التشجير أولوية الجميع
يوم وطني نظمته مؤسسة الاطلس الكبير
بقلم محمد القادري
متدرب مع مؤسسة الاطلس الكبير
تحتفل مؤسسة الاطلس الكبير في كل سنة بيوم وطني تسعى من خلاله الى غرس العديد من الاشجار بجل مناطق المغرب لخلق الشعور بالارتباط وتعزيز بناء الشراكات ولما لهذه المبادرة ايضا من اهمية كبيرة سواء من خلال التشجيع على ثقافة التشجيرأو على مستوى الزيادة في الدخل للفلاحين الذين استفادوا من الأشجار المثمرة.
شاركت في تخليد اليوم الوطني كباقي اعضاء المكتب بمؤسسة الاطلس الكبير بمعية السيد كرم يان أزابي متجهين الى مدينة أكادير.
بعد الانطلاقة صباحا من مدينة مراكش صوب اكادير في اجواء ممطرة في نسيم الصباح استقبلتنا السيدة السعدية رئيسة "جمعية اقدام الخير تفاخت للتنمية،" بحماسها الذي يحمل بين طياته حنينها و غيرتها على بلدتها الجميلة، حضر الفلاحين في البيت الذي تم اعداده للقيام بالورشة، حيت استهل السيد كرم الورشة، ورشة حول" تأثير التغيرات المناخية" وتمثلت في التغير الحاصل بين الماضي وما نعيشه اليوم من اختلالات على المستوى البيئي وفي خضم الحديث كذلك فقد لامس الفلاحون التغير الجدري الذي عرفه المناخ بمنطقتهم والذي عبروا عليه بقلة التساقطات وارتفاع درجة الحرارة ثم كذلك تراجع محصولهم الزراعي .
أتيرت كذلك مجموعة من الأمور فيما يخص المشاكل التي تواجه الفلاحين بالمنطقة (مشكل الماء-الحاجة الى لوحات شمسية لضخ المياه ...)
بعد ان تمت الورشة في اجواء الاستفادة والافادة بين كل الافراد قمنا بعملية توزيع الأشجار على الفلاحين أشجار تشمل 670 شجرة (اللوز، الكرم، التين الرمان...)
وكانت الخطوة الموالية الوجهة الى ضيعة أحد الفلاحين بالمنطقة من اجل غرس الأشجار يعتبر من كبار المعمرين بالمنطقة لكبر سنه الذي يناهز الستين سنة وشيبه لكنه لازال يزرع ويعمل في ضيعته الصغيرة لتوفير قوت يومه.
اتخد يوم عشرين يباير 2020 بجماعة تيقيت مشعل التشجير واعادة الحياة للبيئة تم كذلك الحفاظ على حياة الابناء والاحفاد والاجيال القادمة عن طريق غرس الاشجار
يسرني كثيرا المشارك في مثل هذه المبادرات وتساهم في رفع مشعل التشجير كثقافة للمحافظة على البيئة في ظل الوضع الذي تؤول اليه البيئة وان تقدم كذلك امتنانك للبيئة وتشجيع التنمية المستدامة.
ECOSIA-OESشكر جزيل لمؤسسة الاطلس الكبير على دعمها الدائم للتنمية المستدامة في المغرب، وشكر كذاك لشركائها
كما أقدم شكري الى سكان جماعة "تقيت" على الضيافة والكرم.
Review from Guidestar
To Peace Corps Volunteers in Morocco and others living in the country with connections to rural communities:
High Atlas Foundation, an organization that works on environmental and development projects in Morocco, is looking to partner with Peace Corps Volunteers and local communities in Morocco on tree planting projects around the country. High Atlas provides the trees at a heavily subsidized price and assists in the planting process. If you're interested, you can reach out to High Atlas Foundation President Yossef Ben-Meir (a former Morocco Peace Corps Volunteer and Associate Country Director) at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Review from Guidestar
My name is Matheus Luz and I’m a Brazilian college student studying International Relations. I am working as a volunteer at the High Atlas Foundation (HAF), which is a Moroccan nonprofit organization responsible for promoting sustainable development in rural communities. On the 20th of January, I had an opportunity to visit El Youssofia province with HAF staff members Mohamed and Errachid.
With our clear objective for the day, we met up with some local farmers shortly after our arrival. After our initial meeting, we gathered in a large circle so that we could discuss our actions, and how we wanted to put them into practice. I was impressed with the engagement of the community members, and I knew, at that moment, we would make history.
As soon as we finished the official meeting, we began our tree planting. I watched closely as farmers demonstrated the planting process, paying attention to even the most minute details. If I summarized the activity in one word, most accurately I would call it a “reflection.” The day’s events had a profound impact on me, so much so that when I arrived back in Marrakech, I did some follow up research on the importance of trees in our lives. I discovered that trees, beyond providing oxygen and absorbing carbon dioxide, are a central point of life, connecting our past, present, and future.
I would like to thank the High Atlas Foundation for giving me an amazing experience and the opportunity to develop greater professional and personal skills. I will return to Brazil full of plans and actions because I have learned that you don’t need to be a superhero to save the world if you believe in the work you are doing. At HAF, we are surrounded by incredible people who are committed to enacting the meaningful difference they want to see in the world.
Overall, it was one of the best days I have spent in Morocco!
Review from Guidestar
High Atlas Foundation made me realize what it meant to be in control of your own life and to do something with it. Everyone was extremely kind and friendly, they all allowed me to be myself around them and showed me how much ambition and will can impact on our daily lives. No one gave me strict orders but rather creative tasks and they made me want to help out not by forcing me but showing me what it felt like to help others. Here is one of the paintings that I made in honor of their foundation. Thank you for this wonderful opportunity.
Review from Guidestar
A Life for Future Generations: Planting in a Nursery
After our team had a traditional breakfast in the town of Asni, we needed to go further into the Atlas to help the greenhouse nurseries expand. Our first destination was a nursery in Imigdal. They had one greenhouse and a few terraces. There were approximately 30,000 fruit trees, with a variety of food species. It was challenging for the nursery caretaker to water the fruit trees in the dry season due to the scarcity of water. Our team, including a farmer-2-farmer volunteer from the United States, had a meeting with the caretaker to ask questions and discuss solutions to the water problem. Bill, Our American visiting expert provided 4 solutions to help:
1. Bill first proposed to cover the basin so the water would not evaporate and there would not be any dirt particles that would affect the water, however; the water pressure would increase greatly, but there is a possibility to introduce a water pressure reducing valve for around 400 dollars.
2. The second proposal is covering only ½ or ⅔ of the basin. This would decrease the amount of evaporation and bad particles, but it would not eliminate them, nevertheless; we would not have a water pressure problem.
The caretaker told us that there is a competition between our NGO and another NGO about the amount of water taken from the basin. I then asked how much water he uses. He could not give me an exact answer so I proposed that he use a flow meter to determine how much water he uses, so we could compare the water usage between the two NGO’s and work out an agreement.
We faced another challenge with water limit: We had to leave a percentage of water to go down to the main river because there’s still an ecosystem the water has to nurture. The NGO’s could not split all of the water in the basin, but they had to split a percentage of it.
A team member gave an idea to implement solar panels on top of the basin, hence this idea would be achieving two objectives at once because it would be creating solar energy and covering the basin at the same time. However, this plan was not elaborated because we had to stay on budget.
These challenges forced volunteers to think outside the box, even though some materials were limited, we still persevered to find a solution.
Furthermore, we then asked the caretaker if his water supply in the wet season is sufficient, the caretaker told us that he had a surplus of water during this season.
3. Bill had thought of preserving this water for the dry season, so he thought of including a second tank to save water for the summer months.
4. The last solution was given by the caretaker: it is a pipe from the basin to the greenhouse. This is probably going to be the most expensive solution, and we would need a lot of machinery and equipment from the municipality.
We continued to discuss each solution in detail, with their pros and cons. Our team came to the conclusion that they would bring in a water expert to see which option meets the needs of the nursery and stays within budget while supporting the ecosystem.
I enjoyed learning that HAF sells these fruit trees for twenty cents each when the city market sells them for about a dollar. The price symbolizes that revenue is not important for HAF. The truth is that they want to help grow revenue for communities because, after only six years of growth, they could benefit from selling the fruit on these trees. Once the trees are transported to communities, people and soon to be farmers could gain about 7000 dirhams in revenue per tree each year. HAF wants to build a financially stable future for the people in rural communities and make sure they are able to support themselves in the coming years.
The second nursery we went to was a women's co-op in Ouirgane. After my trip, I talked with the team and they told me that it took them a year to defend women's rights to be farmers and to take over the men's co-op. It has only been a week and the rural women had been working hard in the garden. They expressed their motivation to grow their business; in the meeting, these women were concentrated on Bill’s lesson, they were attentive, and asked thoughtful questions. At the end of his lesson, the women were able to summarize it all. They were asking for a deeper understanding of roles HAF thought they should implement into their systems such as president, vice president, treasurer, and agricultural expert. This gave them a sense of order and importance because it was a formal way of working. I believe this co-op empowers these women because it is a business of their own that they want to grow.
This is a summary of Bill’s mini-marketing lesson that the women learned :
1. Identify the customer
2. Ask what they want and what the problem is
3. Listen to their needs and show how your product can generate income and solve their problem
The team identified earlier that they needed to learn how to cultivate the fruit trees. They decided that they would have the other nursery caretaker from Imigdal come to the women's co-op and teach them how to produce crops efficiently and organically.
I was happy to see the confidence this project gave the women. They were going to become businesswomen and were motivated to grow, their dedication proved that they wanted to be successful, and inshallah they will be.
Review from Guidestar
Bonjour, je m'appelle Giovane, je suis brésilien et je suis un volontaire à la Fondation du Haut Atlas, j'ai rejoint la HAF en janvier.
Le Jeudi 9 janvier 2020, j'étais très heureux de pouvoir assister à un atelier au lycée de Touama, j'ai pu voir des différences culturelles illustrées par les opinions des jeunes du Maroc et du Brésil et la plus remarquable est la conscience de la nécessité de protéger l'environnement.
Le Brésil est responsable de la garde de la plus grande forêt du monde, la forêt amazonienne, elle est située dans le nord du pays et compte environ 7 millions de kilomètres carrés. Et pour être le pays avec tout cet espace vert, vouz imaginez que la conscience de l'environnement des Brésiliens est élevée, non? Cela n'est pas du tout vrai. Dans la liste des pays les plus conscients de l'importance de la protection de l'environnement au monde (résultats du PEV 2018), le Brésil est en 69ème position, derrière le Maroc qui occupe la 54ème position, c'est-à-dire qu'il y a un problème avec la culture brésilienne de préservation de l'environnement.
L'atelier organisé au lycée m'a permis de comparer un peu les deux cultures, j'ai actuellement 22 ans et je n'ai jamais vu une telle activité au Brésil, avec autant de participation et d'accentuation de la part des élèves, des interventions, des discussions sur les problèmes climatiques et aussi le désir de vouloir améliorer et protéger l'environnement, ça m'a fait penser à mes attitudes comme citoyen du monde. Après l'atelier, nous sommes allés planter des arbres dans le jardin de l'école, une activité unique pour moi, car c'était la première fois que je plantais un arbre, quelque chose de si simple, mais avec une telle signification et une telle importance.
La journée s'est terminée par une pause café lors de laquelle nous avons discuté avec les enseignants et le personnel de l'école qui nous ont si bien accueillis. Je ne peux pas décrire à quel point ça été un plaisir d'avoir participé à cet atelier, j'ai pu apprendre beaucoup, je sais que maintenant j'ai une nouvelle mission, changer progressivement la perspective de préservation de l'environnement des jeunes Brésiliens.
Photo: Giovane Cunha ""
Review from Guidestar
Planning for Planting Day
By Professor Ellen Hernandez
The High Atlas Foundation’s office in Marrakech is a beehive of activity. I am a new volunteer who arrived in Morocco yesterday and already met with office staff. Today, I have been invited to return to meet Dr. Yossef Ben-Meir, the HAF president, and I have just entered during an afternoon staff meeting. I am immediately encouraged to pull up a chair and join them as they discuss the logistics of next week’s Annual Tree Planting Day, when they will simultaneously distribute 200,000 fruit tree saplings from HAF’s nurseries to a number of villages around the nation.
I am struck by the egalitarian style of the meeting, with Dr. Ben-Meier inviting suggestions and contributions from volunteers and staff members. They are young and enthusiastic, full of energy, thoughtful about how best to coordinate each site’s activities. In this room, there is plenty of sunlight and camaraderie, but no space for ego, and we work collaboratively, women as well as men taking turns at decision-making about who will go to which village and what community-members will be present for the plantings and so on. Their conversation flows easily in and out of Arabic and English as the cook peeks in, smiling, to see whether we are ready for the midday meal.
Former volunteers will be invited, a press release sent out, but the final question arises: “Where will Yossef be that day?” To this, he asks for a recommendation. After some deliberation, it is decided that he will be in the small town of Amizmiz about one hour away from here because he has not visited there in a while and this will let them know that he cares. Lunch is served, and we gather around the long table in the front room, each with our own spoon and two large platters of hot couscous and vegetables with chicken. As we dip into this shared traditional Friday dish, Dr. Ben-Meir formally introduces me to the group, and I am welcomed and encouraged to get closer and dig in. I do.
Review from Guidestar
My name is Nic, and I am an 18-year-old student from the United States. Today is my third day in Morocco, where I am working with the High Atlas Foundation in Marrakech. Before coming here, and leaving my home behind, it was difficult to imagine what my time abroad would be like. I did not know of the curving narrow streets of the Medina or the controlled chaos of the great avenues. The sheer vivacity of the city can be overwhelming for a newcomer. Yet, while I traveled here alone, the HAF community has welcomed me into their midst with open arms from the first moment I walked through their door. This attitude, of warmth and openness, seems the standard here. Moroccan communities, like the one I have already been generously inducted into, appear to be built on the backs of shared experience, empathy, and care for those around you. Everyone is a brother or a sister, and anonymity within the throngs of people who walk, run, ride, and drive through the streets of Marrakech, dissolves as quickly as the fog from your breath in the cold January air.
There is still much for me to see and do here. Whether it is relaxing under the shade of exotic plants in the Majorelle Gardens, traversing the sprawling stalls of the Jama El f’na, or walking the halls of the many great palaces in the southern part of the Medina, I want to know the spirit of this place.
Tomorrow I have the opportunity to see first-hand the High Atlas Foundation’s work in action when I travel with staff and other volunteers to a rural mountainous community to plant fruit trees. I am excited to take part in this initiative committed to alleviating poverty and tackling the imminent threat of climate change and global warming. I also look forward to hearing the individuals of this community speak about their desires, concerns, aspirations, and goals in future partnership with HAF.
Review from Guidestar
Climate Change, Environmental laws and Environmental Decision-Making workshop in Mohamed IV High School
Karam Yane Azzabi
As part of the Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs (OES) project activities, Imane and I – respectively the OES project manager and the OES coordinator in the High Atlas Foundation – went to the Mohammed VI Technical High School in Marrakech on Friday 27th of December, to conduct a workshop on Climate Change, Environmental Laws and Environmental Decision-Making.
The workshop started at 4 p.m. after a session of icebreaking and the presentation of each attendee, Imane made the presentation on the dangers of climate change caused by bad habits of people. Imane also explained how these habits can be changed, by government laws and by personal initiatives.
After that, Imane went to the middle of the courtyard and the students formed a circle around her, in order to explain how to plant a tree and how the tree needs to grow in good conditions.
After we planted the first tree together with students, we started the distribution of trees (13 pomegranates and 10 fig trees) to the students who put themselves in several groups and each group took care of planting the trees in holes previously dug by the school keeper.
The day ended with students singing traditional songs, the visit of the school choir and a last word made by the president Director of the school and the president of the association of parents of pupils.
Review from Guidestar
محمد أمين بودعة
متطوع بمؤسسة الاطلس الكبير
يوم في أحضان مشاتل الأطلس
يقال أن لأعياد نهاية السنة سحر خاص فبعد مشاركتي أصدقاء لي عشاء الكريسمس، ذهبت في الصباح لمؤسسة الأطلس الكبير التي اتخذت من حماية البيئة و تشجيع التنمية المستدامة هدفا لها و التي أشتغل فيها متطوع. كعادته سعيد يحمل أخبارا سعيدة. بالله أمين نحن ذاهبون إلى الميدان فهل تود الحضور؟
نعم و كيف لا، فشرف لي أن أرى جبال الأطلس الشامخة التي في ثناياها ما يعبر مرة أخرى عن مدى قوة الروابط الأخوة التاريخية التي تجمع الشعبين الجزائري و المغربي، فعلى سبيل المثال لا الحصر – بما أنني من هواة المطالعة – كأنني أصعد "الدروب الصاعدة" لمولود فرعون أو أسير على خطى الدكتور بشير في رحلته إلى المغرب في كتاب "الأفيون و العصا" لمولود معمري.
يعمل سعيد في مشروع ECOSIA، برنامج يهدف إلى تهيئة مشاتل خاصة بالأشجار المثمرة توزع بعد نموها (من بذور إلى شجيرات) إلى التعاونيات و الفلاحين و المدارس قصد تثمين المنتجات الفلاحية من جهة و كذا زرع ثقافة الأشجار و المحافظة على البيئة في النشء الصاعد.
بعد الانطلاق صباحا بقيادة سي محمد و سي حسن على إيقاع أنغام مختارة من طرف هذا الأخير، كانت المحطة الأولى مشتلة أكريش، شيدت هذه المشتلة على أراض مقدمة من طرف القائمين على الجالية اليهودية (بما أنها تحوي مقبرة و معبد) بعد عقد اتفاق شراكة بينها و بين مؤسسة الأطلس الكبير تسمح باستغلال المساحات الشاغرة لغرس بذور أشجار التين و الرمان، تجمع عند نموها في باقات من 25 وحدة مخزنة بإحكام و جاهزة للتوزيع. هذه الخطوة و بغض النظر عن أهداف التنمية المستدامة تساهم في تعزيز مبادرات التفتح على الأخر و تقبله التي تزيد من تماسك المجتمع المغربي بمختلف أطيافه. كان الهدف من هذه الزيارة الميدانية تزويد المسؤول عن المشتلة (وهو موظف من طرف المؤسسة) بوسائل ضرورية و كذا الوقوف على مدى تقدم الأشغال.
بعد وجبة غذاء شهية (طاجين لا يعرف أسرار إعداده إلا المغاربة)، كانت الوجهة إلى إمليل قصد التزود ببذور شجرة الجوز(فاكهة ذات قيمة غذائية و اقتصادية كبيرة)، إمليل وجهة سياحية خاصة لعشاق الرياضات الجبلية كون أنها منطلق الراغبين في الوصول إلى قمة توبقال (ثاني أكبر قمة في إفريقيا) كما أن العديد من الدواوير (المداشر) مازالت تحافظ على هندستها البسيطة و الفريدة وتحوي على رياضات (Riads) مميزة. شخصيا أحببت المنظر و استمتعت بالاستماع إلى لهجة أمازيغية محلية تتقاطع مع اللهجات الأمازيغية الجزائرية في عديد الكلمات. فضلا عن سياق نشاطها الدؤوب تسعى مؤسسسة الأطلس الكبير بالشراكة مع مصالح الغابات إلى تكثيف الغطاء النباتي الجبلي بأشجار غابوية كأشجار السرو مثلا.
المحطة الأخيرة قبل العودة كانت تفقد مشتلة تادممت أين ستزرع بذور الجوز القادمة من إمليل، قام سي عمر بإيضاح مختلف أعمال التهيئة المنجزة و قام فريق مؤسسة الأطلس بإعطاء توجيهات حرصا على إتمام الأشغال المتبقية و الدقة في التنفيذ وكذا إحصاء المستلزمات الناقصة لدعم سي عمر و فريقه. هذه المشتلة المناسبة خاصة للأشجار الجوز ستحمل أيضا شجيرات اللوز و خاصة الكرز. أود أن أشكر سي عمر(المسؤول عن المشتلة والموظف من طرف المؤسسة) على شاي الأعشاب الجبلية المقدم لنا في انتظار بذور الجوز التي خزنت بالطريقة الملائمة قبل غرسها في غضون الأيام القادمة و التي بدورها ستكون تحت تصرف التعاونيات و الفلاحين بعد نموها تجسيدا لالتزام مؤسسة الأطلس الكبير في دفع عجلة التنمية المستدامة محليا.
أقدم جزيل امتناني لعائلة الأطلس و على رأسهم سعيد البناني على هذه المغامرة الشيقة و الممتعة و النافعة و كما أخبرتني جبال الأطلس كلنا معنيون فلا حياة بدون مصالحة مع البيئة، لا مفر !
• أنوه فقط وأنا من عائلة الأشغال العمومية بالحالة المتدهورة لشبكة الطرق التي تعيق مختلف مستخدمي الطريق خاصة أن المنطقة تزخر بمؤهلات فلاحية و سياحية هائلة.
Review from Guidestar
What is ‘normal’?
According to who or what is something assumed to be regular? We all live in different worlds, cultures and environments, what is the normal we have to uphold? When I was a little child, my parents and I went to Turkey to visit our family and to enjoy our holidays. Everything was fun and nice until I had to go to the bathroom myself and was confused. There were no toilets where we could sit like I was used to at home, the Netherlands. Here, there was just a hole in the ground. I remember my exact thoughts: “how do people live like this?”
In other words, I was shaming the country and people for their bathroom, because we in the Netherlands use the “standard” toilets. Then, when we got back home my mother and I visited a colleague of hers, a 100% Dutch woman. We sat down in the living room and was offered some tea or juice, then the drinks were served and we both got a small cookie. I was drinking my juice and ate my cookie but was waiting for the real feast to be served, because that is how it is done in the Turkish culture. The host has to serve and prepare many food and drinks, the guests should be made as comfortable as possible, and that was the ‘normal’ for me in hosting people. Again, I was shaming the country and people due to their manners to host guests because, in contrast to Turkey, this was not the way to host people.
Even I who grew up in mixed cultures and blended environments was framing and forcing my own standards onto each minor thing that was not the normal that I took out of one of the cultures. Yes, we humans have our own ways and yes, each individual differs from one another, but the crucial thing is that we respect each other and that we do not stereotype and distance ourselves from the traditions and manners of others. However, this is easier said than done, and before I came to this mindset, I had my parents telling me a lot of times that every place and home can differ and that I should not have my own expectations on everything because everybody has their own way of doing things.
I am still trying to teach myself to be neutral and welcoming towards differences, that is why I found myself in Marrakech with the discover project of AIESEC. Today is my first day at the High Atlas Foundation, a place where people help and support others, and a place which gives me the opportunity to develop myself and to discover a small part of the amazing rich Moroccan culture, in hope that I will be able to bridge a small part of a big gap between different cultures.
Review from Guidestar
My name is Rosanna, I’m twenty-two and I come from Italy. I’ve been in Morocco for a month and I’ve been
volunteer at the High Atlas Foundation. When I decided to work here, I was very excited, because I really
admired the work they do; but later, when I had to deal with this new experience, I wasn’t so ready, I was
totally scared. I felt as it was something too big for me, something that I couldn’t handle. I was terrified of
the idea that I couldn’t make it, I felt incapable, I knew I had no useful skills. Then I started working, the
President Mr.Yossef, entrusted me with small and easy tasks, insignificant for me comparing to what
everyone else did. Little by little I began to see gratitude in the President’s eyes, and I understood that it
doesn’t matter how hard is the work you have to do, what’s important is doing your best to bring it to
fulfilment. There are two things that I will miss the most at High Atlas Foundation: the first one is people.
They are lovely, kind, helpful and always smiling; and the other one is food. Yes food, because at the HAF
they usually have breakfast and lunch all together, and I really like it. I think it’s nice that they give
themselves time to eat all together, it’s an excuse to stop for a moment and share with others how the day
is going; I think it’s also an opportunity to create relationships with new volunteers. Although I spent little
time at the High Atlas Foundation, this experience helped me a lot. It made me realize that it’s useless to
put yourself down, there’s no reason to feel insecure; I understood that it’s not true that I’m not good at
anything, there will always be something I can do. I am certainly still shy and insecure, but this experience
has helped me to realize that I must in no way let shyness and insecurity dominate my life.
Review from Guidestar
Promoting Civil Society - University Engagement in Fez
By Katie Bercegeay, HAF Project Manager
On October 10, 2019, the High Atlas Foundation kicked off a new project in partnership with the University Sidi Mohamed Ben Abdellah (USMBA) in Fez to establish a Law Clinic and Legal Aid program which actively engages students in experiential and service learning for the greater good of the local community.
Born out of a need previously identified by students and university administration, the project, funded by the National Endowment for Democracy, is “to foster greater cooperation among local civil society organizations and universities and promote service learning.” It was inspired by a similar HAF-NED project conducted at the Faculty of Law, Sciences, and Economics in Mohammedia between 2014 and 2016.
During the day, HAF’s Farmer-to-Farmer Country Director Moulay Hassan Aladloui, Project Manager Katie Bercegeay, and Volunteer Experts for Development Association President Mostafa Mouslih attended a lunch courtesy of Pr. Mohammed Bouzlafa, Dean of the Faculty of Juridical, Economic, and Social Sciences. They then visited the Abdelaziz Child Protection Center in Fez. This is an institution that is part of the Ministry of Youth and Sports and with which HAF has maintained a partnership since 2017 to establish and maintain a nursery for pomegranate, fig, a diversity of other types of trees. The youth at the Center help maintain the nursery as they build employable skills. HAF is looking to bring this program to Centers around the country.
An inaugural meeting was held with Dean Bouzalfa at the Faculty of Law. Details of the project were outlined and first steps toward project implementation agreed upon. The Dean expressed his excitement about establishing a law clinic and legal aid program at the university during his first year in this new leadership role. Such a program has been a longstanding goal of the Faculty of Law in Fez. It was decided that the best approach to be taken was first to invest in selecting and training student participants in soft, technical, and applied skills before opening for business and collaboration with civil society partners. At the meeting, all parties joined in their commitment to ensure equal opportunity for all genders throughout the course of the project and to hit the ground running.
We extend our deepest gratitude to Mr. Mostafa Mouslih and the Volunteer Experts for Development who have been integral to HAF project planning and implementation in Fez and at USMBA. Their expertise and network have given a substantial foundation to this legal aid project.
Review from Guidestar
International Day of Childhood
By Anna Ugolini
On November 20th the International Day of Childhood and Adolescence Rights is celebrated throughout the world.
The date reminds us of the day when the United Nations General Assembly adopted in 1989 the Convention on the Rights of Children and Adolescents and more than 190 countries have ratified it. The purpose of the day is to promote global togetherness, awareness among children worldwide, and improving children's welfare.
Despite the improvements in recent years, the situation remains untenable. According to UNICEF, there are about 246 million children between the ages of 5 and 14 who work, and 180 million are employed in occupations that fall within the worst forms of exploitation surveyed by the International Labor Organisation.
Naturally, the living conditions of children are not the same in all over the world and sometimes there are significant differences in the same country. This is the case of Morocco, where the gap between rural and urban areas is one of the main obstacles for the country's development.
One of the biggest problem is illiteracy. According to UNESCO, 1,137,546 children, teenagers and young people have not received a primary or secondary education and most of them come from rural areas. Many rural areas are lacking in infrastructure, such as access to drinking water, healthcare centers, electricity, public transport, and schools, which are often located many kilometers from villages.
Despite this, some progress has been made in recent years thanks to new reforms and many organizations and associations which promote the development and welfare of children. One civil group is the "Al Karam Association", which was created in 1997 by Karima M'kika and deals with the safeguard of children in difficult situation. Located in Marrakech and Safi, al Karam is an active association for vulnerable children living on the street. Its team of thirty three employees includes coordinators, educators, psycologists, animators, social workers, and trainers. At Al Karam Association, children study, take courses in English and French and improve their computer skills, they eat every day good food and spend part of their time playing with animators.
The High Atlas Foundation has the Sami’s Project that encourages children to become advocates for education, socio-economic community development and environmental conservation through the participatory approach. Through small-scale fruit tree farming at schools and children protection centers, HAF supports children’s advocacy by exploring with them the direct impact of innovative agricultural techniques on families' income. By supporting girls‘ education and basic infrastructure in rural schools, HAF creates an indespensible foundation for a sustainable and prosperous future. HAF and community partners also collaborate with schools building and refurbishing buildings, bathrooms and student and teacher housing and installing clean drinking water systems.
In conclusion, there are still many problems that the country must solve, but thanks to all the realities that are committed to ensuring the well-being and safety of children the situation in Morocco will certainly improve, inshallah.
Review from Guidestar
From Pomegranates to Pomegranates Juice
By Anne Marie Del Castillo
As a retired agricultural economist, I participated in the United States Agency for International Development's (USAID) Farmer-to-Farmer (F2F) program in Morocco, administered by the High Atlas Foundation. F2F's main goal is to generate sustainable, broad-based economic growth in the agricultural sector through voluntary technical assistance. F2F sponsored my travel and stay in Morocco to brainstorm with pomegranate growers on steps that could be taken to increase their household incomes and reduce poverty.
I volunteered to identify factors that keep pomegranate farmers poor and, working with the farmers, come up with measures that could improve their well-being.
Pomegranates are round fruits with hard, shiny red-yellow skins. The fruit is composed of jewel-like inner seeds, known as arils, that people can eat either raw or juiced. Not only is the fruit delicious, it also offers incredible health and nutrition benefits.
Pomegranates are a good source of fibre as well as vitamins A, C, some B vitamins and minerals such as calcium, potassium and iron. Two components - punicalagins and punicic acid – are responsible for most of the health benefits of pomegranate. Pomegranates also have antioxidant activity three times higher than that of red wine or green tea.
Pomegranates trees are low maintenance, offer good yields and can thrive even with limited moisture. Pomegranates are among the best high-value crops to reduce rural poverty (FAO). In Morocco, unlike in other producing countries, the fruit is non-GMO and cultivated using organic and sustainable farming practices.
The dilemma is, if pomegranates are sold in the supermarkets in the United States and Europe for over three and even four dollars a fruit, why do the pomegranate growers in Morocco experience poverty? Part of the answer lays in the fact that for that same piece of fruit, the farmer received 25 cents only. One of the reasons for this is, while the farmers are gifted and their pomegranate fruits are of the highest quality, the farmers require the knowledge and the skills to compete in today's' markets. Inexperience in marketing and finance, and limited exposure to product innovation have greatly stymied the farmers in their efforts to make a good living.
The farmers over the course of our work decided that they should embark on a program to become more competitive, add value to their harvest and launch an aggressive marketing campaign. Because of these consultations, a modernization project was designed.
First, the farmers want to preserve and promote the golden pomegranate variety indigenous to this region in Morocco and their sustainable organic farming practices. However, some fruits suffered from peel bursting. The farmers want technical assistance to eliminate this agronomic issue.
To be more effective and engage in today’s commercial activities, the farmers’ cooperative will begin to hire a small cadre of skilled young women and men, including a marketing manager, an accountant, an information and computer specialist, a mechanical engineer and an administrative assistant.
To date, the farmers only sell fresh fruits. The farmers know that if they were to add value to their harvest through processing, their returns would significantly increase. The farmers’ cooperative and I prepared a business plan for a proposal to buy the equipment to extract and bottle juice. The business plan indicates that producing and selling pomegranate juice is highly profitable. In addition, such an operation would generate employment for young skilled women and men, as well as many laborers.
Finally, farmers agreed that they needed an aggressive marketing campaign to generate demand for their bottled pomegranate juice. The marketing campaign would promote the high quality of their organic, non-GMO “Moroccan Golden” pomegranate, which uses the state of the art manufacturing equipment to make a sanitary, pasteurized 100 percent bottled pomegranate juice, available year round. In addition, the marketing manager would negotiate contracts with domestic supermarket chains, restaurants and hotels for their fruit and processed products.
A marketing survey indicated that Moroccans love pomegranate juice, but they can only enjoy juice during the three-month harvest period; between September and November. The farmers’ cooperative could become one of the very few suppliers of hygienic pure pomegranate juice year round in the domestic market. Once the cooperative has gained sufficient processing experience, it would export into the premium European and US markets.
Their proposal has already generated donor’s interest in providing the funds needed to implement their program.
Review from Guidestar
My impression from a visit at the Pomegranate Cooperative at Awlad Abdallah – Yaniv Teitel, an intern at HAF and student at the Glocal program in the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
On Wednesday the 4/9 I got the chance to join the Farm to Farmer staff on their first meeting with the Pomegranate Cooperative at Awlad Abdallah. Farm to Farmer is a capacity-built program that HAF is conducting in rural areas in Morocco as part of a partnership with USAID. It was a four-hour drive for each direction, only to have an appointment of an hour and a half. I was very much impressed with the commitment of the staff towards this meeting. Especially sense the meeting was a first meeting and no body can guarantee it will lead to future cooperation's. We arrived at a modern packaging factory. Around the table were waiting for us the members of the cooperative, seven men and a woman. They told the story of their impressive social vision of the village and the role of their cooperative in fulfilling this vision. Rashid, the HAF facilitator was leading the discussion. He was trying to learn the needs of this personal cooperative. Everybody was taking part in the discussion lead very well by a young facilitator from the big city of Marrakech. It was a very pleasant environment.
They spoke about their needs and rated them from the most important to the least most important. I remember thinking how their needs sound just the same as the needs of the farms in Israel, my home country. While they are successful in exporting their pomegranates to different countries, they are not able to create a sufficient profit from this export. They know the prices of their fruit in the markets in other countries are high, but the profit doesn't reach to them and stays with the middleman. They have economic problems and regulation problems which restricts their product development. They also claim to have management problems and whish to learn better how to manage a cooperative. To me it looked from the side, that they are doing pretty well, and it was beautiful to see how they enable each to talk and take part in the management and the discussion.
We drove back, enjoying the sunset over the mountains. The ride back gave me a good opportunity to get to know the staff better and to learn more about Morocco. Everybody seemed to want to help me get started with my own project.
Review from Guidestar
My name is Nora, and I am a new intern at HAF. Over the next 4 months, you can follow my internship journey on the HAF blog. Allow me to first introduce myself. I am 29 years old, and I study International Social Work in the master’s program at the University of Applied Science in Erfurt, Germany. The third semester of my program consists of an internship abroad which also encompasses the initial research for my master’s thesis. As I am interested in Arabic language and culture and always wanted to travel to Morocco, working with HAF seemed to be a perfect opportunity to find out more about the country’s ongoing developments and social projects. So, here I am.
I’m not certain about the topic of my thesis yet, but I hope the following months interning with HAF will help to steer me in the right direction. In general, I hope to find out how to develop and implement sustainable projects that have positive effects on the environment, contribute to poverty alleviation, and improve the living conditions of disadvantaged people. HAF’s work seems highly promising to me, and I’m looking forward to gaining insight into their projects and contributing to their work.
In my first week as an intern, I was entrusted with research and administration tasks. I was ready and very excited to go on my first field visit yesterday. Together with my colleagues, Said and Abduljallil, our driver, Hassan, and Pieter, Chief Tree Planting Officer from Ecosia, I visited several of HAF’s tree planting sites.
You may be familiar with the Ecosia search engine, which is similar to Google but has the incredible advantage that the profit generated by the company is used to plant trees. If you ever wondered how Ecosia finances their tree plantings with your search requests, let me tell you a bit more about their work, as I had the opportunity to talk to Pieter about Ecosia’s projects and ask him all of my questions.
Pieter told me that the number of trees planted by Ecosia all around the world reached 50 million in February 2019. That number has already grown to more than 70 million! In Morocco, Ecosia is funding the planting of 1.2 million trees in partnership with HAF. It was really interesting for me to find out how search requests are translated into trees, mainly based on the revenue Ecosia generates from advertisements. Basically, this works based on the number of clicks per ad on the Ecosia site. But even if you never click on advertisements, you still contribute to the movement because the more active monthly users the website has, the more relevant it becomes to advertisers. On average it takes about 45 search queries to plant a tree. This number varies according to location.
To make sure that all tree plantings are measurable and traceable, sites must be carefully monitored. The methodology of doing so was a primary reason for Pieter’s visit to HAF. The purpose of our field visit was to show Pieter a number of HAF nurseries and the progress of the trees as well as to discuss future collaboration between Ecosia and HAF.
First, we visited a remote village in the Marrakech region. The trip there was amazing. The only possible way to reach the village is a curvy, bumpy dirt and gravel road. Once we arrived, the landscape was simply stunning. As or even more impressive, however, were the people and their trees. Three young men from the local farmers’ association showed us their planting sites, and we were able to converse with some of the proud owners of the land. Even Pieter, who has a deep knowledge about trees, was deeply impressed by the size and the condition of the trees. For example, some of the olive trees planted only 2 years ago are already head-high and have fruit ready to harvest. Abdeljalil, who works on-site with the farmers most of the time, told us that the progress is simply owed to the care and attentiveness offered to the nursery.
In the afternoon, we visited a beautiful garden where saffron is grown. Here, we saw how to practically use space between trees to grow high-value plants and at the same time preserve the good quality of the soil in a natural way.
Later, we visited a school, where HAF with support from Ecosia could enable children and teachers to plant shade-giving trees for the schoolyard.
It was fascinating for me to see the different planting sites and gain deeper insight and understanding into the operations of a big company like Ecosia. I still have many questions. For example, I still am interested to know how trees are distributed by HAF and how farmers are selected. Also still on my mind is water supply for farmers--a major issue and consideration in all such projects. I hope to gain a better understanding of these processes throughout my next field trips. These topics are discussed in depth throughout a HAF-Ecosia partnership.
Review from Guidestar
The HAF ''Hight Atlas Foundation'' is a great story of Love, Success, Volunteering and cooperation .
It's quite a SOLIDARITY between us.
It was the best internship I did it .
Review from Guidestar
Quote of the day: mother nature is most definitely in charge here. Approximately 270 kilometers, or 3.5 hours drive from Oujda lies Bouarfa, the destination of my first experience with cooperatives as a volunteer with the High Atlas Foundation. More specifically, the Farmer-to-Farmer USAID Project, which aims to harness the potential of these cooperatives and, through capacity-building and participatory methods, empower their members and strengthen their economic prospects. But, before I get to that, I’m going to begin a little bit atypically - with the story of how the day ended.
Oujda and Bouarfa are connected by a single roadway, slicing through seemingly endless stretches of desert landscape for a majority of the drive. On a typical day, the existence of a lone road doesn’t pose a problem. Bouarfa isn’t a city brimming with tourists or outsiders, and probably doesn’t appear on most top Google search hits for sentences synonymous with “destinations one must visit while in Morocco;” the road is quiet, quick, and functional for a city primarily made up of local farmers. So, at the end of our day, I hopped back in the car with no inklings of anything about to go amiss.
Fast forward 30 minutes and the desert highway is no longer a desert highway. Instead, it’s almost as if mother nature decided to take revenge on the road for slicing the desert in two, and in retaliation sent a rainwater river to render the route impassable. Needless to say, we were entirely stuck, and now part of a small group of fellow travelers with little else to do than laugh at the futility of the situation, take a few pictures, and enjoy the rainbow forming across the skyline to our right (mother nature signing her work?). But, standing there, awaiting a decision on whether or not we would be able to continue without the car suddenly transforming into an amphibious vehicle, the reasoning behind Bouarfa as a destination and focal point for HAF’s work that day became all the more clear to me.
Earlier in the afternoon, we’d arrived in Bouarfa for a participatory meeting of local cooperatives, with representatives from 20 different cooperatives in attendance. The meeting presented a unique opportunity: a single forum for members of a vast array of local groups to voice the challenges they face when it comes to output maximization and sustainable agricultural practices. Broadly speaking, conversation centered around three common problems in the region: 1) a lack of proper technical expertise in the realm of irrigation, 2) insects interfering with the quality of produce, and 3) the impacts of unpredictable weather patterns on agricultural cycles. Like I said, mother nature is most definitely in charge here. But remember, just because she’s in charge doesn’t mean that, if we build the proper foundations and relationships, we can’t find a way to work together and with her to achieve greater economic security.
Today, I saw one of these relationships in action, when women from Moughle Cooperative instantly recognized a member of the HAF team who had led an IMAGINE workshop with participation from their cooperative nearly a year ago. One year later, she and other members of the cooperative precisely and fondly recalled even the smallest details of the workshop, including the music choices, and over tea and dates later in the day, reflected on the positive impact the experience has had. For these women, the long-term benefits of are only at their beginning stages, and yet already include stronger self-awareness, a greater sense of commitment to their cooperative, and an impressive variety of marketably packaged products to show for it.
For cities like Bouarfa, unfrequented by outsiders, and accessible by a single road subject to the whims of nature, the path forward lies in such needs-based assessments and the work of organizations like HAF to build positive relationships with cooperatives and with the surrounding environment. While today only gave me a broad introduction to the region and the work that can be done, I’m excited to see what lies ahead (road rivers and all).
Review from Guidestar
HYDRO-PANELS: One Great Idea
By Stefano Dessena
What can you do when you can’t count on the abundance of natural resources? You
can count on the insights of creative people, and that is our case. This time one great
idea can help a lot of people in need and can change their lives.
The access to clean water is an enormous problem to the 311 children of the school
Zawiyat Sidi Boutayeb in the area of El Youssoufia, where the parents association is
facing a lot of big struggles to find a proper solution. It’s here that the High Atlas
Foundation (HAF) wants to invest in a creative and genial solution but more than
anything else in an ecological solution: Hydro-Panels.
The “Source” panels come from the Zero Mass Water company with the objective to
develop a clean and eco-friendly way to create an access to clean water everywhere
even in extreme conditions.
Hydro Panels use the energy of the sun and the air to create clean and drinkable water
even in the desert. The regular array is formed by two solar panels. They can produce
from five to ten liters of water daily and store almost 60 liters. Panels have a special
absorbing material that can take only the water particles avoid airborne pollution and
then it can be mineralized with calcium and magnesium in a special storage. The
structure doesn’t need any external electricity or water supply to work properly and can
be mounted and be operative in a few hours, even in environmentally difficult areas.
But why is this an environmental and agricultural choice? The answer is very easy. Try
to imagine having a proper source of clean water in high mountains or even in an
isolated valley but without the problems of a well (sometimes way too expensive to
create and the water can be unclean). Further, the distance from the central water
supply and the locations where people seek to drink and cultivate can be too distant. It’s
wonderful, right? That’s what HAF has seen and what it’s trying to do for the school in
the area of El Youssoufia. With this idea all the students and their families will not have
the problem of access to clean water and they will be able to cultivate and benefit from
this great creation. The panels will work for decades, save water, and help to improve
the local economy.
Review from Guidestar
Scalability and Development: The Relationship between Expansion and the Community
By Julia DiFabrizio
HAF Intern, UVA student
What is scalability? At its core, scalability is expansion, and often unlimited expansion without the need to redefine any of the fundamental elements. Such a concept enters the field of development when discussions of projects, organizational capacity, and networks center around expansion. The number of communities that participate in a women’s empowerment program may increase; a non-government organization may see an increase in its funding and then hire more staff to take on more development projects; and an organization may establish a new partnership with another organization that has similar goals in order to share resources and ideas. It is essential to take the time to process how scaling up operations could influence communities and how changing cultural landscapes in turn affect the scaled-up operations.
Project scalability requires community-led evaluation and planning in order to ensure success. Any development-oriented project should consider a community’s political, economic, and cultural landscape for the sake of the project’s success and viability in the future. The technical aspects of a development project cannot always be scalable, so perhaps we should focus on scaling up frameworks, project themes, and goals. As Anna Tsing, an American professor of anthropology, suggests, nonscalability theory defines development projects as being dependent on the historical and current lived realities of a community. Nonscalability in the context of development refers to the fact that there are elements of the cultural landscape—political, social, and economic facets of daily life—which make scaling up development projects essentially unfeasible as they do not take these elements of life into account when carrying them out. Rather than allow scalability to outright deny these realities, scaling up project operations can rely on nonscalability theory, and development practitioners can rely on both theories. Ensuring that adjustments to every scaled development project are made in order to better meet the needs of a community can create a more sustainable, meaningful community development.
Take the High Atlas Foundation’s tree nursery initiative as an example of more successful scalability of development projects. Using organic agriculture as a means to address food insecurity and rural poverty in Morocco, HAF assists communities in establishing tree nurseries through participatory development methods. HAF has aided in building 13 nurseries located in seven provinces in Morocco, yet no two of these sites look exactly alike. Community needs and realities are addressed throughout the planning process, leading to the scaling up of project frameworks rather than all technical elements of the project. In some rural communities, only women run nursery operations. Some nurseries focus on growing cherries, while others grow olive trees, and others grow different types or a variety of cash crops. While the framework remains the same—employing organic agriculture as a means of addressing community needs—each iteration of the project is adapted to the realities of the community, with each community expressing their support for the nursery.
Can all scalability be successful? The short answer is no. Yet, this does not mean it is all unsuccessful. Scaling up networks and basic frameworks of projects rather than all technical details may be solutions to the rigidity of scaling up certain community development projects which made the cultural landscape an afterthought. The scaling up of development projects can be successful, but practitioners must keep the lived realities of communities a priority throughout the process.
Review from Guidestar
In the Hospitality of HAF Nurseries
By Hajiba Boumasmar
I had the pleasure of accompanying Said, HAF Project Manager; Hassan, an assistant; and Tobi, a teacher at United World Colleges, on two nursery visits in the Marrakech region. As someone who has always been passionate about agriculture and the environment, the nursery visits had a positive impact on my choosing the High Atlas Foundation to continue my professional career, after obtaining a master’s degree in biotechnology and sustainable development of agro-resources.
The Imegdal nursery is under the supervision of Hassan, a skilled technician also competent in the manufacture of compost made from hay and manure. Hassan spoke to us about transplanting the tree saplings and watering techniques. This nursery - initially funded by the Global Diversity Foundation and the Darwin Initiative - includes several types of plants such as: argan, carob, cherry, almond, and walnut because of its agricultural, economic, environmental, and health importance. Additionally, the High Atlas Foundation wants to protect the agricultural heritage of Morocco and provide a sustainable environment for the growth and development of these plants. Further, these varieties keep the soil fertile while avoiding the use of chemical fertilizers that cause adverse effects both on the quality and health of groundwater.
The Tadmamt nursery is the result of a partnership between Morocco’s office of High Waters and Forests and the High Atlas Foundation for tree planting; its initial funding came from the United Nations Development Program. This nursery, which mainly cultivates almonds, cherries, and walnuts, is under the supervision of Omar. Daily maintenance of the nursery organized by Omar, as well as the grafting technique utilized here, is the best solution to ensuring high quality fruit and profitability of crops.
These nurseries contribute substantially to the sustainable development of local areas. Specifically, they provide a significant number of carob, argan, and walnut plants throughout the year to the inhabitants of the region including landowners and farmers as well as new and old agricultural cooperatives. Ultimately, the nurseries help local communities, particularly those involved in agricultural activities, while keeping our agro-resources.
Review from Guidestar
THE POWER OF IMAGINATION
Carol Ma Yau Ka
HAF intern, CUHK student
On 27th July, I had the opportunity to visit one of HAF’s “Imagine” workshops, organized in the valley of Ourika. The workshops aim at empowering women both financially and personally, providing a space for learning, discussion and inspiration. It was the first time that Rachida, apprentice trainer of the program, had the chance to hold a workshop, under the guidance of HAF staff Ibtissam Niri.
The workshop started with an introduction of the Imagine program, then a brainstorm on the ideas of “empowerment” and “the growing edge”. Participants associated them with concepts like “control”, “expression” and “strength”. Conversations started to heat up as the women went on to share their own learning experiences and difficulties faced in various aspects of life.
Aicha, mother of two children, shared that she once wanted to quit her job at the cooperative because she was pregnant. However, after discussions and affirmations at the workshop, she decided to take the challenge of work and take care of her children at the same time. And, she did it. For her, the cooperative was more like a family. She could take a break from work every few hours to breastfeed her baby at home, or even take her baby with her to work. These are possibilities that she would never have imagined in other places.
Another participant, Fatima, told the story of her first time putting on make-up for a friend’s wedding. She was so scared and embarrassed with the make-up that, she couldn’t help covering her face with her scarf. After a while, with all the music, dancing and conversations, she let down her guard, and forgot completely about the scarf. Unexpectedly, she was told that her face was beautiful. Tears came down her face as she realized that she could be proud of her appearance. “I cried so much that my make-up was ruined!” A wave of laughter filled the room as Fatima told the hilarious story.
The experience visiting the Imagine workshop was very different from what I had expected. It was surprising for me how confident Rashida was, and how eager the participants were to share their stories and thoughts. For these women, the workshop was not only a classroom, but also a social space – a space not easy to find elsewhere. The family-like environment allowed them to feel comfortable sharing any thoughts, weather big or small, weather feasible or not. That is, to IMAGINE. By having their voices heard, and by hearing other women’s voices, they had their imaginations recognized, and were inspired to see new possibilities.
Review from Guidestar
After a windy uphill journey to Aguerzran, a small village nestled within the High Atlas Mountains, we reached the building where we would be conducting workshops. The small rectangular building, painted in sun-faded pink and green, overlooked the lush valley. My colleague explained to the group, over thirty women of varying ages, the purpose of our visit: to conduct both a cooperative building workshop and a women’s health discussion. As we waited for women to fill up the desks of the primary school, I asked the women why they felt health was important to them.
“Without health, we have nothing,” one woman proclaimed. The conversation naturally continued, as every woman reiterated the same sentiment.
Within minutes, the mood within the room shifted. One woman, a matriarch in the village, spoke through tears about challenges her community faces in accessing healthcare. Aware of her heart disease, she was unable to leave the village to take any action towards treatment. With merely one ambulance in the municipality, it is both physically and financially inaccessible. Aguerzran’s nearest health clinic is located in the Imlil Souk L’Aarba, three hours away by foot. Workshop handouts and diagrams originally brought to discuss nutrition, exercise, and hygiene were important, but not adequate
The problem does not lie in the do’s and don'ts of health. The issue lies in addressing economic stability, education systems, the built environment, and community context; all of which are social and structural determinants surrounding health in Aguerzran.
Three months prior to our visit, the women went through an empowerment workshop conducted by the High Atlas Foundation. The workshop aims to cultivate visions women have for themselves within different spheres of personal development including money, spirituality, emotions, and the body. During our visit, facilitators conducted follow up interviews with the women to track their progress in actualizing their goals. The women expressed feeling more confident, advocative, and self-aware. Yet, their perception of taking care of their personal health and wellbeing was defined simply by “working hard.”
Measured by means such as healthy lives, education, and standard of living, Morocco ranks 123rd on the United Nations Human Development Index out of 189 countries. Although this indicator is widely used to gauge the country's progress, it may not capture severe regional disparities and intersectional inequalities. Nearly forty percent of Morocco’s population is rural, and women make up half of the population. With the implementation of Moudawana, the Moroccan family code, and the National Initiative for Human Development, Morocco has made strides towards improving social and economic development. However, empowerment is not the only means to development; and improved health is more than a result of development.
Health, empowerment, and development have a symbiotic relationship. Significant strides in development should be holistic, and include the reduction of health inequalities in order to achieve sustainable change. Morocco faces the double burden of communicable and increasing non-communicable disease. A 2015 study published in BMC Cancer found that rural Moroccan women are at higher risk of late diagnosis for breast cancer, the most common cancer amongst Moroccan women. Illnesses such as tuberculosis are also often detected at late stages in rural communities. According to the World Health Organization, non-communicable diseases such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease make up nearly seventy-five percent of all deaths in Morocco. Coupled with inaccessibility to clinical care and monitoring, rural communities are increasingly susceptible to undetected chronic diseases. This epidemiological shift is indicative of unresolved structural inequalities that exacerbate rates of non-communicable diseases.
Physically and figuratively on the margins, rural women face a two-fold disadvantage. Weaker education systems in rural communities do not address health education, and weaker health systems can prevent women pursuing their education. Additionally, physical distance from health centers is discouraging and compromises safety. Women in Aguerzran expressed that heavy lifting and labor causes intense aches and pains. If left unaddressed, these pains can increase the risk of serious injury, halting their ability to work. Addressing the mutual relationship between these determinants will lead to better long-term health and equity outcomes for rural women and their communities.
When in Aguerzran, Marrakech, or anywhere in between, the crucial role of women in their communities and families is undeniable. The migration of rural men into cities has increased women’s agricultural labor and domestic care responsibilities, occupying a rural woman’s ability to give attention to her own health. As epicenters for their families, evidence suggests that the educational success and overall well-being of children is positively correlated with educational attainment and health of their mothers.
Fostering comprehensive women’s empowerment not only encourages internal progress but also paves the way for better future generations and communities. Empowering rural women through health provides the foundation for improved human capital, capacity building, and better long-term economic outcomes through participation in activities such as cooperatives.
Talking to the women in Aguerzran brought forth the importance of including health in an empowerment context. Since health seems to truly be everything for these women, it should also be an integral part of empowerment and development methodologies. Just as empowerment programs may inform women of their societal rights, the right to health should also be progressively achieved through increased data, awareness, and advocacy. Not prioritizing the wellbeing of the most vulnerable populations will prevent sustainable development from becoming a reality.
Review from Guidestar
Participatory approach was a vague concept for me before the activity of High Atlas Foundation and AFCD association.the activity was beyond my expectations. Everyone was relaxed , happy and active .So , we felt confortable to share our thought and views .the articipatory approach was easily illustrated with various examples in the first day . In the day after , we had the community maping in which we applied what we learned the day befor on our community hence we came up with a list of our essential priorities . The last day was for proposing projects we had in mind . During the whole process , we had the chance to discover our essential needs in Ait ourir , but more discovering our selves and enhancing our abilities in different sides . Finally , i want to warmly thank everyone who took a part in this activity , i will keep the honor of working with my entire life .
It was a good experience for me. I discovered a foundation that works for prosperity in a quite large sense. Agriculture, water, women's empowerment, educaton,... Always with a participatory approach. Good persons, I could go to the field, I just regret not to speak arabic, that could make me able to speak with local people. I had like to be more involved in reflexions for the different projects, but there was work of execution to do and I did so. Otherwise people were always available for answering my questions and make me discover the diferent activities. Thanks to them !
Here, an article I writed for their blog.
A day in the Atlas
Narrative and impressions of a French man in the Moroccan mountains
Hugo Dubois, volunteer in the High Atlas Foundation
Marrakech, 9am. My first field trip.
We boarded the vans that would lead us to our hosts for the day. We had two hours of travel through the Atlas Mountains ahead of us to reach Tassa Ouirgane; a village perched somewhere in the mountains. We left the city, its constant noise and movement, to discover the quietness of the fields, villages and people that populate the surrounding area. Soon, we are at the foot of the Atlas Mountains, ready to begin our winding ascension.
The road follows a narrow, precious stream that winds through a gorge. On the right, appeared the first village; donkeys, men, land, the rurality is apparent... Going up the river, the landscape opens up a bit, and gives way to a valley, narrow and green, descending from the mountains between the bright red mountain sides. Emerging from this oasis, a few slender white creatures fly over the valley. The contrast is striking and of a singular beauty; here, water is scarce, and one can feel it.
We will stop in a lively village upstream. The cool mountain air is cut with the smoke from the fresh lamb and chicken being cooked. The stillness of life is replaced with the lively bustle of the souk. Men are agitated in front of the stalls, they want to sell us a bracelet, a stone, a meal; offers abound for visitors like us, all with the promise of “For you, I give good price.”
Wandering away from the souk, I found company in the big trees along the road. On my right, I had a nice view into the lush green valley. I advanced slightly, finding myself immersed in the scent of almond trees and the sounds of white birds. I felt for a moment the intensity of this prosperity- the rareness of it- considering its value in these desert mountains.
We continued our journey through several more villages, valleys and landscapes, all equally as breathtaking... The road soon led us to a dirt track, on which we drove following its gentle curves and marveling at nature’s decor. The higher we went, the more rivers became streams; everything was affected…
Finally, we reach a quaint, sleepy village, near an empty old building in mud bricks. It is here, or rather slightly below, that we will stop. Down a narrow path, we walk through olive plantations in terraces on the hillside. Theshade is nice, and one can almost feel the resilience they have shown to thrive here.
A little ahead, we stop for a time to visit the nursery where a great number of olive saplings (their little brothers) are kept in black plastic bags, all ready for planting. We could feel the release of energy of an organized life, the will to raise and create prosperity was palpable.
This was an opportunity for us to meet one of the villagers. Through the translation of his Arabic, he told us about his situation, concerns, and vision. This man seemed torn about his rural roots in his way of expressing himself, his modern features, expressed in his appearance, perfectly trimmed beard and modern clothes, came in sharp juxtaposition to the rural village and setting to which he called home. In the discussion, he stressed the importance of the plantations for him and his community. It was not a question of purely agricultural notions, it was a question of prosperity, future, and quality of life for himself and his family.
We walked down to the heart of the village, stopping at an orchard overlooking the valley. The charm was there, and the trees gave away their fruits with little effort.
We then met a group of women, all dressed traditionally. A deep gap seems to separate them from our western group. Through their words, we could easily discover that their lifestyle, their concerns, their expectations were rather different from ours. However, something still seemed to connect us. Despite their relative isolation, they are rather content and feel comfortable in the place that is theirs. A singular humanity emerged from them.
Later in the afternoon, they invited us to join them in a large room, where we shared a traditional meal of couscous. We sat together on the floor in more or less mixed groups, the room was filled with a good atmosphere rich in discussions and sharing. The food was delicious steeped in the flavor of tradition.
I alternated discussions with colleagues in the room and going outside to escape the noise. Curiously enough, it is outside that I engaged in the most contact with the local people, exchanging with them through brief discussions. A simple and authentic connection was established. For a moment, I stopped and sat down to admire the place and the mountains. There is something slow, static and great; feeling that time is passing beyond us, flowing slowly, surely and peacefully; one should only let go and be carried away by this flow and merge with it.
At a street corner, I met some children, laughed with them, and then passed a mosque where women go for their prayers. Here, there is not much, and the weight of tradition is present.
I finally joined the group, where a final dialogue and a farewell took place. It was a pleasure to share a moment and a slight emotion of benevolence. We left our hosts leaving them to their peace and boarding our vans to go back to town. It was a visit rich in feelings and impressions.
Thanks to the United Nations Development Program, which funded the nursery, the village irrigation system and gabion baskets to prevent erosion of the river; not to mention the empowerment workshops in Tassa Ouirgane.
Review from Guidestar
Obscure and Marvelous Possibility
HAF Intern, UVA Student
“EVERYONE IS THE SAME.” Lalla Fadma, the eldest woman in the village, kept repeating this phrase to me in Arabic the whole way up the mountain. Just moments before, I turned my back to the valley—where we spent what felt like an unthinkably stretched amount of time at—to walk back up the mountain trail. Her hand, still clutching mine so tightly, moved from her chest to the space in front of her. To the world around her. “Everyone is the same,” Fadma echoed, pulsing our hands in rhythm with the words. “Everyone is the same,” I kept thinking. Really? After getting into a momentary existential crisis with myself about essential goodness and nature versus nurture, I wondered, How many times do I need to repeat this phrase until the tick that is my incessant need to establish identity politics and uncrossable barriers between marginalized and centralized groups in conversation stops? Not as many as I thought. Something about being down in the valley with all the girls, from the village and from our group, was profoundly unifying. Maybe it was the circumstances. We were all young women—and yes, with Lalla Fadma tugging at my hand by the time we got to the top of the mountain trail I certainly count her as one sprightly, youthful woman. Is it not inevitable that we felt an unspeakable unity amongst ourselves? Is it—not to be dramatic—not the most awe-inspiring thing to see women of all races, ethnicities, education levels, religions, and socio-economic backgrounds just enjoy each other’s company at the bottom of a valley? Truly, the number of young women gathered with the purpose of reconvening in a mountainous valley felt epic and vast. Perhaps there were thirty of us total, but it felt infinite. And as I looked around at the towering mountains, the nursery way off in the distance, and the crystal-clear stream flowing right through my fingers, I knew that this was a land of obscure and marvelous possibility. Only time can tell us how much longer we have left until a feminist revolution occurs. One is imminent, anyways. With all the young women gathered there during those two days, learning about feminine health, cooperative building, business strategy, and internal growth, the phrase, “Everyone is the same,” doesn’t seem like such a hollow farce now.
Review from Guidestar
This article highlights the potential of women in the Middle Eastern and North Africa region,
specifically Morocco, when given a platform, such as a cooperative, and resources by which they
can carry out economic activity. The article has not been previously published.
HIDDEN GEMS: THE MEANING OF COOPERATIVES ON JULY 6TH
How cooperatives may be a key factor in social and economic empowerment in the Middle East
and North Africa
A member of the Cooperative Aboghlo Women’s of Ourika is cheered on as she writes her
name in Arabic for the first time (Photo by Fariha Mujeebuddin).
To many people, this coming July 6 marks the passing of another Saturday. But to over 1 billion
people, July 6 is of tremendous significance as it marks the 25th United Nations International Day
Twelve percent of humanity contributes to one of the over three million cooperatives on earth.
Cooperatives not only stimulate local economies but also act as a vehicle for bringing opportunity
and profit to people worldwide, who otherwise would not be actors in the formal sector. This
tangible empowerment is perhaps best embodied by the Cooperative Aboghlo Women of Ourika.
Just a short thirty-minute drive outside of Marrakech to T’nine Ourika in the Al Haouz province,
located across the street form a furniture store is a deceivingly unremarkable storefront. Peering
through the glass display case you will find packages of couscous and dried herbs sitting alongside
bowls overflowing with chocolate, pistachio, almond and walnut cookies. All of which is made
from local Moroccan ingredients.
But this is not the real gem found inside the Cooperative Aboghlo.
The true beauty is hidden away on the second floor of the co-op, where 23 women, sit in circles
and talk back and forth. They are not making casual conversation, instead, they are debating
various aspects of the internal and external marketing for their cooperative. For hours, these
women engage in conversations about how to better spread the word about their product, how to
enforce the timeliness of each respective worker, and how to resolve problems of communication
and organization - issues every business must grapple with.
This in itself is remarkable, but it is even more so when one is reminded of the context. The
discrepancy in opportunities and education of women compared to men is widely experienced in
our world. This creates an uneven playing field for women - from the time they are little girls they
are not given the same support as their male counterparts. The distributional consequences are
crippling: the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region has the lowest rate of women
employment in the world; seventy-five percent of MENA women are excluded from the
workforce. Most women in the co-op could not read or write Arabic, now they are taking literacy
classes at the co-op and are able to write their names and read street signs.
When considering these astonishing circumstances, it is obvious these women, who are
successfully managing their own well-established cooperative, are extraordinary exceptions. But
that should not be the case. It is just and right to commend the women of this cooperative, but
the ladies of the Cooperative Aboghlo are a much-needed reminder not only of what is possible
but of what should be.
The cooperative started in October 2016 with ten women from one village. Now, there are thirty-
three women from five different villages actively participating. In addition to selling from various
products from their brick and mortar site, the co-op exports directly to major internationally
recognized cosmetic companies. These women set an example of what is possible when given
education and opportunity.
Women’s active participation in the labor force can have a tremendous positive impact on the
developing economies of Morocco and other MENA states. The McKinsey Global Institute found
that supporting women’s economic advancement could add 12 trillion dollars to the global GDP by
2025 and grow MENA’s economy by eighty-five percent. The World Bank estimates that higher
female labor force participation rates could lead to a twenty-five percent average increase in
The root of the issues of female participation in the labor force lies in inactivity - not
unemployment. Family opposition and traditional gender roles create rigid barriers for women,
especially in a rural setting, their domain is confined to that of the domestic. However,
globalization and increased pushes for equality have ushered in a new wave of changes.
Moudawana, or Morocco’s family code addressing gender equality and rights by raising the
minimum legal age of marriage and limiting divorce and polygamy terms, among other terms, thus
giving back the innate rights of women that have long been forgone. Morocco decreased barriers
to form cooperatives further encouraging women’s involvement in the economy. This is a huge
step forward for Morocco in addressing the systemic inequalities that are so deeply integrated.
This progress, though commendable and remarkable, is just the first step. The path to sustainable
development and equality is one that is not easily trekked. Through their partnership with the
High Atlas Foundation, a Moroccan NGO, the cooperative was given a platform and the skills
training necessary to grow tremendously. The cooperative embodies what is possible with this
support and facilitation of development.
The time for these changes is long overdue. The time for these changes is most certainly now. It
starts with the simplest action - it starts with the women of Cooperative Aboghlo Women of
Ourika taking initiative, the children of Morocco attending school, and most importantly, it starts
with the education of the marginalized people.
The future should not be a mere continuation of the past. It takes a single lifetime of empowered
women to spurn generations of empowered girls.
Sarita Mehta is a student at the University of Virginia studying Politics and Economics,
Review from Guidestar
Aboghlo women’s cooperative and their business partnership
On Monday July 1st, a group of students who are on a conflict resolution and peace-building class at George Mason University (GMU) and their professor, accompanied by HAF President Dr. Yossef and HAF Director of Project Ms. Amina, visited the Aboghlo women's cooperative in T’nine Ourika. This cooperative could be stated as one of the success stories that HAF is proud of. In fact, after great efforts and continuous work, these women are now in partnership with an international French cosmetic company. This makes them the first women’s cooperative in the whole area to sell its product directly to a trading partner without going through intermediaries. This way the value added coming from growing aromatic plants goes to the producers.
During the presentation made by the cooperative, Dr. Yossef told the women that visitors may think that this place has always been this way: nicely painted and looking like a business place with glass display windows in the front and a sign etc. The project took time and patience to grow and advance until the cooperative now cultivates, dries, and exports plant products to France. Preparing soil by plowing, sowing seeds and taking care of the crops was and still is a male domain in Morocco. However, these women did everything themselves including plowing, seeding, caring, harvesting and post harvesting. They are proud of it and all they want is to see their efforts fairly rewarded.
As one could expect in any partnerships, conflicts may occur between partners. During this visit, women raised the question about the prices if their product. The discussions engaged between the women, Dr. Yossef and Ms. Amina were a good opportunity for the GMU students to witness how they discussed the issue and how they worked towards a solution and a compromise to settle the problem.
It was interesting to observe the approach and technique used by Dr. Yossef as a facilitator, including asking personal questions, building trust, initiating conversations between GMU students and the women. Within the process, it was such a nice coincidence to find out that the students’ supervisor and Rachida-the president of the cooperative-both have eleven years old daughters.
It was a good sign of group wisdom to hear one of the women members of the cooperative say: "In these situations it is normal to have these kinds of exchanges between us but always at the end we come together and settle on a compromise that serves the collective interest".
In the end, we all shared a meal prepared by the women of the cooperative and shared laughter and smiles as one of the GMU students stated: “We don’t share the same language and it can be difficult to communicate, but a smile is worth a thousand words and it speaks more than words can ever do”. One thing that we could agree on is how delicious the meal was;I couldn’t resist not buying their cookies before leaving.
Review from Guidestar
A Visit to Tassa Ouirgane
HAF Intern, graduate student
On a sunny Friday morning, the High Atlas Foundation took us on a field trip to the village of Tassa Ouirgane in the Al-Haouz province. Our small but very international group consisted of students from the George Mason University in Virginia, student volunteers from all over the world, and staff members of the HAF.
Our first stop was about one kilometer before the village of Tassa Ouirgane. We were led down a small path and found ourselves in the middle of the tree nursery of the village. 40’000 olive tree saplings, funded by the United Nations Development program, are grown here right at the border of the Toubkal National Park. HAF has assisted the village community both in implementing various community projects, including in irrigation, erosion prevention, and with a women’s cooperative. With partners, the village has managed to build a well, has developed a system to avoid the erosion by the river of their farming terraces, and in advocacy by and for the village towards Moroccan and international agencies.
After the visit to the tree nursery on the terraced fields, we continued our way into the village. Our group was warmly welcomed by the members of the local women’s cooperative who hosted us in the village’s school building. The Tassa Ouirgane cooperative is open to all unmarried female members of the village community and currently counts 14 members who meet on a weekly basis. The cooperative generates income by collecting, drying and selling wild medicinal herbs such as thyme. In addition, the women produce pastries and collect Ghassoul (natural mineral clay found in the High Atlas used for cosmetic purposes) for sale. After we got the chance to taste the homemade pastries, HAF director of projects Amina El Hajjami then held a workshop with the cooperative members in which they discussed the current agenda of the cooperative, such as electing their officers and having all members apply for identify cards so that they can be included in the official registration. All cooperative members participated in what appeared to be a lively discussion.
It was time for lunch. As it was a Friday, our hosts had prepared couscous that was greatly appreciated by the guests. The group was curious about the content of the workshop. What challenges do they face? What have they learned? What are their plans for the future? HAF president Yossef Ben-Meir acted as a translator from English to Darija and vice versa to initiate a conversation. It appears that the main challenge the cooperative is facing at the moment is internal communication. There is a need to find a system that updates the whole cooperative about the activities of the individual members and defines responsibilities. In this way, the coordination of work can be enhanced, and duplication avoided. They discussed as well that the working time of members should be recorded to have an overview of the effort that goes into the cooperative. In the future, the cooperative hopes to upscale its activities regarding the sale of wild herbs. The aim is to also offer herbs in the form of essential oils, for which a much higher quantity of herbs is required. However, the cooperative needs to develop a partnership agreement with the national park authorities to allow the increased collection of wild herbs. This is where HAF can also be helpful, through assisting their communication with this and other public agencies.
One further point in the discussion was to schedule an election for the presidency and other positions of the cooperative. An election or vote is only held when all 14 members are present, which to me pictures a very democratic understanding of the cooperative, in which all members have an equal say.
The Tassa Ouirgane women’s cooperative to me marks an impressive example, of what becomes possible when young people bundle their capacities and work together. It seemed to me that the cooperative is proud of its activities and has found a way to contribute to their community in a way that empowers the individual members.
Review from Guidestar
Revitalizing the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development
Morocco is on its way to being the hub of solar energy in Africa.
Brooklyn Wenbo Wu
Promoting the use of solar energy is an effective way which not only provides more access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all, but is also a feasible method to address climate change. However, immature photovoltaic technology, low conversion rate in practice and high installation and maintenance cost frequently block the technology from being widely used, especially in Africa. Surprisingly, supported by the Ministry of Energy, Mining, Water and Environment of Morocco, the Institut de Recherche en Energie Solaire et Energies Nouvelles (IRESEN), in Ben Guerir, Morocco, has made good progress in innovation and social application of the solar energy use. Through promoting global partnership and increasing multi-stakeholder engagement, IRESEN has made a solid step towards the hub of solar energy use in Africa.
Aiming at build the bridge between scientific, technological and research communities in solar energy use, IRESEN attaches great importance in the engagement of national universities and institutions. Relying on the platforms of numerous universities and institutions in Morocco, IRESEN is able to build research and test platforms nationwide, as well as collect relevant research from different institutions and academies. For instance, constructing next to the Mohammed VI Polytechnic University, the Green Energy Park is responsible for massive of IRESEN’s photovoltaic technology and solar panel development programs. Every year, the Green Energy Park receives more than 100 of interns from universities and institutions all over the world, and jointly promote cooperative research projects with universities and research teams in Morocco. Today, using the facilities of different universities, including the University of Hassan II in Casablanca, Mohammed V University in Rabat, and the Cadi Ayyad University in Marrakech, solar data of major cities and regions across the country are gathered and analyzed in the Green Energy Park, to help with the development of solar panels. The involvement of universities and academies significantly break the boundary between academic and technological communities, thus offered global talent and a broader experimental platform to the solar energy research.
In order to support its research and promote the practice of solar energy in industrial productions, IRESEN established global partnership to gather global resources and try to contribute universal solutions to global issues. Working closely with the EU, IRESEN receives both financial and political support for their projects and proposals. Despite this, IRESEN also established partnership with other governmental sectors. For instance, Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA) contributed a technologically advanced experiment chamber to the Green Energy Park. A joint call for energy technological cooperation was also initialed by IRESEN from Morocco and Center for Development of Industrial Technology (CDIT) from Spain in 2018. In 2013, IRESEN worked with Bureau of Architecture and Energy of Germany and initialed a project aiming at Promote the innovative use of solar energy in electrical appliances. Global partnership significantly strengthens IRESEN’s ability both in academic research and practical application. In fact, IRESEN’s solar energy project is also a hub and a typical example of North-South cooperation, where not only European, but developed countries globally engaged in the sustainable development process of Africa.
Serving as the hub of solar energy use in Africa, even for the world is the long-term vision of IRESEN. Although IRESEN has made significant achievements in solar power using in Morocco, there still much work to do to actually generate a driving effect and lead the clean energy business of Africa. To address this issue, IRESEN is now working with 15 African countries including Mali, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Nigeria, Niger, Ethiopia, Guinea, and Chad. Not only to encourage and promote both governmental and private sectors’ engagement in solar energy use, but importantly, to test the solar energy products under different climate and environment conditions, thus to improve the solar panels and help to better integrate photovoltaic technology with local industry development. This vision also co-responded to the United Nations call of ‘Sustainable Energy for All’, and could effectively address the Sustainable Development Goal 7: Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all. Therefore, it could be predicted that the solar energy development of IRESEN will provide a strong impetus for sustainable development in Africa, and could truly become the hub of solar energy use in Africa.
Generally speaking, engaging global and regional partnership truly put the solar energy project onto a new stage. In the deepening trend of globalization, the human race is facing numerous of global issues, among which climate change and resource exhaustion are the main problems of human destiny. Therefore, this age needs the revitalization of global partnership and the sense of shared responsibility of mankind more than any other ages do. Not to mention that by engaging global partnership and involving multi-stakeholders, projects aiming at addressing global issues could be better supported with finance, academic resources and political attention. With international and regional cooperation in multiple levels and fields, the solar energy project of IRESEN can benefit local development to a great extent. People should not be surprised when Morocco truly becomes the hub of solar energy use in Africa one day in the future.
Review from Guidestar
I began to understand the reality of fetching water
By Caroline Kirk
HAF Intern, UVA student
Stepping onto the campus of the American School in Marrakech was like being transported to a completely different world than what we had thus experienced as High Atlas Foundation interns the past three weeks. After visiting women’s cooperatives, speaking to young women who stop their education at primary school, and witnessing adult women write their name for the first time, the monetary donation received felt like so much more.
Receiving a check from these elementary students, Dr. Yossef Ben-Meir, the President of the High Atlas Foundation, said, “Because of you, there will no longer be parents who have to decide whether to send their daughters to school or to fetch water.” Because of a school walk-a-thon, a major barrier to development and education will be systematically overcome in some capacity. Hearing this, I was filled with a weight, knowing that Ben-Meir’s words speak to a developmental reality and dynamic partnership at work.
The High Atlas Foundation and the American Schools of Marrakech have important common objectives of expanding the environmental education, spreading the green fields in rural schools, providing clean drinking water for schools, and developing rural school infrastructure. These nobel goals and alignment of values were evident in the conversation led by the Head of School Jean Brugniau in the ceremony at the end of the year celebration. He spoke directly to his students and parents, encouraging community participation and engagement. The picture perfect setting and positive commitment to excellence stood out to me as unique to this country and the Moroccan priorities that we have come to understand as interns and students.
What felt like a Hollywood movie school set with smiling parents, dancing young children, and a field of happy and sweaty soccer players, quickly became the backdrop to real, tangible change. I cannot even remember what my own elementary school walk-a-thon raised money for. This schools donation is a true testament of hard work, community support, and the participatory approach beginning from integral fundraising and passion.
Review from Guidestar
The door is always open at the High Atlas Foundation. Often, it is literally open in an attempt to generate some airflow in the office. It is also open in the sense that people are constantly going in and out. My friend Shermeen says it’s like a talk show and you never know which guest will next walk through the door. During my week’s time at HAF, I’ve met staff members and volunteers from Morocco, France, Germany, and more. I’ve met journalists from Germany and anthropologists from Spain. I’ve also met Moroccan farmers who tend to tree nurseries high in the Atlas Mountains.
Today, I had the pleasure of meeting 14 high school students from Richmond, Virginia, travelling to Morocco as a part of Envoys travel programs. Their exploration so far has consisted of stops in Rabat, Fes, traditional Berber villages, and now Marrakech. When Dr. Ben-Meir asked what they felt was the purpose of their trip, students had answers such as increasing cultural awareness and sharing awareness upon their return. They also spoke about personal goals like challenging their own comfort zones. The goal of their visit with HAF was to have discussion about integrating education and development.
Spurred on by thoughtful questions, Dr. Ben-Meir explained what development means to a foundation like HIgh Atlas in a country like Morocco. A connection was made between the “experiential learning” the group has had in Morocco and the “participatory development” of HAF. The purpose of participatory development was defined as “helping people solve their own problems.”
This is what has stood out to me the most about the mission of HAF: empowering people to make their own decisions and truly see themselves in the outcomes. Much like how the office door is always open, the High Atlas Foundation has opened many doors for development across Morocco.
Essaouira may stand as a great example to the world for how religious diversity should prevail: Jewish, Muslim, and Christian communities have historically co-existed in Essaouira peacefully. While other regions of the world are endlessly fighting over religious matters, it is both interesting and delightful to observe how the Essaouira people get along with each other so well.
I am Peter Wu, a Chinese student currently studying at Western University in Ontario, Canada. During my third week in Morocco, I was brought on a journey with the High Atlas Foundation (HAF) to the city of Essaouira.
So, what was my expectation before the trip? Frankly speaking, my knowledge of the area was so limited that I had no sense of what to expect in Essaouira. Nonetheless, it turned out to be a very insightful experience; even with no expectations to fulfill, there was still a sense of fulfillment in the journey.
Morocco is an Islamic state—a fact that was rooted in my mind. Therefore, it was a surprise to me in Essaouira that the land is not only home to Muslims but also Jews and Christians, whom equally enjoy everyday life and have the right to practice their own religions. A Christian church was the first place we visited; then we went to a mosque, where we sat on carpets and listened to a choir of local Moroccan kids sing. Lastly, we visited a Jewish museum where Jewish ancestors’ histories were commemorated. “Rich history rich culture,” I thought.
What could I relate to from this journey?
I grew up in Guangzhou, China, a megacity located in the country’s southern region. People there are kind and welcoming, and many hold a sense of pride to their hometown. Guangzhou is home to a unique language spoken only by locals, and which is relatively distinct from Mandarin (China’s official language): Cantonese. You get used to people not speaking Cantonese on the street. Locals of Guangzhou are proud of their culture, but that is not the only thing that makes the city special. Guangzhou is fast-growing—the population continues to increase. As a result, car traffic is congested, leading government leaders to constantly look for new solutions to alleviate it. However, attempts to avoid the traffic by taking public transportation has resulted in crowds at the train station to pour in and out like water flow when a train comes by. Also, on the streets, large crowds quickly walk by Canton Tower every night, resembling ant colonies. Insofar, sometimes you might wonder if Guangzhou has changed from the culture and the distinct linguistic feature it once represented.
Nevertheless, I am glad that the city in which I grew up has a value of tolerance for all, just like Essaouira. There was never hatred for newcomers or outsiders from Guangzhou; the city welcomed all people with open arms. Guangzhou is not fearful of others who try to settle and be a part of the city—the culture continues to absorb and to renew itself from “the new.” People have mutual respect for each other and try to understand the differences between them without judgment. Perhaps this is why the city is always marching forward: it gains strength from new people, and when those people become a part of the city, Guangzhou is strengthened as a whole. Of course, there are problems and disputes at times, but the city’s attitude is always positive.
Guangzhou is great, but there was something else I was lacking the knowledge of when I grew up. Guangzhou believes in diversity, however, you rarely witness diversity of religion there. As you can guess, this is the aspect I liked about Essaouira: a perfect example of what I had previously been unexposed to, where the Jewish, Christian, and Muslim people are living harmonically in the same city.
There are 77,966 people living in Essaouira—a small population—making it unusual to see such a religious mixture. While it is a small region, I feel a much greater sense of inclusion. I suppose people in Essaouira are living happily. Vivid proof, to me, includes the people I observed walking the streets before Iftar and the peddling vendors by the roadside. One question I have to ask is: did the peaceful and happy lives of people in Essaouira bridge the gap between religions, or did the religious harmony provide the foundation of pleasant life? In other words, which of the two came first in Essaouira’s history, and which of them is more of a determinant?
This may be a tough question to answer, but regardless of what you think, the reality is that communities in Essaouira enjoy cohesion and peace. Therefore, the question I posed becomes less significant. The message many other parts of the world could take from Essaouira is: let the people have a good quality of life and embrace the diversities in their religions. After all, we are all the same in that there is no real difference among us in the existence of humanity.
RURAL WOMEN ACHIEVE THEIR SELF-EMPOWERMENT IN TAALANIT VILLAGE
By Sanae Benaadim
On April 4th, HAF and local Moroccan women embarked on a new, exciting adventure! HAF's team, including Fatima Zahra Laaribi, Amina El Hajjami, Houria Chouhab, Martine Roberts, and myself, went to Taalanit, a small village located in the Setti Fadma commune of the Al Haouz Province. As we approached the hillside, we passed by fascinating landscapes riddled with marvelous changing colors.
The first day of the Imagine four-day empowerment workshop began by meeting the rural women next to a local café. It was facilitated by Amina EL Hajjami, HAF's Director of Projects. Amina led this training, with the aim to help women of Taalanit empower themselves and better their livelihoods.
Amina started the workshop in the local language of Tashelheit with a brainstorming activity of introductions, challenges, motivation, and available solutions. This method had an effective way of breaking the ice with the 46 participants aged between 16 and 60 years old, most of whom do not speak Arabic. Although there were no responses at first, caused by a lack of understanding regarding new concepts and words such as “training,” one woman had the courage to take initiative in answering some questions. As a result, others were encouraged to participate in the discussion as well.
As discussions unfolded, women spoke up about the different factors controlling them, such as traditional rituals and social norms in their community. The following statements particularly caught my attention:
“Whatever we do, men do not give verbal recognition of our hard work.”
“When [men] just speak, we fear.”
“We are selling ourselves to men.”
“Men are not normal if they help their wives.”
In my opinion, male domination is highly prevalent; they have the upper hand in rural areas of Morocco. I have been told that most rural Moroccan women have only two advances in life: the first is to move from their parents’ house to their husband’s; the second is from their husband’s house to the grave.
The second day of the training was a surprise to us as the participants enthusiastically arrived full of wonder and ready to explore. This time, they had the will and passion to make progress in their lives. Amina led a “room exercise” for determining the women’s weaknesses and strengths. We found that sources of personal power are commitment, discipline, inner guidance, a support system, lightness, love, and finding your own truth. Additionally, any activity we need to accomplish requires the power of imagination, which fosters passion to achieve dreams and, thus, leads to happiness.
Education is also very important in life. Notably, I observed that in every meeting we facilitated, most women we spoke with asked about education. Especially after learning more about Amina’s academic and professional experiences, participants developed a strong belief in a need to be educated in order to get a job and earn money of their own.
One of HAF’s important objectives is to empower rural women, guide them in having a clear vision of their lives, and to make a positive impact on them. It is often difficult for others, particularly men, to have insight into the value of women’s daily work both inside and outside of the house. The participants had voiced this value as a result of the workshop, and affirmed that if they give themselves value, then men will do the same.
Before leaving Taalanit, we asked the women what they learned from the empowerment training to which we received many positive responses. One participant said, “Unlike the past, our eyes and brains are opened now.”
Review from Guidestar