I am so proud of this organization. It has accomplished so much since its humble beginnings. It began with a simple idea put forward by several Peace Corps volunteers with a deep connection and love for Morocco and it's people.
Yossef Ben-Meir's vision and persistence has led to the robust organization that the High Atlas Foundation is today. Yossef has been at the center of the organization since its inception. He has dedicated his life to rural community development in the Maghreb.
The High Atlas Foundation uses a bottom-up community managed approach to projects which yields meaningful results and positive change. The organization employs dynamic personnel who are committed to the health and well-being of their communities.
I had the pleasure of seeing the High Atlas Foundation in action a couple years ago as they planted their millionth tree. It remains one of the best memories of my life. If anyone is looking for a good cause to support, it would be difficult to find something better than this phenomenal organization.
Caring for Life in Tadmamt
Hajar Ennamli (National School of Management and Trade in Oujda)
By Saloua Rmita (Eastern Mediterranean University in Cyprus)
We are volunteering with High Atlas Foundation in Marrakesh, for the purpose of living an unforgettable experience and discovering HAF’s activities.
Our first project site visit was to Tadmamt. HAF’s tree nursery represents a partnership with the Department of Waters and Forests, and it was first funded in 2012 by the United Nations Development Program.
This nursery includes one hectare of land for planting three kinds of organic fruit seeds which are irrigated by a large water basin. There are cherry (60 000 seeds), almond (85,800 seeds), and walnuts (45,000 seeds).
Upon arriving at the site, we met Mr. Youssef, who takes care of the land now that his father, who is the responsible in the nursery, is ill. In our journey, we went visit Mr. Omar, Youssef‘ s father, at his home. His family is so humble and generous. They welcomed us with a smile.
Mr. Omar, is a sixty-year-old man. In addition, he is a hard-working person who supports his large family from the salary he receives from HAF.
Mr. Omar lives 12 kilometers from the nursery. This doesn’t prevent him from coming every morning to the nursery, except for now that he is not feeling well. It is more than a job for him, it is a story of love.
Moreover, HAF’a approach consists to improve livelihoods of rural households, increasing incomes and socioeconomic status of marginalized villages. HAF’s goal is to overcome the poverty cycle by pushing past traditional practices of subsistence agriculture with the help of the nurseries and other agricultural activities, such as cooperative and certifying organic.
HAF‘s purpose is noble. This amazing organization is supporting and helping people to achieve their dreams. This experience taught us how hard life is for other people, and how the Foundation is trying hard to make people’s life easier and give them chances to make their lives better.
We are thankful to the High Atlas Foundation for giving us such a wonderful opportunity to be here as volunteers.
The High Atlas Foundation is very altruistic and the people who work for it ask very little for themselves. They just want to better Morocco. It is one of the great things that is for Moroccans and the country. Every country should have an organization like this. Morocco is better because of the High Atlas Foundation.
After arriving in Marrakech the day before, today 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 reconstruction of their own village's infrastructure through planting trees, as mandated by the Moroccan government. The CEO, Dr. Yosef, 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. Yosef 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. Yosef 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. Yosef'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. Yosef 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.
Review from Guidestar
Dr Afaf Hamzaoui, English Language Teacher.
My experience with HAF started in 2017; when HAF chose the high school where I work to hold an environment event. It was plating trees by his excellency the USA ambassador then L.Dwight Bush. The trees were a gift to our school by HAF.As soon as I was informed by the administration if I would like to share I accepted. Thanks to the oportunity offered by HAF then, I have succeded to realise one of my pidagogical aims: push my studets to help for free just for their school, for evironment and for their country. My aim was to make them feel that they are useful and they could do something good as volunteers. Really my students changed most of them changed theor behaviours and their minds towards their future life not only via their work but also after listening to both his excellency Mr ambassador and Dr Ben-Meir' speeches; which have also marked me. Secondly, in addition to the field work my students and I did, I was a volunteer translator for his excellency Mr ambassador and his wife. I translated all for him from Arabic and French into English as well as I was honored to translate his speech to the present audience then. It was an amazing experience for me. There are no words that can express my feelings. And from that time until now I have still in contact with Dr Yossef Ben-Meir whom I respect too much and whom I admire all what he does to help others. And to whom I say all time I am ready to help and share as a volunteer with HAF.Thank you so much Dr Ben-Meir. THANK YOU HAF.
Review from Guidestar
The commitment and contributions of the High Atlas Foundation have impressed me greatly for many years. I am an American born without any knowledge of the struggles of the Moroccan people. Only through this foundation do I now have an appreciation for the importance of supporting this and other similar efforts - it is critical for those who it is directly aimed at, but it also has broader implications for peace and stability around the world.
Review from Guidestar
I spent several months volunteering with HAF in Marrakesh this summer, and I would advise against doing it. First of all, I was extremely misled about the work I would be doing. When I had my interview with the president of the organization to talk about the internship, he promised me that I would be able to do particular tasks that suit my interest. He told me that there was a great need for the work that I wanted to do, and that it would be meaningful. However, this was not the case when I arrived. It became evident that all of the encouraging talk was simply to get me to come, and then get me to do different things. I was always asked to do different tasks that were not related to what I was promised to do. All of the work that the president, and other people in the organization asked me to do was completely irrelevant to what I was promised I could come to do. If I mentioned this, I was met with a harsh reaction from the leadership. Also, the organization is far from transparent and there are lots of barriers to know what is actually happening. I was lied to about projects multiple times by the staff, I am not sure if this was intentional or if they were lied to from above. This goes back to the point that was made in several other reviews about the president’s strict leadership style, and how he will ask staff to lie. The senior staff are quite incompetent and are not open to anything aside from their ways. It is also true that we are asked to write these reviews upon completing our internships, which puts pressure on us to write good things. I would advise against interning or volunteering here as you will be misled and met with an incompetent staff that is closed minded. I also saw multiple dead trees on sight visits that the leadership refused to take count of, which leads me to believe that donors and funders of projects are lied to Personally, I feel that should verify much more than simply trusting as the little I saw made me extremely concerned.
A week ago, I visited Marrakesh and had the chance to meet the president of the High Atlas Foundation. I thought both Dr. Ben-Meir and the organization were very interesting, so I decided to interview him. I asked him questions about the organization, life in Morocco, his own life, and the role Judaism plays in all of these things. And afterwards, I reflected on what all that meant to me. If any of that sounds interesting to you, click here.
I interned with the High Atlas Foundation (HAF) for ten weeks during the summer of 2018. During my time with HAF, I visited several of the cooperatives that the organizations assists. I think the work HAF does is excellent, and makes a big difference in the lives of the people they work with. Personally, this internship was a great experience which gave me a lot of valuable training and skills.
Review from Guidestar
After one month interning in High Atlas Foundation, i feel extremely satisfied with the knowledge and skills i got from that experience, it was a pleasure for me to work with such a professional hard worker team.
Yes, it was one month of experience in HAF but its a year of experience compared with other foundation or agencies in Morocco since their not really professional and specially on the timing part.
My experience was full of adventures and communication skills, i traveled to some villages such as Tadmamt where the land is used by HAF and ive seen how HAF take care and appreciate their employees.
Review from Guidestar
the most important thing while working is to be appriciated and feel that you work with friends and family, although i am the youngest on in the office but i was always respected and feel motivated. Mr youssef was always pushing me to bring the best inside me. i improved my self there through many ways " writing blogs and articles " which i know it will help in the future. thanks for the foundation and thanks for the community who make you feel safe and welcomed everyday.
Review from Guidestar
HAF is an amazing organization. More than a dedicated team of workers, they are a family who all strive to make Morocco a better place for everyone. Their commitment towards sustainable development for Morocco is remarkable and volunteers can see the moment they arrive. It was truly a pleasure volunteering for HAF, and I highly recommend it to anyone wanting to get some experience with international NGO’s
Review from Guidestar
Do not be deceived by all of the positive reviews here. Before leaving the office in Marrakesh the president of the organization makes all of the interns and volunteers write a review on here before they can get their certificate and go. In short, this means he will know who said each and every negative thing, and read the review so they only say polite things.
The majority of the staff of this organization are well-intentioned, but they are lied to by the leadership of the organization and therefore unwillingly tell lies to many other people. For example, many of the staff say that the organization plants carbon credits all over Morocco when in reality they are only authorized to do so in one national park, AND THEY ARE NOT EVEN DOING IT YET. Unsurprisingly, the president of the organization goes around saying that they do this. Even worse, whenever someone tries to bring up an issue the president will dismiss it and say that they do not understand Morocco or the operations of HAF. This is simply a cover-up so that they can deflect all of the faults that they may have.
Also, they claim to have planted over 1 million trees and talk about it all the time. However, many of these trees have died due to poor management, in reality, the standards in which the organization operates would not even meet the most basic forestry standards in the United States or Europe, and when confronted about it the president simply says "I am a Doctor of this" to dismiss any criticism.
This organization is cult-like, and anyone who tries to criticize the leadership or its operations is thrown out. Also, there is no transparency in its budgeting so no one knows how money is being spent.
Do not be fooled by many of these great interviews, they are a scam.
Morocco´s agro sector has great potential for development. Fortunately, it is being championed by committed and experienced organizations that include NGOs. I just returned from a 15 day volunteer marketing assignment based in Marrakech where I supported 2 cooperatives in the promotion of their products. The invitation came from IESC (International Executive Service Corps) as part the USDA/USAID Farmer to Farmer program and my host was HAF (High Atlas Foundation). The experience has been outstanding. HAF´s influential work starts at the bottom of the pyramid. The Foundation engages and empowers women that are heads of households to set-up and run their own businesses. The women in the pictures (from Ourika) operate a tree nursery, buy and process wheat, calendula, almonds and walnuts -among others- and sell to international buyers and at their own shop to support their families. The social impact of such projects is evident, the consequences of such actions for development are immense. HAF´s team is a knowledgeable melting pot of talents that include local staff and volunteers flying in from different origins that come together working for a higher purpose.
Review from Guidestar
I was introduced to HAF and two of the cooperatives with which it works during a two-week assignment through the USDA/USAID Farmer to Farmer volunteer program implemented by Land O'Lakes International Development. The HAF staff is very dedicated to the long-term success of its farmers, working constantly to connect them to the value chain for calendula, almonds and walnuts (as well as other products). It was also very interesting to see so many college-age volunteers who, on their own or through their university programs, give their time to assist HAF in its endeavors.
Review from Guidestar
I stumbled upon a volunteering opportunity with High Atlas Foundation through a sabbatical option at my not-for-profit organization in the United States. I learned a great deal here about sustainability, community empowerment, and agriculture. I had the opportunity to visit developing nursery sites, and seeing a new nursery take form from the beginning stages has been one of my unexpectedly exciting experiences here.
HAF does incredible work, and it's growing. If you want to feel real impact in community empowerment, look no further.
Review from Guidestar
Being a volunteer among HAF members enabled me to become socially aware of the context of rural Morocco. It gave me the opportunity to draw a better understanding of local's needs and gave me an appreciation of serving people through the contact and field trips organized by the HAF. The implementation of focus groups, assessements and interviewes also enabled me to grasp better the participatory development approach as opposed to the orthodox one.
Also, being surrounded by a multi-cultural group where each is providing his/her experience, perspective and understanding of reality was genuinely thrilling and would possibly bring about all positivity and joyfulness of serving communities.
I am very pleased and satisfied with this experience and would fervently recommend other individuals to integrate the HAF or other NGO that aims at improving beneficiaries lives in the context if social development.
Having been a volunteer in HAF for a humble period, I came to realize a simple fact: Organizations like this are the places where one goes with the intention to contribute something, help in some way, yet, what happens is actually the opposite, I came to give but ended up getting ten folds of my little input. Surrounded by people (staff and volunteers) who are both kind, cheerful, helpful, and serious, professional in the mean time, I felt home as I enhanced my translation skills... Just a little time here is worth years of learning.
Review from Guidestar
This NGO has taken on the long term project of getting Moroccan farmers to plant fruit and nut trees. They grow the seedlings and supply the farmer with not only the trees but the training to bring those trees to maturity. This requires persistence, knowledge, salesmanship, and most of all desire to keep the building blocks piling up. When visiting High Atlas you feel the drive and commitment to make this a long distance race. Many of the obstacles have been overcome and they continue to attack the obstacles that remain.
I spent the last two weeks as a volunteer working with the High Atlas Foundation in Marrakesh. It was a very rewarding experience for me to participate in the activities of this noble foundation. This non-profit foundation has a mission to provide sustainable prosperity in Morocco through helping communities ,schools, farmers and the environment. I was impressed by the dedication of the foundation staff and the scope of different projects and will welcome participating again.
My experience with HAF was full of knowledge,learning skills,sharing charity,
I had an opportunity to work with a professional team ,in a very social climate ,
Thank you HAF for giving me this opportunity
I volunteered with the High Atlas Foundation in January 2018 and was blown away by the truly impactful work of the organization. HAF works to center the communities it serves, prioritizing their voices and needs in its programs and projects. The commitment to service and compassion of the staff is evident and it was a true joy to volunteer here.
HAF is doing great work in foresting vulnerable soils and working with the Amazigh people. The staff is incredibly passionate and dedicated to these communities. Thank you so much for supporting me and making me feel at home in Morocco.
Review from Guidestar
I have spent the past three weeks as a volunteer for the High Atlas Foundation helping HAF in its effort improve the lives of nomadic populations in Eastern Morocco by teaching them to grow high value crops. HAF has developed an effective business model, growing transplants in nurseries it has established in schools and youth support centers, distributing them to family farmers and teaching them modern crop growing techniques. Along the way, the trees help disadvantaged children learn a new vocation, help the nomadic people attain more settled and prosperous lives, and remove thousands of tons of carbon from the atmosphere as productive orchards are established on the edge of the Sahara.
My first stop was at the Center for the Protection of Children in Oujda, a mid-sized city about 60 kilometers from the Mediterranean coast. The Center provides housing and vocational education to children ranging from twelve to eighteen years of age who have been convicted of minor crimes, as well as orphans and abandoned children. High Atlas is in the process of installing a nursery at the Center, capable of growing up to 40,000 trees, where the children will receive valuable hands-on training in farming and will experience the profound therapeutic effects of tending to living plants.
But there are technical problems. The well that supplies water to the Center does not have adequate capacity to supply the nursery and drilling a new one is prohibitively expensive. The current well can be deepened at reasonable cost, but it is unclear how much additional water this will produce. While at the Center I helped High Atlas staff develop a plan to upgrade the well, size the nursery to match the output of the upgraded well and design a drip irrigation system to make efficient use of every drop the well produces. The plan has been finalized and we expect the nursery to be in full production early next year.
After saying goodbye to the children in Oujda our small team headed inland to Bouarfa, the capital of Figuig Province. Bouarfa is the cultural hub of the Bni Guil nomadic tribe, which has tended sheep in Eastern Morocco for over ten centuries. The nomadic life is harsh, and has become more difficult in the past few decades as changes in Morocco’s climate have made surface water more difficult to find and the closing of the Algerian border has hurt the local economy. In the past several years the Provincial government has helped the nomads by giving them land and training to diversify their sheep herding income with farming. It is against this backdrop that we arrived in Bouarfa to help the farmers use drip irrigation to grow high value organic crops with scarce desert resources, and to find homes for some 50,000 fruit and nut trees from High Atlas nurseries.
The farms we visited are small and remote: many less than three hectares, family managed and over fifteen kilometers from the nearest paved road. The government has helped the farmers drill wells and install solar powered pumps which are perfect for this place where the sun is always present and electricity is scarce. The region has good soil, plenty of sun, and the desert surroundings hide the fact ground water is plentiful - in some places only three meters below the surface. The farmers are hard-working and eager to create a better life through growing crops, but they need help. Many are new to crop production and information is hard to find in this remote region. They lack both the resources and experience required to adopt environment-friendly, world-class farming practices.
After gathering information, we began work on a plan to transition the farmers from their current use of inefficient flood irrigation to resource-efficient drip systems and to provide them with High Atlas Foundation transplants that were raised in places like the Center for the Protection of Children in Oujda. The plan includes a unique training program catered to specific local needs, drip irrigation equipment and the transplants themselves. Once funded it will enable these small family farmers, less than a generation away from nomadic life, to grow export-quality organic produce using cutting edge irrigation technology.
I have recently returned from a most rewarding volunteer assignment with High Atlas Foundation. HAF had asked me to assess their tree nursery business and to develop a business plan that would guide their efforts. I spent three weeks with HAF in Marrkech, Morocco, interspersed with three day-trips to nurseries and a wholesale fruit and vegetable market.
HAF utilizes volunteers frequently. In fact while I was working with them there were three other US-based late career volunteers and half a dozen university volunteers from Europe, Israel, and Morocco.
I suspect that I learned as much from HAF as they learned from me - - great synergy. I look forward to another assignment with this fine organization.
High Atlas Foundation is a great example for other organisations to follow. It is home to international staff and volunteers that are passionate for helping others. HAF does it by creating a pleasant environment for the staff in order to maximise their productivity. HAF is not shy from taking intitiatives in challenging projects that directly improves people’s lives. I am very thankful for HAF for giving me a space to share my knowledge with my colleagues in a helpful manner.
The High Atlas Foundation has an entrepreneurial spirit and desire to explore new opportunities that made working with them a gratifying experience. The team members are open, helpful and genuinely care about their mission and the broader part they play in Morocco's social and environmental development. As with most small organizations, information and knowledge is usually housed with individual members but there was never a time that someone wasn't not willing to sit down then or schedule a time. A truly wonderful experience and great way to experience Morocco.
Great non-profits are those focused on greater concern; those with a broader scope. The High Atlas Foundation is one of those. It doesn't matter if a non-profit is large or small, it matters if they are willing to concentrate on larger outcomes that will have bigger affect. HAF, through small, or better yet intimate, devotes their energy in a way that seeks bigger, more affecting, outcomes. A small package doing bigger things...they are punching well above their weight. Easy to work with, they are welcoming to volunteers and work hard to make every moment important. I would highly recommend working with them...helping to affect real and positive change.
The projects that HAF is doing are truly amazing, and its employees are very dedicated to its mission.
The High Atlas Foundation is an amazing and inspiring organization. I have been fortunate to work with many non profits on five continents, and I will say in a heartbeat that the High Atlas Foundation is by far the most effective. The first thing that stuck me about the HAF office is how the majority of the staff is Moroccan. This is significant because many NGOs operating in other countries have westerns staffing them, and this can lead to cultural barriers. This small example is just one of many that show how the High Atlas Foundation works so hard to empower the people of Morocco. The HAF staff works tirelessly, and the work that they do is equivalent to their personal passion. It is also worth mentioning that the relationships HAF has with the communities it works in is amazing, and that they truly make differences in the countless communities they work in. Dr. Yossef Ben-Meir, the founder and president of HAF is an expert at the participatory approach to development, and it is used in all of the projects HAF implements. It is worth saying that not once in my 7 months with the organization did I feel that HAF was imposing it's ideas and goals on communities, instead they were working with communities every step of the way to hep them achieve their own dreams. I would highly recommend supporting this extraordinary organization.
Having spend two weeks with HAF, I was quite impressed with the scope of their work and the zeel that they bring to their efforts. Sans the technical details, they were willing to accept advice and learn from others. These comments apply to my work advising on their nurseries and in their office completing the required paperwork.
My name is Tim Ager I spent 2 weeks in Morocco under a USAID sponsored Farmer-to-Farmer program, in Marrakesh and Fez. I worked closely with the High Atlas Foundation (HAF) and everyone involved was professional, helpful and extremely friendly. They facilitated in making my assignment successful, and I would not hesitate to work with them again. I found HAF to be a well run organization with great morale and camaraderie among the staff - who all enthusiastically welcomed me and made me feel at home.
I spent 2 weeks in Morocco under a USAID sponsored Farmer-to-Farmer program, in Marrakesh and Fez. I worked closely with the High Atlas Foundation (HAF) and everyone involved was professional, helpful and extremely friendly. They facilitated in making my assignment successful, and I would not hesitate to work with them again. I found HAF to be a well run organization with great morale and camaraderie among the staff - who all enthusiastically welcomed me and made me feel at home.
In an arid country like Morocco water is exceptionally precious. Water is available in some places but hard to access. High Atlas Foundation is dedicated to expanding orchards of all kinds through its series of tree nurseries which it then contributes to interested farmers. High Atlas Foundation quickly learned that without water these orchards would not survive. They have now expanded their work to include acquiring water, designing drip irrigation systems and generally doing what is necessary to fund and grow successful tree crops.
I served as a volunteer for over two weeks for the High Atlas Foundation (HAF) in Marrakesh, Morocco. The purpose was to assess the operations of their tree nurseries and to make recommendations on improvements in their nursery operations and tree distribution programs to rural households. I worked closely with the staff and traveled to the field to observe the operations of the HAF. I found the staff motivated to work with me and include me in their activities. I observed their nurseries in several locations and saw first hand how they produce and deliver tree samplings (almond and walnut) to villagers. I was impressed by their work with women cooperatives and building their capacity to improve their status and household livelihoods by producing Calendula for L'Oriel in Paris. I would strongly recommend HAF to anyone who wants a volunteer assignment in a great country, very cordial and polite people, and work that is both satisfying and rewarding. Gregory Sullivan, USAID Farmer to Farmer volunteer for International Executive Service Corp (IESC), Washington, D.C. USA