31 December 2013

HAF AwardThe High Atlas Foundation (HAF), partner of the GEF Small Grants Programme (SGP) Morocco, is one of the 34 winners of the 2013 SEED Awards, which recognize the best business practices in the field of sustainable development and green economy.

SGP Morocco has been working with HAF on developing the organic cultivation and export of almonds and walnuts in Al Haouz, - one of the poorest and most marginalized regions of Morocco where communities derive their livelihoods primarily from small mountain farming, ranching and fruit production. The ecosystems of the area had become increasingly under pressure due to livelihood activities based on the overexploitation of forest resources as well as the excessive gathering of firewood, medicinal and aromatic plants. The area's vegetation cover is highly threatened by human activities while already delicate soils are increasingly damaged by deforestation and the impacts of climate change.

The SGP project targeted five rural communes in the center of the protected area of Toubkal National Park, which is home to around 20,000 habitants. SGP and HAF created a community nursery which has thus far produced 150,000 plants and strengthened local capacity in orchard management and nuciculture. The trees help reverse soil erosion and will absorb an estimated 100 tons of carbon dioxide over five years. The project has also seen through organic certification of fruit, and trained community members in the production of organic walnut and almond products for export, reducing the impact of pesticides and other chemicals often used in agricultural production. This model has empowered women and youth associations, entire villages and communes, helping them with partnership-building along the way. Eventually, the project is intended to create a new revenue stream for community investments in irrigation, clean drinking water, schools, and business cooperatives.

This SGP community project is an integral and important part of a broader agricultural development initiative in the Al Haouz province that began in January 2012. The initiative brings together a large number of partners, including local civil society, rural communes, international organizations and the External Services of Forestry and Agriculture. In addition, it is well aligned with the National Program Office for Water and Forests and the Ministry of Agriculture's "Plan Maroc Vert", enjoying a high potential for replication and policy influence at national level.

The SEED Award, awarded to the High Atlas Foundation, in recognition of this inclusive approach, will strengthen the project and ensure its impact and sustainability.