Benson Institute Supports Sustainable Program

James Riordan, Andrew
Cardon and professor Rex Cates

James Riordan, Andrew Cardon and professor Rex Cates gathered over 100 traditional Berber medicinal plants to analyze in Provo for anti-cancer and antibiotic properties.

After five years in Morocco, helping rural poor to be self-sustaining, BYU is ready to let the program stand on its own.

In 1999 the College of Biology and Agriculture, through the auspices of the Benson Institute, initiated a partnership in the remote Middle Atlas Mountains of North Africa with the Hassan II Institute of Agricul­tural and Veterinary Sciences [IAV] of Morocco. Since then a dozen members of BYU faculty and twenty from IAV, with 60 Moroccan graduate students and a scatter­ing of BYU undergraduates, have made some notewor­thy accomplishments.

"This is a noble project," said Dr. Mohamed Oussible, Moroccan director of the project. "It has redirected our efforts to help our own rural poor."

Accomplishments of the project to date include:

Professor Mohammed Bouslikhane
Moroccan professor Mohammed Bouslikhane (BYU cap) identified intestinal parasites and shows Berber shepherds how to treat their sheep. "I love this project, and what we are doing," he said.
1. Introducing enriched flour to rural family diets. This has improved anemia levels four-fold and is leading to a national flour-enrichment initiative.

2. Demonstrating that the crop quinoa from the Andes Mountains is well adapted to the Middle Atlas – there's a cash market for everything the farmers grow .

School girl holding sign
A school girl lifts a sign saying "Prevention is Better Than Treatment" for cyst-forming parasites, documented by the Project, that maim and sometimes kill rural villagers.

3. Identifying diseases lethal to native Berber chickens, prepar­ing a vaccine for the chickens, and training women to administer it.

4. Developing a rural chicken hatchery prototype and an initia­tive to preserve Morocco's native poultry diversity.

5. Demonstrating crop improve­ment with donated fertilizer, seed, and pesticides. Farmers are now purchasing these inputs.

With so many accomplishments and the framework in place, local industries, doctors, and govern­ment officials have started follow-up programs to keep the project going even after BYU leaves.

"This project has caught fire," said Kent Crookston, dean of the College of Biology and Agriculture. "I have worked across Africa on many projects, but have never experienced such promise of sustainability after exter­nal funding stops. The Benson Institute has hit a home run in Morocco."