Having spend two weeks with HAF, I was quite impressed with the scope of their work and the zeel that they bring to their efforts. Sans the technical details, they were willing to accept advice and learn from others. These comments apply to my work advising on their nurseries and in their office completing the required paperwork.
My name is Tim Ager I spent 2 weeks in Morocco under a USAID sponsored Farmer-to-Farmer program, in Marrakesh and Fez. I worked closely with the High Atlas Foundation (HAF) and everyone involved was professional, helpful and extremely friendly. They facilitated in making my assignment successful, and I would not hesitate to work with them again. I found HAF to be a well run organization with great morale and camaraderie among the staff - who all enthusiastically welcomed me and made me feel at home.
I spent 2 weeks in Morocco under a USAID sponsored Farmer-to-Farmer program, in Marrakesh and Fez. I worked closely with the High Atlas Foundation (HAF) and everyone involved was professional, helpful and extremely friendly. They facilitated in making my assignment successful, and I would not hesitate to work with them again. I found HAF to be a well run organization with great morale and camaraderie among the staff - who all enthusiastically welcomed me and made me feel at home.
In an arid country like Morocco water is exceptionally precious. Water is available in some places but hard to access. High Atlas Foundation is dedicated to expanding orchards of all kinds through its series of tree nurseries which it then contributes to interested farmers. High Atlas Foundation quickly learned that without water these orchards would not survive. They have now expanded their work to include acquiring water, designing drip irrigation systems and generally doing what is necessary to fund and grow successful tree crops.
I served as a volunteer for over two weeks for the High Atlas Foundation (HAF) in Marrakesh, Morocco. The purpose was to assess the operations of their tree nurseries and to make recommendations on improvements in their nursery operations and tree distribution programs to rural households. I worked closely with the staff and traveled to the field to observe the operations of the HAF. I found the staff motivated to work with me and include me in their activities. I observed their nurseries in several locations and saw first hand how they produce and deliver tree samplings (almond and walnut) to villagers. I was impressed by their work with women cooperatives and building their capacity to improve their status and household livelihoods by producing Calendula for L'Oriel in Paris. I would strongly recommend HAF to anyone who wants a volunteer assignment in a great country, very cordial and polite people, and work that is both satisfying and rewarding. Gregory Sullivan, USAID Farmer to Farmer volunteer for International Executive Service Corp (IESC), Washington, D.C. USA
Moroccans and Foreigners Working Together
By Said El Bennani, HAF Project Manager
Each person is shaped by his own unique life experiences. One pivotal experience in my life that helped me to truly understand what it means to be an engaged, contributing member of society was my internship with the High Atlas Foundation.
In 2010 I moved from my hometown of Kelaa M’Gouna in southeastern Morocco to Marrakech to study at Cadi Ayyad University. I graduated in 2014 with a bachelor’s degree in geography. Normally students of geography travel throughout the country to study the topography, but unfortunately my studies were confined to just the classroom.
After graduating from university, I interned for three months with a government agricultural office in Marrakech. During this time, I worked with agricultural experts and visited farmers in their fields in Al Haouze Province. I also participated in field and theoretical trainings. I was finally able to study the physical land that I had only read about in books during university! It was very exciting for me to see first hand how Morocco’s unique geography plays a key role in our country’s development and economy.
Being in the field gave me an opportunity to learn from the local people and to hear about their experiences. It was during this time that I first heard about HAF’s work. HAF already had active projects in Al Haouze where I visited with my colleagues. However, at the time, I did not know very much about HAF and was not aware of the scope of their work.
In Marrakech I met several foreigners, including one person who asked me about my career aspirations. After I mentioned my experience interning at the government agricultural office, the foreigner told me about HAF and encouraged me to look at their website.
After hearing about the High Atlas Foundation from farmers, co-workers, and even a foreign tourist, it was clear that I needed to find out more about this organization. In February 2016, shortly after finishing my first internship, I visited HAF’s office. Fatima Zahra Laaribi, the office manager, was the first person I met at HAF. The way she greeted me greatly surprised me! She was very friendly and very kind. Eventually I was invited back for an interview to discuss my background, experience and interests. I also had the privilege of meeting HAF’s president, Dr. Yossef Ben-Meir, whose down-to-earth, humble demeanor made an impression on me.
February 8, 2016 was my very first day as an intern at HAF, and I remember that day well. The office was already buzzing with many foreign interns and volunteers who were all congregated in one room while I sat with other office staff in another room. I was sure that I would have a chance to learn new skills and gain valuable experience with this international team. That day I was the only Moroccan intern and it was a little difficult for me to work with all the foreigners due to the language and cultural differences. Dr. Ben-Meir took notice of the fact that I was the only Moroccan amidst the group of foreigners and encouraged all of us to learn about and from each other, share our experiences and skills, and contribute to each other’s work. We took Dr. Ben-Meir’s suggestion to heart and discovered that together, we made a stronger, more effective team, forming strong bonds and friendships as we worked together on projects such as building a new outdoor structure that provides shade from the hot sun for women who work in the fields in the countryside. One example of successful cross-cultural collaboration was my experience working with one of the foreign interns who had also studied geography in her native country. She was very knowledgeable about geographic information system (GIS). My own knowledge of GIS was more limited, so I was able to learn from her and together we made maps of HAF project sites.
During my HAF internship, I was very fortunate to closely observe the president, Dr. Ben-Meir, perform his work and to learn many valuable and useful things from him. For example, I noticed how he is able to effectively communicate and connect with both the local people and the local administrators. He introduced me to community leaders throughout the country and also to many foreigners who are committed to promoting economic development in Morocco. I visited most of HAF’s project sites which provided invaluable insight into both the successes and benefits of the projects as well as the challenges.
I returned to Al Haouze in January 2017 to help distribute trees in schools for HAF’s big, annual tree planting celebration. It was a joy-filled experience planting trees with the students and teaching them how to care for the trees and how to appreciate and respect nature and the environment. Seeing their genuine interest in the tree planting project was very gratifying and I realized that I really enjoy this type of work.
HAF’s work has benefitted even my hometown, where trees were sent on behalf of HAF to my former primary school. When I studied there as a young child, there were no trees at the school. Now the school has its own well and enough water to take care of trees. I am very happy that the students at my former primary school had an opportunity to receive trees and learn about taking care of them, which I never had a chance to do when I was their age.
My dream job is to manage a major project in my country of Morocco and devote my time and energy to helping people gain the necessary skills and experience to earn sustainable incomes, thereby supporting and strengthening their families and their communities. My HAF internship prepared me well to carry out this work. In May 2017 I will move to Fes in northern Morocco to oversee HAF projects in that region. To say that I am excited about this opportunity is an understatement. I feel truly blessed and am honored and humbled to be able to help my fellow Moroccan citizens by doing this work. I also am very grateful for the people at HAF who are not only my work colleagues but also my good friends. Working with the HAF team has been a special and life-changing opportunity.
In closing, I wish to thank Dr. Ben-Meir for his life work and all that he has done and is doing to help Moroccans improve their standard of living and be self-sufficient. I also wish to thank the amazing, dedicated HAF team, including the interns and volunteers from Morocco and from all over the world, for welcoming me so warmly and teaching me how to be part of a multicultural team. I have learned that we can all benefit from collaborating together and respecting each other’s differences. I appreciate each person at HAF very much and thank everyone for the wonderful opportunities to join the important work of creating a more prosperous Morocco.
My experience with HAF was the best experience ever, I have learned too many things: Self-motivation ...., and the circumstances were good enough to make some new friendships with the other volunteers, The cop 22 was a good opportunity for me to discover a new world of business , politics ...
I would like to thank HAF for giving me the chance to be one of its volunteers, If you want to try some of the voluntary work, HAF is the best place for you.
My volunteer experience with HAF was amazing! I learned a lot of things during three months, I was taking pictures in many different events and activities, and this reminds me of the great moments I spent in the international event COP22. It helped me to develop my personality and have the ability to talk to strangers with various languages Arabic, French, English and sometimes Amazigh, I was also an active member in the office with so many volunteers that I am glad to know.
I would like to thank HAF for giving me the opportunity to experience new things and know more about myself.
"Morocco is a country that reveals its essence only to those who take the time to draw water and to pour a pot of tea."
- Moroccan Proverb
Time and tea - the two magic words in Morocco. Two of the most important lessons you will eventually learn in Morocco are that everything takes time, just be patient and to never say no to a cup of tea. Over the last 3 months I had the pleasure to work with the High Atlas Foundation and live in this wonderful and diverse country. I came here with the objective to experience the day-to-day life of a conservationist, to gain practical knowledge in the field of conservation and sustainable development and to truly get to know the Moroccan culture by living in it. Without any doubt, this time was one of the most valuable experiences that fully reinforced my plans to work in conservation and rural development as well as to continue my carrier in Morocco.
Within my time at the High Atlas Foundation I reviewed proposals and matched donor interests to High Atlas Foundation projects. I established multiple project descriptions on the fundraising platform Global Giving and by this gained an in-depth understanding of the diverse range of projects the High Atlas Foundation conducts. Additionally I had the opportunity to evaluate Sami’s Project, a project that aims to facilitate environmental education of children and enhance school infrastructure. For that I visited 15 schools in the Al Haouz province near Marrakech, questioned teachers and students and examined tree vitality and water supply. Seeing the glance in the children’s eyes when they talked about the tree planting event gave me great joy. It was a great pleasure to see the literal fruits of HAF’s hard work over the past years.
Furthermore, I accompanied HAF’s President Dr. Yossef Ben-Meir and the retired Peace Corps Country Director of Morocco, Ellen Paquette, to a business trip around Morocco. This trip taught me that working in sustainable development is not only about professional expertise but also means to be diplomatic, emphasize networking and meeting people, discussing, introducing ideas and learning how to deal with setbacks and money shortcomings. One of my personal highlights was the distribution of a thousand trees in the commune Zerkten in the High Atlas Mountains. Seeing the farmer’s thankfulness and appreciation gave me great trust that they will take good care of the trees so that they will grow up to be strong and healthy.
However, I did not only learn a lot about sustainability and conservation of biodiversity, but I was also completely overwhelmed by the generosity and hospitality of the Moroccan people. I made good and true friends in the office and outside the office, who treated me like a dear sister and directly involved me in their life. From the first week on I got countless invitations from their families, probably more than I got in Germany in a whole year. Everywhere I went, I was welcomed most warmly and treated with incredible hospitality. In general there was not one day, where I felt lonely or out of place, because there were always friends around to join me for dinner or a stroll through the medina or even just a good conversation with a friendly women in the bus or the public Hammam. One experience especially moved me: It was when I travelled back to Marrakech in the early morning after a weekend trip to the mountains. Next to me sat a women, who was travelling to Casablanca and we had a very funny conversation, because we used a mix of Arabic, French and sign language to understand each other. Shortly before we arrived Marrakech she gave me two eggs for breakfast, the only eggs she had with her. I was moved by her generosity, because she had a far longer trip, but she gave me her provision anyway. And that’s essentially Moroccan hospitality: they show you their appreciation by giving you food, lots of food. If they feel you are not eating enough, they will persuade you to eat more and trying to trick them by eating slow will not work for sure. Food is, just like tea, a form of Moroccan appreciation that you should acknowledge and cherish.
Morocco is a land of countless possibilities, a country that will surprise you every day and of amazing, astonishing beauty that will keep you breathless. From days, where the bright sunlight warms up the city, to intense snow storms in the desert or heavy rainfalls that turn streets into rivers, I experienced everything. I also experienced the unbreakable spirit of young Moroccans and their urge to change their country for the better. Morocco is a country that undergoes massive, but peaceful changes, be it in the transition from subsistence agriculture to cash crop farming, the empowerment of women or the decentralisation and democratisation. Being part in this process of sustainable development was a true honour and a priceless experience that propels me to pursue my postgraduate studies in Conservation Biology, but always with the goal in mind to apply my newly gained knowledge in Morocco. It is hard finding the right words to describe my love for this country and its residents, who gave me more than I can ever repay and leaving feels close to impossible. I will indescribably miss the chaotic hustle and bustle of Marrakech’s medina with all its colours and scents, I will miss drinking more than my body weight in sugary mint tea, I will miss hiking through the peaceful countryside of the true Morocco and I will even miss waking up at 5 o’ clock in the morning from the melodic but noisy prayer call. Morocco was an incredibly experience. At times, it was trying, chaotic, and overloaded my senses, but for all the stresses of adjusting to a new culture, it was a country where I felt completely in my element and at home. A big thank you to the High Atlas Foundation and all the people I met during my stay. You made my time in Morocco so much more valuable and gave me more than I can ever repay. I will always keep you in my heart and be forever grateful for meeting you. Thank you.
COP22 was a successful opportunity for High Atlas Foundation, for Morocco, and even for myself; to expand the business network, to learn from international initiatives and creative ideas. Moreover, it was an awakening event for everyone to get aware to act on climate change, and to get whatever it takes to save our planet. In addition, attending the “Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network” event was very valuable for me as I heard international stories of indigenous women fighting climate change all over the world making it an international cause, getting to know that I myself can do something, feeling strong with them.