Planting Fruit Trees in Morocco
Due to its geographical location, Morocco is susceptible to long periods of droughts and water shortages. The Moroccan government partnered with civil society to plant 800,000 trees by 2024 to improve climate issues and agriculture. As a country that experienced the unemployment rate rising to 12.3% in 2021, planting fruit trees in Morocco is one of the solutions to boost its economy by creating an oasis in the desert.

Reforestation in Morocco and its Benefits

Fruit tree planting in Morocco can reduce poverty by providing income for local farmers. There is a wide variety of fruit trees in the country ranging from olives, argan and dates to carob, cashew nuts and more. Its shallow, rocky soils and Mediterranean climate are perfect for these fruits to grow.

For example, the planting of argan trees has played an important role in improving the Moroccan economy. Argan extracted from the trees goes toward producing argan oil, which is rich in fatty acids and antioxidants and is designed for culinary, cosmetic and medicinal purposes. The demand for Moroccan argan oil is growing; the market for argan oil is expected to reach $262.4 million by 2025.

According to The National Agency for the Development of Oasis and Argan Zones, “The Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of oases and argan trees in Morocco increased from MAD 84 billion to MAD 129 billion (€7.88 billion to €12.1 billion) between 2009 and 2018.”

In addition, locals are able to receive jobs from the reforestation. It was uncommon for women in Morocco to work outside. However, to keep up with the growing business of argan from the planting argan trees, local women joined and changed the social perception about women’s roles within the society, improving the livelihoods of women in the region.

Charrouf, who established a movement of women cooperatives, told CNN how local women’s lives improved after the business. “Before they didn’t get any money, but now they have at least €100 ($108) per month,” she said. And they were very grateful because their children were finally able to receive an education by earning a decent wage.

Tree Planting Programs in Morocco

Two major organizations are providing programs related to planting fruit trees in Morocco. This ensures sustainable development and helps expedite the growth of its economy.

  • Reforest’Action — In 2017, it started running several projects with the Ibn Al Baytar Association across Morocco with the objective of promoting economic development through harvesting organic fruits. The organization made significant progress during the planting season from 2020 to 2021. It also helps raise awareness of planting fruit trees among local communities through participatory planting sessions.
  • High Atlas Foundation (HAF) — HAF assists local families by planting fruit trees through collaboration with communities. According to the HAF report published in 2021, “HAF-community collaboration has planted 700,000 trees of nine fruit varieties, with 6,000 farming families in 39 provinces.” The collaboration also planted 1.6 million seeds in 13 nurseries located in eight provinces.

Planting fruit trees in Morocco has brought economic benefits in a sustainable way. Local farmers and communities are able to generate income and enjoy self-sustainability through the programs assisted by the organizations. In the middle of the desert, an oasis is growing and benefiting the nation.

– Jiaying Guo
Photo: Flickr

Water Systems
Since 2000, Morocco has been quite successful in reducing poverty and increasing its citizens’ quality of life. During those years, the poverty rate decreased by almost 30%. Despite significant progress, numerous challenges remain for rural Moroccan communities, one of which is rapid deforestation. In 2020 alone, the country lost approximately 3,62 hectares (more than 13 square miles) of forest cover. To address landslides as a consequence of deforestation, the High Atlas Foundation is building landslide-preventing water systems in Morocco.

Deforestation and Water Access in Morocco

As it is, Morocco is susceptible to droughts and deforestation exacerbates this issue as the removal of trees causes a decrease in soil moisture and leads to desertification. Deforestation can also diminish soil quality and lead to poorer crop yields. For communities in the High Atlas mountains of Morocco, the reduction of forest area was also linked to landslides that destroyed crops and houses.

Another threat to rural Moroccan communities is a lack of access to water. In 2020, only 61% of rural Moroccan citizens had access to “safely managed drinking water services.” Around 77% had access to “at least basic drinking water services.” That leaves 23% of the rural population without a safe and reliable water source.

Experts agree that planting trees (reforestation) is a crucial step in combating these issues. Not only does it stabilize the water cycle and improve soil quality; the crops harvested from trees provide diversity to the agricultural economy and give an extra measure of economic security to nearby communities. If hypothetically, cereal crops were to fail in an area, farmers would still have crops to sell and eat.

The High Atlas Foundation

The High Atlas Foundation, commonly called HAF, has done admirable work when it comes to reforestation. The Foundation dedicates its time and resources primarily to reforestation efforts but also helps provide access to clean water throughout the High Atlas Mountains. In the 2020-2021 planting season, HAF oversaw the planting of more than 700,000 trees. Three new nurseries have undergone construction in the last year and a half, resulting in a total of 11 HAF-managed fruit tree nurseries throughout Morocco.

HAF’s efforts do not stop there. High Atlas Foundation has initiated projects that go above and beyond when it comes to efficiency; it has found a way to address three community threats with a single project. The Foundation noticed in 2011 that landslides and a lack of food/water security particularly plagued the Toubkal community and HAF devised a one-stop solution to assist the rural area as landslides led to crop destruction.

With carefully designed water systems, the High Atlas Foundation was able to provide clean water to 14 villages. The system, located on a hill, also steadied the area and provided the stability needed to prevent soil erosion and frequent landslides. Additionally, HAF planted fruit trees in the area, and through community training and newly possible irrigation, the Toubkal area was able to start producing new crops. The new nursery and reforestation will improve soil quality and eventually contribute to a healthier water cycle.

Looking Ahead

Morocco is well on its way to see victory over poverty; with help from NGOs like the High Atlas Foundation, reforestation is increasing food and water security for thousands. Due to innovative solutions like the stabilizing water systems, life in rural Moroccan communities is drastically improving.

Mia Sharpe
Photo: Flickr