By Yossef Ben-Meir, President, High Atlas Foundation
MARRAKECH (IDN) – On World Religion Day, January 17, the High Atlas Foundation (HAF) celebrates its interfaith fruit tree nurseries, which are built on land lent in-kind by the Moroccan Jewish community and are enhancing livelihoods for Muslim farming families around Morocco. These nurseries champion the notion that Morocco’s multicultural past and present, and the preservation of it, should necessarily advance the sustainable development of the country by providing a tangible and vital pathway for the social and economic benefit of generations of Moroccans to come, said HAF in a media release.
HAF’s first interfaith nursery began as a pilot program in 2014. Located in Akrich, a village in the Al Haouz province south of Marrakech, the nursery is built adjacent to the seven-hundred-year-old tomb of Rabbi Raphael Hacohen. Since 2012, nearly 200,000 seeds have been planted and trees grown here. This planting season, which began mid-December 2020, 7,973 walnut, grape, fig, pomegranate, and carob trees from the Akrich nursery have already been distributed to small scale farmers around the country. An estimated total of 32,070 will be transplanted by the end of March. With the recent support of FENELEC, the nursery in Akrich is now equipped with a solar pumping system.
“This tree nursery was the first in the region,” says Abderrahim Beddah, the Akrich nursery caretaker. “There weren’t any before. Year by year, the foundation reaches new heights. And this year, our success rate is 90%.”
Abderrahim reflects on what the nursery means to his family and the local community: “My grandfather lived here, then my father, then me. The Moroccan Jewish community would often come here to celebrate. They also cherish their religious traditions and rituals here. An added value that the High Atlas Foundation has brought is to consolidate relationships by bringing together the Moroccan Jewish community and the local and neighboring communities. A special relation and convivality is shared between the Moroccan Jewish community and the Moroccan Muslim one. Thanks to God.”
On November 5, 2020, HAF opened its second interfaith tree nursery in the village of Agouim near Ouarzazate. The nursery overlooks the 1,000-year-old burial place of the Moroccan Jewish saint Rabbi David-ou-Moché and was built at the direction of His Majesty King Mohammed VI of Morocco with funding from the National Initiative for Human Development (INDH). It has the capacity to grow 200,000 new trees annually.
Additionally, HAF has been given land by the Moroccan Jewish Community for four more tree nurseries in Ouezzane, Demnant, Ait Faska, and Touama. With new funding to build and plant, one million seeds annually can be raised and tree saplings transferred to orchards and schools in all 12 regions of Morocco and subsequently monitored for carbon credits. By doing so, and in training local community and cooperative members to manage the initiative, the project’s impact and contribution to alleviating rural poverty is increased to a substantial degree.
The High Atlas Foundation sincerely thanks Serge Berdugo, Secretary General of the Jewish Community of Morocco, Jaque Kadouch, President of the Jewish Community of Marrakech-Safi, Ecosia, and the USAID funded Farmer-to-Farmer (F2F) program for their continued support and partnership in ensuring tree nurseries provide sustainable benefit for Moroccan communities.
This World Religion Day, we are also most grateful for Morocco’s commitment to preserving and sharing its history of interculturalism as both a means of building social solidarity nationwide – and globally – and for impacting in real ways the lives and human development of its people.
The High Atlas Foundation is a Moroccan nonprofit organization founded in 2000 by former Peace Corps Volunteers committed to furthering sustainable development. HAF supports Moroccan communities to take action in implementing human development initiatives. HAF promotes organic agriculture, women’s empowerment, youth development, education, and health. Since 2011, HAF has Consultancy Status at the United Nations Economic and Social Council. [IDN-InDepthNews – 16 January 2021]
Photo: Aberrahim is the caretaker at the Akrich nursery, the first of the High Atlas Foundation’s fruit tree nurseries built on land lent in-kind by the Moroccan Jewish Community
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