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Agroforestry empowers Morocco’s mountain women

Monica Pelliccia | Morocco

Suisi Rehia, 85, member of Femmes Du Rif, walks in her parcel. Here, she grows centenary olive trees (Olea europaea) with figs (Ficus carica), carobs (Ceratonia siliqua), and annual crops planted in rotation, including chickpeas, fava beans, wheat, and livestock forage.
She is part of the Jebala (“mountain”) people who have long practiced this traditional agroforestry system, where annual crops are grown in close association to help them thrive and survive drought.

Aïm Beïda village, Ouezzane Province, Morocco. Image by Monica Pelliccia for Mongabay.

Suisi Rheia was checking the olives on a tree in front of the Femmes du Rif cooperatives huilerie. It was already November 2018, but some fruits were still green or purple, not ready for the harvest due to too much rain after a drought period. In the Rif, Morocco’s northernmost mountains, the climate is more unstable than ever.

Since ancient times, Morocco’s mountain people have grown olives in agroforestry systems. As Femme du Rif have done: olive, fig trees prevent erosion and supply cover for vegetables and fruit providing better harvests. Thus, agroforestry helps counteract climate change, supports biodiversity and sequesters carbon.

Femmes du Rif have boosted the value of the 328 members’ olive oil, leading to social impacts from better education for their children and even promotion of members to national political positions. As Fatima Habboussi is a Femmes du Rif member who became the first woman elected to the Moroccan parliament in 2015 after her role with the cooperative was rewarded with a post on the Regional Chamber of Agriculture committee. So this kind of agriculture is not only sustainable, it is empowering.

This photo essay is part of Mongabay’s ongoing series on agroforestry worldwide.



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