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The Impact of Training in the Oriental Region

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By Ibtissam Niri
HAF Empowerment Facilitator

 

Our workshops for cooperative-building efforts in the Oriental Region may have finished weeks ago, but the process for the High Atlas Foundation (HAF)--joined this week by the U.S. Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI)--to follow up with its impact on participants continues.

One year of preparation, 35 cooperatives, six provinces, six subjects of workshops, and more than eight mentors: these statistics demonstrate that the work conducted in this region by HAF, with MEPI support, was not easy but was nonetheless vital to pursue. The good faith of people and partners led to the realization of this project, which was inspired by an idea to help cooperatives and give them the chance to know more about their rights, external and internal resources, and to help them move passed any frustrations and to take actions to achieve the development outcomes they most want.

We began our trip in Oujda and drove one hour to Ain Beni Madar, where we met our first cooperative, El Baraka, and its President, Lala Aicha. El Baraka was created in 1995 by 17 members and works on handcraft carpets, beekeeping, and breeding turkeys. She invited us to her cooperative’s location to take a look at their activities.

Lala Aicha looked very happy when she talked about the training and the impact of what she learned from it. For example, after the training she immediately collected necessary legal documents and took action to initiate the process of receiving certification from National Office of Sanitary Security of Food Products, which provides authorization for the domestic and international sale of products. Lala also talked about the benefit of the training’s Marketing as well as Empowerment workshops, as she learned many helpful things from it and reported several positive changes in her life as a result of them. “I found what I need in my personal and professional life, I found my vision, and I’m working now to get it. I need to take just a few more steps to reach what I want. That’s what I learned from the workshops,” she said.

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With her words, I was reminded of the feeling in the empowerment workshop when most women who were initially afraid to say, “I have a vision” later say, “I have a vision and I can achieve it.”

I discovered this same occurrence with many of the women I met them during the second stop of our follow-up trip in Tandrara and Bouarfa, where we met with six cooperatives. I also discovered the improvements in their products’ packaging and how they presented their products to us. For example, their sales pitches were delivered clearly and confidently. The cooperatives shared their successful stories with the HAF and MEPI teams.

We are happy to have seen great results, revealing the positive impact of our training. One of participants in Bouaarfa said, "The training is not a waste of time or money, it is a benefit; a gift from people with beautiful minds who want to help others become who they want."

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Finally, the last stop on our trip was Figuig, an unforgettable place as a city of hidden historic landmarks as well as powerful cooperatives managed by powerful men and women. 

It was ultimately a fruitful trip for HAF to take with MEPI, as our partner for this program, to learn more about the effects of our training on people in cooperatives in addition to people who simply want to improve a particular aspect of their lives.

I felt so proud because I had the chance to see numerous women who attended the workshops I facilitated not only practice what they learned at the training in their daily lives but also teach it to other people--reflecting a sustainability result of the workshops, which supports the mission of HAF to implement sustainable projects in Morocco.

How can we know if a project we took part in, really had an impact?

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Gal Kramarski
From Jerusalem, in Marrakech

 

Several months after finishing my internship with the High Atlas Foundation, I got the chance to go back to Marrakech, this time, only for a visit. Though the purpose of the travel was truly exciting, an interfaith conference in Essaouira, I was more excited about visiting my friends from HAF and the people we had worked with on HAF's women's programs, from the villages of Ourika, Setti Fadma and Oukaimeden in the High Atlas region.

Often in the development field, we seek for great changes that we can measure with numbers for instance, to indicate on the impact of a given project. However, sometimes, as I learned in this recent visit, change can be something that you feel, or see in different shapes.

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Our first stop was the Aboghlou Women's Cooperative in Ourika valley. The first thing one sees when entering the cooperative are the products that the women are growing, preparing and selling. A year ago, they mainly sold traditional anise cookies, different types of couscous, and dried leaves that were grown, collected and packed by order. This time I could see additional products, such as quinoa, henna and more. Nevertheless, the most exciting was the new designs of the packaging of the products that looked so much more professional. When asking the cooperative members how they see their progress, they shared that if once their dream was to sell their products to people in their region, now their dream is to reach the national level, and next, to export their products abroad. The head of the cooperative shared that not only the fact that they started to generate money motivated them, but also seeing their success made them think big, and develop their cooperative. She added that women from other villages were inspired by the Aboghlou cooperative, and started other associations and cooperatives in their area. In her words, this makes her very happy.

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Remembering one woman from this cooperative the last time when I was there, shared that she had never spoken to a man before in her life, was afraid to take public transportation, etc. and this time, seemed very confident when explaining about the cooperative to the people that were present in the room. This led me to an important understanding. In fact, the essence of the personal impact of the empowerment of these women comes in a shape of greater self-confidence that nourishes these women's beliefs in their abilities, and encourages their actions towards economic development as well. Another good example, is that a year ago the cooperative members refused to accept back several women who had dropped out at the beginning of the process of establishing the cooperative. They mentioned that they did not feel responsible for them, and could not see the importance of including others in their development process. Eventually, regarding the question of accepting others, they decided to take some time and think about it. Today, when I asked them about their decision, they said that at the future, they would be happy to receive back anyone who will be committed to their joint success.

Following this fabulous visit, we drove up the mountains to Anamer village. We met the women there, who shared their great feeling of satisfaction from the Arabic lessons they decided to take, following the workshops we conducted with them, only eight months earlier. I was so excited to see how positively they remembered us, and the workshops we had done. After having tea, I left with the kids of the village to see their fruit trees, and walk by the river, while Fatima-Zahra and Ibtissam, shared their advice with the women about the process of establishing an association. This was truly moving to see how one small action lead to such strong feelings and a true bond between us.  

Our last stop was the house of our dear colleague Abd-el-Jalil, in Oukaimeden, that showed us the agriculture in the area, and hosted us for a fabulous lunch. Once again I was exposed to the great generosity of my friends from the HAF and their open hearts that now as before, made me feel at home.

My main conclusion from this visit was that change comes in different shapes, and amounts, and though sometimes the impact of our work is not tangible or measurable, every single action that we did or did not take, left something on the people we interacted with. I can indicate for myself that it left a huge impact on me as well, that takes the shape of feeling that I was a part of something great. So how could we know if a project we took part in, really had an impact? In this case, we see it with our eyes, and feel it with our hearts.

HAF And MEPI In The Oujda Region With Its Cooperatives

The High Atlas Foundation (HAF) has worked in the Oujda Region for three years. HAF’s Marrakech and Oujda teams came together in August to facilitate women's empowerment and cooperative development workshops and are touring the region, now joined by our counterparts from The Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI). Since September 5th, we have met with cooperative members from four provinces, with two more provinces remaining this week. In this Newsletter, discover more about HAF’s capacity-building workshops with 81 of the people’s cooperatives—supported by MEPI—and what we've experienced and learned with them during this program that began last year and concludes this month.

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THE JOURNEY OF EMPOWERMENT IN THE ORIENTAL REGION

 

Ibtissam Niri
Office Manager
 

Today was the last day of Imagine workshops in Oujda, but the first day to think about the journey of Empowerment in the Oriental region for 58 women of different cooperatives…Read More

Give to women's cooperative empowerment.

THE POWER OF PASSION FOR DEVELOPMENT WORK, SHARING KNOWLEDGE, AND COOPERATIVE BUILDING: NORDINE’S STORY

 

By Eliana Lisuzzo
HAF Project Assistant
 

We met Nordine on a sunny Wednesday morning. His tan skin revealed how he spends many hours outside planting…Read More

Assist cooperative-building here.

 

THE IMPACT OF COOPERATIVE-BUILDING TRAINING ON NEW COOPERATIVES’ DEVELOPMENT AND THE INDIVIDUALS WHO LEAD THEM

 

By Eliana Lissuzo
Project Assistant

The High Atlas Foundation (HAF) staff has met many driven Moroccan people with big plans to make a difference in their lives and for their communitiesRead More

ORGANIC FARMING IN THE ORIENTAL REGION

 

Yahya Rhomari
Member, Cooperative of Organic Agriculture in Berkane
 

The development of organic agriculture in Morocco faces various technical, commercial, financial, and organizational constraints
…Read More

HAF’S PARTICIPATORY APPROACH AND COOPERATIVE-BUILDING EFFORTS INTERTWINED

 

By Eliana Lisuzzo
HAF Program Assistant
 

In a little under just one week, the High Atlas Foundation (HAF) has met with members of 21 cooperatives throughout four provinces of the Oujda Region in Morocco…Read More

Help enable cooperative development.

COOPERATIVE-BUILDING CHALLENGES AND HOW HAF CAN HELP

 

By Eliana Lisuzzo
HAF Project Assistant
 

Last week, from June 21st to June 24th, 2018, the High Atlas Foundation facilitated a four-day women’s empowerment workshop…Read More

Partner with us here.

Organic Farming in the Oriental Region

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Yahya Rhomari
Member, Cooperative of Organic Agriculture in Berkane

 

The development of organic agriculture in Morocco faces various technical, commercial, financial, and organizational constraints. Organizational constraints—primarily poor coordination between local cooperatives and associations—are of particular importance and must be addressed. The lack of effective relationships between such entities can consequently impede upon the interests of stakeholders invested at various levels in the organic sector.

For example, it was once the case that organic-certified agricultural products in Morocco’s Oriental Region could not be marketed at their fair value, despite significant demand, largely due to a lack of markets or stores to sell in. As a solution to this problem, a unique initiative emerged from the region’s Cooperative of Organic Agriculture. To ensure profitable sales of organic and agroecological products, the cooperative members—acting as both producers (i.e., farmers) and consumers of the products—outlined the following goals: 

  • Develop, promote, and market organic and agroecological products in the Oriental Region;
  • Accompany producers in the region who want to transition to organic farming or learn about agroecology;
  • Make consumers aware of the importance and benefits of organic and agroecological production, and label local products; and
  • Promote communication between organic and agroecological producers at the local, regional, national, and international levels.

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Since the initiative’s creation, the Cooperative of Organic Agriculture has worked towards delivering on their goals. In February 2018, a headquarters location was established in Berkane as an organic store. This location serves as the direct sales point representing producers of the Oriental Region and other regions of the Kingdom. Its mission is to not only make agricultural products (including organic-certified products) available to consumers of the Oriental Region but also to valorize the products and spread awareness of their origins as well as production techniques.

In addition, the initiative created a network of families with designated facilitators in March 2018 to share information about organic agriculture. Each week, the families come together and share their organic seasonal basket as well as share their experiences. The weekly gathering provides them the opportunity to define their common needs and best practices in regards to both product preparation and delivery to organic shops and consumers. As the families continue to meet, their numbers increase, with new families joining the network of agroecological producers. They all hold the belief that their organic projects are not just a matter of livelihood but also of social urgency.

The High Atlas Foundation, with the Middle East Partnership Initiative, are helping us secure the food certifications we need, and the marketing we seek.  I love that they love good ideas, for shared benefit, for the people and our environment.

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Give to cooperative development.

Cooperative-building challenges and how HAF can help

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By Eliana Lisuzzo
HAF Project Assistant

  

A cooperative is a business or organization managed jointly by voluntary members. When ran successfully, a cooperative will lead its members to meet their common goals as well as economic needs—of which any profit is shared among them. In Morocco in particular, being a part of a cooperative can be extremely rewarding, especially for marginalized populations and communities, providing opportunities for much needed development work in addition to economic advancement for women and people living in rural poverty.

 

However, establishing a cooperative and receiving project support can be a confusing and tedious process. In Morocco, one must write a proposal for their project idea and submit it to the corresponding national ministry. For example, farming-related projects must submit a proposal to the Ministry of Agriculture, sewing and carpentry projects to the Ministry of Crafts, Social Solidarity and Economy, etc. Once the proposal is approved, a contract can be signed. Notably, members financially invest in their projects, but cannot begin implementation until they have received authorization from their local government—despite having signed a contract with a ministry. External circumstances such as this, as well as, in some cases, waiting to receive approved funds, are just a couple challenges cooperatives may face. The High Atlas Foundation (HAF) aims to support members through any obstacles and to help them achieve progress in several ways.

 

HAF’s commitment, enabled through our partnership with the Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI), is to assist cooperatives in advancing along their own individual and partnership building paths, which has been particularly successful in the Oujda Region. For example, we work with provincial authorities to help cooperatives secure land in order for them to build schools, health centers, and places for them to work. In Taourirt province, specifically, advocacy with provincial and regional authorities is of paramount importance so that they can build upon the truly commendable achievements many cooperatives have had in the region. Further, HAF focuses on establishing fruit tree nurseries involving different varieties most suitable for land, such as in Jerada Province. We also assist cooperatives secure certification from the National Office of Sanitary Security of Food Products, which allows them to verifiably produce their food in healthy conditions and thereby have wider access to markets. Lastly, HAF guides cooperatives in how to effectively market their unique products and share the stories behind their creation.

 

It has been a great learning experience for the HAF team to learn about and spend quality time with so many cooperatives in the provinces of the Oujda Region. Their missions and areas of productivity vary from agricultural cultivation to craft making, food processing, making beautiful clothes, artisanal masonry, and more. We are glad we had the chance to hear about not only their successes but also their challenges, and we look forward to continuing our efforts to advocate for their specific needs with provincial and regional authorities as well as relevant public agencies.

Partner with us here.

 

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