Growing saffron in Morocco protects biodiversity and alleviates poverty

The Ifrane National Park, with its dominant cedar forests of the Middle Atlas Mountains of Morocco, is the forestry heartland of the Ifrane Model Forest covering 357,300 ha.
The stunning natural beauty is offset by a poverty rate in the region of more than 31 percent. Poverty creates major pressures on the region’s resources, especially its forests, because of the need for fuel wood and grazing areas. It could lead to potential long-term desertification. 
It is clear to the Ifrane Model Forest partners that the future of the forest depends on a concerted multi-scale approach aimed at poverty alleviation in conjunction with strategic management of forest resources. As part of the implementation of its strategic plan the Model Forest conducted a pilot planting of saffron, possibly the most expensive spice in the world (one pound can cost upwards of $4,000).
This high-value crop can have a positive impact on the conservation of forest resources by improving the income levels of the local population. The first experiment conducted in the area produced a satisfactory yield of 624 grams per hectare and was judged by experts as of good quality and of higher medicinal value than other Moroccan produced saffron. Additional pilot plots increased the yield and value.
Following the test studies, the program was expanded. Nine recipients were chosen from 24 applications to develop saffron cultivation on their plots, aided by additional training and field monitoring. The potential income could generate approximately the equivalent of $1,000 USD per month.
The Model Forest process in Morocco has allowed for increased adoption of the program among the region’s population by bringing the partners together to create a shared vision and increased outreach and communications directed at a rural population in need of help.
Model Forest: