250,000 seeds and plants in the community nurseries (April 2017: 750,000 total planted)
Phase 3: May 2017 June 2018 (14 months):
Grafting fruit saplings (July 2017)
Sustained capacity-building in regards to the nurseries, experiential training, intercultural dialogue, cooperative-building, organic certification, and the agricultural value-chain.
Distribute 250,000 trees and plants (January 2018), and plant 250,000 (April 2018: 1 million total planted)
Community project evaluation and assessing intercultural perspectives and trust-building.
In Morocco, rural household livelihoods often depend on agriculture which constitutes 14% of Moroccos GDP. Despite having the ideal environment, it has not reached its full potential due to dominant barriers affecting value added projects and market opportunities including access to water, technical skills, low market access and coordinating efforts. The low market value of traditional staple crops (corn and barley) has made subsistence agriculture unsustainable. These staples are planted on more than 70% of agricultural land, yet account for only 10-15% of agricultural revenue.
Many tree and medicinal plant nurseries must be created for the Kingdom to generate the billion plants estimated by the Ministry of Agriculture needed to break the poverty cycle. However, farming families are reluctant to transition to more lucrative cash crops. Lending land for nurseries is essential to overcome these concerns as farmers will not risk reducing the amount of arable land available. Contributing land - to which the Jewish community of Morocco has committed - is integral in the bid to overcome rural poverty.
Morocco aims to embrace sustainable development through cultural preservation. This new approach and unique project links Moroccos Muslim farming families and Jewish communities to this pluralistic goal. In this commitment, optimizing agriculture value chains will be achieved by catalyzing the green growth process with the organic tree nurseries, while building cooperatives, securing certification of existing orchards, processing the product, and creating global sales. The Moroccan and international public and private partnerships to achieve this social enterprise contributes to household and national economic growth that engines human development (through reinvestment in community-identified development projects in education, health, and women and youth development) and promotes sound natural resource management.