High Atlas Foundation Celebrates Interfaith on World Religion Day

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High Atlas Foundation Interculturalism Celebration

High Atlas Foundation Celebrates World Religion Day

World Religion Day was celebrated on January 17th, 2021. The same day, Morocco’s High Atlas Foundation (HAF) celebrated its interfaith fruit tree nurseries, built on land lent in-kind by the Moroccan Jewish community which is creating a better livelihood for Muslim farming families.

The High Atlas Foundation is a Moroccan nonprofit organization founded in 2000 by former Peace Corps Volunteers committed to furthering sustainable development. “The High Atlas Foundation’s tree planting projects focus predominantly and directly on four of the United Nation’s sustainable development goals (SDGs): no poverty, zero hunger, decent work and economic growth; as well as reduced inequalities and partnership for the goals. The project will also serve four additional SDGs: climate action, life on land and industry innovation and infrastructure.” From Planting Trees with The High Atlas Foundation.

“These nurseries champion the notion that Morocco’s multicultural past and present, and the preservation of it, should necessarily advance the sustainable development of the country by providing a tangible and vital pathway for the social and economic benefit of generations of Moroccans to come.” said the Foundation in a media release.

The High Atlas Foundation’s first interfaith nursery started as a pilot program in 2014. Located in Akrich, a village in the Al Haouz province, south of Marrakech, it serves as a multicultural and interfaith project underscoring Moroccan bonds of social solidarity. The nursery is built adjacent to the seven-hundred-year-old tomb of Rabbi Raphael Hacohen.

“Since 2012, the Moroccan Jewish community has been helping local farmers by donating land around ancient cemeteries for the planting of fruit tree nurseries. The aim: ending systemic rural poverty by transitioning from grain to crops more suited to local growing conditions.” claims Yossef Ben-Meir, director of the High Atlas Foundation.

High Atlas Foundation Interfaith Fruit Tree Nurseries

Nearly 200,000 seeds have been planted and trees grown here since 2012. This planting season will begin in mid-December 2020 and conclude mid-march with 7,973 walnut, grape, fig, pomegranate, and carob trees from the Akrich nursery distributed to small scale farmers around the country.

An estimated total of 32,070 will be transplanted by the end of March 2021. With the recent support of FENELEC “The National Federation of Electricity, Electronics, and Renewable Energies », which is dedicated to supporting the High Atlas Foundation in its actions to promote tree nurseries that embody social solidarity. FENELEC is providing the essential solar pumping systems, including pumps, solar panels, control cabinets, and piping. The nursery in Akrich is now equipped with a solar pumping system thanks to FENELEC.

“This tree nursery was the first in the region,” said Abderrahim Beddah, the Akrich nursery caretaker. “There weren’t any before. Year by year, the foundation reaches new heights. And this year, our success rate is 90 percent.”

Beddah reflects on what the nursery means to his family and the local community:  “My grandfather lived here, then my father, then me. The Moroccan Jewish community would often come here to celebrate. They also cherish their religious traditions and rituals here. An added value that the High Atlas Foundation has brought is to consolidate relationships by bringing together the Moroccan Jewish community and the local and neighboring communities. A special relation and conviviality are shared between the Moroccan Jewish community and the Moroccan Muslim one. Thanks to God.”

On November 5, 2020, the High Atlas Foundation opened its second interfaith tree nursery in the village of Agouim located close to Ouarzazate. The nursery overlooks the 1,000-year-old burial place of the Moroccan Jewish saint Rabbi David-ou-Moché and was built at the direction of His Majesty King Mohammed VI of Morocco with funding from the National Initiative for Human Development (INDH).

The High Atlas Foundation has been given land by the Moroccan Jewish Community 

Moreover, the High Atlas Foundation has been given land by the Moroccan Jewish Community for four more tree nurseries in Ouazzane, Demnant, Ait Faska, and Touama. With new funding to build and plant, one million seeds annually can be raised, and tree saplings transferred to orchards and schools in all 12 regions of Morocco and subsequently monitored for carbon credits.

Thanks to enhanced food security and sustainable development for farming families, the Moroccan Muslim-Jewish initiative is generating goodwill, fostering social unity and encouraging further cultural preservation initiatives.

The High Atlas Foundation sincerely thanks Serge Berdugo, Secretary General of the Jewish Community of Morocco, Jaque Kadouch, President of the Jewish Community of Marrakech-Safi, Ecosia, and the USAID Farmer-to-Farmer (F2F) program for their continued support and partnership in ensuring tree nurseries provide sustainable benefit for Moroccan communities.

“This World Religion Day, we are also most grateful for Morocco’s commitment to preserving and sharing its history of interculturalism as both a means of building social solidarity nationwide and globally and for impacting in real ways the lives and human development of its people.”

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