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.
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