|By Peter J. Jacques, Ph.D.
Life and death for whole communities hang in the balance of achieving the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that include eliminating poverty, conserving forests, and addressing climate change, passed by the United Nations unanimously in 2015. Take for example, the Indigenous Amazigh people who live in the mountains around Marrakech. They are representative of people who need to be served first by sustainable development.
Above, Amazigh women in a village with an association that cultivates an olive tree nursery. Photo credit: Peter J. Jacques
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15 Février 2019
Une nouvelle journée, une nouvelle destination qui cette fois-ci se trouve être la province si hospitalière et chaleureuse d’Essaouira loin de la ville rouge de Marrakech.
Une bonne partie des membres du staff de l’ONG High Atlas Foundation et moi y compris se sont alors rendus sur les lieux à environ deux heures et demi du centre-ville de Marrakech.
Ce voyage été entreprise avec un objectif bien établit suivre les objectifs communs comme ceux de FRÉ Skincare, celui de distribuer des arganiers à deux coopératives féminines locales et qui ont leur activité principale basée sur l’exploitation et la transformation séquentielle de ce dernier.
La première visite fut alors au sein du siège de la Coopérative Féminine Mogador Essaouiraqu’elle occupe de l’année 2010 d’après la responsable des lieux, Mme HAIDA Khadija.
Elle nous a ainsi fait visiter les lieux et même montré le déroulement du long processus de transformation de l’amande et de l’argan en produits cosmétique et/ou alimentaire (car pour pouvoir obtenir 1 litre d’argan ou d’amande il faut au moins 2 jours de travail manuel non-stop par femme, ce qui peut être très fatigant bien sûr). Nous avons donc eu la chance de voir une partie de ces femmes en plein travail qui étaient au nombre d’environs six (6) personnes qui chantaient en chœur pour se motiver les unes les autres. L’étape de transformation est divisée en plusieurs étape : le dépulpage, le concassage, l’écrasement et enfin le pressage sans oublier qu’il faut environ et au moins 40 kg de fruit d’argan pour réaliser cela.
Nous nous sommes ensuite redus dans leur ferme non loin de leur siège pour y déposer environs 460 arganiers sur les 920 amenés et donc la moitié mais, nous en avons planté également approximativement huit (8) et ce fut la fin de cette première visite.
La dernière visite eut donc lieu au sein de la Coopérative Lakjoute, qui a un mode de fonctionnement assez similaire à la précédente. Nous avons été reçus par la responsable des lieux Mme Fatiha El Hilalia servi de guide pour voir les installations ainsi que leur méthode de travail et malheureusement nous n’avons pas eu la chance de contempler les femmes au travail car il était déjà leur de la descente. Nous avons donc procédé au dépôt de l’autre moitié des arbres soit approximativement 460 également marquant alors la fin de cette merveilleuse journée d’activité.
Ce qui m’a le plus marqué et émerveillé tout au long de cette journée mis à part le fait que c’était ma première fois dans la province d’Essaouira, c’est tout d’abord le fait que ces deux coopératives sont exclusivement et entièrement féminines et donc par conséquent aucun homme n’y figure comme employé quelconque, mais également le fait qu’elles transforment des produits entièrement naturels soit en produits alimentaire, soit en produit cosmétique pour des soins corporels.
C’est avec le sentiment d’avoir accomplis un acte généreux envers la nature par le biais de ces coopératives que nous avons repris la route pour la ville rouge Marrakech.
La Fondation du Haut Atlas et FRÉ Skincare continueront de planter des arganiers avec la coopérative de femmes de la région d’Essaouira afin d’atteindre 10 000 arbres en cette saison de plantation, pour non seulement élargir le champ vert de la région et contribuer à diminuer le CO2, cela contribuera clairement à sécuriser les revenus de milliers de familles et à créer de nombreuses possibilités d’emploi, en particulier pour les jeunes.
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.
The High Atlas Foundation held a tree planting day in AL – Salaam School, where the nursery is located in Ifrane. Abdelilah, the nursery caretaker, led the process. There were 64 participants. Sixty were elementary school children aged between 10 and 12 (30 children were in the fifth grade, and 30 were in the sixth). Four teachers also participated.
The nursery in AL- Salam School in Ifrane
If they would leave the trees without covering for a day or two, they would die because of the severe cold. So, they covered them with plastic as it shows in the picture above. The plastic keeps the cold from reaching the plants and in the same time it gives the trees the heat they need to grow.
Abdelilah together with the participants planted 54 trees in total, 2 fig trees and 52 almond trees. Before the planting, Abdelilah explained everything about trees and plants to the children; what do trees need to survive, how do we benefit from trees, and he also stressed the importance of planting trees to preserve the environment and make it greener.
Abdelilah plants the first tree to show children how it’s done
After watching Abdelilah’s instructions, all the children and the participants learned how to plant a tree in a proper way. So everyone started planting their tree. The kids were very happy during this activity; they never participated in a process like that before! It was a new experience for everyone. Doing something new, something different is always exciting for children.
After the children planted all the trees, they started watering them and cleaned their surroundings. The plants always need constant caring and attention especially with water. Abdelilah also showed the children several ways of watering the trees. He said that too much water can also harm the trees so the watering process should be limited to a certain number in one week.
Drip irrigation is a valid solution. The two advantages of drip irrigation are that the water will be preserved, and the trees won’t be harmed from overwatering.
An example of drip irrigation operation
The children of the school had an amazing day. They enjoyed planting the trees and liked the new information they gained from the activity. We are all grateful for the High Atlas Foundation’s efforts, for including the children in the planting of trees and helping them understand how trees should be planted properly as well as how to preserve them.
by Fatima Zahra LAHRIRE
Early morning on Tuesday, February 19th, we went to Tassa Ouirgane 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.
Among the various resources in the region, olive trees, honey, aromatic herbs, and natural views, are just a few to state. Most of them agree that they need to establish a woman’s cooperative that would help to create job opportunities and generate income. The young women show a great interest in developing themselves. They believe that they can make a change because they have recognized the importance of economic independence in their lives.
The workshop was concluded with high expectations and a promise to meet as soon as possible after thinking over the findings from today. I was amazed by the warm welcome and positive environment offered by the local population. Heading back to Marrakech, the golden sun of the afternoon relieved the trees on the road from the flakes of snow and enlightened the white peaks of the surrounding mountains.
Work-study students, interns, and volunteers of the High Atlas Foundation have opportunities to analyze development as it is experienced in rural and urban communities, by farmers, women, youth, and people of all backgrounds. We also give the students and volunteers the encouragement and support that they need in order to write their observations, improve upon their writing, and to share their work with the public.
This Newsletter is composed of the published articles by HAF’s work-study students, volunteers, and interns. We hope that you find them informative and inspiring. We also hope that you visit HAF and take this opportunity to assist people’s development, research and analyze their situations and how conditions at national and international levels impact people’s lives, and write about it for a global audience. You can now do this and more and receive college credit through the University of Virginia.
These articles that are published in outlets around the world are important not only in regards to the professional growth of the writers, but because they share the perspectives of the people about whom they are writing, and advocate positions and policies that advance sustainable growth in Morocco and beyond.
We hope to see you in Marrakech as a visiting (and writing) member of HAF’s team.
Yossef Ben-Meir, Ph.D.
High Atlas Foundation
Countercurrents, by Peter Jacques (visiting expert), 8 February 2019.
• Arabic: Al-Watan Voice, 16 February 2019
Global Research, by Yossef Ben-Meir (HAF President) and Manon Burbidge (Graduate Student and HAF Intern), 11 December 2018.
The African Exponent, by Sarah Turkenicz (Graduate Student and HAF Volunteer), 4 December 2018.
• Arabic: Sotal Iraq, 28 December 2018.
Sotal Iraq, by Brahim Bahmani Rai (HAF Intern), 28 November 2018.
D+C, by Kerstin Opfer (Graduate Student and HAF Volunteer), 11 October 2018.
• Arabic: Ach Press, 17 October 2018.
The Fletcher Forum,by Gal Kramarski (Graduate Student and HAF Intern), 24 September 2018.
The New Arab, By Julia Payne (Undergraduate student and HAF Intern), 8 August 2018.
• Arabic: Arab Voice, 1 September 2018.
Global Research, by Katherine O’Neill (Undergraduate student and HAF Intern), 24 July 2018.
• Arabic: Iraq Akhbar, 6 August 2018.
Business Ghana University, by Julia Al-Akkad (Undergraduate student and HAF Intern), 21 July 2018.
The McGill International Review,by Amy Zhang (Undergraduate student and HAF Intern), 12 July 2018.
• Arabic: Alshamal News, 13 July 2018
Morocco World News, by Nathan Park (Undergraduate student and HAF Intern), 31 May 2018.
• Arabic: Marrakech 24,12 June 2018
The Jerusalem Post,by Gal Kramarski (Graduate Student and HAF Intern), 10 February 2018.
by Nisreen Abo-Sido, HAF volunteer, Thomas J. Watson Fellow.
Eurasia Review, by Wajiha Inbrahim (Graduate Student and HAF Intern), 30 July 2017.
Modern Ghana, by Richard Bone, (Undergraduate Student and HAF Intern), 13 June
University World News, by Yossef Ben-Meir (HAF President), Mouhssine Tadlaoui-Cherki (HAF Program Manager), and Kati Roumani (HAF), 12 August 2016.
The Algemeiner, by Emma Tobin (Undergraduate student and HAF Intern), 8 April 2016.
ZNET, by Emma Tobin (Undergraduate student and HAF Intern), 23 March 2016
Modern Ghana, by Emma Tobin (Undergraduate student and HAF Intern), 18 March 2016.
Friends of Morocco,by Lillian Thompson (Peace Corps Response Volunteer), 20 February 2016.
World News, by Elle Houby (HAF Intern), 15 February 2016.
French: World News,16 February 2016
The Perspective, by Elle Houby (HAF Intern), 29 January 2016.
French: Libération, 5 March 2016.
Scoop News, by Kati Roumani (HAF Volunteer), 8 August 2015.
French: Libération, 14 August 2015.
Green Prophet, by Ida Sophie Winter (HAF Volunteer), 26 June 2015.
GG Rewards Superstar status as of Jan. 31, 2019
High Atlas Foundation has earned the following badges on GlobalGiving:
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.
The Prince Mohammad Bin Fahd Program for Strategic Research & Studies (PMBF) has matched funds awarded to UCF Political Science Professor Peter Jacques to conduct a research project looking at sustainable development, water, and food security in Morocco. Jacques, who is partnering with the Marrakesh-based High Atlas Foundation (HAF), won a competitive grant offered by the Hollings Center for International Dialog.
The project, which will be launched this fall, includes both field research and an international workshop on the relationship between sustainable development practices (SDPs) and food security in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. The interdisciplinary field research will provide biophysical and social science assessments and involve local participation. In addition to Jacques, the research team includes University of South Florida water expert Thomas Crisman, Dr. George Zalidis of Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Greece, and Yossef Ben-Meir of HAF. The project also includes a number of other Moroccan experts, including local farmers, government officials, and scientists.
Yossef Ben-Meir, HAF
After conducting field research, Jacques and HAF will host a two-day workshop in Marrakesh to share ideas and findings. The team will then produce a policy brief, academic paper, and a short film on the relationships of sustainable development practices and food security.
“Our project attempts to build and strengthen food and water security in the MENA region. We will specifically investigate, discuss, and communicate links between sustainable development practices and food and water security. Typically, these SDPs advance social, ecological, and economic wellbeing now and into the future. I look forward to working with our partners and research team on this meaningful project,” noted Jacques.
The PMBF Program, which has an ongoing resource initiative, has sponsored a series of conferences, roundtable discussions, lectures, and fact finding trips on issues related to water, food, and energy security in the MENA region. PMBF has partnered with the Hollings Center on three regional dialogue conferences in Istanbul, Abu Dhabi, and Casablanca over the past several years.
“Like UCF more broadly, the PMBF Program is committed to promoting sustainability. We are happy to support Dr. Jacques and his impressive team as they dig deeper into these issues. It is also important that they will work with locals in order to get a comprehensive understanding of the challenges in Morocco – and how they could be applied more broadly to the region,” added PMBF Director David Dumke.
Jacques chose Morocco because it has many notable tools in place – including institutions that facilitate SDPs, a robust civil society, and an ideal partner in the High Atlas Foundation. HAF organizes SDPs to assist agriculturally dependent local people in different parts of the country. There are also several obstacles to sustainable food and water security in Morocco that are instructive to environmental security challenges broadly. The project is organized to study and report on the details of these SDPs in different locations of Morocco to better understand how food security can emerge from SDPs, as well as to provide technical advice on resource management. The project’s total budget is $30,000.
For additional information about the Moroccan project, or the PMBF Program, please contact Kinda Haddad at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by calling (407) 823-2510.
by Celina Böhmer
The weather is getting warmer here in Morocco. The sun is shining the whole day and providing us warmth. Yesterday, HAF project director Amina El Hajjami and I went to visit the Aboghlou Cooperative in Ourika. HAF began working with the women in 2015/16, using a participatory approach and training to identify the skills, capabilities, priorities, potentials, and resources that the women have. Fruit trees and medicinal plants grow very well in the Ourika region because the soil is very fertile. To generate their own income, the women developed the agricultural “Agboghlou Cooperative” there.
Amina, HAF project director and women from the Aboghlou Cooperative in Ourika
On Wednesday, February 13, we accompanied the women on a visit to the field where the cooperative grows their crops to join them in harvesting the beautiful, orange calendula flowers.
Women from the Aboghlou Cooperative harvesting calendula flowers in Ourika
The Aboghlou cooperative consists of 33 women, and they produce products like calendula, walnut leaves, geranium, verbena, pomegranate, jasmin, and althea. They are increasing their production and selling rate each year. For example, they produced 63 kg of calendula in 2017 and 163 kg in 2018! In the future, they want to continue improving the quantity and variety of products. Moreover, their vision is to generate products like carob, fig, almond, lemon, and olive for the local markets as well.
HAF project manager
A partnership agreement brought together The High Atlas Foundation (HAF) which works to establish participatory development projects for the Moroccan communities, and Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy (SGRE), the world’s second largest wind turbine manufacturer and provides onshore and offshore wind services. Both are dedicated to working with the communities and schoolchildren in the south of Morocco, and contribute in improving the living conditions as well as to spread the importance of environment protection.
Over the course of the past year, HAF and SGRE implemented a project that has been beneficial for rural communities in the Jrifia municipality of the Boujdour province, as two drinking water chateaux were constructed in Byar Triyhin and Khotot, along with pumps and meters built in the Ahl Atriah and Khotot Hbia areas. In Om Rjilat we have additionally constructed a pump and motor for drinking water. Moreover, we have jointly delivered 17 of the trash cans to Aouziouat, Toukb Jrifia, Khotot Hbia, Byar Triyeh, Mntakat Lmsmar, and Om Rjilat. With regards to solar energy, there were four solar panels installed in Byar triyh, Om Rjilat, Toukb Jrifia, and Khotot Hbia, and built a water canal of 520 meters.
In order to make this partnership stronger and fruitful, the HAF and SGRE followed-up and came back to conduct environmental and school campaign in Aouziouat with schoolchildren, and plant hundreds of organic fruit trees engaging thousands of students.
Driving 15 hours all way from Marrakech to Boujdour, a very beautiful area rich of natural resources, well known in Morocco by the best quality of fish, and a good place for the wind-energy, is an absolute exciting feeling to participate in our environmental and education mission and conduct activities with school children. The team consists of Hana Ezzaoui, HAF’s project manager in the south of Morocco, who coordinates with the schools, the Delegation of Education and local authorities before we start the week’s initiative and facilitates the workshops. Errachid Montassir, Sami’s Project manager at HAF, assists the workshops and sends reports about the activities. Ilyas Dkhissi is HAF’s filmmaker and photographer.
We started the activities on Monday, 28th of January just right after the school holiday, which is the best part of the school year to engage more the students in the school activities, “according to the Ministry of Education”. These environmental education workshops provide guidance on how to aid the students in developing environmental awareness and content knowledge which helps them make prudent decisions and foster stewardship of our natural resources, in addition to spread awareness regarding the national environmental laws among them and their communities. We also organized a number of practical workshops such as:
1- Wind turbine work and how does it works: the students split into groups and they create a model of a wind turbine. The main purpose of the workshop is to teach students how wind turbines create clean energy, especially in Boujdour province which is one of the best places in Morocco for creating the wind turbines.
2- Compost workshop: the students practice how to make compost, and learn more about its essential role in helping the trees and plants to grow in good conditions and produce good quality of fruit. This workshop explains the importance of recycling and composting, and contributes to increasing the students’ understanding of what material cannot be recycled and is toxic for the environment.
And at the end of each workshop, we do a fun quiz with the students to make sure the most important messages have been understood. As we included the participatory approach to involve the students in finding out what they need more in their schools, and the priorities came as follows: 1- Fruit tress (especially olive), 2- Libaries, 3- Soccer fields.
There was great participation of the students during the workshops, which wonderfully helped us to communicate better with them and finish the activities on time.
This week, HAF and SGRE visited 12 schools in Boujdour province (7 primary, 3 secondary and 2 high schools), and conducted 24 environmental workshops with the schoolchildren, as we together with the kids, teachers and directors planted 3,76 fruit organic trees, seeking that 5,132 students (57 % female) will benefit from these fruit trees in the future. More activities are coming soon.
Hand in hand to contribute to the growth of the environmental education for this generation and the next one in Morocco.