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2020 Top-Rated Nonprofit

High Atlas Foundation

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Nonprofit Overview

Causes: Economic Development, Environment, International, International Agricultural Development, International Economic Development, Microfinance

Mission: Developing a self-sustaining future for Morocco

Programs: Establish and development projects in different parts of Morocco that local communities design and manage, and that are in partnership with government and non-government agencies

Community Stories

168 Stories from Volunteers, Donors & Supporters

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

Meet Hajiba Boumasmar, Program Coordinator of the High Atlas Foundation

The High Atlas Foundation

The High Atlas Foundation (HAF) is an American-Moroccan nonprofit that focuses on different areas: youth, women, water, capacity building, cuture, and agriculture. HAF's work in the agricultural sector includes building tree nurseries, planting seeds, planting and distributing saplings and monitoring tree growth. HAF has a focused program on cooperatives funded by USAID called “farmer to farmer” to follow up with agricultural cooperatives and women’s cooperatives and provide them with American agricultural expertise. At HAF, we facilitate youth workshops and a special series of Imagine empowerment workshops to help women build and run cooperatives. The sessions include everything from managing financials to building interpersonal relationships. We distribute food where needed and we plant trees across Morocco with partners like FRÉ. We are aiming to plant 1 million trees all over Morocco by the end of March.

My role at HAF

I’ve worked for HAF for one year and gained a lot of skills and knowledge. I’ve developed a lot both professionally and personally. I have a masters degree in the biotechnology of trees and sustainable development of agriculture. I started volunteering with HAF as soon as I graduated. I’m currently responsible for the tree nurseries: monitoring the logistics, soil, saplings, and more. I work with the team that monitors the trees and distributes them. It’s amazing to see the trees grow! I’m also a program coordinator, meaning I’m the liaison with people in the field. And I’m in charge of financials.



How FRÉ & HAF grow and plant Argan trees together

Argan is the tree that is most in demand in Morocco, and most endangered. We have to save this tree—it’s our heritage. It is challenging to grow argan seeds. FRÉ, one of our wonderful partners, supports the Imagdal nursery, which is a special tree nursery just for argan. It has the best conditions for the seeds to grow and the caretaker has the right skills and competence. We have adopted new agricultural techniques and almost 90% of our seeds become saplings. Once they grow, we plant the argan saplings in the Essaouira region.

FRÉ has planted a total of 33,000 argan trees in Morocco and has committed to planting another 32,000 argan trees in 2021. These trees support the environment and women’s cooperatives in the region.


FRÉ has committed to planting 32,000 trees in 2021 to support the environment and women’s cooperatives in the region.

Why argan matters

Argan is Morocco’s heritage. It is endemic to the country. It’s our gold and it’s our duty to protect and save this resource. There are lots of strategies to conserve the trees here. HAF’s main strategy is to increase the argan tree population by planting more. If there isn't enough water the adult trees can survive, but they are vulnerable and need the right care and attention in the first 2 years.

The impact of argan on the environment

Humanity has had a negative impact on the environment. But one of the things we can do to save the Earth is plant trees. Planting trees reduces CO2 and produces oxygen. Reducing the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere has a huge positive impact on the environment, as it reduces climate change. Additionally, the roots of the argan tree also stabilize and nourish the soil around it.

The impact of argan on women’s cooperatives

If women have jobs, they can support their children, family and community. The majority of the women in the cooperatives are illiterate or have limited formal education, but working for a cooperative is a way for them to learn and become financially independent. When we plant trees, we plant them with women’s cooperatives. The argan tree is their livelihood; the women work to produce argan oil from the trees’ kernels. We work with five cooperatives in the region, each of which are made up of 30-35 women.
The majority of the women in the argan cooperatives have limited formal education, but working for a cooperative is a way for them to learn and become financially independent.

Argan is used to produce cosmetics and cooking oil. These products are produced differently. Most cooperatives prepare both types of oils. The oils sell well. Producing argan for skincare is a complex process and a certification is needed. Most cooperatives start with cooking oil and work their way up to skincare oil.

The challenges facing women in Morocco in 2021

Society still oppresses women. Internally, women have so much power, but they need help to harness their abilities for the betterment of themselves, their families and their communities. At HAF, we help women discover their abilities. I love running the empowerment workshops that help women discover their talents.

HAF’s vision for the future

HAF’s mission is to help local women and youth to implement sustainable development projects that will in turn support rural communities and improve the economic situation in each family. By planting trees, we fulfill this mission. It’s not easy, but it is achievable. I’m grateful to be a part of this mission and to be able to help empower my community and country.

1 Nabil B.

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Rating: 5

FAMILY MEDIATION & RECONCILIATION IN MOROCCO | USMBA LEGAL AID CLINIC, FES
By Sofia Ashooh, Program Manager & Nabil Bouagba, Program Coordinator

On November 7, 2020 the Legal Clinic housed at University Sidi Mohamed Ben Abdellah’s Faculty of Economic and Social Legal Sciences in Fes (FSJES-USMBA) held trainings on family law in Morocco, specifically mediation and reconciliation. These are two of several thematic trainings designed to strengthen the capacity of students who are preparing to become student clinicians.

Professor Moutaki, a specialist in family law, facilitated the session designed to give students practical information on family mediation. Indeed, training relating to this topic is of crucial interest to clinicians insofar as they will be responsible for playing the role of family mediator, in order to avoid any recourse to court. Due to their academic training as lawyers, the clinicians were able to understand and follow the training with the professor by asking him relevant questions relating to special and practical cases. Some students already had a background in family law, which made this training particularly pertinent.

In addition to allowing students the time to discuss important questions related to family mediation, Professor Moutaki also focused on building their capacity in terms of soft skills related to family reconciliation. Mr. Moutaki discussed his experience related to the determination of the legal domain of family mediation, as well as their main characteristics and the cases in which mediation cannot be applied.

Students were then encouraged to apply what they had learned in the form of an interactive skit supervised by Professor Moutaki with the aim of better understanding the concept of mediation by clinicians. A student shared that Professor Moutaki’s roleplay exercise “solidified the theoretical information.”
Lack of access to legal aid
During the previous week, on October 31, 2020, Professor Amir el Mazarah facilitated a session on family reconciliation. Professor el Mazarah began with a word on the importance of family in society. He emphasized the importance of protecting it by effective means, hence the need for a technique for dealing with conflicts within the family. Professor el Mazarah specified the legal nature of this technique, its main characteristics, and the situations in which family conciliation cannot be applied.

Family mediation and reconciliation is particularly important in Morocco. Financial restrictions are a primary reason why people don’t seek legal advice, and this constraint is exacerbated for people facing family disputes. Furthermore, emerging data shows that all types of violence (particularly violence that occurs at home) against women and girls has intensified since the outbreak of COVID-19. This indicates a need for legal counsel, and a decrease in access due to public health restrictions. The clinic offers virtual counsel to increase access to those who may not be able to leave their home -- whether it be for health or safety reasons.

These sessions were one of several trainings organized by the High Atlas Foundation that is designed to prepare students to become practitioners of pro bono legal aid to people in vulnerable situations in the Fes-Meknes region. Students have also received training on topics including but not limited to migration, asylum, and participatory communication.

Learn more about how you can support the efforts of the Legal Aid Clinic here.

The High Atlas Foundation is working in partnership with the Faculty of Economic and Social Legal Sciences at the University Sidi Mohamed Ben Abdellah (USMBA) in Fes to operate and grow a Law Clinic and Legal Aid program which actively engages students in experiential and service learning for the benefit of marginalized communities in the Fes-Meknes region. The project is funded by the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) and the U.S.-Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI).

1 Moulay Hassan A.

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

If you prefer mint in your tea, then you should read this
By: Moulay Hassan Aladlouni
HAF Country Director
Marrakech: A few years back, Moroccans started talking about how the use of pesticides negatively affected their desire to use mint when making tea. When I asked why, someone explained that many farmers use pesticides when growing mint that are harmful to the human body. At the time, it was not clear to me why people stopped using mint. After attending a webinar on pesticides safe use, however, I fully understood why and how pesticides can harm humans.
On November 12th, the Agricultural Volunteer Opportunity Program (AVOP) organized a webinar where Tim McCoy, an extension associate at Virginia Tech, gave a talk to participants who were largely from African countries. The webinar covered topics such as exposure to pesticides during application, disposal of spilled pesticides, keeping pesticides away from home, and finally unsafe residues found on vegetable crops.
Exposure to pesticides during application
When applying pesticides, it is imperative that applicators wear personal protective equipment (PPE) at all times. The first and most important protective item is a good pair of gloves. They not only protect applicators, but they also set the standard for safe applications and serve as a visual reminder of the potential risks applicators face if not worn. PPE can be seen as an unnecessary expense, but farmers should be reminded that this is a good investment to protect their health.
Another factor that can reduce pesticide exposure is the nozzle that the applicator uses. Full cone nozzles and flat fan nozzles can give good coverage without exposing the applicator to the harmful pesticides as much.. On the other hand, pin streams and hollow cones can more easily expose farmers to pesticides. Therefore, before applying pesticides, the applicator should read the instructions carefully and use the nozzle that will provide better protection.
The third factor that will protect farmers and others from pesticide exposure is reentry intervals (REI). Each pesticide’s package will specify how long one should wait before reentering a treated field. Many farmers overlook this recommendation for two reasons: either they do not read the instructions or they do not read them thoroughly. A good practice to reinforce this, and remind others, is to label the field in a way that specifies when people can safely re-enter that area. The label must be visible, readable, and weather proof. (see graph)
One downside to PPE that often deters farming from using PPE is that it can also add to heat stress risk, which can look like pesticide exposure. Symptoms include disorientation, impaired sweating, headache, pupil dilation, and unconsciousness. There are two heat risks: heat exhaustion and heat stroke. The first can have symptoms such as excessive sweating or muscle cramps. The signs of heat stroke include no sweating, nausea, or vomiting.
Disposal of spilled pesticides
When pesticides are spilled, it is best to use the three Cs protocol: Control, Contain, and Clean-up.
The first priority should be to control the leak or spill so it is stopped immediately. Once the spill or leak is under control, it is important to contain the contaminated area in order to keep the spill from spreading any further.
Next, the farmer should clean up the spilled pesticide using rags or other material that will help absorb the pesticide. If the pesticide can be reused, do so immediately or return it to its proper storage container until time for use. Otherwise dispose of the pesticide and all cleaning materials safely.
Lastly, dig up the contaminated soil, spread it in a safe space, and leave it in the sun for plenty of time to decontaminate.
Keeping pesticides away from home
When applicators finish working with these dangerous chemicals, they should follow a protocol to keep pesticides from entering their living quarters. Knowing that pesticide residues can be found on clothes, applicators should follow these steps each time they are working with them
Wear PPE
Wearing PPE is the first step to protecting one’s skin and clothes from exposure to harmful chemicals. PPE Also Limits the amount of chemicals that might be transported from the field and into the home.
Use different clothes for work
Clothes that are worn for application should be kept separate from everyday clothes, as they may become saturated with the pesticides.
Keep applicator clothes separate
Remove any work clothes before entering your home. Avoid mixing clothes that are used for pesticide application with the rest of the family's clothes.

Do not mix clothing that has been exposed to pesticides with the rest of the laundry. Washing these clothes together could cause the pesticides to transfer onto other family member’s clothes and cause them harm.
Use hot water and soap

Hot water and soap is crucial when washing clothing that has been exposed to pesticides. This will help break down the chemicals and remove them from the cloth.
Discard clothes if badly contaminated
Clothing that has been saturated in pesticides absorb the chemicals and cause a risk of exposure to the wearer. These clothes should be thrown out immediately to reduce the risk of further exposure.

The main thing to keep in mind is that pesticide residues can get into your food or your pet's food, resulting in serious illness. Therefore, keeping contaminated clothing away from home altogether is the right thing to do.
Unsafe residues found on vegetable crops
Several scientific studies in the last ten years have shown that many vegetable crops retain unsafe pesticide residue at harvest. Almost 10% of tested produce had unsafe levels of residue. This is caused by three main factors: use of banned pesticides, overuse of acceptable pesticides, and not following recommended waiting periods before harvest.
Farmers choose to use banned pesticides because they are cheaper or because they do not know that certain pesticides are prohibited. Others use higher concentrations of acceptable pesticides thinking that it will protect the crop better.
However, the most common factor in traces of pesticides being found in food is rushing to sell the produce to reduce the cost. Farmers will harvest produce before the end of the recommended waiting period, meaning the produce may not have had enough time in the field for the pesticides to wear off. This results in having pesticide residue in the marketed produce.
What is the solution?
Higher concentration of pesticide residues can cause acute illnesses. More concerning effects are the chronic ones such as cancer, endocrine disruption, neurological dysfunction, and mutations.
To prevent this from happening, farmers should seek training to protect themselves, their families, and other people. The USAID Farmer-to-Farmer (F2F) program can be of good use to farmers who are looking for pesticide use experts. F2F can bring experts from the U.S. to work with farmers to learn how to use pesticides safely.
Moulay Hassan Aladlouni is the High Atlas Foundation’s Country Director of the USAID Farmer-to-Farmer Program in Morocco.

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

As part of International Entrepreneurship Week, the Legal Clinic (CJFD) of the Faculty of Economic and Social Legal Sciences at the University Sidi Mohammed Ben Abdellah (USMBA) in Fes and the High Atlas Foundation (HAF) organized a training for students in partnership with the Observatory of Technology and Corporate Governance and the Regional Council of Fes- Meknes. The theme of the training was "Entrepreneurship from Vision to Implementation,” which took place on Friday, November 20, 2020.

Those present at the training included several entrepreneurship specialists: Mr. Mustafa Ghalib, Mr. Abderrahman Haddad, and Mr. Abderrahim Shmiaa. The Dean of the Faculty of Economic and Social Legal Sciences at USMBA, Dr. Mohammed Bouzlafa was also present in addition to the director of the Legal Clinic, Mr. Said El Bakkouri, and Director of Programs at High Atlas Foundation, Ms. Imane Akhezzane.

The subject matter experts began by presenting their professional backgrounds and their history of engagement with entrepreneurship in a professional capacity through the formation and strengthening of various partnerships. Mr. Mustafa Ghalib shared with the group that entrepreneurship is a lifestyle that begins with a vision, followed by actions and the application of various skills in order to create a company.

In the rural world, the creation of cooperatives and other organizations is a vital component in the capacity building of young minds in order to benefit employability, according to Mr. Abderrahim Shmiaa. The facilitators shared that vision must be at the core of all activities because it allows us to visualize the future and our direction, without detaching ourselves from the values of sharing, an important element in our lives.

The facilitators then shared a quote from Marcel Proust: “The true voyage of discovery is not about looking for new landscapes, but about having new eyes.” This sentiment allowed the participants to consider the impact of communication and perception of things. Mr. Ghalib presented the participants with information related to the nervous system and how it relates to motivation. He shared that motivation is the means of engaging the parties by manipulating the three components that form the basis of the creative unconscious: cognitive mind, somatic mind, and field-relationships/system.

According to the facilitators, limited beliefs and motivational growths are states of mind that impact us either positively or negatively. An entrepreneur is a project manager that has the role as the lead with a vision of the future, and they must manage the means to reach an objective.

Mr. Ghalib shared his recommendations to break into the field of entrepreneurship. He shared with participants that they must follow their intuition and stay true to their beliefs. He highlighted the importance of vision in guiding their path. He also shared the importance of mission and ambition in reaching their goals, and that of good communication and a strong network of contacts.

Entrepreneurship is first of all a choice, but it is also an adventure for those who have the capacity to take risks. Above all, it is necessary for an entrepreneur to reflect on their vision, values, and mission before making decisions.

The session concluded with a lively discussion with many questions on how to develop the young entrepreneurial spirit. In a part of the world where the higher level of education results in a higher likelihood of unemployment, discussions such as these which focus on empowering students to achieve their goals are vital. This session was one of several trainings organized by the High Atlas Foundation that is designed to prepare students to become practitioners of pro bono legal aid to people in vulnerable situations in the Fes-Meknes region.

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“To save lives, stay at home!”

These words are an injunction to avoid the worst of the health crisis. It was the necessary collective response to the outbreak of a virus whose human-to-human transmission caused the first pandemic of the 21st century.

In this crucial period, one wonders if humanity is worth more than material possessions and profit.

Morocco is one of the African countries most affected by immigration. Refugees require added considerations including legal aid and financial assistance — these needs are heightened in a time of crisis such as a pandemic.

In this context, the High Atlas Foundation has partnered with the Faculty of Economic and Social Legal Sciences at University Sidi Mohamed Ben Abdellah in Fes to launch a legal clinic to benefit the general population. The clinic promotes access to justice by providing free legal aid to refugees, among other vulnerable communities in the Fes-Meknes region.

The impact of the pandemic is worse for migrants and refugees
No matter who we are, the pandemic has come to impact our way of thinking and functioning. It invites us to examine our true nature. How can we face the challenges to come if not by refusing the old way of doing things and opening our hearts?

The COVID-19 pandemic has been a disaster for humanity and people from all walks of life, but it has been an absolute catastrophe for the world’s most vulnerable: migrants, people seeking asylum, and refugees.

Almost 34,000 refugees per day are exposed to acts of violence, loss of culture, and family separation. The COVID-19 pandemic is a new threat that could prove to be more devastating than the events forcing them to flee their homelands.

The situation in Africa is daunting with 6,348,744 refugees recorded in 2019, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. Simultaneously, this pandemic is hitting the continent at a time when it is facing an alimentation crisis of exceptional proportions.

It’s hard to imagine coping with the virus with no access to basic needs, and this is the tragic reality for far too many refugees and displaced families around the world. They face immense amounts of fear when being forced to leave their hometowns by war or other unlivable conditions. Once they arrive, there’s no hope of isolating because of overcrowded conditions and no shelter to stay safely inside.

Furthermore, preventative measures to avoid illness are often not possible. Many refugees and migrants lack funds to provide for themselves beyond their most basic needs and are forced to work under less than ideal conditions in order to make ends meet. How can we ask them to choose between starvation while being confined to their homes or risking their health in order to earn a wage?

How can we ask people in such situations to protect themselves when they do not have access to basic hygiene materials? Or to self-isolate when they live in one place with multiple individuals?

The pandemic is challenging us to ask these difficult questions whose answers reveal a global health system that lacks any sign of humanity. It is necessary to unite citizens and the state to overcome this crisis that has affected all levels of society.

The intervention of humanist values (Islamic philanthropy): protecting the world’s most vulnerable people

A way to move through this crisis is through the generosity of others.

Islamic philanthropy (IP), also called Islamic social finance, refers to zakat. It is a pillar of Islam that presents itself in the form of financial mechanisms such as donations or investments that fight poverty and foster socio-economic development.

Whether it is a monetary contribution, a gift of food, or psychological support, there is nothing more honorable than helping others. “Zakat is not just a fundamental pillar of Islam. It is also a revolutionary concept with the potential to ease the suffering of millions around the world.”

The current crisis requires wealthier individuals and institutions to put their hands in their pockets. Civil society and government must bring solidarity and humanity to the forefront in order to weather this pandemic.

The UNHCR revealed that they have recorded “over 1 million Zakat beneficiaries through the Refugee Zakat Fund” amid the COVID-19 emergency. This shows the generosity that has come about as a result of Islamic Philanthropy, as well as the potential for change.

To assist refugee families and individuals who are experiencing income loss due to enforced quarantines, cash assistance programs have been put in place as well.

As Allah (SWT) tells us in the Holy Qur’an: “And be steadfast in prayer and regular in charity: And whatever good ye send forth for your souls before you, ye shall find it with Allah” (Qur’an 2:110). In this spirit, to avoid irreversible damage, every member of society must continue to contribute and share responsibility in order to protect those who are most vulnerable.

This is a historical crisis that must challenge our economic and political systems. The time has come for the return of humanist values.

The role of the legal clinic in assisting refugees

The Legal Clinic is a non-profit organization run by student volunteers from the Department of Legal Science at University Sidi Mohamed Ben Abdellah in partnership with the High Atlas Foundation. It is funded by the National Endowment for Democracy and the US-Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI).

Its role is crucial in a society that welcomes refugees and asylum seekers. Law students are trained to aid displaced persons in all matters related to their settlement, including but not limited to citizenship, employability, and security.

During this difficult time, refugees will benefit not only from financial aid, but also from legal counsel, thus facilitating the continuation of their lives by providing them with opportunities for work and integration into society.

The role of the foundation is to promote the humanist aspect of this global refugee crisis, committing the society to exploit its human, natural, and material resources to support those who are most vulnerable.

Let us detach ourselves from egoism and commit ourselves solidly against this virus.

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By engaging members of the steering comity and encourage them for their important role in the association, we decided to thank them by sending them a letter of appreciation and celebrate one year of engagement since the creation of this comity!

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Rating: 5

Reviving a Monastery for Community Development
By Lamia Radi
Rabat, Morocco
In Morocco’s Middle Atlas Mountains near the town of Azrou, travelers come for hiking or to see the famed Barbary macaque apes in the Cedar Forest. Near Azrou, nestled high in the mountains and overlooking the green valleys below, the Toumliline Monastery was established by a group of French monks in 1952 because it was “suitably remote for contemplation,” as noted by a Time’s journalist in 1969. Pressured at first by colonial authorities to try to convert the local Amazigh tribesmen to Christianity, the monks refused, explaining that it would cause the people to be “outcasts in their own country.” Instead, they planted an orchard.
Morocco has long been a place where East meets West. There are churches, cathedrals, and other Christian sites. Yet, due to the changing political climate of the 1960s, the once thriving monastery of 40 dwindled down to 7 and to three and finally closed in 1968. Before that, it was a place open to people of all beliefs. The monastery welcomed students and local villagers for practical training in how to deal with differences of opinion. It was the site that brought together those of the Abrahamic faiths - the “Three Religions of the Book” - to find shared values and common ground. From the French Jewish philosopher, Emmanuel Levinas, to the local farmers, hundreds of people from different religions, ethnicities, continents, and social statuses gathered to debate how different faiths could live together and interact for the benefit of the majority.
Today, the High Atlas Foundation, the Association Mimouna and the Foundation Memories for the Future work all together and with the local people to restore this once-vital part of the community for economic and cultural development. Through several planned projects, the site will concretely and symbolically teach us the lessons of openness, compassion, and cooperation.
They will gather the recollections of the region’s inhabitants for preservation of the important interfaith dialogues that took place at the monastery, adapting them for transmission to new generations.
With the monastery as a base for trekking tours, visitors will have the opportunity to experience sleeping in the monks’ rehabilitated living quarters and visit the small museum that will be created with a permanent photo exhibition, cultural tourism activities that will aid the local economy. By connecting to existing structures in the region, the project will gradually expand and diversify.
Visitors will also be treated to local honey for consumption or purchase when the monks’ bee-breeding program is reintroduced in partnership with a Moroccan association. This project will train local youngsters in the techniques of honey production as a sustainable venture.
Another project will train youth to be “global guides” to transmit to visitors important information about nature and the local ecosystems as well as the history of the monastery and the monks who lived there, how they interacted with the local communities, and the interfaith dialogues that took place within the monastery’s walls. Both projects for Moroccan youth honor the history of the monastery as an orphanage and place of teaching Islam to the young children, as meaningful today as it was in the past.
Partners in developing these tourist activities include the Ministry of Tourism and the city of Azrou, its institutions and local associations. The Ministry of Culture has also recently opened a small museum in Azrou dedicated to the history, culture, fauna, and flora of the region. In addition, a women’s cooperative that produces handmade carpets is supported by a collaboration between the nearby Al Akhawayn University in Ifrane and the Azrou Center for Local Community Development.
The crown jewel of the plan is to restore the monastery’s two famous gardens, one botanical - to heal the body with medicinal plants - and one Buddhist - to heal the mind with meditation. HAF’s partnership includes training in arboriculture skills and planting a fruit tree nursery with local seeds, a formerly significant agricultural activity benefiting farming families of this region. Taking care of the site long term will provide jobs to local gardeners as well.
Together, these partnerships and projects represent the rich heritage of the area and the philosophy that was the foundation of the monks who sought a place to meaningfully live their faith. With the revival of the Monastery at Toumliline, the people will enjoy the “fruits of community” planted in that long-ago orchard.

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Lamia Radi, President of the foundation, is a political scientist and a career diplomat. This project has been developed by the Memories for the Future Foundation, a Moroccan NGO founded in 2008 that is dedicated to countering radical and violent ideologies in the Maghreb through the revitalization of interfaith sites and meaningful historical events.

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Forests capture more than carbon. While through the mechanism of photosynthesis, plants are experts at retrieving carbon dioxide from the air, they have also perfected strategies to retain water in their natural surroundings. When thinking of the benefits of future forests, it is crucial to think beyond the tree level. Tree roots loosen the soil, and by creating macropores, they drastically increase infiltration rates and help recharge groundwater levels. The effect of just one tree on those soil properties can be measured within a radius of 25 meters around the tree crown. So, by planting just a hundred trees, an area as big as 32 full-size football fields can be restored.

Reforestation reduces the risk of ecosystems drying out in a warming climate by keeping water in the soil. But that is not all. Through their roots that hold onto fertile soil, they prevent erosion and reduce the risk of flooding. Especially in mountainous areas, these properties are essential to keep farmland fertile. And because healthy soils lead to thriving communities, trees planted with the High Atlas Foundation provide a promising future for farming communities in Morocco.

The much-needed positive effects of newly planted forests go far beyond the local scale of villages, cities, and countries. Researchers have recently discovered that forests are the main link for oceanic precipitation to reach the drier continental regions. By releasing water vapour through tree leaves, forests create clouds and cool the climate dramatically. Through this recycling of rainfall, water gets transported over long distances, and the release of microorganisms and organic compounds triggers rainfall along the way. Hence, investing in trees means the containment of carbon, retention of water, support to livelihoods, and, most importantly, the creation of a green link into our future.

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Rating: 5

An Expression of Gratitude for my Internship Experience with HAF

It’s been a month since the conclusion of my virtual, remote internship with the High Atlas Foundation. I wasn’t sure what to expect going into the internship, but in hindsight, I couldn’t have imagined a better remote experience (other than maybe one that happened in-person, in Morocco).

The internship took place during a difficult time in our world. There was (and still is) a global pandemic going on, as well as re-exposure of gross injustices happening against Black men and women in the US (and abroad), and hence, a massive outpour of anger, sadness, and support for the Black Lives Matter movement. I say this because these dark, sad truths of the world were (and still are) sometimes difficult to process on my own. For that, I was grateful to have my fellow HAF-UVA interns, as well as Yossef, Katie, and Sanae from HAF, for eight weeks— in the thick of it all— to have the hard conversations with, and sort through, cope, and better understand these realities of the US, Morocco, and the world.

Further, given that our international internship was conducted remotely in the US, I appreciated the way Yossef, Katie, and Sanae encouraged us to make the connections between our lives and reality in the US, and that in Morocco and the work HAF does. I appreciated the effort they put into showing, creating, and allowing us to experience Moroccan culture as much as possible, even though we couldn’t be there this summer. I appreciated the regular and consistent communication with Yossef and our HAF supervisors, and the way they allowed me to explore different avenues of HAF’s work and complete a variety of tasks. I was able to work on a few different projects, from the EU grant proposal for the Legal Aid clinic, to writing a blog post, and interacting with HAF’s audience through a Facebook Live on HAF’s page for World Rainforest Day (alongside fellow intern Leigh Kesser), and some others in between.

If it is not yet clear, all of this is to say I am grateful for the kindness, care, knowledge, and skills shared, and conversations had, during my time interning with HAF. I deeply appreciate the work HAF is doing in Moroccan communities, as it aligns with some of my strongest values, and I gained insight into the ways that it is impacting Moroccan people.
Ultimately, times have been tough for people everywhere, and this pandemic has affected us all in different, yet real and hard ways. My internship experience with HAF provided some light, connection, and purpose during this time, and for that I am eternally grateful.

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My Experience with Grant Writing for the High Atlas Foundation

As this was my first opportunity working on a grant proposal, I did not know much about the content and format of proposals previously; however, I knew that writing one was an important skill to acquire. Furthermore, I was able to explore new areas of the High Atlas Foundation’s work. I was intrigued not only by their agricultural projects and economic development and sustainability, but also by their work promoting women’s empowerment, on which my project focused. Researching for this proposal, I learned the ways trees are planted, monitored, and all of the work that needs to be done in preparation. I admire HAF’s mission to advance education, environmental conservation, and socio-economic development through a participatory approach. Through the process of growing fruit trees at education centers, HAF raises awareness for the preservation of the environment, while also promoting the benefits of small-scale tree cultivation. This project reaches a vast number of schools and communities, spreading environmental and community benefits to all. As a result, students will have a deeper understanding of significant economic and environmental viability of organic fruit tree agriculture, the preservation of traditional seed diversity, and approaches to ensuring continued tree cultivation in the face of water scarcity and rapid climate change. In areas where 80% of incomes are derived from agriculture, it is essential for youth to learn skills in this field. This project is extremely important for spreading awareness and teaching community members agricultural skills.

3 Sanae Benaadim

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

Changing the Destiny of Women during the COVID-19 Pandemic

By Sanae Benaadim, HAF’s Office Manager & Volunteer Coordinator

Can you imagine that due to COVID-19, several problems related to women have only increased, but these issues haven’t been given attention? For years, different NGOs worked on empowering women and gender equality, but with the unexpected appearance of an invisible enemy (the virus), those activities that used to raise awareness about injustices and discrimination against women have been stopped.
On Tuesday, July 21, Fatima Zahra Laaribi, Administrative Support and Finance, Farmer-to-Farmer program and I participated in a virtual platform in the Multi-Stakeholder Hearing Accelerating the Realization of Gender Equality and the Empowerment of All Women and Girls as part of the preparations for the high-level meeting of the General Assembly in accordance with UN GA resolution. The virtual platform was held and facilitated by the United Nations Conference Services, and it was live-streamed on UN Web TV and social media channels. Participants entailed world leaders, NGO representatives, and intergovernmental organizations from around the world.
The main objective of the multi-stakeholder hearing was to evaluate the outcomes and recommendations of the 25-year review processes as well as the situation of women in the 64th session of the Commission. In addition, it was an opportunity to exchange experiences and lessons about women's situations among speakers from various countries through interactive dialogues for the implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action.
I noticed that the situation of women in each country differs from their needs. One of the critical areas identified by the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action is violence against women and education. Besides physical and sexual violence, women also experience state-perpetrated gender-based violence. Empowerment must begin from home. Both parents should equally participate in the children’s activities apart from other household responsibilities. Also, an honest and courteous exchange of ideas can plant the seed for successful equality. I believe that those three words can be the first step toward the resolution of women’s issues in general: education, empowerment, and equality.

The High Atlas Foundation’s heart is with women. It has the vision to continue to provide as much support as possible by preparing and developing new trainers for the IMAGINE Women’s Empowerment Program. Coaches will host and facilitate virtual webinars in order to train the apprentices. Once COVID-19 is under control and conditions are safe, HAF will begin direct workshops with women in their communities as always and provide them the support they need.

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Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

What does the 20th of January mean to HAF?
Sanae Benaadim
HAF's Office Manager and Volunteer Coordinator
Every third Monday of January, HAF takes the initiative of planting trees in different places around Morocco. I heard many positive things about this special day back when I was a volunteer. And I wished to be part of it one day!
President Dr. Yossef Ben-Meir, USAID Driver Lahcen Ait Ouatouch, the volunteer Giovanni Ferreira Cunha, Tree Monitoring Officer Hajiba Boumasmar and I headed towards Lala Takerkoust to the Ajbane Al Olfa Cooperative that produces goat cheese first before planting trees with the farmers. We met with the president of the cooperative, who shared with us glimpses of their daily hard work, such as feeding 60 sheep every day for six and a half dirhams per animal.
Hajiba and I started the activities with a speech about HAF and its missions with Moroccan communities, how it is important to plant trees around Morocco, and why HAF is working on this project. We talked with farmers, who freely expressed their gratitude towards us. They talked about the problems that they face daily, and we shared information regarding planting pomegranate trees.
After finishing the workshop, we gave the one thousand trees to the farmers. With the help of Mr. Hassan Chaarouf - to whom I offer sincere thanks for transporting us to the beautiful planting sites - we drove to see the first farmer and to plant the pomegranate trees. I saw the farmer’s strength and his love towards his land. In fact, he told us that he had previously refused many lucrative offers to sell his land for buildings.
We continued planting trees for two other farmers who lived far from each other, approximately 5 to 10 kilometers away. I was delighted at the sight of the silky soil and its color that matches the color of the mountains. It was an enjoyable atmosphere with hearts full of hope for how these trees will prosper in the future.




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Volunteer

Rating: 5

This article discusses the coalition between sustainable development and deradicalization, due to meeting individuals’ needs changing their understanding of belonging to society.

The Shared Characteristics of Sustainable Development and Deradicalization.

Houda Barroug
Marrakech, HAF Intern

Sustainable development refers to the pattern through which we meet human needs without compromising future generations’ ability to meet theirs. It requires a comprehensive approach with components that can be individually achieved, including but not limited to economic prosperity, independence, and social well-being. In some ways, individuals may become radicalized precisely because these components are not met.
In ‘The Three Pillars of Radicalization’, Arie W. Kruglanski and Rohan Gunaratna defined the 3Ns: three determinant factors that result in individuals’ radicalization. The first N refers to these individuals’ need to feel valued and personally significant within their society. The second determinant is the [ideological] narrative these individuals have been exposed to while growing up that influences not only their personalities but their relationships with their states, society, and environment. The third and final N refers to the network these individuals are embedded in that validates, if not nourishes, their narratives. While the literature on this topic mainly focuses on the reasons leading to individuals’ decisions to join extremist groups, deradicalization -- the ways we could disconnect them from these groups--is equally important.
The term deradicalization remains broadly used, usually referring to the programs, methods, and techniques aimed at stopping or controlling radicalization by the state. But is full-scale deradicalization possible? Are the rehabilitation programs sufficient and effective? To answer these questions, this article explains how sustainable development can decrease radicalization.
Sustainability as an integral part of the human development
Environmental education helps change our awareness, values, and ethics, all of which are fundamental parts of sustainable development. Sustainability acts as an organizing principle and connects bridges between different parties -- the state, NGOs, and civil society. It legitimizes state actions and is integral to economic and human development. However, we find that radicalization seeks to delegitimize the state and official actors and to create gaps between the state and its people, giving extremist groups the opportunity to brainwash and overtake the dominant rhetoric in the public sphere.
American psychologist Abraham Maslow argued in 1954 that people’s needs are ranked in ascending order from physiological to self-actualization. And according to Micheal Redclift’s Sustainable Development: Exploring the Contradictions, the priority of peoples’ needs changes in the course of development, from the satisfaction of basic needs, such as clean water, food, and shelter in developing countries, to more aesthetic and extravagant ones in more developed nations. Putting this into perspective with the three pillars of radicalization, achieving sustainable development helps to deradicalize society as it allows various groups to meet not just their basic needs but also psychological ones by fostering a sense of belongingness, accomplishment, and fulfillment. Met needs that achieve the people’s quest for significance change the narratives they are exposed to and their membership, or network, in the authors’ words, that adheres to the narratives. Sustainable development has a critical impact on social cohesion, human security, the efficiency of state institutions, and their alignment with society and individuals. Strengthening the relationship and trust between the different parties that constitute a society increases the feeling of belonging and self-value, which, if absent, pushes people to seek it elsewhere through radicalization.
Sustainable development for long-term deradicalization
Deradicalization programs have regularly been described within the realm of counter-terrorism strategies and policies as well as in the capture of violent extremists. This will not guarantee the end of a radicalized group, nor would the use of violence and military power, because these groups can continue to recruit more new members. However, offering prospective recruits concrete reasons not to join extremist groups in the first place has a greater potential to stifle the proliferation and existence of such groups. Meaning, as mentioned above, the people who seek radicalization tend to be those who have nothing to hold on to economically and socially. A study conducted in India by A. Nageswara Rao and Dr. Kumara Srivedi titled Economic Importance of Non-Timber Forest Products (NTFPs) in India has proven that sustainable development offers opportunities for poverty eradication, enhanced human well-being, and increased livelihoods that ensure the socio-cultural integrity of people. According to the study, as much as 50 to 90 percent of the total source of livelihoods of poor people is said to come from non-market natural goods and ecosystem services.
Sustainable development calls on everyone to participate. Local and small businesses and initiatives, for instance, enable the creation of wealth and skills necessary for a better future, cultivate personal significance, improve the quality of the economy, and target the gap between the rich and the poor. The state must give them a seat at the decision-making table, either directly or indirectly. Giving small communities the ability to learn and develop their own projects generates collaborative efforts and fosters free decision-making. Members of society learn the necessary skills to efficiently put the resources available into appropriate use. This requires engagement and a high level of commitment from various stakeholders for a sustained period of time. In the end, it will provide the economic stability and self-empowerment necessary for the people to achieve their goals.

Houda Barroug is an undergraduate student at Brown University and an intern at the High Atlas Foundation in Morocco.

Anya F.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

A Personal Journey with the High Atlas Foundation

Anya Faruki
HAF Intern / UVA student

As I conclude this virtual internship, I cannot help but reflect on the connections I made and the valuable skills I learned. Firstly, getting the opportunity to collaborate with a diverse group of people enhanced my communication skills, as I learned to adapt to the new circumstances of a virtual environment and improve my cultural competence.

Intercultural communication is a tenet that has guided me throughout this experience, as I constantly drew parallels and differences between the United States and Morocco. For instance, during our last meeting today, the UVA interns extended their gratitude to Yossef and Katie because they have been so attentive to our interests and constantly made us feel valued. One of the UVA interns pointed out that at her past internship, she met with her supervisor a few times over the course of the internship, but she was not given as much attention and equal treatment as this. When thanking Katie, Yossef, and other High Atlas Foundation (HAF) staff, I was thinking about the cultural component of this internship, as it played a huge role in shaping my relationships and comfort levels with HAF colleagues. The warmth and words of encouragement that were constantly reiterated made me feel validated and as though I was doing meaningful work.

In contrast, if I was to have done an internship in the United States, I feel that my colleagues and supervisor would have viewed me as inexperienced and unworthy of recognition. The reason I think this is because exchanges in the American workplace tend to be transactional and mainly focused on the completion of tasks. In Morocco, it seems as though the work culture is centered around relationship-building and individual development.

Another takeaway from this internship was the fact that I was still able to enhance my critical thinking skills and engage in a variety of tasks from a remote place. I am sure that if I had gone to Morocco, each day would have invited a new adventure for me to explore; thus, I would have been preoccupied with different activities and allured by opportunities for discovery. I was scared that the virtual conditions of this internship would limit my creativity and result in a lack of energy on my part. This unique virtual setting ended up re-energizing my passion for development work and desire to help marginalized communities due to the fact that I became more intentional about the articles and media I was exposing myself to.

I read personal accounts and heard from HAF staff about people’s experiences of not being able to continue their studies, having women’s reproductive rights policed, and seeing statistics of domestic violence cases surge during this pandemic. In absorbing all this information, I wanted to force myself to feel uncomfortable and envision myself in another person’s shoes. As a result, I humbled myself with these stories and fueled greater energy to affect economic and social change in my community and other corners of the world.

I will continue to hold myself accountable and take social responsibility for my life as well as the lives of others because in a world as unstable and scary as this, it is important to engage in small acts of kindness and keep service as a core value. To conclude, humility and discovery were the biggest takeaways from this internship, as I was able to find out more about myself as well as learn compassion from others. The High Atlas Foundation created a platform for me to raise awareness about historically silenced voices and delve deeper into my career interests, two areas of my life that I will continue exploring more in the future.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

HOW A PARADE OF PROTESTERS CAN INSPIRE A WORLDWIDE MOVEMENT
By Jacqueline Skalski-Fouts, HAF intern

In June I attended a protest for the Black Lives Matter movement in downtown DC. Despite the heat, hundreds of young people, most wearing masks (to limit spread of COVID-19) and carrying home-made signs, crowded the streets, which had been blocked off by police to stop traffic and make it safe to march peacefully. Along the sidewalks, families held signs in the shade, children on their parents’ shoulders, and people handed out water bottles and snacks.
The march began at Dupont Circle where Christele Mushagasha, who organized the event, spoke of the injustices against black people throughout the United States, and of the intentions of the march. She demanded change for the DC police department, including immediate jailing of officers who kill innocent people, reforming police training, and providing compensation to the families of the three recent victims of police brutality at that time—George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor.
After a short introduction to inspire the crowd, which included a performance by a local choir group, the march headed towards the White House, where protesters stalled, chanting slogans like “say their names” and “enough is enough.” A shrine of colorful papers, depicting images of people killed by police and some inspiring words, flowed gently in the breeze along the fence.
This is a movement that has captured not just the United States, but has made impressions on countries around the world. People are protesting in London, Berlin, Paris, and Sydney—demanding justice and an end to police brutality.
I think there is something inspiring in the way people can come together, the way someone in-need is taken care of, the way society embraces interdependence, especially at a time when we are forced to accept our own vulnerability under the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.
I saw this sense of solidarity best when everyone took a knee on the hot asphalt in remembrance of the death of George Floyd, and a woman to my left offered me the end of her scarf, which she laid on the ground to protect our knees from burning. And maybe this is what it means to be part of something—a community, a society, a movement. It was Margaret Mead who explained that the most important evidence of civilization was a broken and healed femur, because someone had stayed, tended to, and defended the one who was injured. The foundation of human connection is empathy, the inclination to protect. That was the most important and defining aspect of community, not the creation of clay pots or tools carved from rock.
Morocco is a good example of successful multiculturalism, where Amazigh and Arab, Muslim and Jewish, Mediterranean and African cultures coexist in relative harmony, yet similar outbreaks of anti-discrimination movements have centered around the Amazigh people, who make up 40% of the nation’s population. With the adoption of a new constitution in 2011, Tamazight (spoken by Amazigh) was recognized as an official language, and measures have been taken to include the language on road signs and in academic curricula.
But, in 2016, Mohsin Fekri, a fish vendor, was killed after trying to reclaim his confiscated product, leading to an outbreak of protests against social inequality. These protests developed into the Hirak movement, taking place mainly in the Rif region where many Amazigh live, condemning socioeconomic and race-based exclusion, corruption, and unemployment. Protestors clashed violently with police and by 2018, about 400 people involved in the demonstrations had been detained.
“Equality in law alone does not ensure equality in fact.”
These protests follow a similar theme to movements condemning violence against migrants and racial profiling. As irregular migration through the MENA region towards Europe grows, race-related discrimination follows, targeting the nearly 700,000 sub-Saharan African migrants (roughly 2.1% of Morocco’s population) who reside within the country.
Injustices against migrants have been a point of focus for international human rights groups since 2005 when sub-Saharan migrants were killed along the Spanish border in the enclaves of Melilla and Ceuta. Local organizations began campaigning against race discrimination, and in 2014, GADEM introduced a campaign with the slogan “Masmiytich Azzi” (My Name is Not Negro) in an effort to reduce race-related injustices and improve migrants’ legal status, which resulted in the regularization of over 25,000 migrants living in Morocco.
Morocco has since developed several policy initiatives to reduce discrimination, such as the National Action Plan on Democracy and Human Rights, and the Government Plan for Equality. However, as Tendayi Achiume, the special rapporteur to the UN for Morocco, comments, “equality in law alone does not ensure equality in fact.” It is up the people, the young and the old, to progress towards betterment, the first step of which is to recognize and acknowledge the existence of injustices. Our communities cannot grow unless every member is taken care of, unless every member has a sense of belonging and respect—that is freedom.
Perhaps this year, we can take these events as an opportunity to change what has failed us in the past, and rather than dwell on the injustices today, we can progress towards a better tomorrow.

Board Member

Rating: 5

A Common Vision: Multi-Actor Partnerships Worldwide for Renewable Energy

By kaoutar Ait Lahaj, Project Coordinator

During the first week of September, representatives of the Multi-Actor Partnership (MAP) project from around the world gathered for their monthly virtual meeting. The participants were from Morocco, represented by the High Atlas Foundation, India, Ukraine, Kenya, Kosovo, Senegal, Sri Lanka, and Madagascar.

The meeting’s purpose was to monitor the progress of the MAP project while appreciating and recognizing the success made so far. That the same project is being implemented in different countries with different policies and governments makes the processes unique and customized. However, it also proves that renewable energies are a topic that concerns all the nations no matter what their policies are, as they all share the same environment.

As the MAP project is reaching the end of the second phase of its implementation in most countries, some challenges are starting to appear, especially as participants are getting close to the execution phase. These challenges can be summarized in two categories: governmental challenges and partnership challenges.

In some countries, having an agreement with the government or even getting them involved in environmental initiatives is a real challenge. The second challenge is attracting partners from different sectors and fields and keeping them involved and interested in renewable energies.

These challenges had an even bigger impact during the pandemic of COVID-19, as it temporarily disconnected the partners and the government from the environmental goals that they were seeking and shifted their focus toward the fight against the virus. As a result, some projects were put on hold until the pandemic ends, and this may cause a delay in the project’s process.

Feedback and suggestions were exchanged during the meeting to help each country create solutions that are self-customized in order to deal with the current challenges, such as sharing success stories to re-motivate the partners to be engaged in the common vision.

The High Atlas Foundation continues to lead the Morocco-based MAP project, which is starting to reach the implementation phase. This will enable concrete results, and soon.

To help advance renewable energies in Morocco, please consider supporting our ongoing project on GlobalGiving: https://bit.ly/3kqB0PU.



Volunteer

Rating: 5

Leigh Kesser
HAF-UVA Intern

The Role of Technology in Virtual Work

When I first started the internship for the High Atlas Foundation (HAF), I also had to take a UVA class to complement the internship experience. Our first assignment, Envisioning Your Learning Chart, stated, “it is almost guaranteed that your internship will not be what you expect it to be.” There was no way I would have ever predicted my summer turning out the way it has, which is not necessarily a bad thing. Although I was and still am slightly sad that I was not able to physically go to Morocco, I am still so grateful to be able to learn as much as I can through a global, virtual internship. Even though I was hesitant about what a virtual internship would look like, I have been pleasantly surprised by how consistent we have been able to meet and talk, and I have enjoyed being able to get to know and work with my fellow interns. Working with the other interns and the HAF staff has made the virtual work feel more connected and meaningful.

When we were talking about the benefits and challenges of virtual work, I have somewhat struggled with keeping a consistent schedule. I tend to do my internship work at a variety of times throughout the day, and I would like to have a more regular schedule during the day. Maybe I’ll try planning out my week more. With the move to virtual work, Morgan, a fellow intern, brought up an interesting point about work-life balance in view of the fact that many people are now available on a 24/7 basis. I have also wondered how much technology will continue to be implemented in our daily lives, because it seems as if the pandemic has only cemented the integral role technology plays in people’s lives. It scares me how much society, including myself, relies on our phones, laptops, tablets etc., because I cannot imagine a world without these gadgets now. Especially with all the crazy events in the world recently, people rely on getting their news and social interactions through technology, which has its benefits. I hope the world will better learn how to use technology as a tool without it becoming a crutch we cannot live without. But, honestly, I think we have already passed that point.

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

Climate change is one of the major issues that humans face in this day and age. It is a phenomenon that has social, economic, and political impacts. As the progress of a community is directly correlated with the advancement of women and their capability to participate in economic, social and environmental development, women around the world are contributing to the reduction of climate change and its effects.
Moroccan women play a crucial role in the development of the community on a local and professional level. They support the reduction of climate change, for example, by working in agriculture. The High Atlas Foundation works with two groups of women in Toubkal National Park in the High Atlas Mountains who are engaged in planting organic fruit trees--almond, walnut, olive, and cherry trees-- in two separate nurseries.
Working with women in the High Atlas Mountains
Thanks to a project financed by the United Nations Development Program, the High Atlas Foundation facilitated the creation of an organic tree nursery, the implementation of a new well, and the organization of a participatory meeting and training concerning environmental protections with the farmers and the men’s association in the village of Tassa Ouirgane in Al Haouz Province. The project incorporated a crucial gender approach that is both encouraged and supported by the National Coordinator Microfinance Program UNDP-FEM Morocco.
After the project was completed in October 2019, HAF and Ecosia committed to the vision to plant 40,000 almond, walnut, and olive seeds and cuttings in 2020. The nursery is managed by the High Atlas Foundation and five members of the women’s cooperative in Tassa Ouirgane. The women have also benefited from a participatory approach meeting as well as empowerment workshops. They have established cooperative policies and procedures and participated in democratic voting for decision-making in the cooperative. They also learned more about cooperative management, how to plant seeds and irrigate fruit trees, and how to create and implement a strategic plan. In addition, they received visits and workshops about the needs of the nursery by an American expert that is part of USAID’s Farmer-to-Farmer Program.
In January 2020, the High Atlas Foundation, with Ecosia, helped 27 women in Aguerzrane village in the Toubkal commune of the Taroudant province to create a nursery of 30,000 organic almond, walnut, and cherry trees. The women in this village benefited from participatory approach meetings, empowerment workshops, and training about creating cooperatives and how to plant seeds and cuttings.
This project, in which women plant organic fruit trees, aims to:
Create an income for the women to enhance their quality of life and for the girls to complete their studies;
Learn how to plant several types of organic fruit trees;
Support the reduction of the effect of climate change by planting trees;
Provide fruit trees to Ouirgane commune, Toubkal commune, and for other Morocco communities;
Exchange knowledge and experiences with other women in other villages and other provinces in Morocco; and
Create a strong personality for the women and the girls and create a great relationship between the women in the villages.
Witnessing Women’s Transformations
Even though the women started work in the nurseries just four months ago, and even though they are from rural areas, they have already learned a lot about agriculture for the first time in their lives. They are very happy to work together, and they are starting to feel small transformations within themselves--step by step.
Each time I visited with these women, I witnessed a slight change in their personas. They are more positive and they want to know more. Instead of investing their time and thoughts into the opinions of others, they now focus on their own personal and professional visions.
One of the women was very timid during our first empowerment workshop. When I asked her to share her story with the group, she started to cry. She shared with us that she is divorced and has a daughter. She felt that society viewed her as a bad woman because of this. She admitted wanting to work but allowed her fear of what other people might say about it interfere with pursuing a job search.

After one year of workshops, meetings, and follow up, she is now the leader of one of the groups working in the nursery. Not only that, but she is also responsible for the management of the nursery along with her colleagues as well as the payroll for male caretakers. She is very happy about the way her confidence and self-image have improved through this experience. Through her involvement in the tree nursery and the empowerment training, she has begun to claim the power she has always harbored within her and feels more comfortable with who she is.

Review from Guidestar

1 Hamid H.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

مراكش في 2/3/2020
حميد حنتوم
مستفيد من الورشة التكوينية التي قامت بها مؤسسة الاطلس الكبير تحت عنوان "التمكين النفسي"
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نعلم جميعا أن الانسان غالبا ما تنخفظ معنوياته فيساوره شعور بالقلق والحزن فيحس أنه غير مسيطر على مجريات حياته وغير راض عنها، هذه المشاعر هي في الاصل جزء طبيعى من كتلة المشاعر التي تكوِّن الانسان، فعندما تتعاظم هذه المشاعر وتتراكم تحدث مشكلة تسمى مرحلة المرض النفسي.
فأنا بطبعي كانسان غلبا ما أحس بمثل هذا الشعور، ولتداركه
والحد منه الجأ عادة الى قراءة بعض كتب التنمية الذاتية أو مشاهدة مقاطع الفيديو قصد تطوير النفس وتحسين المؤهلات والامكانيات الشخصية العقلية منها والفكرية، والتي في نظري لا تجدي نفعا، بل لا همّ لأصحابها سوى الربح المادي فقط.
فلك أن تتخيل صديقي القارئ مدى سعادتي عندما حضيت بفرصة الحضور الى إحدى الورشات التدريبية التي قامت بها مؤسسة الاطلس الكبير تحت عنون "التمكين النفسي". لم تكن مجرد ورشة تدريبة عادية سواء بالنسبة لي أو لكافة المدعوين، بل كانت لنا بمثابة الدواء الشافي لما نحمله من مشاعر وأحاسيس سلبية تجاه أنفسنا وتجاه الغير، بل واكثر من ذلك فرصة كبيرة لمعرفة دواتنا وانتقالنا من حب الغير الى حب الذات.
نعم لم تكل مجرد ورشة تدريبية عادية، فعندما تترك قيادتها لعظيمي دولة الاردن الشقيقة الدكتور رياض محمد رمضان أبو شرف، والدكتور عبد الكريم الشافعي فستصل الى المبتغى لا محالة، فكلاهما حرصا طيلة أيام الورشة على جعل المتشائم متفائلا متيمِّناً، والمكتئب فرحا مسرورًا، والمنهزم منتصرا فائزًا، والفاشل ناجحا فلحاً، والضعيف قويا رزيناَ، وغيرها من الاحاسيس السلبية التي ترجمت لاحاسيس ايجابية ظهرت اثارها بشكل واضح على وجوه المستفيدسن.
الدكتورين القديرين لم يصفا الدواء فحسب، بل تعدا ذلك ليقدمو لنا ما يشبه الترويض الطبي لانفوسنا وأروحنا بشكل خاص، ولعقولنا واجسامنا بشكل عام، حيث قامو في بادئ الامر بتقريب المشاركين ببعضهم البعض، لتليها التعريف بالورشة وأهدافها ونتائجها تم السفر بنا الى معالم التمكين، والوقوف عند اسواره والدخول من مختلف ابوابه ومعرفة خباباه.
كانت نتيجة الورشة وبشكل جليّ أن كل منا تقرب الى نفسه وتصالح معها، فاصبح واثقا منها مؤتمنا بها، الشيء الذي جعله يشاركنا أفكاره ويقدم لنا أرائه ومداخلاته دون اي خوف وارتعاب، كما أصبح كل منا زميلا للاخر رغم فارق الاعمار والمستوى التعليمي والفكري حيت امتزجت تجارب وخبرة رجل في سن الثمانين بثقافة شاب في عمر العشرين، لتعطي لنا فكرة مفادها أن السن مجرد رقم لا غير، وأن الشباب شباب الروح والقلوب ابدا لا تشيخ، وأن في الحياة متسع لكل شيء، وان الانسان هو من يلون حياتة بطريقة نظره اليها، أحب ذاتك وسمو بها، فلا يمكن أن تحب غيرك مادمت لم تحب نفسك.
هذه خلاصة اليوم الاخير وسط جو يسوده فرح ما كتسبناه ممزوج بطعم ألم الفراق. وكل منا يمرر لهيب شمعة تحملها أنامله قاطعا الوعد على أنه كما أوقد شمعته سيوقد شمعة غيره، وكل ما لقِّن له سيلقنه لمن هو في حاجة إليه.
فشكري الجزيل لمؤسسة الاطلس الكبير في شخص رئيسها السيد يوسف بنمير على هذه المبادة القيمة
وشكرا كذلك صديقي واخي الرشيد منتصر على منحك لي فرصة الحضور.
الشكر موصول أيضا للدكاترة الكرام السيد رياض محمد رمضان، والسيد عبد الكريم الشافعي. قائدي واساتدة التكوين
شكرا لكافة الزملاء المدعوين اللذين لبو النداء وحضرو بشكل متكرر طيلة مدة التدريب.




Review from Guidestar

ainine

Client Served

Rating: 5

AININE Mohamed
Étudiant chercheur « Master Juriste d’affaires »
Faculté des sciences juridiques économiques et sociales de Fès

L'EXPÉRIENCE DE FORMATION DE LA CLINIQUE JURIDIQUE DE LA PERSPECTIVE D'UN ÉTUDIANT:

Faire partie d’une formation qui s’achèvera par la naissance d’une clinique juridique est d’une importance fondamentale et ce pour plusieurs considérations ; mais avant de les décortiquer, je me présente, AININE Mohamed, vingt-deux ans, étudiant en deuxième année Master « Juriste d’affaires » à la faculté des sciences juridiques, économiques et sociales de Fès.

De prime-abord et sans être Machiavélique, la finalité de la clinique est la suivante : donner un conseil juridique pro bono supervisé aux personnes marginalisées de Fès, notamment les familles et les immigrés des États qui subissent une instabilité politique, économique ou sociale…etc.

Cette finalité va certainement m’accorder la chance de m’améliorer grâce à la supervision, l’aide et l’accompagnement assurés par des Professeurs miroitants en droit, à l’image du directeur de la clinique le Professeur EL BAKOURI Said et du co-directeur le Professeur ALOUI Bouchta, qui sans leurs efforts et acharnements cette formation n’aura jamais vu le jour. Ceci dit, grâce à cette formation j’aurai non seulement l’opportunité de pratiquer mes acquis en droit, mais encore aider des personnes ayant besoin.

De surcroit, le programme de formation m’a été d’une très grande utilité, vu que celui- ci s’est focalisé sur l’essence du sujet, à savoir son esprit philanthropique. C’est pour cette raison que nous avons commencé par des séances de formation en développement personnel animé par un coach professionnel, Mohammed Squalli . Ce fut une occasion pour explorer mes propres objectifs - comment faire face aux obstacles- chose qui va m’aider ultérieurement à réussir mes projets personnels et professionnels. De même, nous avons discuté aussi les défis communs que peuvent affronter la clinique et les solutions à prévoir.

S’inscrivant dans la même démarche, les ateliers suivants m’ont été d’une très grande utilité, puisque je me suis approfondi en plusieurs matières juridiques relatives à la clinique notamment la conciliation familiale avec le Professeur Lamzaraa, l’arbitrage et la médiation à l’aide du Professeur Moutakki et enfin la question d’immigration dans son aspect juridique national, communautaire et international avec Mr. El Makouti du bureau des réfugiés et des apatrides de Rabat.

Katie Bercegeay « dirigeante des projets de HAF », nous a expliqué la démarche à entreprendre pour la réalisation de l’analyse S.W.O.T. par laquelle nous avons schématisé l’ensemble de nos forces et faiblesses, de même les opportunités et menaces que peut affronter la bonne marche de la clinique. La participation dans ces ateliers m’a permis de réaliser le fait que le moyen le plus efficace pour réussir la clinique juridique se concrétise bien évidemment dans le travail en groupe), le cas de la matrice S.W.O.T. en est la preuve.

En définitive, la ville de Fès comprendra un havre « au sein de la faculté des sciences juridiques économiques et sociales » où les familles et les immigrés, qui se trouvent dans une obscurité juridique, peuvent avoir toute espèce de renseignements sur leurs situations légales ; Ainsi, la clinique comportera un amas d’écrits qui sera mis à la disposition de tout étudiant souhaitant approfondir ses connaissances en matière de droit d’immigration, d’asile et de droit de famille.

Review from Guidestar

Client Served

Rating: 5

تجربة المصحة القانونية

السلام عليكم ورحمة الله
أسامة دمغي، 24سنة، طالب باحث تخصص ماستر الأسرة والتوثيق، حاصل على شهادة الإجازة تخصص القانون الخاص بكلية العلوم القانونية والاقتصادية والاجتماعية بفاس جامعة سيدي محمد بن عبد الله سنة 2018، وفي نفس السنة الجامعية 2018/2019 التحقت بماستر الأسرة والتوثيق الذي شكَّل نقطة الوصل بيني وبين مشروع المصحة القانونية بعد اختيار الأساتذة المشرفين على هذا المشروع بشراكة مع مؤسسة الأطلس الكبير لمجموعة من طلبة كلية العلوم القانونية والاقتصادية والاجتماعية بفاس على اختلاف مستوياتهم و تخصصاتهم العلمية ذات الارتباط بالدراسات القانونية للانضمام لأسرة المصحة القانونية، ليشكل هذا التنوع إضافة كان لها الأثر الواضح على سير فترة التكوين من حيث تبادل التجارب والخبرات وإغناء النقاش حول مختلف مواضيع التي تم تناولها في هذه الفترة.
هذا ما اعتبره الحافز الأساسي بالنسبة لي للاستمرار في المشاركة المتواصلة في دورات التكوين للإعداد لمشروع المصحة القانونية، وأن أكون عضو فعال بشكل إيجابي في مختلف أنشطته والخدمات التي يقدمها. أما بالنسبة للدوافع التي تحثني على الانخراط في عضوية المصحة القانونية فيمكن إجمالها فيما يلي:
•البعد الإنساني لمشروع المصحة القانونية والمتمثل في تقديم المساعدة للأشخاص الذين هم في أمس الحاجة لها، وذلك عن طريق استقبالهم و الاستماع لهم و توضيح المساطر و الإجراءات القانونية و الإدارية التي يجب عليهم اتباعها لحل المشاكل التي تواجههم.
•التنزيل العملي للمعارف النظرية التي تلقيتها في المجال القانوني في مختلف سنوات الدراسة الجامعية، وذلك من خلال الاطلاع على الإجراءات المتبعة في الملفات التي ستعرض على المصحة القانونية سواء منها تلك القضايا المتعلقة بالأسرة المغربية أو قضايا المهاجرين و اللاجئين الأجانب..
•رغبتي في استمرارية رابطة الصلة بيني وبين الكلية التي قضيت فيها سنوات عديدة لتحصيل العلم وتطوير المعرفة القانونية.. وختم هذا المسار الجامعي بمساهمة بسيطة على قدر المستطاع لفائدة الكلية التي تخرجت منها ولفائدة الأشخاص الذين تقدم لهم هذه الخدمة.
ومن خلال فترة التكوين الذي تلقيناه قبل البدء في انطلاق تقديم خدمات المصحة القانونية بمدينة فاس، استفدت كثيرا من مختلف المواضيع والأنشطة التي تضمنها هذا التكوين خاصة في الجانب المتعلق بتنمية القدرات الذاتية لغرض تحقيق أفضل نتيجة في إطار التعامل مع الأشخاص الذين هم في حاجة لحل مشاكلهم وتقديم النصح لهم، وبذلك يمكن أن أحدد أهم النقط التي تعلمتها من مرحلة التكوين فيما يلي:
• ضرورة الحرص على ضبط مستوى التفاعل مع مشاكل الآخرين(سبعة مستويات لضبط النفس) بم يضمن حل هذه المشاكل بأفضل الطرق، وتفادي الوقوع في الغضب والانفعال والتجاهل الذي قد يؤدي لتفاقم المشكل.
• دور الفكرة في التأثير على السلوك الإنساني.
• التخطيط و الاستمرارية بغرض تحقيق الأهداف.
• حسن الاستقبال والاستماع بتمعن.
• فهم المشكل المطروح وبذل جهد أكبر في البحث عن الحل بدل الخوض في المشكل دون أي فائدة.
• الحرص على التفاعل مع أعضاء المصحة القانونية في إطار عمل جماعي يحقق الهدف المشترك وهو تقديم أفضل خدمة للمستفيدين.
• بالإضافة للتكوين النظري حول العديد من المواضيع المهمة ذات الارتباط الوثيق بمهام المصحة القانونية سواء ما يتعلق بالوساطة الأسرية و الصلح الأسري وأيضا قضايا الهجرة واللجوء..
كما أن مرحلة التكوين تخللتها بعض الأنشطة التي أعتبرها ذات أهمية بالغة على اعتبار أنها تؤسس لترسيخ فكرة عمل المصحة القانونية في وجدان أعضائها حتى قبل انطلاقها، والمتمثلة فيما يلي:
- ice break: بحيث تقوم فكرة هذا النشاط على كسر حاجز التواصل بين أعضاء المصحة القانونية من خلال مجموعة من الآليات كالتواصل المباشر بين عضوين لمدة معينة، التواصل بالإشارة، مشاركة الأهداف والطموحات.. ومن هنا يتجلى دور ice break في تيسير التواصل بين أعضاء المصحة القانونية، وهذا من شأنه أن يعود بالنفع حتى على التواصل بطريقة أفضل مع المستفيدين من خدمة المصحة القانونية.
- SWOT: وهي اختصار لكلمات (strength=القوة ، weakness=الضعف ، opportunities=الفرص ، threats=التهديدات (هذا النشاط الذي يقوم على استقراء نقط القوة والضعف في مشروع المصحة القانونية بالإضافة إلى الوقوف على التهديدات والفرص المتاحة.. والذي قام به أعضاء المصحة القانونية، أعتبره بمثابة نقد ذاتي من الداخل لمختلف الصعوبات التي قد تواجه عمل أعضاء المصحة القانونية بداية من الصعوبات المادية (تمويل المصحة، وتجيزها بمختلف أدوات العمل..) والصعوبات المرتبطة بالموارد البشرية(التخوف من عدم التزام بعض الأعضاء بالحضور، التخوف من ضعف التنوع من حيث التخصص العلمي بين مجموعات العمل داخل المصحة..)، ولا بد هنا من التنويه بالمقترحات التي تقدم بها أعضاء المصحة القانونية لتجاوز هذه الصعوبات أو الحد منها سواء تعلق الأمر بإحداث "مجلة المصحة القانونية" كخطوة يساهم من خلالها جميع الأعضاء في تمويل المصحة القانونية ونشر الوعي للعموم حول دورها.. بالإضافة إلى الإشارة لطبيعة العلاقة بين الأعضاء و المصحة القانونية التي تعتبر بمثابة التزام أخلاقي يلتزم من خلاله العضو بأداء مهامه التي من أبرزها الالتزام بالحضور وإلا فإنه غير مجبر في الأصل بالالتحاق بهذا العمل الإنساني.. وغيرها من المقترحات التي يصعب حصرها هنا والتي تبرهن على روح المسؤولية في أعضاء المصحة القانونية على اعتبار أن كل من التحديات والحلول المقرحة لتجاوزها هي صادرة عنهم، ومن هنا يتضح لنا أهمية نشاط SWOT في التأسيس لأرضية متينة لعمل المصحة القانونية قائمة على النقد الذاتي و تقديم الحلول المناسبة.
-الأنشطة العملية في مجموعات: وهذه الأنشطة تعتبر جزء مهم في تكوين أعضاء المصحة القانونية وذلك بمحاولة تنزيل المحاور النظرية(التنمية الذاتية، آلية التعامل مع مشاكل الأشخاص، الوساطة الأسرية...) في تجارب واقعية جسدنا من خلالها مجموعة من الأدوار التي قد تواجهنا في الواقع بعد انطلاق عمل المصحة القانونية، وهذه الأنشطة العملية تعطي للأعضاء نظرة مسبقة حول المشاكل التي قد تبرز أثناء سير عمل المصحة القانونية وذلك ما من شأنه أن يساعدنا على تجاوز هذه المشاكل والتعامل معها بالحكمة.
إن فترة التكوين التي استمرت لمدة ثلاثة أشهر مهدت لانطلاقة ممنهجة لمشروع المصحة القانونية و وفرت الأرضية العلمية و العملية التي يمكن أن يستند عليها هذا المشروع بما يضمن له نسبة نجاح عالية، وهذا ما أتمناه بشدة من موقعي كعضو في المصحة القانونية نظرا للدور الإنساني الذي تطلع به المصحة و الموجه أساسا للمستفيدين من هذه الخدمة وذلك بتمكين الأشخاص الذين تواجههم مشاكل إدارية أو صعوبات إجرائية قانونية من حل هذه المشاكل وتوجيههم وتأطيرهم.. ومن خلال هذا الدور الأساسي للمصحة القانونية المتمثل في تقديم الاستشارة والتوجيه للمستفيدين من هذه الخدمة، فإنني أتطلع لأن لا يقف دور المصحة القانونية عند هذا الدور فقط بل آمل من خلال هذه المصحة تحقيق مجموعة من الأهداف الأخرى:
-زيادة الوعي المجتمعي بأهمية دور المصحة القانونية في معالجة الصعوبات والمشاكل الإجرائية التي تواجه مجموعة من الفئات الهشة كالمهاجرين واللاجئين.. وذلك عن طريق وسائل الإعلام المختلفة بالإضافة لمواقع التواصل الاجتماعي.
-المساهمة في مجال البحث العلمي من خلال تقديم إحصائيات ودراسات علمية تستند على قاعدة المعلومات المتوفرة في المصحة القانونية.
-كما أتمنى أن لا ينحصر دور المصحة القانونية في تقديم الاستشارة والتوجيه ويتجاوزه مستقبلا للاطلاع بأدوار الوساطة القانونية لحل النزاعات، وذلك بعد أن يتم تقنين الوساطة في التشريع المغربي خاصة في المجال الأسري، على اعتبار أن الخبرة التي يتلقاها أعضاء المصحة القانونية عن طريق الاحتكاك بالواقع العملي تؤهلهم للاطلاع بهذا الدور.
وفي الختام لابد من توجيه جزيل الشكر والتقدير لإدارة كلية العلوم القانونية والاقتصادية والاجتماعية بفاس وللأساتذة المشرفين على مشروع المصحة القانونية بشراكة مع مؤسسة الأطلس الكبير على هذه الفرصة الثمينة لتمكين الطلبة بمختلف توجهاتهم العلمية من المساهمة في مجال تقديم المساعدات الإنسانية في مجال يضمن لنا أيضا تكوين عملي موازي للتكوين النظري الذي تلقيناه في مختلف سنوات الدراسة الجامعية.

Review from Guidestar

Volunteer

Rating: 5

A glimpse of the High Atlas Mountain
(I’m a college student from China and I go to school in Philadelphia. Right now I’m taking a gap year and volunteering with High Atlas Foundation.)

The trip to Nzalat Laadam was just like any other. If it weren’t for the ever so imposing red in the background, we could easily be driving to the grocery store in downtown Philadelphia, not on a volunteering mission through the High Atlas Mountain. The laughter in the car, the comfortable silence, the occasional friendly quarrels about what route to take… all of it screamed familiar. Well, except for the thumping heart in my chest- this was for my first ever field trip with High Atlas Foundation, and I had no idea what to expect.

We were going to conduct a workshop in sustainable development and our destination was an “integrated pedagogic complex”, a cumbersome phrase in French meaning the school covered everything from kindergarten to high school. As one stepped in, what seized one’s eyes immediately was the complex builders’ generosity with colors – the light red façade, the lilac inner walls, the cyan columns… It took some getting used to when one was accustomed to the imperial red of Marrakech.

“Look,” Léo, my fellow volunteer from France tapped on my shoulder as I was still admiring the building’s architectural merits, “they put our names on the poster, too.” I looked at where he was pointing, and saw that even Léo’s middle name was printed there.
This turned out to be only the prelude of their unrelenting hospitality. The school principals as well as many senior teachers were all there to greet us, shaking our hands and muttering welcome in three languages. Then there was tea, another round of handshaking, and a photo shoot – the first of many.

The French teacher introduced us to an always-smiling middle-aged man with full beard. The whole time we were there he never took a rest, always carrying chairs and equipment around and making sure no one was neglected. The teacher told us this man poured his heart and soul into the school, that he had laid its every stone. Quite literally, for even the traffic sign was hand-made by him.

The sustainability workshop was conducted in the open air. Students of all ages -about 80 of them- attended, and everybody was standing.
Our project manager Imane won the crowd immediately with her characteristic charm, as per usual. She used every chance to engage with the students, playing games and asking questions, and she kept walking around to make sure that she was addressing everybody.
Having just entered the wonderful age of adolescence, some girls were clearly struggling with their newly-developed self-consciousness and got intimidated by the crowd. But every time they spoke, Imane would ask for their names, and dedicated to them a round of applause when they finished. Soon enough, everybody was participating.
As the discussion was in Arabic, I didn’t understand much of it. But the laughter, the enthusiasm and the warmth transcended all linguistic barriers. It was a language understood by all.

After the discussion, we started to plant trees. The holes were already dug out and were carefully aligned at even intervals. I was in charge of 10, 15 girls, who, after a quick exchange in Arabic, promptly decided to name the tree Jingxin. Sure, as kids we seldom dream about having a tree named after us 10,000 miles from home, but the moment when the girls pointed to the fragile sapling and shouted my name (not the correct pronunciation, but who cares?) felt more like dream-come-true than any other.
Later, a girl showed me a collection of her artworks. They were all abstract splash-inks, and they came in the wildest combination of colors. You never know underneath the monotonous red of the High Atlas mountain there lies the surging black, the blossoming orange, the pouring blue and the burning yellow, all of it stirring and igniting a young girl’s heart.


At Nzalat Laadam I was impressed by many things: the astonishing organizational efficiency, the compassion and mutual respect, the dedication to service, and of course, the splendid colors of the High Atlas Mountain. Trust me, there’s more to it than meets the eye.


Review from Guidestar

1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Tree Nurseries Have Needs Too

I am a late career American businessman. Currently I volunteer about four times each year with NGOs in developing and middle income countries. I assist across a range of business disciplines (marketing, sales, strategic planning, and organizational improvement.) Over the past 10 years I have conducted 55 volunteer assignments in more than 20 countries.
I am just now completing a 15 day volunteer business assignment in Marrakech, Morocco. My client is the High Atlas Foundation (HAF), a United States and Moroccan NGO offering as its core mission the operation of 11 tree nurseries in Morocco. These nurseries provide fruit and nut trees at no- or low-cost to communities, schools, hospitals, and small farmers. Recipients of the trees earn revenue from the resultant fruits and nuts, use the trees as windbreaks, and, at schools, provide lessons in agriculture for students.
My specific assignment has been to evaluate four of HAF’s tree nurseries, determine their needs - - especially blockages to their growth - - and propose follow on activity to address their needs. Each nursery had its own special set of needs. Some needs are beyond my expertise so I am developing recommendations to HAF to bring in expert volunteers to support areas where I am deficient. For example, HAF will need a cost accountant to establish tracking of financial results and to calculate payback of greenhouse construction. Other needs include soil analysis, nursery operations, and cooperative leadership and management.
One of the nurseries I evaluated is being run by a women’s cooperative. This female co-op was granted the franchise to manage the nursery about one month ago without any prior training. To ensure that this group is not being set up to fail, HAF has already conducted co-op management lessons for the women as well as introductory nursery operations classes. I did my small part by delivering marketing and sales instruction.
The Moroccan Ministry of Agriculture has established a goal of planting one billion trees in the country. I suspect no one thought to run the numbers to determine that planting so many trees would actually take close to 1000 years. But on the positive side, it does provide an attention grabbing aspiration. And HAF is doing its part to chip away at that one billion tree goal.
After viewing four existing nurseries for HAF, I was asked to conduct a site visit to a prospective new nursery. But there was a special twist to this land. It is currently occupied by a 300 year old Jewish Cemetery. The Jewish population of Morocco has dwindled from 250,000 after World War II to about 900 today. The small but active remnant community has discovered that offering old cemeteries to HAF as tree nurseries actually helps to preserve them as historical and memorial sites for diasporic Jews to return to and visit. As long as no gravesites are damaged, the disused cemeteries actually receive refurbishment and ongoing care from a joint nursery/cemetery caretaker.
HAF does more that grow and distribute trees. It provides social services to poor communities. For example, one small village in the High Atlas Mountains has no nearby source of clean drinking water. Consequently, the village girls (but not the boys) spend16% of their time fetching water from a distant source. Of course such a time consuming daily task cuts into their education. In fact, not a single girl in the village attends school beyond the sixth grade. HAF has offered to pay for and organize a clean water source in the village. Just one caveat: every household in the village must sign a contract that they will send their daughters to school beyond primary school. All families must sign on before HAF will pay for the water. As of my writing, HAF is expecting their collective response any day now.

One morning on the road to visit a tree nursery we stopped for breakfast at a roadside café. And this wasn’t just any roadside café. Their standard breakfast is famous in these parts. One doesn’t order, you just sit down and they bring you mint tea, chick peas, lentils, fried eggs, olives. Also no utensils, but bread to sop up the breakfast offerings. Quite delicious. Oh, and one more item: boiled cows’ feet.

Now I’m not a big consumer of beef but I figured this was mostly just fat and keratin. Anyway, my hosts were digging in so I followed suit. What looks like a cow’s hoof, once boiled, is soft and mushy. It is gelatin, mostly used in pet food but sometimes used as an ingredient in marshmallows. Look it up, I did. I do not plan to repeat this gastronomic experience again, but at least I tried it.

And now as I wrap up my volunteer assignment I thank HAF for 15 pleasurable and professionally satisfying days.





Review from Guidestar

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Planning for Planting Day
By Professor Ellen Hernandez
HAF Volunteer

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.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Selma
By Julie Dintras
HAF Intern

This is the story of Selma, a little girl who is 11 years-old. She is one the 38% of the population who live in the rural areas, and of the mere 26% of girls living there who go to school. She lives in a small village in the heights of the Atlas Mountains, close to Marrakech, a cosmopolitan city.

Selma is very lucky because her parents push her to study, which is far from being the case for all the families living in the rural areas. For many, the “good place” of a woman is still at home, ideally fuelled by cultural norms where the so-called traditional roles of men and women predominate. Selma’s mother, Janna, is illiterate, and she only knows how to write her name. She is one the millions of Moroccans who have never entered a classroom. She got married at 16, the age at which most European girls are in their first year of high school.

In Selma’s village, there is a school. Sometimes the access conditions to the educational infrastructures are very bad: the closest schools are still far from home, or to reach them requires taking dirt roads that can be dangerous. Out of 100 girls in her village, Selma is one of 48 who will go on to secondary school. Will she be among the 40.8% to continue to college?

Also, Selma has the opportunity to speak Amazigh and Arabic languages thanks to her aunt, who was able to leave her village to live in the city. Rural people speak some form of Tamazight when Arabic is the most commonly spoken language in the country. Selma’s neighbour and friend, Yasmine, only speaks Tamazight so she has to stay at home while Selma is going to school. The classes are taught in Arabic and the teachers, who are not from the village, know nothing about Selma and Yasmine’s first language.

The omnipresence of school dropouts, especially girls, causes problems in rural Morocco. Parents provide for their families, sometimes with great difficulty. Poor living conditions force girls to stay at home to help.

It has been suggested that education threatens a woman's likelihood and ability to marry. Let us stop defining a woman by her status as a mother or a wife; she is foremost a woman. Not all women aspire to the same life, and this is fortunate, for variety is “the spice of life.”

Too often, the first question a woman is asked, even before knowing her first name, is "Do you have children,” thus positioning motherhood as the pinnacle of her life. But not all women dream of giving birth, of having a nice husband with whom she could buy a detached house, own a dog, and go on holiday to a seaside resort. What could be more reductive than to lock a woman into the sole role of being procreative, making a woman who does not want children "abnormal" or a sterile woman "shameful"? Why point the finger at this woman who doesn't want to be a mother and accuse her of selfishness? Isn't it the opposite? Isn’t the woman who chooses not to raise children not only protecting unwanted children from growing up in potentially poor conditions but also sparing the Earth from population beyond its capacity?

The key to emancipation, to open-mindedness, is education; it is also a fundamental right of every human being. A woman is a human being, entitled to the same rights.

Review from Guidestar

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Cooperation on a common project in Demnate

By Leo Guesne, HAF Volunteer

An HAF delegation went on February 4th to Demnate, small city in the Azilal province, to the east of Marrakech. The aim of this day trip was to create, in the near future, a tree nursery that could grow up to 100,000 saplings. Demnate, whose population used to be one-third comprised of Jewish people, means “fertile soil” in the Amazigh language. It is then logical for this region known for the quality of its soils to welcome a tree nursery.
After several contacts with the Jewish community of the region, a parcel of the old Jewish cemetery - neglected since the 60s - was allocated for the tree nursery. Just a few meters above a river, the old cemetery, demarcated with a stone wall and cactus further down, is home to very few graves in unkept condition.

During this visit, HAF members and HAF president Dr. Yossef Ben-Meir, met the Jewish delegation composed of descendants from the local Jewish community. Demnate’s Mayor, a representative from the Ministry of the Interior, and inhabitants also took part in the meeting. After some discussion about the condition of the parcel, a consensus was reached for the creation of the nursery, including two greenhouses.

INSERT PHOTO OF GRAVES ON A HILL HERE

The cemetery has about 2,000 graves on the upper side of the hill. However, this section will not be modified by the establishment of the nursery. On the other side of the river, an unused site is home to a place of worship where a Jewish Saint is buried. The latter belongs to the 600 Jewish Saints in Morocco; it was buried under the rubble, and the building is now an empty place. The two terraces to be used for the nursery are vacant unused spaces, starting about 30 meters from the tomb of the saint. The Government of Morocco partners with HAF in the Ourzazate province, where we are now building together a tree nursery also nearby a scared burial site of an ancient Jewish saint.

INSERT PHOTO OF AGRICULTURAL TERRACE HERE

The Kingdom has a long Jewish history and for several years cooperation projects for the rehabilitation of cemeteries like this have been initiated by the Jewish community. That is why the reconstruction of this pilgrimage place is planned to restore its beauty and the meaning.

Therefore, this project carried by the local population, the Jewish community and the High Atlas Foundation is a perfect match that will benefit all the parties involved. Indeed, it will promote sustainable development in the Region, recreate a meeting place by re-installing benches but also revive the cultural heritage of the site and the history of the city.

On the second day, the Jewish delegation met the Governor in order to have the “green light” on this project.

As a volunteer-intern for HAF, my first mission with the NGO proved to me that in spite of the difficulties that might occur in such projects that combine territorial and intercultural statements, it is still possible to create new economic activities that may benefit at the same time social and environmental aspects for each actor on a common project. The optimisation and rehabilitation of those neglected but very meaningful places show us the mutual respect between the Moroccan Jewish and Muslim communities.

INSERT PHOTO OF PEOPLE DISCUSSING HERE

Review from Guidestar

Volunteer

Rating: 4

My first experience with HAF
Aisha Baamrani
HAF Volunteer

On January 15, my journey with Nora to Toubkal Mountains began with much enthusiasm and excitement. In the first day, things were like a surprise box. We headed to the first village “Missour”, where we felt very welcomed. After getting to work, we tried to set a comfortable environment for families, make the communication as smooth as possible and establish a good atmosphere to exchange with the participants.

The families were very generous. Despite their hard living conditions, every family we had been visiting, had welcomed us with tea. We visited 46 houses; Nora is a very hard working and determinant person, so we used to work until 9 PM trying to meet the whole families.

The most challenging task was explaining to the participants the project details and the purpose of it, even though I was keen to explain everything in the beginning of each meeting.

This experience was deeply touching. Every day was better than the day before, especially in the second village “Agrzrane”. Moreover, working with Nora was a good collaboration. It was an experience with much lessons learned.

Review from Guidestar

1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

HAF’s 2020 Vision to Increase Human Development

By Ghita Alaoui
HAF Volunteer

My name is Ghita. My first time outside my hometown, on 29 January 2020, I had a very cool experience going out in the field with these funny, wonderful human beings – High Atlas Foundation (HAF) staff members Hassan, Imane, Hajiba, and Youness – to different rural areas, visiting nurseries and participating in a workshop for women.
We left the office at 10:30 that morning, heading towards Tadmamt, an area that I never knew existed.Each of us had a quest for this day: Hajiba had to evaluate the nursery and see if the co-workers achieved what she requested of them; Imane had to give a workshop in Agadir Tassawt to help women stand up, make decisions, and find solutions for their issues; Youness was there to make new contacts and recruit more volunteers, and Hassan was our coordinator.
On the road, everyone was swimming in their own thoughts, with Hassan driving the car while Hajiba made business calls, and Youness was doing something to pass the time. Imane worked on her marketing presentation and was speaking what is to me a foreign language (Tamazight, the language of the rural people), but, meanwhile, I was horror-strickenfrom the drive along the endlessly curving road through the mountains with its many switchbacks.
Despite my fears, we arrived safely at the site just after noon thanks to Hassan’s skillful driving. It was a magical climb to Tadmamt, and seeing the green, snowcapped mountains left me in awe. Right away, Hajiba joined her co-worker Omar to evaluate what he had done with his team; her evaluation showed that the nursery produced 10,000 walnut and almond trees as well as 20,000 cherry trees. Omar and his team were very pleased by the weather and the irrigated soil this year that helped the planting go smoothly. I noticed that Omar, who has worked for HAF for 11 years,is very ambitious, determined and hardworking.He is taking care of the soil, which is a very hard job due to the many factors involved in growing the plants, not to mention the sometimes-uncooperative climate. However, he does have a strong perseverance and the will to achieve his goal. I admire him for this as well as his happy, pleasant demeanor.
By the end of her assessment, Hajiba was pleased with her caretaker Omar and his co-workers.In these couple of hours, HAFhad achieved one ofits objectives, the tens of thousands of saplings contributing toward the goal of planting over 1.2 million trees by the end of 2021.
Two hours later, we went to our next destinationin Agadir Tassawt for a women’s workshop presented by Imane. There was a huge welcome waiting for us by the association president,Zahra Ouchraa,and the other volunteers.There were more than 40 excited women inside, some knitting as they awaited our arrival. This group was very thrilled by the HAF visitors, and therefore they made all kinds of cakes with hot tea and coffee, welcoming us within their inner circle.
As a warmup, Imane played a really creative game with the group. In order to relax them and lighten their mood, she engaged them with a word-association game that began with her offering a relevant starter word (such as one about the environment, women or the weather), and the workshop participants responding with related words. One example went like this: green, seed, soil, plant, weather. It was very fun, involving the women in this momentous experience.
In this brief encounter with these women, I noticed that Imane was actually just conversing with them and encouraging them to share what their daily lives are like, eliciting the issues that are most common in rural areas, like illiteracy, underage marriage,inadequate healthcare, and so on. Indeed, women started bringing up these problems and asking themselves one word: How?Howcan they overcome such problems and move forward? Surprisingly, the answers arose enthusiastically with comments like,“What young girls needs most is the will and courage to say ‘Noooo!!!!! No, I will not stop attending school because I want to continue my studies.No, I will not get married yet because I want to pursue my dreams.’”Their voices were raised with No, No and more No, not to defy or disrespect their parents but to express their desire to live their lives to the fullest.
Women made a huge impact during this presentation; they were very supportive and determined to end child marriage.These women are trying to achieve the nearly-impossible, dealing with everything from environmental issues to societal problems. Hajiba noted a specific action that they could take: “We must find a fix for trash cans to prevent allergies in children in the future.” When Jamila said, “If we all help each other, we can do it.” It was very enlightening for me. There was clear agreement that all they have to do is to be willing and determined in their quest and they can achieve anything. The workshop ended with a round of applause.
Before departing, we took a group photo with the children in it. Thiswas very touching. We drank their tea, ate their cookies, and received their grateful hugs. Imane concluded, “The ladies were very interactive and dynamic – Ilove it!”

Soon, we got back on the road,making our way to the last nursery in Akrich. The road was steadier this time, somewhat deserted, and without much of a view, but my heartbeat was pleasingly slowed.
Arriving on site, we found Abdulrahimand his two co-workerswaiting for us. They showed us the pomegranate trees and the vineyard they had planted a month before and reported that these were already growing well. They will leave these for nine months until they have grown well enough to be put in plastic containers and, by this time next year, these will be re-planted throughout the whole land. This is another part of High Atlas Foundation’s target to produce 31,000 grape, olive, and pomegranate trees here by the end of 2020 by God’s will. Of note, the land that has been provided for this nursery is actually a Jewish cemetery. Hajiba remarked, “I believe in increasing the partnership between HAF and Jewish communities, which will have a huge impact on creating new job opportunities and increasing sustainable development.”

Meanwhile, Youness had his own project to make known the association between HAF and his company and to increase his contacts. To that end, he interviewed Omar and Abdulrahim during the earlier visits to get more information about their specialties and the sacrifices they make to improve the environment. He learned that they have been working to increase the number of volunteers who will help and hopefully donate to this incredible cause,working hard for the nursery’s success.In this way, they will be able to improve their own society, have employment, and support their families and the community. In addition to this, Youness remarked, “It was my first time on site with the foundation; it opened my eyes to the human conditions and the sight of the work, the people, the partners, the farmers, the women, and the tangible impact that HAF has in terms of environmental protection, economic improvement, and empowerment of women.”
I found it eye-opening and very pleasant to be a part of this process,to see what significance High Atlas Foundation has in human development. I’m so delighted and thankful to be a part of this.

Review from Guidestar

Mohamed El Kadiri

Volunteer

Rating: 5

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

Volunteer

Rating: 5

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 yossef@highatlasfoundation.org.

Review from Guidestar

1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

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

Volunteer

Rating: 5

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

2

Volunteer

Rating: 5

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.

Meriame Rochd
HAF Intern

Review from Guidestar

Volunteer

Rating: 5

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

1 Nic P.1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

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

3

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

Climate Change, Environmental laws and Environmental Decision-Making workshop in Mohamed IV High School

31.12.2019
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

1

Volunteer

Rating: 4

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

1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

What is ‘normal’?
Sule Altuntas
HAF Volunteer

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

1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

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

1

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

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

1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

International Day of Childhood

By Anna Ugolini
HAF Volunteer

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

1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

From Pomegranates to Pomegranates Juice

By Anne Marie Del Castillo
Farmer-to-Farmer Volunteer

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

2

Volunteer

Rating: 5

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

3 Nour M.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Hello everybody.

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

2

Volunteer

Rating: 5

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

2

Volunteer

Rating: 5

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

1 Stefano D.

Volunteer

Rating: 4

HYDRO-PANELS: One Great Idea
By Stefano Dessena
HAF Intern

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

Volunteer

Rating: 5

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

1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

In the Hospitality of HAF Nurseries
By Hajiba Boumasmar
HAF Intern
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

Carol M.4

Volunteer

Rating: 5

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

Volunteer

Rating: 5

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

Volunteer

Rating: 5

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 .

Hugo D.

Volunteer

Rating: 4

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

Anya K.1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Obscure and Marvelous Possibility
Anya Karaman
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

Volunteer

Rating: 5

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.

Best regards,
Sarita Mehta
Marrakech, Morocco

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
of Cooperatives.
 
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
household incomes.
 
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

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Aboghlo women’s cooperative and their business partnership
Camelia Harkousse
HAF Intern

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

Volunteer

Rating: 5

A Visit to Tassa Ouirgane

Alissa Brenn
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

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Revitalizing the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development
Morocco is on its way to being the hub of solar energy in Africa.

Brooklyn Wenbo Wu
HAF Intern

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

1 Caroline K.1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

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

Caleb T.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

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.

Peter W.3

Volunteer

Rating: 5

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.

Clarisse E.

Volunteer

Rating: 4

Be environmentally friendly !

Clarisse ESPIL
HAF Volunteer

On Tuesday, April 9, 2019, the HAF went to Tassa Ouirgane, a rural commune located in the Atlas Mountains 90 kilometers away from Marrakech to carry out an activity under the theme of the environment. The purpose of this visit in partnership with the United Nations Development Program was first to raise awareness of ecology among a young public, then to support them in collecting waste and finally to create a compost that they can then maintain in the municipality. This day was supervised and animated by Amina El Hajjami (Project Director) who was accompanied by Ilyas Dkhissi (social network manager, photographer and film director), Fatima-Zahra Lahrire, Rachidelouah Soussi, and myself currently in internship with the foundation.


First of all, we were given a wonderful welcome by the women of the village who had prepared a breakfast for us. In the morning, Amina first focused on raising children's ecological awareness. She defined the concept of environment, asked the children about their knowledge on this subject and what it meant to them. They were then able to work together to find out what the causes were, what solutions could be found to these problems and also to consider how they could protect the environment, whether with small actions or more important ones. At the end of the presentation, the children were able to evaluate what they had learned and sign an attendance sheet, which was for them a synonym for making a commitment to the environmental workshops.


The first concrete action took place in the afternoon. Some children went looking for the best places to collect waste while we were preparing the material for the collection. All the children and ourselves then equipped themselves with gloves and garbage bags to collect as much waste as possible. The children were then able to see the large amount of plastic in the nature and all the garbage bags were filled at an incredible speed, as the children were bursting with energy and saw this action as a real challenge.

When all the garbage bags were full, Amina started a composting activity. She explained to the children the difference between all types of waste and asked them to collect weeds, bark and soil to start composting. The children were asked to guess whether this waste was composed of nitrogen or CO2. Overall, the children were very involved from beginning to end in all activities, both in terms of awareness and concrete actions.

This visit to Tassa Ouirgane was not the first since the HAF had already visited this commune before with agriculture as a theme. The aim now being in the future to create a women's cooperative in this commune in order to empower them in this theme and to create a responsible agriculture. It was a very rewarding day on a human level, and seeing how grateful children and young women were for the foundation's activities was a goal in itself.


Review from Guidestar

Volunteer

Rating: 5

True to the Roots

By Houria CHOUHAB
HAF Volunteer

One of the good feelings is walking into a place for the first time and having flashbacks to childhood memories, and this is exactly what happened during my visit to the MOGADOR Cooperative.

The Cooperative is in the center of Ounagha, 25 km from Essaouira, and it is surrounded by Argan trees which give the Cooperative a special charm. When you first step into in the building, you see different products on the roof: Argan oil with its main forms, pure honey, and Amlou. Each roof tells stories of multiple steps, manually most of the time, to obtain an organic edible or cosmetic product.

The women who work inside of the Cooperative respect certain steps in order to produce Argan oils. The first step lies in harvesting the Argan nuts and this step itself can be done through two ways: the first and common way is to collect the Argan nuts that fall from the trees, and the second method is to collect the nuts which goats spit out after eating the fleshy layer of the fruit. This step is done either in July or early August.

Once Argan is harvested, they get dried in open air and then get crushed between two stones in order to reach the outer of the Argan nut with its hard brown skin. This gets manually cracked as well between two hard stones to get to the kernels where the amazing oil sits. Then, there is the step of separating the kernels from the cracked layers so as to start the extraction process. It is necessary to note that there are different extraction methods according to the type of oil wanted. Extracting the edible Argan oil demands roasting the kernels while the cosmetic does not.

All these processes came to my mind as I was promenading through the Cooperative and projected the old memories onto the actual space. If you stop by the roof, chit chat will grab your attention and invite you to check its source, to find yourself in a hall with about ten women intensively working and engaging in talks at the same time. A traditional mill attracted me and I wanted to bring those memories back to the present life, so I decided to enjoy grinding the kernels in the mill. The smell of the roasted kernels reinforces this charm and reminds that we are taking a clean air in place of the pollution of the city.

Processes of grinding and extracting Argan oil

In order to keep the continuity of these magical moments, the High Atlas Foundation partnering with FRÉ Skincare offered 100 Argan plants to this Cooperative, which was glad to receive them. Women left their hall and joined us in front of the cooperative to plant an Argan tree.


Before departing from this joy, my eyes spotted two beautiful twin girls playing around the roof peacefully. Watching these two identical girls made me reflect on my two identities as both Swiri [from the Essaouira region] and a Marrakchi girl. Thank you HAF for giving me the opportunity to revisit my roots.

Review from Guidestar

1 Jamal S.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I was an intern at the High Atlas Foundation (HAF) in 2015, and as time goes by, my time there becomes more and more valuabe. As an intern at HAF I sent funding applications to donors, using Results Based Management (RBM) as my method. Today I am working at the Swedish International Deveopment Agency (Sida) and I am assessing applications for funding, and evaluating wheeter the applications do have a co-herent RMB approach or not. When working with assessing applications for funding, having myself been a fundraiser, my time at HAF becomes a very meaningful and helpful experience.

Jamal Sebnat.
Intern at HAF: 2015.

Review from Guidestar

Previous Stories

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I was an intern for this non-profit during 2015. Having an academical degree in Development Studies, this was the perfect real life working experience for me. I was a fundraiser, and managed to gain significant funds from Moroccan and Swedish donors. I visited several of the projects that the funds went to, and these included tree planting, water and sanitation at primary schools, employment opportunities for youth and access to clean water in rural areas.
This N.G.O is truly dedicated to the development of Morocco, in multiple areas.
I would highly recommend any volunteers, job seekers, interns and donors to support this organization.

Jamal Sebnat

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

This foundation dedicated to sustainable agriculture in Morocco has an excellent record of building on its achievements and is experiencing a remarkable period of growth and recognition nationally (in Morocco) and internationally. It has grown a talented team of volunteers, project managers and administrators that keep it dynamic and on the move on various fronts.

Review from Guidestar