Tree bien! A few final words on my internship with HAF



Manon Burbidge

Lund University

HAF Intern - Marrakech


As the sun sets on my three months with the High Atlas Foundation in Marrakech, I return to the experiences I have had, the lessons I have learned and the people I have met.


My first two weeks were jam-packed with field visits and outings to diverse settings and sites in Morocco; a children’s rehabilitation centre in Marrakech, a women’s cooperative in Aboghlo, schools in Taguelft, a carbon monitoring site in Anamer, a walnut-processing factory in Asni… It was amazing to have the opportunity to talk to people, find out their opinions on development and climate change, to listen to their hopes for the future, and to see the impact that HAF has had on their livelihoods.


I was also lucky enough to join HAF for their experiential conference hosted in Tahanout, where the staff conducted workshops on their field methodologies, and invited US university professors held short lectures upon their ideas for future improvements and innovations for the Foundation.


After this, I was more office bound, working on translations, spreadsheets, report and letter-writing, articles and blog posts. My key project has been translating and editing a book, originally in Hebrew and French, to English, on the Moroccan Jewish community and its wonderfully culturally-rich cemetery in Essaouira. I also published an article for the first time, co-authored with Dr Yossef, on alternatives to mass migration, positing participatory development as a potential solution.


Being an intern at HAF is never boring – there are plenty of opportunities for getting involved, both in a hands-on fashion and with more traditional office-based work. I have learned a lot from being here - don’t be afraid to ask for help or to question why, how to negotiate and discuss ideas when you don’t always agree, but also more generally, gaining an insight into the everyday workings of a small NGO. Having come from UNDP Ukraine prior to this internship, it was great to partake in the spectrum of international development, from such a large international organisation to a grassroots one, some of whose projects are funded by UNDP.


Being a Human Ecology student, we have a lot of training in social science theories related to the core themes of culture, power and sustainability. It has been insightful to see how these are applied in a real, gritty, human situation, and where theory sticks or where the books are thrown out of the window in practice!


By good fortune, a couple of Moroccan public holidays coincided with my internship, allowing me to travel a little and see more of the beautiful country. My particular favourite was watching the sunrise over Ait Ben Haddou Kasbah, near Ouarzazate.


Last but not least, I’d like to thank the fantastic staff, my wonderful colleagues for taking the time to answer my questions, attempting to teach me Darija, and being such good friends.


Morocco Environment and Sustainability News Round-Up: 10th-18th January



Manon Burbidge

Lund University

HAF Intern - Marrakech


Morocco to Invest $14bn in Renewable Energy

Morocco is working towards achieving its goal of 52% renewable energy by 2030 by putting $14bn of investment into the renewable energy sector.

Included amongst larger scale projects are installations of off-grid solar capacity which will reach 1000 rural villages in the country.

This project will reduce energy import dependency, currently at 93%, and is hoped to create a surplus which can be exported.

Read more:


Agroforestry Initiatives to Empower Women and Increase Climate Resilience

All-women’s cooperatives in the Rif Mountains surrounding Ouezzane have struggled with 2018’s olive and fig harvests due to unstable weather – drought in the summer and heavy rain in the autumn – as a result of climate change.

Local women have formed a group of economic interest (GEO), named “Femmes du Rif”, bringing together cooperatives which produce olive oil.

They are using traditional agroforestry methods to grow olive and fig trees, which combat desertification and soil erosion, alongside annual crops such as wheat and fava beans.

Read more:


“Clean and High Efficient Cooling” Workshop to take place in Marrakech

The United Nations Environment Programme and implementing partners will conduct a “Clean and High Efficient Cooling in Morocco” workshop from 29th-30th January in Marrakech.

The two-day seminars will present the results of a feasibility analysis of a district cooling system, provide trainings for engineers and urban planners, and discuss the next steps needed to accelerate clean cooling for Morocco.

Read more:


Tender Issued for 200MW Photovoltaic Projects in Morocco

Morocco’s Office National de l’Electricité has started the process of deploying its 200MW Photovoltaic energy generation scheme under the Noor Atlas projects.

The projects are co-financed by the German Development Bank, the European Investment bank and the French Development Agency, among others.

Seven plants will be constructed, each of 20-30MW, in the south and east of the country.

Other solar projects in the pipeline include the 120MW Noor Tafilalet plant, the 200MW Noor Argana plant and the 800MW Midelt project, all of which will help Morocco attain its goal of adding a 2GW energy capacity to the grid by 2020.

Read more:


Morocco’s Amazigh People Rally for Recognition of their New Year

Hundreds of Moroccan Amazigh people gathered in Rabat to mark the Amazigh New Year, in call for official state recognition of the date.

Yennayer, or new year, marks the start of 2969, and is the anniversary of the ascent of King Sheshong to the Egyptian throne.

Read more:



Manon is a postgraduate student of Human Ecology at Lund University, Sweden, currently interning with HAF in Marrakech.

PRESS RELEASE: Tree Planting Day provides economic, social and environmental development across Morocco

French version
Arabic version


Thursday 17th January 2019 


Tree Planting Day provides economic, social and
environmental development across Morocco


Moroccan communities are being invited to plant thousands of trees donated by the High Atlas Foundation (HAF) on Monday 21st January 2019 ‘Tree Planting Day’ - an annual planting event coordinated by the Foundation - contributing to economic, social, and environmental development across the Kingdom of Morocco.

The Foundation’s President, Dr. Yossef Ben-Meir said “the aim of the day is to promote the spirit of planting at this time of the year, which is the planting season for fruit trees and medicinal plants in Morocco.”

“We invite not only farmers and community associations to get involved, but also schools, parents’ associations, women, cooperatives, children, interfaith groups and all those that would like to participate in planting this season’s life-giving trees,” said Dr. Ben-Meir.

“We will be coordinating planting events in the Provinces of Al Haouz, Azilal, Boujdour, Errachidia, Essaouria, Fes, Marrakech, Oujda, Taroudant, and Taza,” said Dr Ben-Meir.

Using plants provided by HAF nurseries (partnering with Ecosia) and the High Commission of Waters and Forests, the Foundation expects to donate over 8000 organic fruit tree saplings and medicinal plants to communities for Monday’s Tree Planting Day. This will include high-value crops of argan, almond, carob, pomegranate, fig, olive, walnut, and other endemic medicinal plants.  HAF and community partners will plant hundreds of thousands of trees over the course of the 2019 season.

HAF Director of Projects Amina El Hajjami said “planting trees not only generates significantly higher incomes for farmers and local families than the traditional crops of barley and corn, but they also provide food security and environmental rehabilitation”.

“Local communities can see returns from fruit tree harvests within two years for pomegranate trees and 5 years for almond and carob trees,” said Mrs. El Hajjami.

“We are encouraging all communities across Morocco to make the most of this year’s tree planting season and invest in their future livelihoods today. We will be present in different parts of the country on Monday 21st January to assist those who may have never planted before, how to plant their trees for optimal results,” Dr. Ben-Meir said.


For more information and to become involved in Tree Planting Day events on Monday 21st January 2019 please contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


Yossef Ben-Meir, Ph.D, President This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. +212 (0) 66 217 6626
Amina El Hajjami, Director of Projects This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. +212 (0) 66 217 6663


The High Atlas Foundation (HAF) is a US 501(c)(3) organisation and Moroccan not-for-profit association based in Marrakech, Morocco dedicated to catalysing economic growth and endorsing grassroots development in disadvantaged communities throughout Morocco. The organisation was founded in 2000 by former US Peace Corps Volunteers, and since 2011 holds consultative status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC)

An Open Space for Open Minds

Celina Boehmer, HAF Intern


This week, part of the HAF-Team is travelling from Marrakech to Fes and then to Midelt area to collect and distribute 7100 trees to local communities.


Our first stop was Fes, where we picked up the 7100 trees for the communities. We arrived in Fes and went to the Abdelaziz Ben Driss Child Protection Center. The land used to be a farm, like many others in this area, which explains why the area is an open space and full of nature. You can find a variety of trees, plants, and animals and can hear the birds sing in the trees throughout the day.


The center has two wells, one of which powered by a solar pump (!). The center also has a tree nursery, which HAF and its partners in Fes started in the summer of 2017 with funding from ECOSIA, the search engine that plants trees.


Khalid, the HAF caretaker who is in charge of the nursery grows various fruit trees—including pomegranate, olive, fig, and almond varieties—as well as medicinal and aromatic plants and herbs for use in the center’s kitchen. As we walked around this garden, I grew curious as Khalid introduced us to the herbs and their uses. We learned about lmhinza, a plant with small grey-green leaves, that if mixed with orange and onions, helps heal headaches. Khalild also showed us the different kinds of lavender that he grows, as well as oregano, sage, and thyme. The smell of atarcha kept me interested; it has a lovely floral, lemon scent, and the plant is used for beauty products for hair and skin care.


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After getting to know the area and enjoying its beauty and openness, we met a group of students with interdisciplinary majors from the Spring Arbor University of Michigan. They are traveling through Morocco for 3 weeks to explore Moroccan culture through what they consider the five windows of culture: education, government, family life, religion, and economics. They were very interested in HAF’s work and asked why the foundation distributes trees to communities. Said, project manager of the Fes-Meknes region, answered that a lot of farmers normally only grow barely and corn, but the problem is that they only get a very small income from these sales. Fruit trees provide far better income and diversify the crops on the land. Said also discussed how fruit trees revive rural livelihoods, contributing to efforts to reduce internal migration of people from the countryside to cities. We also talked about HAF’s participatory planning approach for community development as a way of ensuring communities are leading their own development processes. Then we met altogether with the children from the child protection center. Said provided a shared environmental workshop outside and we planted cherry trees together and these trees are meant to provide the center with cherry seeds for their nursery.


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In the afternoon, we had the big task to pack all 7100 trees into a truck, which would bring them to the Midelt area. The children of the center did a great job! We put already-bagged olive trees in the truck, and dug out and bagged almond trees to store them in the truck as well. This was my favorite part of the day, as we worked alongside the kids and I had a lot of fun together. I could see how some kids were very engaged and knew exactly how to care for the trees. Said and Khalid told me that those kids are the ones who come often to the nursery and help Khalid with taking care for the saplings. In this way, they learned a lot about organic agriculture and the environment. Many found that they could apply what they learned in the nursery to their family farms.


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By engaging with the tree nursery, they learned that they can be an active part of society, because the trees they planted help rural communities to improve their livelihoods. You could really feel the positive atmosphere being in this center surrounded by nature. As Said said while we were talking about the advantages of a tree nursery at a youth center: this open space could help the children to open their minds.


7,100 trees grown in Fez nursery improving livelihoods in Midelt

by Nisreen Abo-Sido, HAF volunteer, Thomas J. Watson Fellow




On Monday, project manager Said Bennani, volunteer Celina, and I began our weeklong excursion to Fez and Midelt for environmental workshops and tree-planting activities.  On Tuesday, we visited the Abdelaziz Ben Driss child protection center to conduct an environmental workshop with the boys, plant trees, and help load 7,100 saplings to be planted in Midelt this week.  Students from the Spring Arbor University in Michigan, USA, joined us for the tree-planting activities.  We had a lively day, inspired by the caretaker’s thoughtful tree nursery management and the boy’s enthusiastic involvement.




We started the day by visiting the tree nursery, which was spread across different plots within the center.  The local association, which organizes activities for the boys at the center, began the nursery in collaboration with HAF in May 2017.  On the way to the nursery, we admired a solar pump, supplying the energy required to extract water from a well.  Then, we met with the nursery’s caretaker, Khalid Naji, and he described the nursery conditions and progress in caring for the saplings, which were of the almond, olive, fig, carob, cherry, and pomegranate varieties.  Moreover, he showed us various aromatic and medicinal plants cultivated at the center and explained their beneficial properties.  All HAF partner nurseries are raised organically, and HAF encourages sapling recipients to continue to cultivate trees organically, for not only the environmental benefits but also for the increased value of accessing the organic market.




When the group of 23 students and their professors from the Spring Arbor University arrived, we began our environmental workshop with a group of boys from the protection center.  The University students came from a variety of majors and they were all interested in increasing their understanding of multiculturalism.




Said facilitated a workshop for the boys to better understand their relationship with their environment.  The University students participated by listening and asking the boys questions.  When Said asked the boys about their experiences with the agricultural activities in the center, one boy described how much he liked outdoor activities and how he had learned so much from Khalid about planting trees and using drip-irrigation techniques to water them.  Another boy added how his family used to purchase large trees and manually water them, but after engaging with the centers nursery, he now understands the transformation of trees from seeds and how to use drip-irrigation techniques to more efficiently care for seedlings.  When a University student asked the boys about their favorite part of the tree-rearing process, they nearly simultaneously agreed on the satisfaction of harvesting (and consuming!) tree fruit.


Following the workshop—together with the university students and the children—we planted six cherry trees, that the nursery plans to use for seed saving, rather than consumption, contributing to efforts to keep the nursery self-sufficient.




In the afternoon, we began loading olive, pomegranate, fig, and almond saplings into a truck for a tree-planting event in Midelt this Thursday.  Prior to loading them, we carefully extracted them from the ground and bagged them to preserve root moisture and, thus, maintain plant viability.




Said and Tarik Sadki—a member of the Karama association in Midelt—reminded the boys of the value of their contribution: as the ones who helped sow and care for the saplings, the kids were directly improving and supporting people’s livelihoods for years to come.  The HAF team and the local association are now in Gourrama commune, where we will facilitate environmental workshops and distribute trees to communities.  In this week, we have seen how tree-planting can be a vehicle for promoting cross-collaborative sustainable development, led and defined by communities, involving children, youth, adults, and local associations, to improve people’s lives across regional boundaries.


We thank Ecosia for funding the Abdelaziz Ben Driss nursery; without their support, these transformative experiences could not have been possible.


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HAF in Morocco

High Atlas Foundation
4 Rue Qadi AyaadAl Manar 4A - 3rd floor - Appt. 12 El Harti, Guéliz, MARRAKESH 40.000 - Morocco

Tel: +212 (0)5 24 42 08 21
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Directions to HAF Marrakech Office


High Atlas Foundation
High Atlas Foundation 511 Sixth Avenue, #K110, NEW YORK, NY 10011

Phone: +1 (646) 688-2946
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