Who likes trash?

Celina Boehmer

HAF Intern (from Germany)


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.


Afterward, 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.




Girls making the compost-model


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.  Afterward, 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.



Found some nice work about climate change and environmental issues!

Take Credited Development and Arabic Language Courses with HAF and the University of Virginia: Engage in Applied Learning this Summer in Marrakech

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Under the auspices of the University of Virginia, the High Atlas Foundation’s President, Dr. Yossef Ben-Meir, will lead a four-credit academic internship program from May 27th to July 19th in Marrakech on the practical and theoretical dimensions of participatory development. While completing internships at the HAF and engaging in related coursework, students will facilitate communities’ planning of projects in Morocco, and directly assist in implementing local priorities in agriculture, education, health, and women’s and youth empowerment.


Together, program participants will:

- Analyze points of view from around the world (modernization, world-systems, alternative movements, and others) of the different conditions within societies and globally that are needed in order to achieve the people’s development. 

- Working alongside HAF’s staff and partners, learn how to advance human development in all its phases—from participatory design to evaluation.

- Build proficiency in Moroccan Arabic (Darija), and earn one credit doing so.

- Work towards achieving the development aspirations of Moroccan rural and urban communities.

- Experience how empowerment workshops are conducted with women and girls. 

- Promote gender knowledge and awareness with men, young and older.

- Create socio-economic and environmental projects with and for young people. 

- Be guided by the principles of participation and multiculturalism toward sustainability—as called for by the Moroccan national model. 

- Harness applied and analytical tools that can be utilized to fulfill professional goals for the future, and do so with new friends and to-be collaborators.


Undergraduates of all ages, backgrounds, and majors are most welcome to participate. Students from U.S.-based universities may apply for transfer credit from the University of Virginia.


To see the full details of the program and to apply, please visit the online brochure on UVA’s Education Abroad site. Please write with any specific questions or comments to Yossef Ben-Meir (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.) or Ingrid Hakala (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.).  Applications are due on March 1st.


The program fee will include housing, as well as traditional and very satisfying breakfasts and lunches everyday at the HAF office in Marrakech, where instruction will be held.   


See you this summer in the Red City of Marrakech.  We look forward to exploring with you rural life and historic neighborhoods, as we grow from our dedication to Morocco’s growth.


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Happy to be in Amman with Members of Civil Society



Yossef Ben-Meir, Ph.D.


High Atlas Foundation


I had such a memorable day today in Amman, Jordan, thanks to the Bureau of Oceans,  International Environmental and Scientific Affairs (OES), with whom the High Atlas Foundation has a grants program to benefit local civil associations in this stunning country of thoroughly deep, even biblical, historical culture. 


I met with members of civil organizations from different parts of Amman and in neighboring governorates. They all had clear visions on how they could advance the cause of environmental conservation and sustainable livelihoods in their community areas.  I genuinely admired their strategic thinking, their understanding of local to global issues and the interconnections between them, as well as their past experiences and ongoing determination to make a enduringly good difference for everyone around them. 


A common theme among the projects they discussed is training young people to be the teachers of environmental issues to even younger people, indeed for society at-large. They presented opportunities to expand upon successful pilot experiences such as bringing new environmental clubs to schools in the same region where they have already shown to be sustainable and successful, including by way of generating revenue from recycling.  One project proposal is to bring craft supplies to ten primary schools so that students can draw out and visualize from their own handiwork the environment of the future that they want to see. 


I met the Vice President of Academic Affairs of Al-Balqa Applied University, Dr. Ghandi Anfoka, together with faculty and students.  They developed a project design to bring five Jordanian women university students from different campuses around the country to spend a week with HAF’s team in Marrakesh to visit together the schools with whom we facilitate environmental education activities, plant trees, and support infrastructure projects that enhance waste management such as bathrooms and water systems.  It seems there is a strong desire to strengthen understanding that so much of a beautiful environment depends upon by building awareness, particularly among youth.  Furthermore, in order to do this young people who are also intended to be the prime conveyors of the invaluable information need to have experiential learning opportunities.  We feel we can provide them terrific ones through this partnership with OES, and by supporting these kinds of programmatic ideas that they have already.


I am so excited to hear about more innovations and projects through this week--starting again tomorrow with 100 university students.  If you are part of a Jordanian or Moroccan civil group and seek partnership in order to implement your environmental and developmental initiative, we hope to hear from you.


Participtory environmental workshops for Lwidan rural commune, HAF and OES

Errachid Montassir
HAF project
The High Atlas Foundation (HAF) and the Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs (OES) continue to spread the vision of protecting the environment amongst the next generation, with the presence of Moroccan civil society members.
Lwidan rural commune in Marrakech region was our stop this time, where we visited the Twihinat group of schools. We brought with us 120 fruit tree saplings (70 Almonds, 20 Pomegranate, 20 Grapes and 20 Carob) to carry out tree planting activities and conduct participatory environmental workshops with the schoolchildren and community members.
We started with "Lbagara primary school" which has 319 students, of which 140 are female. The environmental workshop reflected a very good participation from the students, and they were very excited to put their lesson into practice and plant Carob and Almond saplings.
We moved to the second school "Oulad Zbir primary school" which has 306 students, of which 107 are female. We talked with the children about the importance of compost and its positive results. We also focused on decision-making in order to protect the environment, as we planted trees together.
We also met local association members and conducted the participatory approach method, in order to find out the environmental challenges they face and prioritize them as follow: 1- No trush place. 2- Lack of water sources. 3- Sewage. We explained more how they can apply for the community-led sustainable projects in Morocco.
We had a very good day with the community members and the schoolchildren, and will be visiting more communities in Morocco to conduct the same activities. See you soon!

Building gabions and fostering autonomy in Tassa Ouirgane

By Nisreen Abo-Sido, HAF Volunteer, Thomas J. Watson Fellow


Last week, I joined HAF Project Manager, Amina El Hajjami, and an engineer from Agence du Bassin Hydrauliques on a visit to Tassa Ouirgane village to assess the feasibility of constructing gabions along the river for flood-prevention.  A member of the local association guided us and explained the destruction and challenges associated with the river flooding.




First we checked on a tree nursery that was started in April.  We found that preparations were being made for a second cycle of seeding, and were pleased to see this progress as an indication that the nursery had begun transitioning to complete management by the local association.  While HAF believes in the importance of sustained involvement, it also aims to foster autonomy within communities, and, thus, hopes to see projects--like this nursery--thrive under total management by the local community.  Moreover, we discussed income-generation potentials for Tassa Ouirgane via the sale of tree saplings.




On our walk to the river, we saw men digging a well to build an irrigation system, both for the nursery and for communal use.  Particularly in the summer, the river does not supply enough water for the village, so this well will allow for water to be pumped.  Future goals include installing a solar pump and building a basin to store the water.




As we hiked along the river, we observed trees that were uprooted or snapped under the force of the flowing river and contemplated points along which it would be best to construct gabions.  Moreover, we noticed that the river’s flood zone is widening.  Because the river often carries large rocks, the engineer advised that the community construct a more flexible gabion from local stones and netting--rather than concrete, which would break more easily under the force of stones lodged by the river.  Furthermore, a stone-net gabion could be fixed more simply than a concrete-based structure.




In line with HAF’s mission of promoting autonomy, we discussed goals of training the community to construct and repair the gabions, as needed.  Rather than relying on outside companies, sharing the skills required to build and maintain gabions would empower local people with the knowledge and agency to address their needs and challenges.


We left Tassa Ouirgane with not only material for the engineer to provide recommendations for how to proceed with gabion construction, but also with plans to involve young women with community projects.  Amina insisted that sustainable development projects are incomplete if women are not involved.



The nursery, well, and gabion projects are being funded by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP).  This is the second HAF-involved project supported by the UNDP; the first was the Tadmamt nursery.


We are so grateful for the community’s hospitality and the engineer’s involvement, and will return to follow-up on each of the initiatives.


To partner with this community initiative, please click here.

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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
Fax: +1 (646) 786-4780

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