On the Cusp of Change - Walnut Distribution in Tadmamt, Al Haouz
19 June 2016
By Elle Houby (Ms.)
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 each sapling. ''The
distribution 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
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.
High altitude 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 land. When the saplings
mature, they are distributed to surrounding communities, free of charge as
part of the HAF's One Billion Tree Campaign.
''In Al Haouz province there are currently 300,000 walnut trees, amounting to
34% of Morocco's walnut production. In the past week alone, we distributed
around 28,400 trees at Tadmamt and Imegdale - that's approaching 10% of the
entire amount of walnut trees in the whole province!'' HAF President Dr.
Yossef Ben-Meir enthuses. ''Numerous and 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
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 throughout Morocco.
Concludes Ben-Meir ''were 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 strategy.
''The distribution of fruit trees in Tadmamt is a vital action for the
empowerment of communities and their capacity to protect the environment.''
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
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.
Writer - Elle Houby (Ms.), Elle Houby is living in Marrakesh, Morocco and
is a Report and Public Information Officer at the High Atlas Foundation.