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
Happiness inside the High Atlas Foundation
(Happy International Day of Happiness)
By Houria Chouhab
Hey! My name is Houria and I am a masters degree student at the Faculty of Arts and Human Sciences in Marrakech. At the end of the third semester (the end of January), I had to apply for an internship that will be the base of my graduate research. I quickly found myself holding an administrative position in a company, but after one week, I decided to look for another internship because I simply was not happy there! When I joined the High Atlas Foundation, I easily integrated with the team as well as the activities that demand to share parts of your days with others.
I read once that the beauty of life does not depend on how happy you are but how happy others can be because of you, and HAF lives by this concept while sustaining prosperity around the country. Among the activities that I run within the foundation are distributing and planting trees in rural primary schools. It is a special feeling when you visit a school and meet the students, talk to them about the environment, encourage them to take care of little things and then plant trees with them. This exact act of spending time with them and bringing new notions to their world makes their day, and this is truly something to live for. At the end of the day, you get a sense of accomplishment and purpose to know you have made a change in someone else’s life.
Another act of making others happy is meeting and fulfilling the young people’s needs and priorities. HAF has always aimed to address water access challenges for rural schools and communities in Morocco. Since its start, HAF and its partners have built 24 clean drinking water systems in Morocco’s remote villages, benefiting approximately 5,500 people. These include digging wells, building water towers, and installing solar pumps and gravity flow systems, which deliver safe drinking water to communities.
Sustainability is also about sharing moments with others, and HAF’s happiness lies in making its staff, volunteers, and interns experience this joy by giving them a chance to do so. Give yourself that chance and be happy!
Review from Guidestar
As part of our interns trip of the GIZ (Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit mbH) to Morocco we have chosen HAF as one of our project visits. Their idea to apply the participatory method in all its projects has caught out attention. After we contacted Errachid to ask if a project visit was possible, we were warmly welcomed by the HAF team in November 2018.
At the beginning the founder of the NGO, Dr. Ben-Meir Yossef, gave us a first overview about the mission and vision of HAF, their partnerships and their current projects. Afterwards we got the unique opportunity to visit and get to know two projects on site. First we went to the House of Life in Akrich, Al Haouz - an inter-religious partnership that combines a Jewish burial site with a tree nursery for neighboring Muslim communities. Second, we visited a women's cooperative with an integrated kindergarten where women weave carpets. All in all, HAF and its team gave us an extraordinary opportunity to experience their successful project work in the communities.
HAF is a NGO truly dedicated to promoting prosperity and supporting the sustainable development of Moroccan communities - successfully in many areas from multiculturalism to youth and women's empowerment. We highly recommend a visit or an engagement with HAF.
Review from Guidestar
Continuing the Five-Day Tree Planting Campaign in Meknes
New adventure. New excitement. After an amazing day in Skoura M’daz, part of the HAF team continues the five-day tree planting campaign. We met farmers from Azrou, in the Amghas commune. Abdelilah accompanied us; he is the caretaker of the HAF Ifrane nursery which is located at the Salaam School. We spent the afternoon distributing the trees to the farmers. In total, we distributed 275 fruit trees, 225 almond, 10 fig, 20 pomegranate, and 20 quince trees.
One of the farms where we planted in the Amghas commune
We finished our afternoon of planting and conversing with the farmers of the region. They thanked us for all our effort and expressed hope that we will continue HAF activities together.
On the next day, we travelled to Meknes. In a program from the Leadership Development Institute at Akhawayn university in Ifrane, the Cemetery Workers Association from Meknes was rewarded almost 2000 trees last year for being the best association in the Fes-Meknes region. They decided to distribute those trees to several institutions in the region.
With the lead of Si Hicham (the association’s president), our first step was to visit the Ibn Zaydon Elementary School where we planted about 125 almond trees. According to the director, most of the students are orphans. He also explained the proper way of teaching future generations and guide them towards a better future. He passionately believes that to prepare our students for the future, we must prepare them for change by teaching them to inquiry and think, and to adapt with new circumstance as well as explains how the school system works, and which activities children do in the school.
All the children participated in the planting, they watered the trees they planted and promised to watch over them.
We moved on to another school nearby (the Ibn Outman High School). We spoke with the director and Said, HAF Project Manager, explained everything about the High Atlas Foundation. The director was very happy and welcoming and in return, he explained everything about the school and how grateful he is that the school is going to be more beautiful with the trees which are going to be planted there. On this day, the students planted 40 almond and 10 pomegranate trees.
The director and Said initiating the planting activities in the school.
In the next two days, Si Moha, from the Moroccan High Comission of Waters and Forests and combating Desertification joined us. We went from one school to another, to a health care center, a cemetery, and to the Office of Professional Formation and Promotion (OFPPT). We planted 318 fruit trees in total (259 almond, 30 fig, 10 carob, 9 pomegranates, and 10 quince trees). Si Moha explained to all the children and the participants how to preserve the environment and the trees which give us so much in return. Moreover, by planting a tree, we are all contributing to the word’s balanced environmental system.
Si Moha explains and helps the children planting a tree in a proper way
We can be a problem of the environment, by polluting and not careing for it. However, we are also it’s solution. By planting trees, we are preserving the environment which takes care of us, thus healthy environments create healthy societies. As a popular saying says “They planted and we ate, we plant and they will eat.” We are planting trees for the next generation so they can benefit from them as we did from the past ones.
Thank you to Si Hicham from the Cemetery Workers Association for the most welcoming hospitality. I hope we can meet again someday! Importantly, a big thank you to the High Atlas Foundation and to ECOSIA (a green search engine and the investor in HAF nurseries) for the amazing opportunity for helping to make the environment a better place and meeting great people on this journey.
Review from Guidestar
Here’s what makes a day in the region of Tassa Ouirgan exceptional!
By Fatima Zahra LAHRIRE
Early morning on Tuesday, February 19th, we went to Tassa Ouirgan passing by the magnificent view of snowy mountain peaks, wildflowers, and small hills. At a distance of approximately 70 kilometers from the ochre city, Marrakech, the Tassa Ouirgane village stands in its beautiful Azzaden valley.
The day started with a meeting next to where the HAF-community olive tree nursery resides. The meeting was facilitated by Amina El Hajjami, HAF’s Director of Projects, with the farmers from the region. It started with a brainstorming of the achievements, challenges, and recommended solutions. The farmers planted almond and walnut trees and they planned to plant more olive trees. Thus, the challenge is finding high-quality cuttings. They suggested to bring the cuttings from the surrounding farms and they thought that they may plant lemon trees as well.
We met village members, the UNDP’s National Coordinator Badia Sahmi, the UNDP’s Legal Counsel Najwa Alyassari, and Zahra Alyoubi the UNDP’s Assistant, in addition to Soufian Msou, a member of the Moroccan Association for Environment Protection and Human Development.
The meeting was followed by a traditional lunch meal prepared by a local family. We were warmly welcomed by the family members and served tea and nuts as soon as we took a seat. After lunch, mineral water from the well in Tassa Ouirgane was served. The members of the committee had another meeting in a nearby village and so they bade us farewell.
At the same time, a group of girls and young women were waiting for us at the office of the local association of Tassa Ouirgane. It is like a classroom with desks and a blackboard. The light of a sunny day, that the various windows of the classroom allowed, was reflected on their enthusiastic faces. The workshop was facilitated by Amina who succeeded in brainstorming ideas and pushing the girls and young women to speak up and voice their opinions.
Review from Guidestar
Morocco of the 21st Century
Intern in HAF
The 21st century is a unique that celebrates novelty, creativity, collaboration as well as other modern values in all spheres of life. The aforementioned qualities are a competitive advantage for countries to stand out among others socially, economically and in terms of education. In fact, they are not only ingredients of success in the modern world but of survival of the world’s serious issues such as: climate change, global warming, extremism, unemployment and school dropout. Morocco as a developing country in North Africa is concerned by these issues as well as others. This demands that the kingdom allocates human, media and financial resources to tackle them and to stand out as a model for other countries in terms of sustainable human development in the 21st century. High Atlas Foundation is among the leading non-governmental organisations in contributing to creating sustainable human development in Morocco by adopting a participatory approach.
High Atlas Foundation works in different domains such as environment, education, youth and women’s empowerment among others to bridge the existing gaps and build a sustainable future for Morocco. I have had the chance to be part of this life changing journey with the foundation during the first days of my MA internship. Being involved in human developmental projects with both the High Atlas Foundation and Cadi Ayyad University will certainly have positive impacts on the Moroccan and global community in the short and the long term. Cadi Ayyad University also has always been among the leading institutions in the African continent to support human sustainable developmental projects and programs. The university does this by giving trainings, opening new educational programs (ex. The Master Program of “Economie Sociale et Solidaire”...). So, being part of this human developmental project leaded by two honourable organisations is an experience to be remembered.
The journey of the internship with the HAF involves many places and a dedicated staff. The cooperative of Aboughlo in Ourika is the first place we visited. It is a cooperative run by local women in Ourika specializing in producing and making agricultural products. Women in the cooperative are motivated and determined to succeed so as to help their families and be a role model to the rest of the community. The HAF works to empower women in the cooperative by doing trainings and workshops for example about problem solving and product marketing. Passing by Sti Fadma all the way to Asni is the second destination for collecting and distributing different types of plants and trees. These trees and plants are to be planted in different parts of Alhouz region and in different schools. By doing so, HAF contributes to preserve the environment and ecology. These projects go alongside the vision of the kingdom as in its official frameworks such as The National Initiative for Human development (2005), The Municipal Charter (2010) and The Decentralization Roadmap (2008) about development and human development specifically. In fact, these developmental projects that HAF works on make Morocco up to the demands of the 21st century.
Review from Guidestar
First, I would like to take this opportunity to thank Yossef and the staff, volunteers and interns for the opportunity to join HAF’s work on bettering the lives of rural people in the Kingdom of Morocco. I valued every minute of my time assisting the organization with sustainability assessments, training, proposal development and grant-writing. Having lived in Morocco 30 years ago, it was heartening to see some changes with regard to a new consciousness about sustainability and resiliency, an acceptance of and adaptation to climate change and women’s rights. I know how much HAF has been an integral part of those changes in the last few decades, witnessing your work firsthand.
Following is a summary of my work over the spring of 2016 as well as some personal observations and recommendations.
IDRAREN - HA3 (High Atlas Agriculture and Artisinal), Asni
Organic Almond and Walnut Oil Processing Factory Cooperative
Here, I interviewed a group of 6 women workers and one male director of the factory (April 19). This was my first opportunity to ask questions around the perceived impacts and benefits of working at the factory, where the goal is to develop and market a value-added product for sale in the US, i.e. organic walnut and almond oil. The oils and process have been certified organic through ECOCERT. HAF provided the trees to local farmers to produce the raw product as well as training of the women using the Participatory Approach. It should be noted that the Participatory Approach and local decision making led to the idea of this particular enterprise in Asni.
The interviews with the women led to some interesting insights about perceived benefits and impacts. The interview process was very informal and encouraged the women to speak openly about the project. Responses were noted based on the relative category of sustainability indicators - environmental, economic and social impacts. This categorization of impacts allowed me to see where the greatest impacts were occurring. For example, the economic benefits of being employed at the factory were noted by the women as having an impact on their ability to afford books and materials to send their children to school and how the money earned by the cooperative was being used to help improve local infrastructure. Social benefits that were noted described how the women now had an opportunity to come together, not just for work but socially, and to participate in local politics. From an environmental standpoint, participants were keenly aware of the fewer agricultural inputs required to raise almonds and walnuts as compared to apples. This raised the possibility of pursuing organic certification for apples. The interview also provided the chance for HAF staff to hear about issues affecting the project, such as the need for refresher training from HAF and the competition with apples in the region. Please refer to the link above to view all the notes.
Men’s Association for Environment and Rural Development, Tassa Ouirgane
Tassa Ouirgane is located in the Azzaden Valley and is adjacent to Toubkal National Park. The Association overseas community water distribution and olive oil production. HAF has provided trees, a breeding bull, and training for men and women in the Participatory Approach to identify critical community needs and to start a girl’s cooperative (now defunct). Income earned by the Association’s activities (like sales of olive oil) stays local for schools, food, roads, improvements to the local mosque. In 2012 HAF held extensive workshops with men and women’s groups to identify their top priorities for the community. The women’s top priority was literacy for young girls, which has since been achieved by a grant from the men’s association, to pay a teacher. The men’s top priority was to address soil erosion and the restoration of farm fields in the river bottom that were lost to flooding in 1995 and subsequent floods due to climate change. HAF has applied for several grants to outside organizations to help with this issue, with no success in obtaining funding.
My visit to this site (April 19-21) provided an opportunity for the men’s association to reiterate and reconfirm in a group setting (13 participants) their number one priority of reestablishing farm fields and controlling erosion in the river bottom.
As a former Peace Corps Volunteer in this site, I am familiar with the issues related to the Toubkal National Park and the environmental degradation that has contributed to more extreme flood events and soil loss. I used this opportunity to work with the community over several days to identify specific ag fields for restoration and the potential strategic location of gabions to redirect flood flows and to map these areas.
Commune d’Ouirika Nursery (Haj Abdelkabir) and the Women’s Cooperative d’Aboghlo
This women’s cooperative, 60 members strong, splits their time between working in a tree and plant nursery and working at home making couscous (semolina) from organic wheat and barley, while also growing medicinal plants for sale. I was able to interview members of the co-op in two separate locations – one group working at the nursery, and the other half of the co-op at a meeting hall in the nearby town of Tnine Ourika. All in all, 43 women participated in the two group interviews (April 26).
At the nursery, a piece of land was generously given to the women’s co-op by Haj Abdelkabir to grow almond trees, pomegranetes, zatar, calendula, verbena and irises. This project was facilitated by HAF through the participatory approach, and chosen by these women as their own endeavor. HAF has provided additional training in things like organic production. The women work here once a week tending to the plants and trees, weeding, watering, etc.
While the women have an agreement with the French company, L’Oreal, to grow organic verbeena, zatar, calendula and irises as part of their sustainability initiative, no income has been realized yet since the production is still in the early stages of cultivation. Nonetheless, the women are willing work without wages to wait the 6 years they project it will take to have enough product for sale. In my assessment/interview with this group at the nursery, it was evident that the women have a strong understanding of the environmental impacts of their work, such as going pesticide free, pulling weeds by hand (and using them as fodder for livestock) and using compost as fertilizer.
Their responses were also strong in the social impacts of their work as a co-op. They noted how the experience has taught them a great deal about organic cultivation, being outdoors, and being a unified voice for their community. Until this co-op was formed, these women were very isolated in their homes and had little social interaction with each other. They now feel like a ‘family’ and support each other.
My assessment/interview with the other members of the women’s co-op was held in a separate location. The co-op started with a few women and the idea of needing to pass along traditional couscous making (forming semolina from wheat and barley grains) and the cultivation of medicinal plants to the younger women as they were losing this skill. It was then decided that they would form a co-op to provide a vehicle for earning income from the sale of these products. Again, HAF facilitated this through the participatory approach whereby the decision to pursue a co-op and teach couscous making was their decision. The assessment/interview revealed that their economic prospects from this endeavor are marginal unless they can step up production, address appropriate packaging and market their goods. Right now they only sell the product among themselves and a little at the local souk (market). They are inspired to broaden their marketing, and from a social standpoint, want to serve as an example to the rest of this community and region of women’s empowerment and cooperation.
The women’s responses in this group reiterated many of the same social impacts revealed by the women in the nursery. Their work as a co-op in the nursery and couscous-making has provided them with the opportunity to be a unified voice, support each other in women’s issues, and serve as a model for other women. They also noted that their coming together physically entails a 4 kilometer walk for many of them, and has improved their overall health and weight loss. Before, they said, they were isolated at home, watching television and having little to no social interaction. The co-op has provided them the chance to know other women from nearby villages. The interviews also identified some issues for HAF as new projects. For example, packaging and marketing the products of the co-op are an important priority for these women and could help them realize more economic benefit from their work. Secondly, transportation was an issue for some in terms of getting to work at the nursery or coming together as a group. Training in marketing is something that HAF could provide to the co-op, as well as some ideas on packaging. HAF has strong partnerships in and out of Morocco, that may foster some assistance with these issues.
HAF’s stated cornerstone of their impact is the application of democratic planning and assessment methods. This reinforces citizens’ ability to play an active role in decision-making, empowering communities with self-reliance and agency. The application of assessment methods in their work with communities applies as well to HAF staff that implement these programs. Having a coordinated and uniform process for planning projects before too many resources are invested is good business management and enhances HAF’s ability to seek contributions and partnerships toward any particular project. Lastly, the practical application of a sustainability assessment, through an annual interview with the groups that HAF works with helps to track progress
Review from Guidestar
The start of a five-day tree planting campaign in Fes, Sefrou, and Meknes
By Youssef Moussaoui
I have been volunteering for the High Atlas Foundation (HAF) for nearly a month now. Every day is a new experience, and the excitement never seems to end. This time, HAF planned a five-day tree-planting campaign in Fes, Sefrou, Azrou, and Meknes. Project manager Said Bennani and I travelled from Marrakech all the way to Fes. After a long drive, we arrived in Fes, safe and sound, hamdolilah (thank God). We met with Said’s old friends from when he lived in Fes; they were very nice people. Old friendships were rekindled.
Early morning on Monday, February 11, we went to the Abd Elaziz Ben Idriss Children Protection Center, where the HAF tree nursery also resides. We started with meeting the director; he welcomed us and expressed how happy he was to see us. Then he took us to see the children and they were very happy to see their good friend Said once again.
Some of the children’s metal work under Si Hamid’s coaching
We didn’t have so much time, so we decided to take plants to Skoura M’daz commune, and this is the first time HAF is implementing tree-planting activities in that region.
Khalid, the nursery caretaker, decided to come with us too to help with the process and learn more about the area and children there. After an hour drive, passing beautiful green hills filled with life, we finally arrived at Chariff Idrissi High School in Skoura M’daz.
We met with the Peace Corp volunteers; who came to learn as well. We conversed with everyone, including Khaoula Goumni, the person in charge of the planting. Every one introduced themselves and explained to the children how to plant trees and how to keep the trees healthy; they were very keen to participate.
Said introducing the High Atlas Foundation and its objectives
The planting began afterwards. Everyone planted their own tree, and we planted 33 trees in total: 9 almond, 9 fig, and 15 pomegranate. The Peace Corp Volunteers didn’t hesitate to get their hands dirty and help with the process. After we completed planting at the high school, we then went to the elementary school right next door to do their share of planting as well.
In contrast with the high school students, elementary school students were very curious and kept asking so many questions about nature, trees, and HAF. After all the questions had been answered, we began digging holes for the trees.
Even though the students are still very young, they were very hard workers. They dug most of the holes themselves. After we finished planting all the trees, the children thanked us for improving their school and vowed to watch over the trees until they grow. One of the students there approached us on the way out and said, “We are very sad that you are leaving but at the same time, we are very happy that you made our school more beautiful.”
At the end of an amazing first day in Skoura M’daz schools, we headed back to Fes with beautiful memories and so much gratitude for ECOSIA (the investor in HAF nurseries) and to HAF for this amazing opportunity. With the student’s kind words in our minds, we look forward to the new experiences and excitement tomorrow might bring.
Review from Guidestar
Tree planting is a key to success
by Fatima Zahra Laaribi
Annually, on the third Monday of January, the High Atlas Foundation (HAF) holds a high-profile day of national tree planting across Morocco. On this day—the 21st of January this year—Fatima Zahra Laaribi, HAF’s financial Manager, and Abderrahim Baddah, HAF’s nursery caretaker, headed toward Amizmiz, a small mountain town located 60 kilometers southwest of Marrakech, to celebrate a memorable day of planting.
On that morning, in the girls’ dormitory, Ms. Laaribi started her talk with a saying by the Prophet Mohammad (may Allah bless him and grant him peace): "If the Final Hour comes while you have a palm-cutting in your hands and it is possible to plant it before the Hour comes, you should plant it" (as reported by Anas ibn Malik, a companion of the prophet). Then, administrative staff spoke about Quranic passages related to fig and olive trees and their benefits. For instance, trees help people to become connected to the growing process while also providing a nutritious food source and food security. Planting fruit trees also has many helpful environmental benefits, from cleaner air to reduced energy costs. Together, we tried to raise awareness of the importance of planting trees in schools and sharing our insights about why we think that planting trees is important. For high school students studying life sciences and land, the trees will help them in their studies, as they can use the green space in their schools as a learning laboratory.
HAF provided 20 grape plants, 20 pomegranate saplings, and 20 fig saplings and involved a nursery caretaker who ensured that the saplings were planted in properly.
The president of the parent’s association and the administrative staff were eager and energetic as we pulled up to deliver the trees. They were so happy to be a part of the planting event and participated actively in the planting process as they showed their full engagement.
All of us took the initiative and planted in an organized way to ensure that all the saplings were planted on the ground and that we took their GPS points to track their growth in the future.
We were invited by the directors of the schools to make a short visit to the schoolyards to show us the potentials of the schools. We want to plant more trees with them in the coming year. We were very impressed by the environmental club that they created in their schools and how quickly growing beautifully even though it was established in last October. All the tiny saplings that the students planted this year had grown beautifully. Such an initiative in schools encourages us to work with them in the future. Moreover, the growth of these trees assured us that students, teachers, and headmasters will give great care to these trees. While visiting the schoolyard, many questions were raised such as, is there a nearby and dependable water source if we plant in the future?
If we plan to establish a nursery in this large spare space in the school is this will be this accepted by the delegation of education under the school plan?
We learned a lot about their environmental and ecological needs in terms of training of planting techniques. For Moroccan schools, it is important to be open to their partners and to involve all of them, specifically the civil society. Today Moroccan school is in dire need of openness to its surroundings if it wants to invest the highest potential available. But this will be achieved only if the educational administration changed its approach, which is - and unfortunately - away from activating the educational system. For the school to be open, the administration must firmly believe in this openness, its positive, and the important of the schools’ partners.
Administrative staff and the president of the parent’s association showed their appreciation, joy, and happiness. They were so excited to participate and assured us that their teachers and headmasters will take care of these trees and will water them.
The day ended with hope and excitement for the future, as directors and the president of the parent’s association and its members, expressed their gratitude and their desire to work closely with HAF.
Review from Guidestar
Hello! I am Aitana from Barcelona in Spain and I volunteered in High Atlas Foundation during 1 week in December 2018. I wish I could have stayed more! the team there is really nice, very good atmosphere and nice people. Thanks Errachid for all your kind help. I could only stay 1 week as I am working, so I took time off my holidays to volunteer. I will be happy to do it again!
In my short stay I could help High Atlas Foundation with tree planting. Below the article I wrote about my experience:
TREE-PLANTING AT THE CENTRAL HOSPITAL OF SIDI ZOUINE
Members of the HAF team had the chance to visit the Central Hospital of Sidi Zouine and get involved with the village community. HAF has previously planted trees in schools but this time we had the chance to plant trees at a hospital yard for a good reason: to make patients feel welcome and to beautify the space. We also learned about the hospital conditions.
HAF collaborated with the Association El Wafa, who helped to organize the event together with the Secondary School Parents’ Association, from the village of Sidi Zouine. The press was also invited to capture all the moments of the event.
Mustafa Amajgal, President of the Association El Wafa, showed us around the hospital. At the back of the hospital, they count on a well that serves as a water reservoir and the well is 85m deep with 30m filled with water. They informed us that the hospital moved from one building to the current one eight years ago. The hospital also has small buildings, which were meant to be for the nurses, but they are currently not in a good condition to serve as housing for them. They wish to have the resources to fix them soon, but they have other priorities at the moment, such as employing more doctors and nurses to serve their patients.
Currently, the typical number of patients per doctor is 7,000 in Morocco; however, the Central Hospital of Sidi Zouine is facing a big challenge: they have only 1 doctor and 5 nurses to serve 20,000 patients in the area. They are having difficulties to serve their patients with that low number of hospital staff. Many patients - particularly pregnant women waiting to deliver - often suffer terrible consequences before they receive care, according to local people.
The Association El Wafa told the members of HAF and its volunteers that the whole community was engaged in the preparation of the planting event the day before and they stayed late in order to have it all prepared.
The members of the Secondary School Parents’ Association of Sidi Zouine informed members of HAF that they are interested in planting trees in their school for the children to learn more about the environment. It is a new opportunity for HAF to be involved in another environmental project in the town.
After a big breakfast at the hospital’s patio, we started tree planting. HAF provided 50 carob trees, 70 almond trees, and 10 grape vines. The trees were taken from one of HAF’s tree nurseries in Imegdal (Ijoukak commune) the previous day.
We were very honored to see kids, teenagers, women, men, and older people from the village participating. Even patients that were visiting the hospital got engaged in the tree planting! Approximately 65 people from the village were involved.
After tree planting, community members invited us to visit the Quranic School Mr Azwain, located in the same village. The school teaches Quran in a traditional way and has 400 students that sleep, eat, and train in the same facility. Even if the school seemed quite new for us (it was rebuilt in 1991) it was originally built in 1897. We were given a tour of the different areas of the school: library, dormitories, classes, an Islamic shrine (darih), and the yard.
To sum up, we can say that the field visit was a success with the participation and involvement with the community, we learned more about the challenges and lack of resources of a rural hospital and also explored new sites for possible tree-planting. We are looking forward to working again with the hospital and the Association El Wada very soon! Let us know if you would like to partner with this project and hospital.
The field visit was attended by HAF Project Manager Errachid Montassir, Hassam Ait Ouatouch managing operations and volunteers Nisreen Abo-Sido, Brahim Bahmani and Aitana Arias.
More info here: http://highatlasfoundation.org/blogs/994-tree-planting-at-the-central-hospital-of-sidi-zouine
Review from Guidestar
My name is Moussa Sidibé, I'm 20 years old and I come from Mali. I am a master student at the HEEC School (a business school) in the specialty "management control".
In order to further improve our training, our school directs us to do internships and thus gain a lot of professional experience (in addition to the theoretical part that we do in class) and subsequently establish a report of internship that will be presented to the faculty committee
It is with this in mind that I turned to High Atlas Foundation on the recommendation of my supervisor Mr. Aboulmajd, without whom I will never have seized this opportunity which is now so precious to me.
I will, to the extent possible, do my best to help this association achieve its goals through my unwavering motivation and my entire devotion to a cause as noble as his.
Respect and distinguished greetings.
French Report : Visite des Pépinières de TADMAMTE et IMGDAL
Le lundi 4 Février 2019, nous avons visité les sites de plantations de High Atlas Foundation (une société à but non lucratif).
Ces plantations sont en grande partie des parcelles dont la société est propriétaire et ils contiennent diverses espèces d’arbres dont notamment des amandiers, des noisetiers, des pommes granites, des argans, des fleurs aromatiques et bien d’autres.
En somme, nous avons visités deux sites : celui de TADMAMTE (vers Ourika) et celui d’IMGDAL (dans la province d’Al HAOUZ, Asni).
Ce fut une toute nouvelle expérience très enrichissante, très intéressant et très récréatif pour moi pour beaucoup de raisons.
Tout d’abord c’est ma première fois de participer (en tant que volontaire surtout) à l’épanouissement d’une association et pour couronner cela qui se trouve être à but non lucratif, alors quand le Directeur m’a demander d’accompagner le staff dans le cadre de la visite des dits-sites j’étais très curieux de savoir de quoi il s’agissait concrètement, mais j’étais aussi motivé par le fait de voyager hors du centre-ville de Marrakech dans le but d’avoir un esprit très récréé.
Ensuite, ce qui m’a le plus marqué et c’est le plus important, c’est le fait que l’association High Atlas Foundation n’a d’autre objectif que le bien-être social et même économique du Maroc en général, elle ne cherche donc pas à se faire maximiser son gain ou son profit mais, des actes sincères et concrets comme par exemple : elle achète les arbres et plantes pour ensuite les planter dans les sites de plantations pour un court instant pour ensuite les distribuer « gratuitement » à des associations et/ou des écoles qui en formulent le besoin.
Cela m’a ouvert les yeux sur la nécessité d’actes très simples mais d’importance très cruciale comme celles-ci parce que planter un arbre est d’une importance inestimable pour la planète : l’arbre améliore la qualité de l’eau grâce à ses racines qui jouent un rôle de filtre, mais aussi absorber l’eau de pluie, mais aussi de produire de l’oxygène (source de vie) et ainsi purifier l’air, de lutter contre l’érosion du sol, de protéger contre la chaleur et tant d’autres bienfaits…
Tout cela m’a permis de réaliser le fait que je dois m’impliquer dans des activités comme celle-ci dans mon propre pays : le Mali (peut-être même en collaboration avec l’association) pour promouvoir ainsi le développement des zones rurales et même urbaines mais toujours dans l’optique du développement durable car un proverbe marocain dit « Plantons les arbres aujourd’hui pour que les générations futures puissent en manger les fruits demain »
Je remercie très humblement et gracieusement le Président, Mr Yossef Ben-Meir de m’avoir permis de participer à une expérience de la sorte, qui fut ma première d’ailleurs dans ce domaine car grâce à cela j’ai pu avoir une autre manière de voir les choses et que nous devons être solidaire pour la nature mais aussi pour la société.
Review from Guidestar
Tree Planting Day
It was in the beggining of my second week of volunteer work at the High Atlas Foudation and my first time in a field trip with them that I had an incredible experience. On January 21st, the third Monday of the month, part of the staff from HAF, partners, other volunteers and the local people worked together to make the Tree Planting Day happen.
In the morning we went to the Centre de Sauvegarde de L'enfance (Child Protection Center) in Douar Laâskar, Marrakesh. The instituicion takes care of vulnerable children, some of them in a really delicated risk situacion. First we went to the girls place. The teachers brought the kids to meet us and we all had a nice talk about the importance of planting trees. They got very curious and many questions poped up. It was really important for me to watch those young and sweet girls talking to the people while getting closer to the environmental care with shy but sparkling eyes. I took lots of pictures of them while working, trying to eternalize that moment with my on view of it. At the end of all the handwork, we had easily planted two Almond trees and one Argan tree. The girls didn't lose all of their genuine timidity, but I can say for sure that some seeds were planted in their hearts.
Around 11am we went to the boys site. It was a completely different vibe. They didn't ask lots of questions. Actually we didn't communicate that much, there was no need of it. They simply took the tools and started planting, as if they had done that their whole lives. This really amazed me. We helped each other like equals, with true looks and kind gestures. In this game we planted nine Almond trees! To be honest I didn't photograph that part of the experience very much. I was so involved at the moment, observing their facility and trying to figure out what was on their minds. They seemed to be on a meditative state, so concentrated but also so peaceful. After all, the main feeling that I kept was gratitude. Gratitude to be there and to show those kids that they have lots of options and a the possibillity of a bright future in front of them.
In the early afternoon we started our road trip to Essaouira. Our destiny was Ounagha, to meet the women responsable for the Cooperative Feminine Mogador Arganara (Female Cooperative Mogador Arganara). At 16pm we arrived there. They received us with open arms and a delicious morrocan lunch. We were able to talk and see the women making argan oil with their lived hands in an easygoing atmosphere. It was impossible not to notice how much work they had with each small argan seeds, even so they did it with patience and love. I learned a lot about the variaty of products that can be done with argan oil and the importance of those trees to the Cooperative as well as to Morocco's economy. We had a wonderful time and so much fun there. For me, as a woman, it was amazing to feel that we can be self sufficient with our professional life, and I felt this on their pride while presenting all their incredible products. Furthermore, we planted in total 5 argan trees with them.
Today, a week after the January 21st, looking at all my photografic records I could felt again some of the emotions that the Tree Planting Day aroused in me. Living this experience brougth me a huge personal growth and only made my love and concern with the planet Earth increase. This day also gave me hope. Hope in real people, the ones that don't give up easily and truly believe in their own strength. Those people will change the world. Maybe someday I'll be able to be like them. Iaw sha Allah.
Sofia d'Ávila Heidenreich Lacerda (AIESEC volunteer)
Review from Guidestar
مؤسسة الأطلس الكبير تحتفل بحدث التشجير بمجموعة من المناطق بالمملكة المغربية
متطوع بمؤسسة الأطلس الكبير
دعت مؤسسة الأطلس الكبير الاثنين الماضي والموازي للواحد والعشرين من يناير الجاري الساكنة المحلية المغربية لغرس آلاف الأشجار التي قامت بتوزيعها بمناسبة "يوم غرس الأشجار"، وهو حدث سنوي تقوم به المؤسسة، نظرا لما له من مساهمة في التنمية الاقتصادية والاجتماعية والبيئية عبر المملكة المغربية.
وكباقي المناطق التي تشتغل بها المؤسسة عرفت جماعة إمكدال حدث غرس الأشجار، حيث تم توزيع وغرس حوالي 90 شجرة من الخروب، التين، العنب، الرمان وشجر السرو، إضافة إلى عشرة من الأعشاب الطبية والعطرية، بحضور كل من السيد جمال رئيس جمعية أباء وآولياء التلاميذ بمدرسة إمكدال، وكذا بمشاركة تلاميذ مؤسسة إمكدال الإبتدائية المركزية والفرعية بتمسكين. بعد ذالك تم الإنتقال إلى المستوصف الصحي إمكدال والذي استفاد هو الآخر من غرس مجموعة من الأعشاب الطبية والعطرية، حيث كان يوما رائعا قضيناه رفقة ساكنة المنطقة، خاصة مع الأطفال وما أبدوه من تحمس إزاء التشجير.
لكي تصل الساكنة في المجال القروي أو الحضري إلى المستوى المطلوب من التطور وتوفير الاحتياجات الخاصة لجميع السكان، سواء من الناحية الغذائية أو عن طريق توفير فرص أكبر للشغل وبناء المشاريع المهمة، لابد من الاهتمام بجميع المجالات التي تؤدي إلى تحقيق ذلك وخاصة على مستوى الفلاحة.
من خلال حدث التشجير السنوي الذي تقوم به المؤسسة، تم تعلم العديد من الأشياء حيال ثقافة التشجير وكيفية اعتبارها جزءا لا يتجزا من النشاط المجتمعي التنموي، نظرا للدور الذي يلعبه فيما يتعلق بتحسين سبل العيش واستدامتها، ولنا الإيمان الأكبر بغد ومستقبل أفضل.
بعد أن قضينا أوقات جميلة مع بعض سكان جماعة إمكدال والذين شاركونا في عملية التشجير التي قمنا بها بكل من المدرستين الابتدائيتين المركزية والفرعية بجماعة إمكدال وكذا المستوصف الطبي للجماعة، غادرنا جماعة إمكدال متجهين إلى مراكش وعدنا جد سعداء بما قمنا به في هذا اليوم والذي لم يستدعي منا مجهودا بدنيا كبيرا ولكن كانت له دلالة رمزية نظرا لما للتشجير من أهمية في المحافظة على البيئة وتوفير فضاءات خضراء طبيعية تستفيد منها ساكنة المنطقة سواء تعلق الأمر بالشباب أو الأطفال الذين أضفوا لمستهم الخاصة بمشاركتهم في هذا الحدث.
Review from Guidestar
On the 21st January, HAF president Yossef Ben-Meir and part of the HAF team joined the local community in Arabat in the Rhamna Province, where the locals have welcomed us with open hands and warm hearts, and a beautiful Moroccan breakfast including some freshly baked msemmen, hand-picked nuts and liters of sugary mint tea. After sharing an indulgent breakfast together and discussing some of the issues related to the water supply, organic farming and the importance of sustainable agriculture, the team has signed a significant Partnership Agreement with the Regional Teachers Federation of Association. Chemsedine Sidi-Baba, Chair of the Board of HAF-Morocco, signed on behalf of the organization. This agreement will not only facilitate cooperation in building community infrastructure and environmental workshops in schools, but also create community bonds.
Along with local farmers, teachers and the local administrators, the HAF team proceeded to plant 70 fruit trees including pomegranate and almond. The community's children joined us and enthusiastically participated in this team-building experience.
The second site of tree planting was a primary school, Ecole Riad El Menzeh in Yaman Sourt near Marrakech, where we distributed and planted trees with the help of the kids, teachers and the president of Marrakech’s Jewish community, Mr. Kadoch. The tree planting day was filled with many smiles and could be summed up as a very and positive and fruitful (literally and metaphorically) experience as it brought many people together who are coming from a variety of different background, and encouraged collaboration and teamwork, and allowed the members of the HAF and the local people closely connect.
Review from Guidestar
Les trésors cachés de Sidi Zouine
Par Karam Yann
Honnêtement je ne savais pas comment commencer cet article, ce qui m’attendait durant cette sortie allait au-delà de ce que j’imaginais. Commençons alors par le tout début.
A huit heures du matin, je rencontrai mes deux compagnons du voyage, Kerstin et Juliana pour prendre un grand taxi de la gare de Bab Doukkala (Marrakech). Le trajet ne fut pas très long et moins d’une heure plus tard, nous arrivâmes à Sidi Zouine, une petite bourgade dans la préfecture de Marrakech… ou plutôt ce qui me semblait être.
Après avoir pris le petit déjeuner, nous allâmes à la rencontre de Mustafa, un membre actif de plusieurs associations locales dont l’association Al-Wafae pour le développement. Nous marchâmes jusqu’à l’hôpital de Sidi Zouine ou nous rencontrâmes d’autres bénévoles, venus spécialement pour participer à cette journée importante : des membres des collectivités territoriales locales, des instituteurs et institutrices, des étudiants et même des petits élèves du primaire et du collège. Après avoir choisi le terrain au sein de l’hôpital où devrait être plantées les plantes médicinales et les amandiers, nous commençâmes à creuser les trous pour les plantes. Tout le monde a participé dans cette opération : femmes, hommes, enfants et même quelques patients de l’hôpital sont venus assister à cette tâche, attirés par les applaudissements des gens et les cris de joie des enfants.
Au final, ce sont 21 géraniums, 8 romarins, 4 sauges officinales, 5 lavandes, 3 thyms et 20 amandiers qui ont été plantés. Après cette activité, nous fûmes invités à prendre le thé en compagnie de Mustafa et Malika, une conseillère communale et militante associative.
Après avoir reçu et distribué les certificats de participations aux bénévoles, nous fûmes invités à visiter les lieux historiques du village. C’est alors, à ma grande surprise, je découvris les vestiges d’une cité ancienne. Je me rendais compte que Sidi Zouine n’était pas seulement un petit village mais une commune urbaine avec plus de 25.000 habitants dont les premières traces de civilisations remontent à des siècles.
Nous visitâmes l’école coranique de la ville, l’une des plus prestigieuse du Maroc, le grand Souk hebdomadaire et enfin, le tombeau du fondateur du village le Cheikh Sidi Zouine.
Nous fûmes, par la suite, invités à déjeuner en compagnie des bénévoles, dans la demeure de Malika, toujours frappés par cet accueil chaleureux et convivial des locaux. Après un bon repas copieux, nous primes quelques photos avec les enfants de la ville et les bénévoles avant de se diriger vers la gare pour prendre le bus du retour.
Vous comprenez maintenant, que ce n’était pas seulement une sortie de routine pour planter des arabes et des plantes, mais ce fut, pour Kerstin, Juliana et moi-même, une leçon de vie de voir autant d’engouement de ces gens pour participer dans cette activité, nous fûmes tous admirés par l’accueil exceptionnel de ces gens et l’histoire riche de la ville, méconnue des marocains.
Nous rentrâmes à Marrakech, plus enthousiastes que jamais de vouloir servir l’humanité et de changer le monde par des petites actions, car nous sommes ce que nous pensons et avec nos pensées, nous créons le monde.
Review from Guidestar
Save Oxygen!!!: High Atlas Foundation’s Tree Planting Day
Youssef El Moussaoui
Once in a lifetime experience. Annually, on the third Monday of January, the High Atlas Foundation (HAF) organizes a nationwide tree planting campaign. On this January 21st 2019, the HAF team planted trees with communities in many places, including Sidi Bouathmane (Ait Imloul). Ait Imloul is an arid village about 20 kilometers away from Bouathmane, a small village where there are large and quite modest sized farms. Despite the ack of water in the area, they manage to cultivate fine and beautiful farms.
HAF’s project manager, Said Bennani, led the way from our office in Marrakech to the not-so-far province, driving with many medicinal and fruiting plants in the trunk. Once we got there, we met the very nice Yassine who showed us where we would be planting the saplings and stayed with us all until the end of the day.
The day was a spectacular one; the people of Ait Imloul welcomed us with their warm hearts. They are very good and respectful people. As we planted, we talked to the farmers there about HAF’s campaigns and they told us about their farms. Some of the farmers wanted only a few plants since their farms were already full; others wanted more. One farmer wanted more than 150 plants! We couldn’t deliver all those plants at that moment but we made plans to deliver more in the near future. He was happy with the plans made together and he told us he’ll be waiting the day we return with the number he wanted, maybe even more. As we kept going, we listened also to their challenges and how they manage to preserve their farms even with the lack of water they face. The day went by very smoothly and pleasantly.
We concluded by planting various plants along the wall of a cemetery, with the help of the town’s children, hoping one day the trees will grow to be beautiful and reduce the loneliness of the cemetery. We summed up the amazing day as we said our goodbyes to the people of Ait Imloul and left with promises of repeating what we did today, even hoping to make it better the next time.
Thus concludes the beautiful day at Sidi Bouathmane, Ait Imloul. We returned to headquarters with beautiful memories.
Review from Guidestar
About the Tree Day
by Juliana B. Feltrin
The HAF National Tree Day was very rewarding. We went to the Sidi Zouine Hospital, to plant trees. We were greeted by Mustafa, the president of Association El Wafa, who told us about the place. We started counting the amount of trees that would be planted, together with children and women. After planting the trees, everyone who helped earned a certificate of appreciation. It was a very beautiful atmosphere and everyone loved it.
After we finished planting, we went with Mustafa to see the village. We walked to a school for boys, where they had a beautiful garden.
We took some photos and were invited to lunch. Lunch was divided into two parts: In the first round, we ate the famous couscous and in the second round we ate tajine, another typical Moroccan food.
Everyone was happy with the day and with the trees we planted. For me, it was a very special day because I had never planted a tree before. It was very exciting and, for sure, when I go back to Brazil I will plant some trees in my house.
Review from Guidestar
Who likes trash?
I was excited about my first field visit and about getting to know what the High Atlas Foundation’s work looks like in action, because before starting my internship, I only saw the social media posts, blog articles, and photos.
This day, we didn’t travel long, as we went to two schools in Marrakech. The first one was a primary school with around 600 children. Esmae, the parent's associations president, welcomed us warmly at the door and we went to meet the children in their classroom.
Errachid, project manager at HAF, conducted an environmental and participatory workshop about decision making to protect the environment. The students were very active and had a lot to say. They had lots of ideas, like building an environmental club, creating trash places, and planting more trees. They learned more about global warming and the problems of flooding. The students decided to make some changes on their own to improve the environment—one mentioned that he will stop cutting flowers; other said they would stop throwing trash on the ground and that they would use water more responsibly.
Afterwards, our dear volunteer Nisreen conducted an introduction-to-composting workshop in order to put into practice what they have learned and later do a compost-making activity outside with the children.
Then we gave the children some time to express their newly-learned ideas and visions of their future school in drawings. I asked some of the children what they’d like to change in their school, and they answered that they need more classrooms and that they would like to have more flowers in the school.
After a delicious breakfast, which was offered by the parents’ association to us, we started our composting workshop outside. Nisreen asked the kids “Who likes trash?” After a little confusion, everybody denied. She asked, “Do you want more or less trash? “ Of course, they answered “Less!“. They were very interested in the composting workshop to reduce at least the biodegradable waste. We brought some plastic bottles, cut the tops off, and put some holes in the bottom. Then we began layering the compost, and the students were excited to find some soil for the first layer, then they put some food waste, then soil again, food-waste, and soil. In the end, they added some water and placed the compost-models besides trees, so the trees can benefit from the nutrient-rich compost which is produced like that.
At the end of this visit, we did a tree-planting activity with the kids and talked to the head of the school about the problems the school is facing: they need more bathrooms and have a problem with water when it rains a lot.
When we arrived at the second school in Marrakech later that day, the president of the parents’ association welcomed us again very warmly and we met with the school director. We talked with him and some teachers and he told us about his year-long experiences working as head of a school in a rural area of Morocco. Afterwards, we met the kids and Errachid, talked with the children about decision-making processes and environmental issues. He practiced the model of pairwise ranking in order to figure out what their biggest challenges are in the school. Although I do not understand Darija (the Moroccan Arabic), just by observing their interactions, I was impressed by how the children listened and were eager to participate. Everyone was very attentive. At the end of this visit we had some tree-planting activities outside and after having some tea and snacks we said goodbye to this school as well.
Celina Boehmer, HAF Intern (from Germany)
Review from Guidestar
المتطوعة : زينب الأصفر
يوم جديد يعني تجربة جديدة رفقة مؤسسة الأطلس الكبير، اليوم كانت الوجهة إلى المشتل الزراعي الواقع بالجماعة القروية "إمكدال" إقليم الحوز الذي ينتج نباتات مثمرة بقصد غرسها في الحدائق و الحقول و البساتين ، و تتنوع النباتات التي ينتجها المشتل ما بين نباتات تزيينية و أزهار ، و ناباتات فاكهة و أشجار الغابات مثل ( شجر الأركان، العنب، الرمان، الزعتر، الأزير،...)
هنا في هذه المساحة من الأرض الزراعية تتم عملية التكاثر و الرعاية لإنتاج شتلات النباتات ، حيت تزرع البذور أو عقل بعض الأصناف بغرض إنتاج الشتلات.
كل هذه المعلومات تم توضيحها لنا من طرف السيد "حسن أيت با" المشرف و المسؤول على المشتل الذي أتقدم له بجزيل الشكر على هذه التجربة المتنوعة الذي تعتبر في حد داتها دورة تكوينية لاكتساب ثقافة عامة حول موضوع البيئة بالإضافة إلى زيادة الوعي البيئي .
و كانت هذه التجربة الرائعة رفقة المتطوعة الإسبانية "أيتانا أريس" و السيد "حسن أيت وتوش" المسؤول عن النقل اللوجستيكي بالمؤسسة .
Fostering corporate-community partnerships: HAF attends regional OCP company meeting
by Nisreen Abo-Sido, HAF Volunteer, Thomas J. Watson Fellow
On my first site visit as the newest member of the HAF team, I joined Errachid—our project manager and volunteer coordinator—on a visit to El Youssoufia to attend a regional OCP Company meeting. Formerly known as Office chérifien des phosphates, OCP holds economic importance in Morocco as a globally leading phosphate exporter. In the 2013 growing season, OCP supported HAF’s human development projects in the Rhamna province. In 2017, OCP launched act4Community, an initiative requiring OCP employees to volunteer on community projects for 1-4 weeks. At the meeting we attended, employees that completed their community service reported on their experiences, attendees contributed to discussions about improving and expanding partnerships, and we invited the new OCP director to engage with our development efforts.
act4Community representatives spoke of the group’s priorities in the areas of agriculture, enterprise, social work, and environmental protection. Moreover, under each focus area, they outlined their approach, which included activities like training agricultural cooperatives on poultry farming, supporting women’s cooperatives, sending doctors to treat children in schools, and distributing winter clothing to children. Participating employees then reported on their experiences. One volunteer highlighted how the doctors visiting the school challenged the inaccessibility of doctors as figures solely functioning in hospitals. Another discussed the development of a province-wide quinoa-growing project and the benefits of growing the plant in a province with water problems. A few conference attendees then offered their comments, including a call for more communication between volunteers as well as cross-collaboration with existing civil society work groups.
During the tea break, we met OCP’s director, Ramzi Abdel Kareem, and Errachid familiarized the new director with HAF’s participatory approach and projects. After Errachid described HAF’s proposals for projects in El Youssoufia, including a clean drinking water initiative in Gantour rural community and fruit tree nursery in Allal Lfassi High School; Abdel Kareem expressed interest in visiting HAF’s tree nurseries in Assalam school in Ifrane and Lhossin Ibno Ali. They then discussed more of HAF’s programs, including those focused on women’s empowerment.
We carpooled back to the taxi station, and left satisfied that OCP’s act4Community efforts aligned with HAF’s approach.
Review from Guidestar
المغرب العميق بعيون جزائري
بعد انتهاء مرحلة التعليم الجامعي في شهر جوان سنة 2018 فكرت في تنظيم رحلة سياحية الى خارج الوطن، فشاءت حكمة الله أن أزور لأول مرة في حياتي البلد المجاور لدولة الجزائر وهي دولة المغرب الشقيق، وكان ذلك في إطار نشاط الرابطة الدولية للطلاب في الاقتصاد والأعمال وهو ما يعرف ب AIESEC التي توفر المجال للطلاب الموهوبين المتحمسين لتحقيق نمو شخصي وتطوير قدراتهم الريادية من خلال إشراكهم في البرامج التدريبية أوبرامج التبادل الطلابي العالمي للمنظمات التي تعمل على تحقيق إحدى أهداف التنمية المستدامة العالمية التي وضعتها هيئة الأمم المتحدة.
مقر إقامتي كان في مدينة مراكش، التي تقع وسط المملكة المغربية، وهي تعد من أشهر الوجهات السياحية في المغرب، بسبب مناخها اللطيف وطبيعتها الخلابة ومبانيها التي يغلب عليها اللون الأحمر مما أكسبها لقب "المدينة الحمراء"
اعتبارا لمخطط برنامج الإيزيك المتمثل في اكتشاف مدينة مراكش من خلال العمل التطوعي مع إحدى المنظمات الغير ربحية لتحقيق أهداف التنمية المستدامة لبرنامج الأمم المتحدة، كانت فرصة للعمل مع مؤسسة الأطلس الكبير وهي منظمة تطوعية أمريكية مغربية تأسست من طرف متطوعين سابقين من هيئة السلام في سنة 2000 بالولايات المتحدة الأمريكية، وهي مؤسسة تسعى إلى تكريس التنمية المحلية المستدامة في المغرب، بالاعتماد على المقاربة التشاركية كما تعمل على إنشاء مشاريع تنموية، تقوم بتصميمها المجتمعات المحلية.
كان لي شرف اللقاء مع الدكتور يوسف بن مير باعتباره رئيس المؤسسة وقد أبدى سعادته الكبيرة بقدومي الى المغرب حيث قال كلمة جميلة "إن المغرب ليس هو المغرب بل هو المغرب الكبير وأننا كلنا أبناء المغرب الكبير فنحن في بلد واحد"، حيث جعلني لا أحس بأنني غريب في هذا البلد وقد فتح لي المجال للعمل معه في المؤسسة ومساعدته لتحقيق أهداف التنمية المستدامة، وتقديم المساعدات للمحتاجين والقضاء على الفقر والتهميش في الأرياف، وقد ذكر لي مصطلح المقاربة التشاركية حيث كان لي فيه بعض الغموض في البداية و تركت الأمر للاستفسار عنه في مستقبل الأيام.
أول زيارة لي مع المؤسسة كانت مساء يوم الثلاثاء 6 نوفمبر 2018 في إطار الاحتفال بالذكرى الثالثة والأربعون للمسيرة الخضراء الذي نظمته دار إيما بالشراكة مع الطائفة اليهودية بجهة مراكش آسفي بمنطقة "لالة تكركوست" وهي قرية أمازيغية صغيرة تقع على بعد 37كم جنوب مدينة مراكش، تتميز بطبيعتها الخضراء وجبالها العالية ومبانيها القديمة كما تحتوي على أحد السدود المغربية الكبرى وهو سد " لالة تكركوست" مما يعطيها رونقا وجمالا.
كان من بين الحضور كل من السلطات الرسمية والإدارية للمنطقة بالإضافة إلى حضور رجال الدين الذين يمثلون الديانات السماوية الثلاث، وهم رئيس الكنيسة الكاثوليكية بالمغرب، ورئيس الطائفة اليهودية بالمغرب، وأحد أئمة المسلمين، وقد تخلل هذا الحفل وصلات فنية حماسية من تقديم فرقة الأصيل للفن، حيث شهد الحفل تفاعلا كبيرا من الجمهور خاصة مع النشيد الوطني المغربي ونشيد نداء الحسن للمسيرة الخضراء مما يعكس حبهم للوطن وتعزيز روح الولاء والانتماء له فرحا بالعيد الوطني ، كما تم عرض مقطوعات فنية إسلامية و يهودية و مسيحية ترسخ للمبادئ المغربية المتمثلة في احترام الأديان و التسامح العقدي.
من خلال كلمات المشاركين في هذا المحفل لكل من رئيس الكنيسة الكاثوليكية، ورئيس الطائفة اليهودية، وأحد أئمة المسلمين يتبين أن مسألة التعايش بين الأديان في المغرب هي ظاهرة متوارثة عبر الأجيال منذ القدم مما يبعث استقرارا وتعايشا سلميا بين مختلف الديانات والثقافات المكونة للنسيج الاجتماعي المغربي، وقد تبين لي جليا أن المغرب يُعدُّ فيه التعايش بين الأديان واقعا فعليا، كما تشهد على ذلك الحياة اليومية في هذا البلد المسلم، على عكس ما نعيشه في الجزائر حيث أن اليهود والمسيحيين يخشون على حياتهم في الجزائر، رغم أن قوانينها تسمح لغير المسلمين بممارسة شعائرهم الدينية، طالما أنهم يحترمون النظام العام والأخلاق، والحقوق والحريات الأساسية للآخرين، ويبتعد اليهود والمسيحيين في الجزائر عن الأضواء، بسبب مخاوف على سلامتهم الجسدية، واحتمال التعرض للمشاكل، وقد انتابني هذا الخوف حينما علمت في الوهلة الأولى أن رئيس الطائفة اليهودية سينتقل معنا على متن السيارة الى مكان الحفل اعتبارا للخلفية التي كنت أعتقدها حول التوتر الحاصل بين اليهود والمسلمين في الجزائر وفي الشرق الأوسط، لكن الواقع كان عكس ذلك حيث كان هناك احترام متبادل رفيع المستوى مع جاك كادوش، وأبدى سعاته الكبيرة خاصة حين علم أنني من الجزائر.
في يوم الأربعاء 7 نوفمبر 2018 ذهبت في ثاني زيارة عملية مع مؤسسة الأطلس الكبير والوجهة هذه المرة إلى مدينة آسفي التي تبعد عن مدينة مراكش ب 160كم، تقع على ساحل المحيط الأطلسي، تعني بالأمازيغية "مصب النهر"، يوجد بها أكبر معمل للفوسفاط بالمغرب، وكانت هذه الزيارة في إطار الدورة التكوينية التي نظمتها مؤسسة الأطلس الكبير بالتنسيق مع المكتب الشريف للفوسفاط، ونظمت الدورة لفائدة مدراء المؤسسات التربوية لمدن وقرى آسفي بحضور بعض عمال المكتب الشريف الفوسفاط.
وكان الهدف من الدورة هو دراسة الاحتياجات الضرورية التي تعاني منها المؤسسات التربوية لمنطقة آسفي والمناطق المجاورة لها، ووضع خطة عمل لتجسيد هذه الاحتياجات على أرض الواقع بمشاركة كل الأطراف المعنية من مدراء مؤسسات ومتطوعين وتلاميذ وفق منهج المقاربة التشاركية.
وفي أول تدخل لرئيس مؤسسة الأطلس الكبير السيد يوسف بن مير خلال الدورة الذي تطرق فيها إلى مفهوم المقاربة التشاركية اتضح لي جليا مفهوم هذا المصطلح الذي كان يبدو لي غامضا في بادئ الأمر، فهو يعني المشاركة في الفعل الجماعي من كل الجهات المعنية حيث يهدف إلى إشراك المستفيدين في تحديد وتشخيص مشاكلهم الحقيقية بمساهمة كل الأطراف الفاعلة والمستفيدين دون إقصاء لأي طرف من الأطراف في صياغة وإنجاز وتقييم المشاريع، باعتبار أن الإستفادة من نتائج هذا العمل تعود على الجميع، كما تتخذ التشاركية مبدأ اللامركزية في التسيير لجعل المشاريع أكثر ديناميكية ومرونة وسهلة التنفيذ على الواقع.
وبما أن هذا المشروع يمس المناطق الريفية فإن المقاربة التشاركية مجسدة في معيشة سكان البادية من خلال تعاون العائلات في إنجاز الأعمال التطوعية الجماعية التي يعود فضلها على أهل تلك البادية، إلا أن المقاربة التشاركية حاليا تم إعطاؤها صبغة عالمية يتم تطبيقها على مستوى المنظمات التنموية الدولية.
وقد تم تقسيم الحاضرين الى مجموعات ثلاثية كل مجموعة تتكون من مدير مؤسسة ومتطوعين اثنين من المكتب الشريف للفوسفاط، يقومون بالتعاون والتشارك فيما بينهم لوضع خريطة عمل لتلك المدرسة من خلال الاحتياجات الضرورية التي تعاني منها، والآفاق المستقبلية التي تطمح الى بلوغها، واستمرت هذه الورشات لمدة ساعة من الزمن من تأطير المنشطة أمينة حجامي، لتقوم بعدها كل مجموعة بعرض خريطة العمل التي تم وضعها ومن بين أهم المشاكل التي تعاني منها هذه المؤسسات ما يلي:
عدم توفر المدرسة على الحارس الليلي.
قصر سور المدرسة مما يهدد أمن وعتاد التدريس.
عدم توفر المدرسة على عنصرين مهمين هما الكهرباء والماء.
عدم توفر المدرسة على الماء الصالح للشرب مما يستلزم على الأساتذة والتلاميذ بإحضار قارورات الماء.
-عدم توفر المدرسة على قاعة الأساتذة.
-عدم توفر المدرسة على دورة المياه للتلاميذ وللمعلمين.
-عدم امتلاك بعض التلاميذ لوثائق الحالة المدنية.
-عدم توفر المدرسة على طاقم اداري يقف الى جانب المدير لأداء المهام الإدارية المتعددة.
-غياب الإرادة السياسية في دعم المؤسسات التربوية.
-عدم توفر الطريق المعبد الذي يؤدي الى المدرسة
-عدم توفر المدرسة على اقسام من الصلب والاكتفاء بأقسام من البلاستيك قديمة الصنع والتي --تمثل خطرا على صحة التلاميذ.
بعد عرض هذه المشاكل تم تحديد الاحتياجات المشتركة بين كل من المؤسسات الحضرية والمؤسسات الريفية وترتيبها حسب الأولوية باستعمال طريقة التصويت، وقد تمثلت الاحتياجات المشتركة بين المؤسسات الحضرية حسب الأولوية في النقاط التالية:
1ـ توفير الحارس الليلي.
2ـ الزيادة في علو سور المدرسة.
3ـ توفير التعليم الأولي.
4ـ توفير الدعم التربوي.
5ـ تدبير النفايات وإصلاح سور المدرسة.
أما الاحتياجات المشتركة بين المؤسسات الريفية فقد تم ترتيبها حسب الأولوية على النحو التالي:
1ـ توفير الماء الصالح للشرب.
2ـ توفير الكهرباء.
3ـ توفير الأمن.
4ـ تنظيم مختلف النشاطات الثقافية والرياضية.
وفي قراءة تحليلية من وجهة نظر جزائرية لنتائج هذا اللقاء، يتضح أن المغرب بالرغم من مكانته الرائدة في المجال السياحي الذي يستقطب آلاف السياح من مختلف الدول الأوروبية والأمريكية، خاصة في المدن الكبرى باعتبارها قطب سياحي ممتاز، إلا أن المناطق الريفية في المغرب تعاني التهميش من حيث التنمية الاجتماعية وسوء التسيير من طرف الجماعات القروية، والدليل على ذلك الاحتياجات الضرورية التي تعاني منها المؤسسات التربوية في تلك المناطق، على سبيل المثال: عدم توفر المدرسة على عنصر الحياة وهو الماء ـ عدم توفر المدرسة على الكهرباء ـ عدم توفر المدرسة على دورات المياه، عدم امتلاك بعض التلاميذ على وثائق الحالة المدنية، وهي من أغرب النقائص التي صدمتني عند سماعها للوهلة الأولى، حيث لم يخطر ببالي ولو للحظة أنه في سنة 2018 توجد مدارس في المغرب تعاني مثل هذه النقائص، حينها ادركت الوجه الآخر للمجتمع المغربي، والفوارق الطبقية السائدة في هذا البلد.
وفي مقابل ذلك ورغم كل هذه الظروف القاسية والمعاناة الصعبة التي تمس هذه الشريحة تتجلى رغبة مدراء المؤسسات في تحسين وضعيتهم من خلال عقد شراكات مع المؤسسات الاقتصادية وجمعيات المجتمع المدني مثل مؤسسة الأطلس الكبير والمكتب الشريف للفوسفاط وذلك من اجل النهوض بالتعليم وضمان جيل واع ومستقبل واعد للابناء وهي مبادرة جد رائعة، تستحق التقدير، وآمل أن أنقلها إلى الجزائر.
وقد خُتم اللقاء بكلمة من رئيس مؤسسة الأطلس الكبير حث فيها على ضرورة تجسيد توصيات هذا اللقاء على أرض الواقع، مع مراعاة عامل الوقت الذي يمضي بشكل سريع، مما يستلزم علينا تكثيف الجهود والعمل بوتيرة أسرع، فاحترام الوقت يعد عاملا أساسيا للنجاح والإستمرار.
مراكش يوم: 22/11/2018
- إبراهيم بحماني - الجزائر
متطوع في مؤسسة الأطلس الكبير
Review from Guidestar
Seeding New Projects for the 2019 Planting Season
HAF Intern- Marrakech
Lund University, Sweden
January is the traditional tree-planting season in Morocco, meaning that right now, the High Atlas Foundation (HAF) is gearing up to take on new tree-planting project ideas that are springing up across the country. Last week, I joined Errachid, HAF’s project manager, on his site visits to find out more about these projects, how they will benefit local communities and their contribution to sustainable development.
“Ait Ourir Bridge Center”, Ait Ourir
One beneficiary of HAF’s project will be the “Ait Ourir Bridge Center”, a language school for both children and adults in the town. Students here learn English in intensive 3-month programmes, and also have the opportunity to take part in exchanges with foreign students, namely those with English as their native language, to share cultural and linguistic experiences.
The project’s aim is to sign a partnership with six schools in the locality, who have asked for fruit trees to be planted in their grounds. The schools will then sell the fruit in order to reinvest the money into other projects. The exchange students and the Bridge Center’s students will conduct the planting together, to benefit simultaneously from knowledge of planting and learning a language. It is also hoped that there will be many activities and workshops surrounding the tree-planting involving the school-children.
HAF is forging a link between the AOBC and their project, covering the costs of the tree-planting and nurseries, as well as providing other incentives for participation in the project, such as sanitation and clean water. It is also hoped that the project will engage the Delegation of Education and the Governor of the region in the activities to highlight the importance of environmental education.
“Centre Pour le Sauvegarde de l’Enfance”, Marrakech
The Centre for the Protection of Children, or “Centre Pour le Sauvegarde de l’Enfance” in Marrakech is home to 35 boys and 45 girls under 18 years of age. It is both a home for children who have been involved in criminal activities or those who have nowhere else to go, and responsible for these children’s re-education and day-to-day care.
The Centre would like to plant trees in its grounds to be able to sell the fruits for additional income, to provide quality educational activities for the children. The project will consist of approximately 50 olive and carob trees over an area of 15m2. They also wish to start a tree nursery on the site in future.
HAF hopes to also conduct workshops with these children to work out their needs and assess where it is appropriate to provide assistance alongside the tree-planting project.
Bouchane Secondary School, Bouchane
Currently educating 1102 students, Bouchane school is a previous beneficiary of HAF projects. In 2014, HAF helped the school to plant 300 olive, pomegranate and lemon trees as well as herbaceous and medicinal shrubs.
It now wants to expand its project by starting up a pilot tree nursery for the region, equipped with a greenhouse and with water-saving measures. Over time, they hope that the nursery will provide trees for farmers, other schools and co-operatives in the region, and even further afield.
They will focus on planting olive and carob trees, as they are both suitable for the dry soils of the province, but also generate good income. This money will then be used to reinvest in other projects which will benefit the school.
Like the Ait Ourir Bridge Center, the Bouchane school also want to involve the governor of the province as well as other officials in the project and to sign a partnership agreement with the Delegation for Education.
Miara Jewish Cemetery, Marrakech
Inside this peaceful walled cemetery in the heart of Marrakech, a tree-planting project is underway. The guardians wish to plant 60 olive and 30 carob trees in the grounds of the cemetery, lining the walkways and providing shade over the area.
Preparations are already underway, with holes dug into the ground and an irrigation system set up to provide water for the saplings when they arrive.
The fruit trees will help to make guardianship of the cemetery, a place which has remain unvandalised for over 500 years, a financially viable position for the future.
Tagelft Lycée and Middle School, Tagelft
Due to deforestation and the removal of vegetation, soil erosion is a big problem in the High Atlas Mountains. Snowmelt in the spring can also lead to bad flooding, also partly due to the lack of trees.
The remote mountain community of Tagelft is hoping to combat this problem in part by commencing a tree-planting project in both its Lycée and its Middle School. This will help to stabilise soils and to provide a greener and more attractive learning environment for its pupils.
Although this project is still in its infancy, it is hoped that the site could host between 300-500 trees, seedlings of which could be given to local farmers to supplement incomes and instigate a culture of tree-planting in the region. It will also provide the opportunity to deliver workshops on environmental education and to raise awareness of the importance of trees for mountain communities.
Review from Guidestar
The HAF is working with some of the most impoverished people in the world, helping them collectively organize to help themselves, empower themselves, and govern themselves through sustainable development projects that improve both ecological integrity and social wellbeing, not to mention incredibly moving solidarity and mutual aid. This is an incredible group, with visionary leadership and unbelievable commitment to the people of Morocco.
Review from Guidestar
Fruit for Thought at the Children’s Protection Center in Fes
The Fruit Tree Nursery at Abdelaziz Ben Driss, the Center for the Protection of Children in Fes as a Case Study
According to the Ministry of Youth and Sports, the Centers for Protection of Children in Morocco are those spaces that are responsible for the re-education of juvenile delinquents, who are referred by the judicial authorities in accordance with the requirements of the Criminal Procedure law. These centers also provide these young people’s educational services.
The number of such Youth Centers in Morocco is currently 20, with a capacity of 2075 young people, of which 15 centers are for males, five female centers and two social work clubs. The ages range from 12 to 18 years.
Environmental education plays a major role in establishing noble values within Moroccan society. From this point of view, we can observe that many young people are not aware of the importance of taking care of the environment that surrounds them. From here, we would like to share with you the experience of the High Atlas Foundation (HAF) in the Fes and Oujda regions, in implementing a sustainable development project in these areas
The Moroccan Kingdom’s current orientation, or what is called the national goal, is to achieve sustainable development in all its parts and involve all constituent groups of society. HAF has participated in many projects that places more importance on preserving the environment and supporting sustainable development, which is one of its most important goals. HAF is working with various partners to achieve such projects in different parts of Morocco.
HAF is trying to involve local communities in the success of development projects. They aim to help a single human being, cooperatives, associations, or entire communities take on responsibility to develop the capacity to contribute to their own and their community’s development, by being involved in the decision-making processes, determining goals and pursuing issues of importance to them. The model that we have today is evidence of the efforts of HAF in various parts of Morocco and its different sectors. It has been more than a year since the start of this project, which was begun in order to integrate a certain category of Moroccan society into the development process, and which the Moroccan state seeks to achieve by involving all development actors.
The High Atlas Foundation has partnered with a local association in Fez, the "Association of Volunteer Experts" in partnership with the Delegation of the Ministry of Youth and Sports in Fez and Meknes, and funded by ECOSIA. ECOSIA is a German search engine company which helps to plant trees around the world. The objective of this partnership is to establish a fruit tree nursery that respects organic standards, producing different types of fruits that will be distributed to local communities in the Fez and Meknes region. The target of this project is not only to provide local communities with trees, but also to integrate the children who live in this center within the project, so that they can benefit from agriculture training and access more environmental education. Indeed, a group of these children have been involved in many workshops undertaken by HAF.
The project has received approval and support from the Center staff, including the director, who is keenly aware of the importance of the project within the Abdelaziz Ben Driss Center, mainly due to the positive effects on the children who live there. It will provide another activity in addition to the rest of the activities and workshops that they benefit from, such as the metal workshop, the non-formal education ‘’school’’, and some additional workshops, which are often fixed-term. Therefore, they did not hesitate to support this project by all the help available to them, and following the process of the project together with the members of HAF, represented by Said Bennani, the Project Manager in the Fes and Ifrane region, as well as Khalid Naji, who is in charge as a nursery caretaker.
The number of beneficiaries during the agricultural training sometimes reaches 15 children. Before they start the training, they are taught about agricultural skills and environmental issues. We introduced to them the role of this nursery in contributing to the development of some communities in their region, which are often dependent on agricultural activity as their primary source of income. The participation of the children from the center in this project allowed them to contribute to the development of their communities. The seeds we planted with them became seedlings that will be distributed to their families and their communities.
We are always coordinating with the staff from the Abdelaziz Ben Driss Center to involve children in this sustainable project, which produces fruit trees organically. When the children join us in the nursery, we seek to share new ideas and techniques that they can use in their future life. They are always happy to join us to check the situation of the seedlings and see what it is in need of attention, such as watering and weeding. Children ask questions about the reasons for using any method, and the purpose of each technique and other questions asked by them are answered by members of the High Atlas Foundation or the Center staff.
The children involved in the project are becoming happier, as noticed when someone visited the center. They are constantly excited to demonstrate the change that took place after months, whereby most of seeds and cuttings grew to become trees.
We often hear these words from them: "Look at the seeds and seedlings that we have planted, they have become big trees!’’.
The Abdelaziz Ben Driss Center hosts children from different regions and cities, some of them who have grown up in rural areas. This means that they already have experience with some agricultural activities, such as the planting of trees on their farmland. When they are in the nursery workshop, they share the names of the local plants that grow in the center, and they often talk to each other about these plants and trees, and how they use them as medicinal herbs or as food for the sheep.
As for those who attend the workshops and for whom it is their first experience with agricultural activities, it is sometimes difficult for them to understand what is happening in the fruit tree nursery. However, with more participation in the activities and workshops, it becomes clear to them the importance of each stage, that the seeds need to become trees.
In this photo, we are talking to a group of children who represent many ages and backgrounds. They were given the opportunity to learn from each other, in coordination with the High Atlas Foundation team and the Abdelaziz Ben Driss staff. Involving youth in different activities and in creating more workshops helps them to have the opportunity to grow and develop a personality that can become an engine of fulfillment in society. The more training and workshops we organise for children in this situation, the more we contribute to transferring capacities to improve their living conditions. In another words, this kind of project (the development of a fruit tree nursery) helps to create a more active youth in Moroccan communities.
Said El-Bennani is a HAF project manager in the Fes-Ifrane region.
Review from Guidestar
By Said Bennani, HAF Project Manager
Here at the Abdelaziz Ben Driss Center for theProtection ofChildren, HAF’s team in Fes and the youth living atthe centerare appreciating all the visits of our partners from other places in Morocco. Not only visitors from Morocco come, but also people travel from far away, outside of the country. They have come to meet the children and see our work together.
The project is about a fruit tree nursery, which we started building May last year. When the kids receiveguests they feel happy and more encouraged about their work in the nursery, and to learn more about agriculture.
Mr. Jamal Mimouniwho is one of our partners from the Oujda region, is thatarea’s director‘’ANDZOA’’ - the National Agency for Oasis Zones Development and Argan. He came by the center one recent Friday afternoon. We visited together all the nursery parts and he expressed how he liked the idea of building a fruit tree nursery with youth.
We talked about how the children engage in the project and learn many skills and receive environmental education. Every day the kids join us in the nursery. Hetalked with the children. The children were happy to walk together to the nursery and showMr. Jamal all the trees we planted these past months. They were happy as they are all the time, when people come and visit the great work they are doing in the nursery!Some of them say: “Look at to the seeds and cuttings we planted together, they are now trees, they are growing very fast! We were with you that time, Mr. Said, do you remember that?”
Children from the Fes area and other cities are hosted at this center. Some people come are rural areas, which means they already have an idea about agriculture and work in farming and planting trees. Some of the children are very helpful with naming all the local plants, which grow in the nursery. All the time we hear the children talk to each other about the types of plants and trees, and whatthey are used for at their hometowns.For those who are having their first experience with an agricultural project, it is hard for them sometimes to understand what is going on in the nursery. But, with more time attending the activities, they learn more about the actions we implement here at the center. This collection of children of all ages and backgrounds allow them to learn from each other, coordinating with the HAF team in Fes and the Center staff.
Furthermore, we mentioned to Mr. Jamal our visitor that we are looking to work in the same way at the Oujda center,which we started to doin recent months,planting argan and carob seeds.
It seems like those activities with youth from different ages and environments can help build leaders for community development. With more training and workshopswe organize for the children, will transfer capacities to improve the way they live every day. In other words, this kind of this project is helping to have more active youth in Moroccan society.
Review from Guidestar
High Atlas Foundation works in a collaborative way with local poor communities in Morocco to try to focus on small economic projects to increase income. These projects can range from women’s cooperatives to fruit tree nurseries to youth empowerment to organic certification.
Founded in 2000 by several former US Peace Corps volunteers in Morocco, HAF now has a small but committed, idealistic Moroccan staff that is making a big difference in the people and communities that they touch.
Review from Guidestar
My two weeks of volunteer experience with the High Atlas Foundation (HAF) was very rewarding and memorable. I have gained valuable insight into the non-profit organization. Working on several different projects enabled me to experience numerous aspect of problem-solving and community outreach strategy. The task I performed during my internship allowed me to apply some theoretical knowledge that I gained in the school in a real-world environment.
With the opportunity to visit the clean water project in Boujdour, I could see that HAF has been doing a marvelous job to create sustainable development for the community. The project not only gave the nomadic people easy access to water but also to anyone who travels in the Sahara. Moreover, the project extended to an environmental campaign where the goal is to educate the community about recycling. Based on my experience, I think it would be more productive and effective if HAF has a better management system during the site visit.
Above all, I was such an honor for me to be working and be part of the HAF family. I would recommend anyone who interested in community development to join the team.
Review from Guidestar
Natural landscapes are declining worldwide. Approximately 30 percent of the world’s natural forests are expected to be lost by the end of this century and 25 percent of all terrestrial land is currently under threat of desertification. Morocco is no exception. Over 90 percent of historical forest cover has already been lost due to the combined effect of overexploitation, overgrazing, and worsening climatic conditions. Large-scale forest destruction was introduced in the 19th century by the French during French Protectorate, and was continued by the Moroccan government after independence in 1956 to satisfy the needs for industrial charcoal production and rail construction. Furthermore, increasingly frequent droughts and unsustainable agricultural practices led to degradation of arable lands, which caused farmers to turn to forest resources to keep their cattle alive.
The disastrous extent of Morocco’s environmental degradation poses a major threat to the country’s flora and fauna. According to the IUCN Red List, over 223 plant and animal species in Morocco are threatened with extinction. In addition, severe soil erosion, water run-off, floods, and soil depletion caused by this environmental degradation is a considerable concern for human livelihoods and well-being, particularly for rural communities in the Atlas Mountains that depend on natural resources and are already marginalised and characterised by high levels of poverty.
With the dependency of rural communities on natural resources and the increasing environmental degradation caused by anthropogenic pressures, conservation inherently remains a development issue and their combined mitigation has become an important political objective. As a result, a wide range of projects that combine elements of conservation and development, and that provide communities with control over their natural resources and/or promote socioeconomic benefits, were established in an attempt to reconcile the needs of rural communities with the protection of biodiversity and associated ecosystem services.
However, tackling both environmental and societal issues at once can be challenging and many projects failed to achieve both their conservation and development objectives. This failure was often associated with projects being designed in a top-down fashion and driven by the agendas of conservationists with minimal participation of local communities. Additionally, many projects ignored that poverty can manifest not only through a lack of income or food but also through a lack of access to education, a lack of autonomy and political responsibility, a lack of equality and empowerment, and a lack of freedom and opportunity. By ignoring these intangible benefits, projects often failed to achieve long-term sustainable programme success. Identifying a set of effective practices and sharing lessons learned is therefore crucial to successfully conserve natural landscapes and alleviate poverty.
The pro-poor agroforestry programme of the High Atlas Foundation in Morocco showcases exemplary, highly effective practices and, thus, can serve as a model project that should be lauded internationally. The project was established in 2000 with the mission to facilitate sustainable development in Moroccan communities by introducing sustainable land use management through facilitating the transition from subsistence wheat agriculture to surplus fruit tree farming. This empowers local communities and increases their capacity, promoting environmental awareness and conserving the natural environment of the Atlas Mountains. Since 2003, the High Atlas Foundation has planted 3.6 million seeds and trees, and impacted approximately 10,000 household incomes through women empowerment workshops, skill training, and other community-determined initiatives such as improving school infrastructure, market access, and enriching education.
Key to this success is the foundation’s holistic strategy to sound and meaningful community engagement. Through utilising the participatory approach, where projects are driven by communities that jointly determine aims and objectives, create action plans, and help with implementation and monitoring, the foundation involves communities in every step of the programme, entrusts them with the authority to make decisions, and ensures ongoing communication between them and programme officials. This ensures early community buy-in, prevents programmes from being driven by external interests, guarantees the programme is designed with a thorough understanding of local context, social norms, and values, and allows flexibility to adapt if problems arise. Also, involving the community in every step and entrusting them to make decisions not only empowers them but also fosters ownership and pride, which are essential intangible benefits that can be as important to communities as tangible, economic benefits.
Furthermore, the foundation recognises that education alone does not lead to the behaviour change that is necessary to transition to sustainable land use practices. By combining environmental awareness campaigns with activities that reduce barriers to behaviour change (i.e., providing tools, skills, and alternative income generation strategies), the foundation can facilitate the transition from cattle and subsistence wheat farming, which depletes soil and inhibits natural plant regeneration, to sustainable fruit tree farming in 21 Moroccan provinces.
In conclusion, the ongoing deterioration of natural landscapes and the high dependency of rural poor on natural resources illustrates the need to fundamentally change conservation thinking. The High Atlas Foundation proved that meaningful community engagement through a participatory strategy is essential to sustainable, long-term success. Therefore, community engagement should never be an afterthought or a lip service, but should be fundamentally integrated into every conservation and development project. By sharing their lessons learned and effective practices, the High Atlas Foundation offers excellent potential for informing the global conservation and development community of how to develop impactful and beneficial conservation initiatives.
Kerstin Opfer holds a Master in Conservation and Rural Development at the Durrell Institute for Conservation and Ecology, University of Kent, and has traveled, worked, and lived in Morocco for over four years.
Review from Guidestar
"Morocco is a country that reveals its essence only to those who take the time to draw water and to pour a pot of tea."
- Moroccan Proverb
Time and tea - the two magic words in Morocco. Two of the most important lessons you will eventually learn in Morocco are that everything takes time, just be patient and to never say no to a cup of tea. Over the last 3 months I had the pleasure to work with the High Atlas Foundation and live in this wonderful and diverse country. I came here with the objective to experience the day-to-day life of a conservationist, to gain practical knowledge in the field of conservation and sustainable development and to truly get to know the Moroccan culture by living in it. Without any doubt, this time was one of the most valuable experiences that fully reinforced my plans to work in conservation and rural development as well as to continue my carrier in Morocco.
Within my time at the High Atlas Foundation I reviewed proposals and matched donor interests to High Atlas Foundation projects. I established multiple project descriptions on the fundraising platform Global Giving and by this gained an in-depth understanding of the diverse range of projects the High Atlas Foundation conducts. Additionally I had the opportunity to evaluate Sami’s Project, a project that aims to facilitate environmental education of children and enhance school infrastructure. For that I visited 15 schools in the Al Haouz province near Marrakech, questioned teachers and students and examined tree vitality and water supply. Seeing the glance in the children’s eyes when they talked about the tree planting event gave me great joy. It was a great pleasure to see the literal fruits of HAF’s hard work over the past years.
Furthermore, I accompanied HAF’s President Dr. Yossef Ben-Meir and the retired Peace Corps Country Director of Morocco, Ellen Paquette, to a business trip around Morocco. This trip taught me that working in sustainable development is not only about professional expertise but also means to be diplomatic, emphasize networking and meeting people, discussing, introducing ideas and learning how to deal with setbacks and money shortcomings. One of my personal highlights was the distribution of a thousand trees in the commune Zerkten in the High Atlas Mountains. Seeing the farmer’s thankfulness and appreciation gave me great trust that they will take good care of the trees so that they will grow up to be strong and healthy.
However, I did not only learn a lot about sustainability and conservation of biodiversity, but I was also completely overwhelmed by the generosity and hospitality of the Moroccan people. I made good and true friends in the office and outside the office, who treated me like a dear sister and directly involved me in their life. From the first week on I got countless invitations from their families, probably more than I got in Germany in a whole year. Everywhere I went, I was welcomed most warmly and treated with incredible hospitality. In general there was not one day, where I felt lonely or out of place, because there were always friends around to join me for dinner or a stroll through the medina or even just a good conversation with a friendly women in the bus or the public Hammam. One experience especially moved me: It was when I travelled back to Marrakech in the early morning after a weekend trip to the mountains. Next to me sat a women, who was travelling to Casablanca and we had a very funny conversation, because we used a mix of Arabic, French and sign language to understand each other. Shortly before we arrived Marrakech she gave me two eggs for breakfast, the only eggs she had with her. I was moved by her generosity, because she had a far longer trip, but she gave me her provision anyway. And that’s essentially Moroccan hospitality: they show you their appreciation by giving you food, lots of food. If they feel you are not eating enough, they will persuade you to eat more and trying to trick them by eating slow will not work for sure. Food is, just like tea, a form of Moroccan appreciation that you should acknowledge and cherish.
Morocco is a land of countless possibilities, a country that will surprise you every day and of amazing, astonishing beauty that will keep you breathless. From days, where the bright sunlight warms up the city, to intense snow storms in the desert or heavy rainfalls that turn streets into rivers, I experienced everything. I also experienced the unbreakable spirit of young Moroccans and their urge to change their country for the better. Morocco is a country that undergoes massive, but peaceful changes, be it in the transition from subsistence agriculture to cash crop farming, the empowerment of women or the decentralisation and democratisation. Being part in this process of sustainable development was a true honour and a priceless experience that propels me to pursue my postgraduate studies in Conservation Biology, but always with the goal in mind to apply my newly gained knowledge in Morocco. It is hard finding the right words to describe my love for this country and its residents, who gave me more than I can ever repay and leaving feels close to impossible. I will indescribably miss the chaotic hustle and bustle of Marrakech’s medina with all its colours and scents, I will miss drinking more than my body weight in sugary mint tea, I will miss hiking through the peaceful countryside of the true Morocco and I will even miss waking up at 5 o’ clock in the morning from the melodic but noisy prayer call. Morocco was an incredibly experience. At times, it was trying, chaotic, and overloaded my senses, but for all the stresses of adjusting to a new culture, it was a country where I felt completely in my element and at home. A big thank you to the High Atlas Foundation and all the people I met during my stay. You made my time in Morocco so much more valuable and gave me more than I can ever repay. I will always keep you in my heart and be forever grateful for meeting you. Thank you.
This summer I had the great opportunity to work as a volunteer for the High Atlas Foundation. I was always curious about how an office environment was and if I was suitable for this environment. In such a short time period, I have found out that I`m actually suitable to work in such an environment. I truly believe that co-workers played a huge role in my experience at the High Atlas Foundation. They have always been so nice and always gave full support when help was necessary. The friendly environment created at the High Atlas Foundation is the greatest motivation to be present at work the next day.
As a Communication Science Bachelor`s student I`m really happy that at the High Atlas Foundation I was able to combine my studies with the work that was asked from me. The first task I performed was to analyze the data of the Foundation`s Facebook page of which I wrote a report on. Secondly, I worked on the budget narrative of one of the Foundation`s upcoming projects. This was the first time I have performed such a task which I had to predict costs. With the help of co-workers I as able to complete the budget narrative. I`m really happy that such task was asked to be completed by me since I have learned a new hard skill. Also, I believe that it will very much help me while holding the treasurer position of the Sustainability for Students Amsterdam association.
I`m really grateful for the experience.
Thanks for everything.
Merve Naz Hazinedaroglu
Review from Guidestar
I interned with the High Atlas Foundation for 8 weeks over the summer 2018. I found this experience to be very meaningful. HAF works very closely with communities making each project have its own unique impact. In addition, this community provides a welcoming space to all volunteers and interns, and truly specializes in bringing people together. If you would like to read more about some of the projects I worked on while I was there, links are attached.
Conserving Traditional Crop Diversity and Wild Medicinal Plants in Morocco
Abderrahim Ouarghidi, Ph.D.
High Atlas Foundation, Marrakech
The Moroccan saying--“New things have a charm and old ones should be preserved”—has wide applicability in current Moroccan agricultural practices and attitudes towards traditional and local crop varieties. This revealing expression is part of the Moroccan identity and way of life. Moroccan people place high value on tradition, while at the same time they are committed to a modernity that is built upon existing cultural traditions that give distinction.
For instance, in Morocco there is widespread preference for local or “beldi” foods, such as “a’slhur” (pure unfiltered honey), “zit ud” (olive oil), and “shriha skouria” (a local fig variety) that have been always appreciated and valued delicacies. Nearly all Moroccan communities consider “beldi” food items as healthy, tasty, and nutritious.
Despite this, decision-makers at high levels of government agencies responsible for agricultural policy and education in Morocco tend to focus heavily on commercialization, profit, and production for global markets. While this approach has positioned Morocco as an important producer of fruit and vegetables for European and global markets—in the effort to ensure that the Moroccan agricultural sector is thriving, they have avertedly undermined local knowledge and practices of small-scale farmers, leading to the loss of agrobiodiversity and traditional crop varieties.
Although traditional crop varieties are highlighted in Morocco’s “Green” strategic plan for agriculture, to date limited attention has been given to local agricultural practices and local crop varieties and species, which represent an important genetic resource for small farmers and the future of these crops globally. The genetic diversity preserved in-situ in traditional crop varieties can provide the raw materials needed to ensure continuing supplies of these crops in the face of water scarcity and rapid climate and environmental change.
Promoting local seed diversity enhances the diversity of crops on farms thereby providing resilience to environmental and market shocks, while at the same time maintaining local practices and values. Growing traditional varieties in addition to those for export, would allow farmers to also target local markets and support healthy aspects of traditional Moroccan diets and cuisine.
To help return traditional crop varieties to farms in Morocco, the High Atlas Foundation(HAF) has been working with the Farmer-to-Farmer program (funded by USAID and administered by Land O’ Lakes) to assess the current status of local agrobiodiversity and create a seed bank to preserve local crops, wild relatives, and wild medicinal plants. The hope is that such documentation and the seed bank will both demonstrate the inherent value of traditional crop varieties and crop wild relatives and ensure that farmers who which to reintroduce such varieties to their farms have access to planting material. This work support HAF’s mission in Morocco to achieve a sustainable agricultural development and promote sustainable local varieties and practices for food security and conservation.
The rapid assessment we performed the fall and winter of 2017-18 suggests a tremendous shift has occurred, resulting in the loss of local crops varieties and genotypes and loss of traditional agricultural practices. We found widespread replacement of diverse traditional varieties with a very few high-yielding introduced varieties and species such as apple, almond, and plums. These introduced varieties are considered “modern”, genetically enhanced, and are heavily promoted by governmental programs encouraging intensive agriculture. Agricultural priorities for export markets promoted through different programs are thereby contributing to genetic erosion and in some cases lead to unsustainable agriculture.
There needs to be greater attention to the inequality in access to the benefits from these agricultural transitions, especially for small scales farmers in terms of access to agricultural inputs and vulnerability to market and environmental shocks. During our field work, some farmers raised concerns of the cost of the treatment of the infected modern varieties of apples and the amount of labor needed to grow them. According to farmers, varieties bred from traditional “beldi” varieties require less intervention and cost very little.
We are also working to collect seeds from wild plants with economic value. In parts of rural Morocco some households gain a substantial portion of their income through the sale of medicinal plants collected from the wild. Collectors of medicinal plants and stakeholders stated that the populations of some medicinal plants are decreasing such as pellitory, wild sage, and thym, and are keen to discuss the possibility of domesticating them.
In addition to creating a Seed Bank system to preserve crops varieties and threatened wild endemic species, it is important to ensure the application of a creative, inclusive and diverse approaches to improve agriculture and livelihoods. Local communities must be valued for the real value they add to agrobiodiversity and food systems. In this context, HAF is playing an important role working with local farmers ensuring the use of local crops varieties and species that require less pesticides and insecticides and use water efficiently.
Dr. Abderrahim Ouarghidi – a High Atlas Foundation Farmer-to-Farmer Volunteer – is an Assistant Research Professor at the Department of Ecosystem Science and Management, Pennsylvania State University.
Review from Guidestar
After more than 25 hours of traveling to Morocco, we were greeted warmly upon our arrival by our local partner from the High Atlas Foundation, Rachid. We spent the night in Casablanca before beginning our (roughly) five-hour drive to Marrakech the following day. Once in Marrakech, we checked into our beautiful Riad (hotel), went out to tour the Old City, have lunch Moroccan-style and finish up the day with a quick shopping trip in the souks (a HUGE marketplace with vendors of all kinds).
The next day, we had the opportunity to meet the president of the High Atlas Foundation, Dr. Yosef Ben-Meir, before picking up the shoes for our first and second distributions! As we made our way along the bumpy roads of the High Atlas Mountains, the sights were absolutely breathtaking and second-to-none. Pulling into both of the villages, all members of the community were gathered around with smiles from cheek-to-cheek. We quickly got to work setting up and sorting the shoes by sex and size, sizing each child's feet, washing and drying their feet (a touching and heartwarming part of the process), and finally sliding on perfect pairs of brand new shoes! At this point, if a child was shy or hesitant, even with the language barrier that we faced, we found that the saying "smiles are a universal language" could not be truer.
We continued to have wonderful experiences at the next village during both the shoe distribution, as well as our time spent painting a new mural in the outside playing area at our third distribution site. Our fourth and final distribution site was at a local Women's Co-Op which I found to be the most empowering. The women and children we served were members of a largely ostracized community since they had been either divorced or widowed. Rachida, the woman who ran the Co-Op, along with all the other women who were there, welcomed and thanked us individually with a handshake and a customary kiss on each cheek. During the distribution, many smiles, rough attempts to speak the other's language, and high-fives were exchanged, creating an indescribable, as well as overwhelming, amount of positive energy in the room. As a thank you, a couple of the women did henna for us, leaving many of us stained with beautiful designs on our hands for the weeks to come. After a quick but delicious lunch cooked by the women in the Co-Op with the help of other Vanderbilt student-athletes, we were on our way back to Marrakech.
Personally, as someone who struggles with social anxiety, traveling to another continent with a group of 20 strangers was a big step just by itself. Yet as the trip progressed, getting to know the other student-athletes left me feeling closer and more connected to the Vanderbilt community than I ever thought possible. While on the trip, our motto was "learn to be comfortable with the uncomfortable," which is actually something my coach says constantly, and it was great to have another place to practice that mindset.
While this trip to Morocco was meant to help change the day-to-day lives of folks who are less fortunate than others, I left feeling as if I had gained so much more than I was given. I will forever remember the smiles on every child's face as we put a brand new pair of shoes on their feet, the memories made on long bus rides with other student-athletes, the hope we saw in the eyes of each elder in the villages, I could not be more grateful for this opportunity offered by Vanderbilt Athletics and the High Atlas Foundation, and it makes me excited to continue doing service work both locally and internationally in the future.
Ask an American college student what they want to do in their life and inevitably, at some point, they will say some version of “to make a difference.” Ask a young professional why they are transitioning in their careers and you are likely to hear “I want to find more meaning in my work.” Despite high levels of education, we young Americans struggle to find opportunities to create positive change in the world.
In 2014, Unesco ranked Morocco among the 21 poorest countries in education. According to USAID, the likelihood of a first grader going on to complete high school is less than 15 percent. But there is no shortage of opportunities to create lasting change here. This week, on a volunteer trip with the High Atlas Foundation to distribute school supplies donated by Fre Skincare, I had the opportunity to meet a woman who was doing just that.
In the 1990s, Lalla Fadma Abjar moved from the city to Tidzi, a small village in the semi-desert Sous valley of southern Morocco, 25 km from the beach town of Essaouira. At that time, just over a quarter of women in Morocco were literate, and this was of course much lower in the rural areas. Lalla Fadma was one of the few.
Around the same time, Moroccan professor Zoubida Charrouf recognized the extent of the decline in the ancient, hardy Argan tree, whose dry bark is reminiscent of a juniper and whose fruits could be mistaken for olives. While it once covered all of North Africa, preventing desertification and providing many benefits to communities across the region, by the 1990s the Argan tree could be found only in the Sous valley. To motivate local communities to protect the argan forests and to empower women, Professor Charrouf began developing women’s argan cooperatives and marketing and raising awareness of the products internationally.
In 1998, UNESCO declared the argan forest in the valley to be a biosphere reserve, and a movement began. As one of the few literate women, Lalla Fadma was sought out to establish one of the first cooperatives in the region. She bought the land herself and, with a small group of women, created the Cooperative Feminine Izourane Ouargane and began processing the “liquid gold.” For the first time in their lives, they earned income and had a place to socialize outside their homes.
Now, Lalla Fadma’s daughter, Lalla Amina Amchir carries on her mother’s work, expanding the opportunities for women and their families. There are now 40 women in the cooperative, most of them widows or divorced. In the last 2 years, Izourane women’s cooperative was able to plant 2,000 new trees thanks to the partnership with HAF and Fre skincare. In addition to the income that these trees will help to generate, the partnership provided training in women’s empowerment, educating the members about their rights, and provided school supplies for their children, to help combat the high dropout rates that are still pervasive in rural Morocco.
With only a third-grade education, Lalla Amina administers the cooperative herself. She proudly showed us the impeccably organized cabinet where she stores the financial records. She explained how she has worked hard over the past two years to complete the seemingly endless series of paperwork required to become certified by the ONSSA which would enable the group to access a more consistent and reliable market, with greater guarantee of payment. Hopefully, the Izourane cooperative will receive the certificate soon, as this will also help to differentiate them from the many argan shops lining the road, which Lalla Amina explained are actually for-profit enterprises masquerading as cooperatives, but which do not truly support the women.
While the argan industry has become increasingly established over the past two decades, Lalla Amina and the other cooperative presidents have done all of this work with very little support. The Ministry of Agriculture provides some trainings on administrative matters, but these are offered only in French, a language not spoken by most of the presidents. Similarly, while an association of presidents exists in name, no activities are carried out to enable the presidents to practically support one another.
While she perseveres through these challenges, Lalla Amina sees the fruits of her efforts and the benefits of the support of partners like the High Atlas Foundation every day. She explained that earning income brings women purpose in their lives, and invest their earnings in their homes and in their children. In addition, the provision of school supplies, donated by Fre Skincare helps to ensure that kids go to school and have the resources that they need to learn.
As we distributed backpacks and notebooks to the 30 children on our visit, Rachid, a HAF project manager, asked each child what they want to be when they grow up. Most aspire to be teachers or doctors. Thanks to Lalla Amina, as well as the support of HAF, Fre Skincare, and Izouran’s other partners, these dreams are increasingly likely to become a reality. When they do, whether the children will know it or not, each of them will carry a piece of the dedication, work ethic, and empathy of Lalla Fadma and Amina, and they will continue to change the world.
Review from Guidestar
Today was our second full day in Morocco, but our first day of service. We first met with the CEO of High Atlas Foundation, the foundation we are partnering with here in Morocco. HAF works to help communities participate in the development of their own village's infrastructure through planting trees, enhancing schools - as mandated by the Moroccan government. The CEO, Dr. Yossef Ben-Meir, spoke to us in a charismatic manner that not only showed how much he cared for the foundation, but how he cared for us as volunteers.
Dr. Yossef urged us to remember two things. The first is to not bring doubts with us when the future is unknown. Don't be doubtful of the uncertain, but rather find hope that the work you are doing is bringing a positive impact beyond your knowledge. Dr. Yossef related this to our athletic experience; don't have doubts about your next play, because it involves factors you cannot foresee. The second piece of knowledge was that implementation of law (or in any case of cultural attitude) comes not from strategies and ideas being told, but from the participation of those whom it will be affecting. This is why HAF insists on working with communities to plant trees and relay their communities' other needs to government officials. It is how Souls4Soles works with local foundations to ensure that the implementation of donations of shoes is not brought with false promises, but rather brought with hope for the future of one's community.
We saw Dr. Yossef's words come to fruition during our first day of service in Morocco. After taking a short drive into the High Atlas Mountains, we visited two villages whose inhabitants greeted us with smiles on their faces and Moroccan tea in their hands. Once we had the shoes set up for sizes and placement, each child had their feet washed and they received a pair of shoes based on their size. The first village was a little tricky for me. I could see the hesitation on each child's face when a shoe may have been too small at first, the uncertainty they had. However, once we found the right shoe for each child, their smiles grew exponentially. The spirit with which we greeted the villages, and with which they reciprocated, showed the unifying capability of the human soul. The language barrier was difficult, but singing and dancing do not have to be understood to be felt.
Leaving the villages was a challenge, but I was not sad while saying goodbye. I knew that Dr. Yossef was right, in seeing Rachid with his friends and coworkers of the villages, that HAF is helping in the implementation of change for each village. Souls4Soles is also a vehicle of that change, helping each child one shoe at a time.
With the joy and excitement of our first service day fresh on our minds, it was safe to say we were all looking forward to our second day of distribution. Our group spent the day at another small village outside of Marrakech, where we distributed more than 200 pairs of shoes. Along with our distribution we also spent time painting and decorating a wall at the local school. It was clear that the kid at heart came out in all of us when we began to draw and paint pictures on the walls.
How can we know if a project we took part in, really had an impact?
Several month after finishing my internship with the High Atlas Foundation, I got the chance to go back to Marrakech, this time, only for a visit. Though the purpose of the travel was truly exciting, an interfaith conference in Essaouira, I was more excited about visiting my friends from HAF and the people we had worked with on HAF's women's programs, from the villages of Ourika, Setti Fadma and Okemidan in the High Atlas region.
Often in the development field, we seek for great changes that we can measure with numbers for instance, to indicate on the impact of a given project. However, sometimes, as I learned in this recent visit, change can be something that you feel, or see in different shapes.
Our first stop was the Aboghlou Women's Cooperative in Ourika valley. The first thing one sees when entering the cooperative, are the products that the women are growing, preparing and selling. A year ago, they mainly sold traditional anise cookies, different types of cuscus, and dried leafs that were grown collected and packed by order. This time I could see additional products, such as quinoa, henna and more. Nevertheless, the most exciting was the new designs of the packaging of the products that looked so much more professional. When asking the cooperative members how they see their progress, they shared that if once their dream was to sell their products to people in their region, now their dream is to reach the national level, and next, to export their products abroad. The head of the cooperative shared that not only the fact that they started to generate money motivated them, but also seeing their success made them think big, and develop their cooperative. She added that women from other villages were inspired by the Aboghlou cooperative, and started other associations and cooperatives in their area. In her words, this makes her very happy.
Remembering one woman from this cooperative, who last time when I was there, shared that she had never spoken to a man before in her life, was afraid to take public transportation, etc. and this time, seemed very confident when explaining about the cooperative to the people that were present in the room, led me to an important understanding. In fact, the essence of the personal impact of the empowerment of these women comes in a shape of greater self-confidence that nourishes these women's beliefs in their abilities, and encourages their actions towards economic development as well. Another good example, is that a year ago the cooperative members refused to accept back several women who had dropped out at the beginning of the process of establishing the cooperative. They mentioned that they did not feel responsible for them, and could not see the importance of including others in their development process. Eventually, regarding the question of accepting others, they decided to take some time and think about it. Today, when I asked them about their decision, they said that at the future, they would be happy to receive back anyone who will be committed to their joint success.
Following this fabulous visit, we drove up the mountains to Anamer village. We met the women there, who shared their great feeling of satisfaction from the Arabic lessons they decided to take, following the workshops we conducted with them, only eight months earlier. I was so excited to see how positively they remembered us, and the workshops we had done. After having tea, I left with the kids of the village to see their fruit trees, and walk by the river, while Fatima-Zahra and Ibtisam, shared their advices with the women about the process of establishing an association. This was truly moving to see how one small action lead to such strong feelings and a true bond between us.
Our last stop was the house of our dear colleague Abd-el-Jalil, in Okemidan, that showed us the agriculture in the area, and hosted us for a fabulous lunch. Once again I was exposed to the great generosity of my friends from the HAF and their open hearts that now as before, made me feel at home.
My main conclusion from this visit was that change comes in different shapes, and amounts, and though sometimes the impact of our work is not tangible or measurable, every single action that we did or did not take, left something on the people we interacted with. I can indicate for myself that it left a huge impact on me as well, that takes the shape of feeling that I was a part of something great. So how could we know if a project we took part in, really had an impact? In this case, we see it with our eyes, and feel it with our hearts.
Review from Guidestar
I would like to Thank the hight atlas foundation so much for the opportunity to intern in such a great NGO.
It was a wonderful experience and made me even more certain that I would like to pursue a career in social work.
Over the course of the internship, I was able to spend many hours with each HAF staff and volunteers. It was incredibly rewarding to be able to work with them on several projects related to environment, youth, women empowerment …...
Your advice and experience have been tremendously helpful; I truly appreciate the confidence you showed in me during my internship.