First, think of something that provides shade from the sun, helps soil quality, absorbs carbon dioxide, and can be a whole lot of fun to climb around in. If you’re daydreaming of a favorite oak from your hometown, a beautiful maple near your local park, or an olive tree from a Greek island, you’ve got it: trees.
Now, imagine that you’re trying to fight desertification and increase sustainable agriculture, all while working with youth and rural communities around your country. If you were really organized and inspired, how many trees do you think you could plant? One thousand? One hundred thousand? How about a million?
On January 16, the High Atlas Foundation coordinated events in eight provinces in Morocco to celebrate the planting of its one millionth tree. Over the past 10 years, the High Atlas Foundation’s One Million Tree Campaign has strengthened communities’ connection to their local environment, all while combatting rural poverty through fostering organic fruit and nut tree nurseries.
Pretty great, right? We think so. In December 2013, the Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs, in the framework of ongoing cooperation with Morocco’s Ministry of Energy, Mines, Water, and Environment, partnered with the High Atlas Foundation to launch the Green Jobs in Morocco initiative. Our joint goal for this two-year initiative is to increase household incomes in rural farming communities by 400 percent over five years, create 200 jobs for women, educate 4,000 schoolchildren on environmental awareness, offset 900 tons of carbon dioxide through nursing 320,000 plans and trees to maturity, and reinvest profits from the sale of organic products to implement new projects. Local communities will propose these projects, which we expect will support health, education, and women and youth empowerment. Judging by the scope of celebrations on January 16, we have high hopes for the High Atlas Foundation’s long-term success.
At a ceremony at Université Hassan II in Mohammedia, Chargé d’Affaires at the U.S. Embassy in Rabat Matt Lussenhop spoke to a group of over 50 students, local community activists, and High Atlas Foundation enthusiasts and highlighted how well the goal of fostering economic growth through agricultural development and organic processes exemplifies U.S.-Morocco environmental and economic partnership. The Green Jobs initiative is a leading example of environmental diplomacy; we look forward to collaborating with the High Atlas Foundation and the Government of Morocco on many achievements to come.
About the Author: Geoffrey Finger serves as a Program Administrator for the Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs.