The first time I ever saw these prickly pears was in Tunisia, where they were a by-product of huge prickly pear fences that kept roaming sheep, goats, even cattle out of the living areas. The prickly pear fences were everywhere. Some people made jam out of the fruit, but now, the fruit is bringing in big bucks to Moroccans.
To read the entire story, please click BBC News Africa
By Sylvia Smith
BBC News, Sbouya, Morocco
It is just after dawn in the hills above the Moroccan hamlet of Sbouya and a group of women are walking through the thousands of cactus plants dotted about on the hillside, picking ripe fruits whenever they spot the tell-tale red hue.
But these woman are not simply scraping a living out of the soil.
The cactus, previously eaten as a fruit or used for animal feed, is creating a minor economic miracle in the region thanks to new health and cosmetic products being extracted from the ubiquitous plant.
This prickly pocket of the semi-arid south of the country around the town of Sidi Ifni is known as Morocco’s cactus capital.
It is blessed with the right climate for the 45,000 hectares (111,000 acres) of land that is being used to produce prodigious numbers of succulent Barbary figs.
Every local family has its own plot and, with backing from the Ministry of Agriculture, the scheme to transform small scale production into a significant industry industry is under way.
Some 12m dirhams ($1.5m) have been pledged to build a state-of-the-art factory that will help local farmers process the ripe fruits.
The move is expected to help workers keep pace with the requirements of the French cosmetics industry which is using the cactus in increasing numbers of products.
Izana Marzouqi, a 55-year-old member of the Aknari cooperative, says people from the region grew up with the cactus and did not realise its true benefit.
“Demand for cactus products has grown and that it is because the plant is said to help with high blood pressure and cancer. The co-operative I belong to earns a lot of money selling oil from the seeds to make anti-ageing face cream.”
I know I have seen these growing in Kuwait – are they growing in Qatar, too?
Every now and then I think “wasta” is a good thing. (Wasta is connection, wasta is knowing someone who can help you out. It can be good when you need a favor. It can be bad when it gets you out of a situation for which you are responsible.) I have wasta with Google Earth. When I moved to Kuwait, I complained that my area was all blurry and within a week – WOW. High resolution.
I got word this morning from my connection, Earthling, that new imagery for Doha is up and any blurriness is being cleaned up. Thank you, Earthling! You have no idea – Doha really doesn’t have street addresses that you can figure out, so Google Earth helps me get to where I need to go.
If you are not a GoogleEarth user – yet – I urge you to download and give it a try. It’s free, and it is awesome.
(Earthling, can you call it work when you love what you do and where you work so much?)