Social Dimensions Buying and selling dried figs
Number-type of environmental infrastructure incorporated in communities; measured by number of construction products; measured by invoices.
Number of farmers with access to processing and packaging facilities; measured by the number of farmers.
Number of storage facilities serving the communities; measured by the number of storage facilities; measured by construction invoices.
Number of cooperatives receiving capacity building assistance to export; measured by the number of cooperatives; measured by cooperative registration records from the Provincial Department of Agriculture.
Safeguarding of fig crop diversity, specifically the Homrana, Mounouacha, Lamdar Labiad, Lamdar Lakhal, Sbaa Ourkoud, Qoti Labiad, Qoti Lakhal, Ghouddane Rond, Ghouddane Oblong and Doukkar (caprifiguier, or male fig) varieties; measured by number of fig trees from each variety.
Number of people (disaggregated by sex) receiving training in natural resource; measured by the number of individuals; measured by the participant lists from training rosters.
Number/type of organic nurseries established; measured by the number of nurseries; measured by invoices/grant reports.
Number of trees/medicinal plants cultivated; measured by the number of trees/plants; measured by seed purchase invoices and the number of cuttings purchased.
Rate per Annum of certified organic hectares; measured by hectares certified per province; total hectares of figs per province; measured by agricultural records via Caid.
Valueadded agricultural production as a percentage of total agricultural production; measured by organic export revenue; total agricultural export revenue.
Percentage of profits reinvested in agricultural and other projects; measured by monetary reinvestment.
Evidence of expanded organic agricultural enterprise to other provinces of Morocco; measured by number of new initiatives created per province.
Expansion of fig supply through focus on threatened fig varieties; measured by tons of sellable fruit produced by nursery.
Increase in sales; measured by total sales from crop of threatened fig varieties.
Number of cooperatives receiving capacity building assistance to export; measured by the number of new enterprises receiving assistance.
3.3 Project Economic and Technical Specifications
Preliminary market and distribution strategy research has found that figs can be sold fresh, dried or processed into many value-added preventative care, medical, agricultural, household and cosmetic products.
Organic fig production, especially, can provide great health advantages to local and international consumers. Figs, which constitute a significant part of the heart-healthy and cancer-preventative Mediterranean diet, contain high doses of manganese and fiber, making them effective against colon cancer and in digestive system regulation. Dried figs, especially, have higher levels of crude fiber than other common fruits. They are effective in regulation of blood sugar and cholesterol levels, as well as weight loss. They provide smaller doses of vitamins B6 and K (13 percent of the U.S. recommended daily value), E (10 percent), B1 (9 percent) and A (6 percent), which aid against problems like hypertension, inflammation and cancer. Figs, especially the Mission variety, contain high levels of flavonoids (with flavonoid content increasing according to darkness in color), antioxidants (especially anthocyanins), and polyphenols, which aid against ultraviolet radiation, cancer, endothelial (blood vessel) dysfunction and other threats to health.
Figs contain, per 100 gram serving, high doses of iron (30 percent of the U.S. daily recommended value), calcium (15.8 percent) and potassium (14 percent). Their calcium content is higher than that of apples and grapes, and their potassium levels exceed those of apples and dates. Figs contain higher levels of phenolic compounds than red wine and tea, high levels of amino acids, and no fat or harmful cholesterol. Antioxidant content in dried purple figs changes little when compared to that of fresh fruits.
Due to their health benefits and high natural sugar content (fresh figs contain about 3.7 grams of sugar per 100 gram serving, while dried figs have about 2.8 grams), organic figs can be marketed as a natural, healthy sweet food for children. Dried figs are high in antioxidants that are not destroyed by human digestion, and can therefore also be marketed as a health food for adults.
Often, figs are sold canned and processed into fig paste. They are also marketed powdered, diced, sliced, and boiled into jam and concentrate, which can serve as a substitute for sucrose and corn syrups. They figure into cookies and snacks.61 In the U.S., figs have been processed into spreads, preserves, additions to agave syrup and caramels, and sold covered in chocolate.
Figs, which have not been shown to have toxicity at any levels in animals, can be used in medical applications, as well. In India, fig has traditionally been used to treat digestive, endocrine, reproductive and respiratory problems. Fig extracts are applied for hemorrhoids, colic, loss of appetite, sore throats and coughs, as well as against infections in the gastrointestinal- and urinary tracts and hemorrhage. Practitioners of India’s Unani medicine use figs as mild laxatives and to treat inflammation and obstructions in liver and spleen conditions. In India, fig fruits are traditionally used against leprosy, nose bleeds, paralysis and chest pain, while roots are used against ringworm. Leaves treat dermatitis and can be used as animal fodder, and seeds are ground into body lubricant. Latex is traditionally used to curdle milk in cheese making and to counter anemia. In Palestine, figs are recommended to treat kidney stones. Syrup made from figs can relieve constipation.
Fig latex has been shown to contain phytosterols, which block the body’s absorption of cholesterol and can treat skin conditions like ulcers, sores and warts, as well as insect bites and stings. In one study, latex application was found to be only slightly less effective against warts than cryotherapy, and induced no side effects.
Phytosterols are used in sunscreen. Figs’ quercetin can be isolated and used in anti-allergenic applications, to counter conditions like hay fever, eczema, asthma and hives, and as a chemopreventive product against cancer, to stop proliferation of tumor cells. Fig extracts can be applied as antipyretics (fever reducers), anti-spasmodics and anti-helmintics (used to counter parasites), and to reduce liver damage and increase red blood cell count. Due to their high soluble fiber content, edible fig products can also be marketed as a weight loss aid.
Fig mucilage can be used in anti-spasmodic nasal gels, which counter epilepsy more effectively than oral applications and nasal sprays, aid respiration and prevent nasal cavity dryness in people with nasal complaints. In one study, mucilage performed better than the synthetic polymers HPMC and Carbopol 934, which are often used in nasal gels, in terms of rheological (plastic flow), mechanical and mucoadhesive properties, making them a valid and also more bioavailable, and therefore cheaper, alternative to those polymers. Nasal gels made with organic fig extract can be marketed as “natural” and “organic.”
Fig extracts have been found to counter bacteria most commonly found in throat infections (Streptococcus gordonii, Streptococcus anginosus, Prevotella intermedia, Aggregatibacter actinomycetemcomitans, and Porphyromonas gingivalis), and can therefore be used as antibacterials in medicines. Extracts can also counter aedes aegypti (mosquito) larvae, which can spread chikungunya, dengue and yellow fevers, and nematode roundworms (Meloidogyne incognita).
According to Shamkant and colleagues (2014), Ficus carica presents “a promising candidate in pharmaceutical biology for the development/ formulation of new drugs and future clinical uses.”
Fig extracts are among the only potential organic pesticides available to replace (or use in combination with reduced) copper applications, which are used most often to control disease among tomato and kiwi crops and that present a phytotoxic (plant poison) risk to soil. In one study on tomato crops, fix extracts reduced severity and spread of bacterial speck, spot and canker caused by pseudomonas syringae, xanthomonas vesicatoria and clavibacter michiganensis by 22 percent and 38 percent, respectively, when compared to copper. Fig extract applications may be increasingly in demand for organic agriculture over the next years, as cupric salts are being increasingly restricted by Europe. Figs can also counter pseudomonas aeruginosa, another disease causer in plants and animals, prevent foodborne illness carried by bacillus cereus and control the growth of duckweed, an invasive species in some areas.
Figs have applications in household and cosmetic areas, as well. Fig latex is used in dishwashing detergent and leaves are used in perfume and candles. Figs are humectant, and can therefore be used as moisturizers in soap and lotions.
HAF is developing social and environmental responsibility benefits to the brand by: 1) the zero waste campaign; 2) exploring the possibility to market the trees as offsetting the emissions of transporting their products to markets; 3) gaining Fair Trade status for the nuts and 4) returning net profits to the farmers.
Fresh figs must be marketed quickly after harvest due to their short postharvest lifespan (seven to 10 days) without preservatives, with postharvest decay depending on amount of skin damage at harvest time. Deficit irrigation can reduce this damage. Preharvest application of methylcyclopropene can somewhat delay ripening of figs postharvest. Farmers can also fog chlorine dioxide over postharvest figs to reduce decay, microorganisms, fungi and bacteria. Calcium chloride dips (96 percent H2O and 4 percent calcium chloride) prevent ripening and weight loss in postharvest figs by binding with fruit’s pectin and increasing fruit skins’ thickness. This, in turn, decreases shriveling, and therefore lengthens storage time to 14 days. Calcium chloride also reduces aerobic bacteria, mold and yeast. CO2 is a good preservative, as well. Calcium chloride and chlorine dioxide are approved by the USDA for use on organic crops.
To further lengthen storage time, fresh figs must be kept between 8 and –1◦C (figs do not suffer from chilling injury) and at 90-95 percent humidity. Figs cannot be stored during the off-season.
Polyethylene film and plastic trays in a CO2-heavy atmosphere extend fresh figs’ postharvest life longer than keeping them stored unwrapped.
Figs can be sundried on grass or tarps. Dried figs are vulnerable to insects, microbial deterioration and mytotoxins (poisonous fungi). One study found that one gram of magnesium phosphide effectively warded off these effects for two months.
To most benefit Moroccan and international markets, HAF must have access to a storage facility capable of keeping figs chilled at 8 to –1◦C over the harvesting period. It must also have access to calcium chloride salts, chlorine dioxide, CO2 or methylcyclopropene to preserve the fruit. CO2 is an especially cost-effective
It must also have tree-to-facility transport and market packaging materials. Polyethylene film and plastic trays in a
CO2-heavy atmosphere extend fresh figs’ postharvest life longer than keeping them stored unwrapped.
Seeds and cuttings can easily and quickly (propagation can take as little as four to five months) be obtained from wild fig cultivars.
3.6 Supply and Distribution
HA3 will work with 1,000 rural Moroccans to support the cultivation of 20,000 fig trees a year in Arbaoua, Tazroute, due to the strong needs of the communities and environment there, as well as the wealth of local knowledge among fig farmers.
In rural parts of the North, which produces 85 percent of Morocco’s fig crop, the fig market provides many jobs and an important source of income. Increased fig production is a profitable and low-maintenance way to inject poverty-stricken communities in the North with enough economic success to improve standards of living.
In addition to providing economic safety to rural populations in Tazroute, fig crops can also contribute to nutritional security worldwide, as the genetic diversity created by traditional Moroccan fig farming, in which female domestic figs are selectively bred with wild male varieties improves fig caliber and taste, raises sugar levels and increases efficiency of adaptation to surrounding environments. In the North, farmers have well adapted fig trees to poor soil and little water. Figs are bred to contain as little water as possible, thereby making them more readily suitable for drying. This diversity makes fig trees less susceptible to shocks that may wipe out more homogenous crops.
Despite this wealth and their ability to survive without much moisture, Moroccan fig crops are under threat due to a lack of adequate water supply, low profitability and untapped potential in value-added processing. Old fig plantations are dying out due to this negligence, and farmers are limiting new and existing crops to lands otherwise unsuitable for farming, such as mountain slopes, which cannot easily be reached for commercial marketing purposes. Farmers also lack the means to store figs, which spoil quickly without cold storage facilities and gentle handling. They do not possess incentives to dry enough of the crop to reach more profitable markets and, as a result, figs are largely absorbed in fresh form by local, lower-value markets.
On more accessible land, farmers are replacing existing cultivars with more resource- and labor-intensive plant species like wheat, apples and pears. In some places, over half of fig plantations have disappeared, and many figs rot while still on the branch.