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מאת Lorisa Hasenbush דצמבר 04, 2023
In December 2022, in partnership with High Atlas Foundation (HAF), FRÉ planted 6624 argan trees and 13,442 caper plants over 40 hectares to fight deforestation in the Khatt Azakane Commune of the Safi Province in Morocco. We are thrilled to announce that this project is thriving with 97.55% of the plants surviving the harsh summer weather. Planting trees in Safi provides multilayered benefits improving economic, environmental and social conditions for the local community.
Creating new jobs in the region
The argan tree and caper plant project created 320 new jobs. Maintaining the plants is essential for the success of the project, and many of the jobs include maintenance activities, such as tracing, excavating, planting, and watering the trees. Local women filled 120 of the jobs; these women work in the 10 women's cooperatives HAF established for processing the argan nuts and selling the argan oil.
Argan trees are multipurpose trees. They provide the raw materials for argan oil. About 66 pounds (30 kg) of fruit produce a 1 quart (1 liter) of argan oil. In recent years, argan oil has become a high-value, luxury product and has a thriving export market. In addition, argan trees are a source of supplemental nutrition for local cattle.
It takes five years for argan trees to bear fruit, so HAF and FRÉ decided to plant a secondary crop, the caper plants, to increase the productivity of the cultivated area. The caper plants bear fruit when they are a year old and will provide a steady income for the community while the argan trees mature. The caper harvest season is between May and September. During this period, each caper plant should produce 1 pound (0.5 kg) to 2.2 pounds (1 kg) of fruit per week. The project’s 13,442 caper plants should be producing around 55 tons of fruit per year.
Fighting deforestation and desertification
Argan trees are native to the Moroccan forests and have adapted to the harsh environment, withstanding extreme heat, drought and poor soil. To survive, argan trees’ roots grow deep into the ground, searching for water. These deep root systems help to bind soil and prevent erosion and desert encroachment. Their presence in the region slows soil degradation, and they provide habitat and food for many animals.
Planting caper plants also reduces erosion. Caper plants have large root systems in order to maximize the uptake of minerals in poor soils. These extensive root systems prevent the soil from eroding.
Strengthening the local community
Planting argan trees and caper plants provides the local community with food-security and job opportunities. The new sources of income will allow community members to improve their living conditions, especially marginalized women who often work in the women's cooperatives. In addition, when locals feel there are local economic opportunities, they stay and work in the area. As local families begin to prosper, their children have more educational opportunities since they can attend school and do not have to drop out to work and support their families.
Additionally, this project created a farming collective and strengthened community bonds. Locals are working together to learn and develop caper farming in this area. Having a common goal creates a stronger community, develops problem solving capabilities and encourages cooperation on other issues.
A project with a multilayered impact
FRÉ and HAF’s argan tree and caper plant project has a multilayered impact. It provides local women with job opportunities. It reverses deforestation and prevents desert encroachment in the region. It also helps the local community to prosper and improve their living conditions.
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