Updated: Jul 12
By Errachid Montassir HAF Program Manager
The U.S. Volunteer Jennifer Sopoci and the F2F team members with local farmers from Oulad Mbarek municipality – Beni Mellal region during a field visit
Organic farming is an agricultural approach that relies on techniques such as crop rotation, green manure, crop residues, compost and biological pest control. It can be challenging to maintain in some areas of the world with wet climates or in the face of certain pest problems. However, in many cases, it offers significant advantages over conventional systems with respect to animal welfare and environmental impact.
Organic farmers face a number of challenges, including lower market prices and competition from both conventional and other ‘organic’ farmers. These issues make it difficult for many who would like to farm organically to do so. Despite these challenges, organic farming has become a vital component in sustainable agriculture practices around the world. Organic farming is a viable alternative to conventional approaches on many small-scale farms, particularly in low-income countries where resources are limited. However, on larger farms, where resources are more available and conventional technologies—such as mechanization and large-scale irrigation—are available, the transition may be too difficult or expensive for smallholders.
However, the small farmers can significantly contribute in the transformation toward organic farming, and that is through creating unions, which will be focusing on an important transformation. This collective effort will drive organic agriculture on a local level to the best, as well as positively affect thousands of families.
Furthermore, consumers’ demands for organic products continue to rise globally as people become more conscious about their health, the quality of the foods they eat, and the environment in which the foods are grown. Organic food and non-food products commanded an 11.3 percent increase in sales between 2013 and 2014. Moreover, if we only look at the history of Moroccan annual exports of organic products, it states a clear increase.
Evolution of Moroccan annual exports in organic products (tons). (Source: Adapted from DPV-MAPM, EACCE Data, unpublished data)
“The main products exported are citrus, fresh vegetables such as tomato, courgette , potatoes, sweet and hot peppers, eggplant, green peas, onions, carrots, garlic and cucumbers, fresh fruits as olives, melon and wild collection products, such as argan oil and spontaneous medicinal and aromatic plants.”
More importantly, the High Atlas Foundation (HAF) and USAID Farmer-To-Farmer (F2F) works to advance the agriculture field with Moroccan communities, especially on transformation from conventional farming to an organic one. The F2F program assigned a U.S. expert Volunteer Jennifer Sopoci to be part of this essential process and deliver training workshops on the benefits of organic agriculture for cooperatives.
For an English-speaking audience, you could use “summer squash”
The U.S. Volunteer Jennifer Sopoci delivering a training workshop for the local farmers in Oulad Mbarek municipality – Beni Mella region
The “Agri Bio Atlas” Cooperative in the Beni Mella region benefited from the first training workshop on organic farming. The U.S. Volunteer Jennifer and the co-op members discussed the principles of organic farming, the living components of soil and steps that farmers in the region can take now to build the health of their soil, specifically, soil testing and analysis, composting manure properly, crop rotation and diversity, and green and dry cover cropping. The farmers had specific questions for her regarding the pH of well water, how long minerals and nutrients will remain in the soil after composted manure fertilization, and how to control specific weeds and pests in their farms. There was also a chance to do field work ; together the farmers, the F2F team and Jennifer walked the fields and did a soil texture test with their hands. From the test, they estimated that the soil is sandy loam. They also inspected the soil for living organisms and compared a field that had recently been harvested to one that had been deeply disturbed through disc tilling. In addition, they located some of the pests and weeds that have presented problems for the farmers.
The U.S. Volunteer Jennifer Sopoci and a local farmer Aziz Taouri practicing a soil test
The F2F team members and the F2F U.S. Volunteer will follow up with the farmers in Morocco in order to offer technical expertise and possible resources from the United States. This transformation goes along with what the local farmers envision and the next-generation principle.