Increasing opportunities for Moroccan fruit farmers

New initiative provides agricultural training to olive, almond and fig producers.

Low-income farming communities across Morocco were revitalized through the Value Chain Development Project for Olives, Almonds and Figs, an initiative of the Millennium Challenge Corporation's (MCC) $300 million Fruit Tree Programme. The Programme is the largest component of MCC's "Compact with the Kingdom of Morocco" dedicated to reducing poverty and stimulating economic growth in the country.

Through its Tunis Office, which supports operations across North Africa, UNOPS provided training, support and technical assistance to the initiative, benefiting more than 55,000 olive, almond and fig farmers in 23 provinces. The project focused on creating a sustainable rural economic model through developing community knowledge and skills, strengthening the participation of women and youth and protecting the environment.

 More than 4,000 local workshops were organized to train farmers in agricultural best practices, including soil processing, fertilization, stocking and transportation methods.

Eighty demonstrative plots were created as agricultural schools to teach a combination of technical and local knowledge. Trees treated with best practice methods like pruning and anti-pest control are situated alongside untreated trees to clearly demonstrate the benefits of proper tree husbandry and provide a suitable environment for research into new care methods.

The project also used a 'Farmers to Farmers' approach, where farmers share best practices they have learned with others. The exchange of knowledge and skills extends to areas like cooperative organization and financial management, strengthening the sustainability of the local industry.

The traditional method of making olive oil with old processing units, including storage and transport in large plastic containers, diminished the oil's quality and value. The project trained local olive oil producers on newer technologies that reduced the processing – or trituration – time, which also meant that the product spent less time in storage. As a result, quality was better preserved. After the training, the all-female Mansoura Cooperative received an award for producing the highest-quality olive oil at the International Agriculture Fair in Meknes, Morocco. 

Training was provided not only in cultivating products, but in marketing them. With funds provided by MCC, UNOPS supported the creation of more than 400 cooperatives and the establishment of Groups of Economic Interest (GEIs), linking local cooperatives with professional associations. The partnerships help local cooperatives better compete in the global marketplace and deal with economic challenges.

Twenty GEIs planned the construction of modernized fruit processing plants. Combined with additional training, the plants will create a 300% increase in the regional production of olive oil.

Association Alfiya, a line of olive oil and almond products, was also developed through the project, with members participating in all stages of the process from cultivation to creating a niche in national and international markets. Alfiya has participated in agricultural fairs in Paris and Washington and continues to grow. 

Encouraging the greater participation of women has enabled local female farmers to grow in both their economic independence and social influence. Nearly 2000 women took part in training activities and 69 all-female cooperatives were created.

The creation of Taytmatine Women Cooperative was a major stride in female empowerment. After participating in tree husbandry workshops, several women expressed a desire to create their own cooperative. The project assisted them in the learning, organization and legal phases, and helped prepare their candidature for an MCC financing program. Taytmatine was selected as one of eight cooperatives out of 50 applicants and used the funds to build a complete service unit for other farmers.

Increased opportunities were also created for local youth, with special focus on the sons and daughters of farmers. 6,800 young people participated in workshops held in demonstrative plots and 16 youth cooperatives were created, with a further 29 planned. Investing in the next generation strengthens national capacity and supports the sustainability of Morocco's agricultural industry.