21 Sep 2017
Drâa-Tafilalet, Morocco
Resource efficiency and sustainable waste management

Morocco’s oasis zones are an important source of date production. The country produces about 4.5% of the world’s dates, and more than five million date trees grow in the southern region of the Atlas Mountains. In 2016, the Moroccan Ministry of Agriculture and Maritime Fisheries announced date production had reached its peak, with the year’s harvest weighing 128,000 tons. While the commodity is a valued source of income for the region, it is also a significant creator of waste.

Mohamed Harakate was one of the people who noticed this waste was being burnt in Drâa-Tafilalet, a rural region in the Atlas Mountains that is a leading producer of dates in Morocco. Identifying this issue as an environmental concern, Harakate, with his team of Meriem Nadi, Ayoub Habik, and Selma Ben’akcha, put their heads together to find a sustainable and innovative way to solve this problem. They decided the best way to use the waste was to recycle it into useful wooden products. Their social project, Alternative Solutions, was launched in January 2017.

An innovative solution:

In spite of its scarcity of natural resources, Drâa-Tafilalet harvests an annual average of 85,000 tons of dates, which produce some 75,000 tons of palm waste each year. This waste is often burnt, used as fuel for cooking and heating, or randomly disposed.

The nascent startup takes this waste and manufactures it into durable, environmentally-friendly, alternative wood products. Their offerings include a variety of stylish floating wood shelves designed as cubes so they can stack and be displayed in countless positions. The graded colors of the palm branches add a unique touch to the modernly-crafted shelves, creating a sophisticated commodity.

Alternative Solutions uses palm waste to not only produce wood boards and furniture, but also to serve as nutritious feed for livestock. These two solutions earned the startup recognition in the MENA region — pitching the Alternative Solutions idea, co-founders Ben’akcha and Nadi won third prize in a competition hosted by WeMENA.

A project focused on environmental and social success:

Since its founding, Alternative Solutions has felt a sense of responsibility towards social and environmental causes. The four co-founders are proud that their project is sustainable, and that they are creating their products from waste, rather than cutting down trees. “By recycling waste, we are fighting deforestation, and saving the equivalence of 1,000 trees in wood production,” adds Harakate.

The startup has also been contributing to the employability of the region. It is currently hiring two full-time employees, and seven part-time staff through a cooperative according to Harakate. “We are planning to create 50 more jobs and help livestock holders improve their lives,” he adds.

Touria Benlafqih, Founder and CEO of Social Impact and Development Employment (SIDE), says she believes the success of every project relies on the personality and perseverance of its founders. “The founders of Alternative Solutions are people-oriented, disruptive, and very passionate. I believe their project can create huge value for local communities,” she says.

Future expansions:

Alternative Solutions is looking to increase the raw material it uses in the coming years, and plans to expand to Ouarzazate, another nearby region. The team is also planning to launch training workshops in other major cities beyond Casablanca.

They are also eyeing the impact their project can have in the future. “By 2020, we are planning to recycle five million palm branches, which will reduce 20,000 tons of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions per year,” Harakate expands.

It has been less than a year since Alternative Solutions started, but the aspiring company is already on path to become a leader in the Moroccan alternative wood industry.

 

 

Facebook: www.facebook.com/Alternative-Solutions-155208874841184

Photos: Courtesy of Alternative Solutions.

Oumeima is a writer and a translator by day, a blogger by night. Right now, she is helping green and social entrepreneurs find their voices and tell their stories.Oumeima Boughanmi
Young Moroccan entrepreneurs give new life to palm waste | The Switchers
Alternative Solutions Resource Efficiency & Sustainable Waste Management
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