A mere forty-five minute drive from the rhythmic commotion that
is Marrakesh, Morocco’s southern metropolis, sits the lush
nursery of Tadmamt.
As spring edges
closer, the intricately terraced fields make for a refreshing
change of scenery after the vibrant urban scene.
Yet, enveloped in
the lofty peaks of the High Atlas region and tucked away at the
end of a winding dirt road, the nursery itself is a place few
stumble upon by chance.
The nursery, rich in
a history of walnut production, welcomed an exceptional number
of visitors for a tree distribution ceremony in early February.
The air was thick
with excitement as 28 men from surrounding communes admired
around 14,860 walnut saplings, representing great potential for
the enthusiastic recipients and the associations and
municipalities they represent.
“We have a
wonderful saying in Morocco: ‘they plant and we eat, we plant
and they eat,’” Abdeljalil Ait Ali, a member of an Oukaimeden
association, explained when asked about the significance of
of these walnut trees is of great benefit, not only for our
association but also for our families, including our children
and grandchildren. The reward they bring will be shared in a
generous and inclusive manner.”
Global prices and
demand for walnuts is continuing to grow and consumers in the US
and Europe seek ever greater amounts of organic product.
The fact that
walnuts are a hot commodity is one that nursery caretaker Omar
Outazgui knows well.
As he bundles,
counts and distributes the saplings, his energetic hands testify
to the expertise of many years.
“I began working
with plants when I was twelve years old; since then I have
tended many different types of trees, such as almond, olive,
pomegranate, and, of course, walnut,” Omar explains.
regions such as Tadmamt provide an ideal environment for walnut
trees to thrive. Just as saplings are starting to be distributed
to local farmers and associations, fresh land is being turned
and new seeds planted, almond being among them.
These and other
changes are being introduced as the nursery at Tadmamt, owned
and managed by Morocco’s High Commission for Water and Forests
which, since 2008, has joined in partnership with the High Atlas
Foundation (HAF), a Moroccan-U.S. non-governmental organization,
enabling HAF to establish organic fruit tree nurseries on such
When the saplings mature, they are distributed to surrounding
communities, free of charge as part of the HAF’sOne Billion Tree
“In Al Haouz
province there are currently 300,000 walnut trees, amounting
to 34per cent of Morocco’s walnut production.
“In the past week
alone, we distributed around 28,400 trees at Tadmamt and
Imegdale - that’s approaching 10per cent of the entire amount
of walnut trees in the whole province!” HAF President Dr.
Yossef Ben-Meir enthuses.
diverse civil, public, communal and cooperative entities
become partners in the campaign, each playing an essential
role. The essential catalyst is the Department of Waters and
Forests and the fight against desertification, who have given
the land for the nursery.”
In the particular
case of Tadmamt, the partnership was a four-way one together
with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and Yves
Saint Laurent Beauté, whose support goes toward training members
of the Aboghlo Women’s Cooperative in nursery maintenance.
HAF partnerships, in
sum, form a mosaic of national and international cooperation,
working together to benefit those affected by rural poverty
each of the 700 hundred parcels of land managed by the High
Commission for Water and Forests in Morocco put to maximum use
for organic fruit tree agriculture, this would generate
between 80 and 100 million plants each year . Our pilot
project together constitutes a real breakthrough.”
In the words of
Mohammed Issoual, the Marrakesh Regional Director of Water and
Forests of the High Atlas region, this partnership and the
resulting project represents the essence of Morocco’s forestry
of fruit trees in Tadmamt is a vital action for the
empowerment of communities and their capacity to protect the
The strategic vision
of the High Commission for Waters and Forests and
Desertification Control in this area has a perspective of
integrated governance, natural resources, and takes into account
the characteristics of each region.
What follows is a
participatory approach mobilizing and institutionalizing
partnerships between different stakeholders including the local
population and NGOs.
This makes the local
population a development actor that raises its own projects,
boosts local socioeconomic wheel, creates wealth, and values all
products without compromising the sustainability of the forest.
Systemic poverty in
Morocco remains an impediment to the prosperity of rural people.
According to a
recent Carnegie Endowment study, half the Kingdom’s population -
and three-quarters of those below the national poverty line -
live in rural areas.
The key to
sustainable prosperity then, lies in the practiced hands of
those who, like Omar, live and work, hope and dream in Morocco’s
sparkling mountain air.