By Mouhssine Tadlaoui-Cherki Program Director High Atlas Foundation
Last week, I had the privilege of representing HAF at the 2013 SEED Symposium and International Awards ceremony organized for the 2013 SEED Award winners, where HAF was recognized for its achievements in innovation, entrepreneurship and promising efforts to promote economic growth, social development and environmental protection in Morocco.
The events, which took place at the United Nations Office in Nairobi, Kenya, were organized within the framework of the Global South-South Development Expo, an international forum where representatives from different countries and organizations came to share their successful southern-grown solutions to address the millennium development goals. This was a good opportunity to showcase HAF’s organic agriculture project and its goal to develop a social and environmental enterprise that reinvest profits from selling certified organic walnuts and almonds produced in the High Atlas Mountains into community projects, while generating a revenue stream that provides on-going support and assistance to rural communities through the entire agricultural development cycle, including building community nurseries, introducing adapted irrigation systems, capacity building, organic certification and marketing. The model was very well received by the organizers and by the participating 33 entrepreneurs from different countries and generated constructive discussionsaround the concept of green economy and the role of social and environmental enterprises. The event was also a great opportunity to meet and interact with representatives from government, civil society,academia, donor institutions and the private sector, and particularly with many entrepreneurs, and to learn from the “local solutions that make a difference”, as advanced by the SEED Symposium theme. From biodegradable plates implanted with organic seeds to provide food after use; a social media website to promote car-sharing; reliable, clean and sustainable power to off-grid households; and affordable biodegradable sanitary pads made from banana waste to an art and craft workshop that trains disadvantage women to design and create organic products based on recycled paper – all the 33 projects were smart, very inspiring and address intractable problems while taking huge risks. I was particularly inspired with the very ambitious goals, such as economic and environmental sustainability and social equity despite the simplicity of the solutions presented. Following a discussion with a group of young entrepreneurs about the fine line between being entrepreneurial for one’s own good or for the good of the planet and the effectiveness of for-profits and nonprofits and the question of success and social value, I came to believe more than ever that with its model to channel the income from selling organic walnuts and almonds produced in the High Atlas Mountains (and other organic produce from other regions), after farmers’ and production costs, into programs and services aimed at meeting people’s unmet or under-met needs, HAF is in a unique position to promote a melded business model, with multiplying factors for direct social, environmental and economic impacts for thousands of communities and for all Morocco.