Moroccan multiculturalism exemplified in Essaouira

Yossef Ben-Meir, Ph.D.
Today we had a great meeting with the director of the Cultural Delegation in Essaouira, Zhor Amhaouch. We had the opportunity to discuss together the project to restore a Franciscan church, which will not only preserve the historic, diverse, and magnificent cultural heritage of Morocco, but also create human development opportunities for local civil society today. The commitment of the Ministry of Culture to both embrace and completely put forward Moroccan multiculturalism, while at the same time build the capacities and livelihoods of the people is truly commendable and it is a heartfelt honor for HAF to work together with partners in Essaouira to help fulfill heritage and meet people’s needs.

While HAF’s President, program assistant, and a volunteer met with the director, we had another dedicated volunteer—Ilyas Dkhissi—complete photographing the tombstones of the old Jewish cemetery of Essaouira. These photos will be among others that will constitute a beautiful, most-touching book of poems inscribed by the loved ones in dearest memory of those who have passed.

An Experiential Conference that Elevated HAF’s Work

Yossef Ben-Meir

HAF President



The High Atlas Foundation (HAF)--partnering with the Holling’s Center for International Dialogue (DC/Istanbul) and the Prince Mohammad Bin Fahd Program for Strategic Research at the University of Central Florida--hosted a conference from November 15th-17th for the community and government partners, other thought leaders, and the staff and volunteers of HAF.  Together, we explored the complexity and serious difficulty of rural poverty in Morocco, and closely considered how the work of the HAF and its partners can more effectively alleviate these conditions and fulfill the opportunities identified by local communities. 


Please enjoy this film about the Experiential Conference.



The strategies we developed together in so many ways become advanced upon by essentially implementing a critical action: telling the stories, life-situations, limitations, great hopes, and transformative potentials that rural Moroccan families face everyday.


If we can effectively convey to audiences of the Moroccan public, the internationally-concerned, governments, civil, and business groups at all levels and places, individuals, and everyone who seek to hear and know the perceptions of Moroccan families and communities, then we can best serve the local people through building more inclusive sustainable development movements. 


We came to this conclusion--to communicate in multiple forms of written and spoken descriptions of rural projects and life--by first identifying a wide gamut of needs of both the people and how the HAF may better serve them.  What we together discovered was that, for example, in promoting girls’ full participation in education and developing clean drinking water systems for all, so much comes down to raising awareness so that Moroccan and global people and institutions will clearly understand the challenges and the essential part they can play as partners for change.


We are so thankful for the exploration that we took together during the Experiential Conference.  The momentum and the strategic drive carry on, and will continue to, as we everyday consider how we may best share the life experiences of rural Moroccan people as a powerful measure in order that we fulfill, together, their beautiful dreams.


Thank you so much to those who travelled to be with us from afar, and who helped enable the institutional support to make the Conference possible: Professors Thomas Crisman, Peter Jacques, George Zalidis, and David Dumke; Amal Laasel; and Jeffrey Treisbach.


ورشات بيئية لفائدة ساكنة جماعة ايت الطالب بإقليم الرحامنة

عبدالهادي كستيح

متطوع بمؤسسة الأطلس الكبير


يأتي الصباح ليذكرنا بإشراقة جميلة ويوم جديد ويعطينا أمل جديد للاستمرار في تحقيق أهداف نبيلة.  بصفتي متطوع مع مؤسسة الاطلس الكبير حظيت بشرف الانضمام الي ورشة بيئية لفائدة ساكنة دوار أعربات رفقة مجموعة من طلاب الجامعة الخاصة بمراكش وتحت اشراف مؤسسة الاطلس الكبير وبدعم من المكتب الدولي للمحيطات و الشؤون البيئية و العلمية. 


عند وصولنا  وجدنا الساكنة القروية والتلاميذ والمعلمين وأعضاء الجمعية المحلية استقبلونا بطريقة مبهرة للغاية جعلتنا سعداء لبدء أول ورشة عمل بيئية مع التلاميذ، التي تمحورت حول كيفية غرس الاشجار والعناية بها، من خلال هذه الورشة شعرنا بتواصل مذهل بين التلاميذ والساكنة ، ثم انتقلنا إلى طريقة من طرق المقاربة التشاركية لفائدة فئة الاطفال لنتعرف على التحديات و الاحتياجات و المطالب التي يرغب الأطفال في تحقيقها بمدرستهم في المستقبل، من هنا توصلنا إلى رويتهم المستقبلية لمؤسستهم و تمثلت رؤاهم  في خلق ملاعب لكرة القدم و غرس المزيد من الأشجار المثمرة وانشاء فضاءات للألعاب الترفيهية.

عبر التلاميذ عن حماسهم بترديد بعض الأغاني وأداء بعض المسرحيات، تلاها بعد ذلك زرع اول شجرة مثمرة من قبل السيد عبد الرحيم كحوان رئيس جماعة أيت طالب بمعية تلاميذ المؤسسة.


 السيد عبد الرحيم كحوان رئيس جماعة أيت طالب


بعد الاستمتاع بوجبة فطور مع التلاميذ، عدنا من اجل لقاء اعضاء الجمعية المحلية وأعضاء البلدية من أجل تنظيم ورشة العمل البيئية التشاركية التي تمحورت حول التأثيرات البيئية، وقوانين البيئة في البلاد واتفاقية التجارة الحرة بين المغرب والولايات المتحدة الأمريكية.  كانت مشاركة واضحة من الحاضرين حيث قمنا باستخدام طريقة الترتيب المزدوج او ما يعرف بمصفوفة الاولويات لتحديد التحديات البيئية المختلفة في المنطقة والخروج بالحل، بعد أن صوت جميع المشاركين على الأولوية القصوى التي نتبين انها كانت هي نقص المياه وبعدها الصرف الصحي.

.ختاما يمكن  القول انها  كانت مبادرة سابقة من نوعها من خلالها تم الخروج بعدة اتفاقيات دات طابع انساني

Fruit for Centuries

By Yossef Ben-Meir
HAF President



I remember in the mid-90s when I had the great fortune to be a Peace Corps Volunteer and live with the village communities of the Toubkal municipality in the High Atlas Mountains.  The people expressed how fruit tree revenue far outweighed what they generated from growing barley and corn using traditional methods.  We also learned that other mountain farming communities in other valleys, were planting cherry trees and fairing better economically.



In 1995, our project together paid $1.20 per tree.  Ten years later, the High Atlas Foundation supported the people in their building of a walnut and almond tree nursery in loving memory of former Peace Corp Volunteer Kate Jeans-Gail and her dear mom, Victoria.  And now another twelve years later, and 3.5 million seeds and trees planted in 23 provinces, we can now grow a fruit seed in a community-managed nursery for 20 cents.  This price includes the costs of monitoring its growth, grafting it, and ensuring its best life and production. 




We’ve learned the processes to secure land for the people’s nurseries. We’ve learned how to maximize growth of these organic and endemic seeds, utilizing greenhouses, solar-power pumps, pressure-drip systems, the in-kind hard work of local people, and partnerships with government, companies, and the people’s associations.



The rains this season in Morocco have come; they came again this morning, and we are thankfully still in December.  All of this is to say the following: Give


Give to plant trees that nourish us and save our planet.  Grow with us trees that employ us and bring us opportunity for all.  And plant even more than you thought you would for the sake of transitioning beyond what so often feels like endlessly burdensome rural poverty that keeps girls from school, water way too often far and unclean, and young people leaving their villages against their own dreams to work in cities that separate them from their families back at home.  Tree-planting is magical, and is among other essential actions for sustainable development.


Give many hundreds of dollars, and give fruit forests.


And since many of these trees do live for centuries, and since all of us may not outlive them, let’s also give in memory and loving thought for those beautiful souls that might’ve planted this season.


It’s time to give, as the rains have come. 


Yours faithfully,

Plant Trees

Yossef Ben-Meir


High Atlas Foundation

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Fulfilling Moroccan Environmentalism and Global Targets

by Errachid Montassir

Project Manager



Today, we gathered with schoolchildren from Aarabat primary school, members of the community, and Private University of Marrakech (UPM) students for our second Bureau of Oceans and International Environment and Scientific Affairs (OES) workshop this week.  On this beautiful morning, the community, schoolchildren, teachers, and local association members welcomed us warmly, making us extremely happy and comfortable to start the first environmental workshop with the kids. 


In this part of the activity, we noticed amazing communication among the students and the adult community.  Then we moved to the icebreaker, during which the kids were so active in drawing their image for their school in the future (Participatory approach) and they came up with various ideas, such as including a soccer field, more fruit trees in the area, etc. 


The students surprised us with some songs and plays, as they were so excited to plant the fruit trees in their school.  The first tree was planted by Mr. Abderrahim Gahwan, the president of Ait Taleb commune, and a student from Aarabat primary school.  Mr. Gahwan is a very kind president who always shows us the same respect and love that he has for his community!  




After a big breakfast, we went back to meet the local association and the municipality members to conduct the participatory environmental workshop, which included discussion on the effects on and from the environment, the environmental laws in the country, and the free trade agreement between Morocco and USA. 


Active participation from the attendants allowed us to conclude the workshop using pairwise ranking to figure out different environmental challenges in the area and come up with solutions.  Next, the participants voted on the priorities, and we were not surprise to see that the lack of water was the first priority, followed by the sewage problem.  


In fact, the problems are actually interconnected: the lack of a proper sewage system leads to the contamination of the drinking water.  The local association members were happy to fill out the project application form, hoping it will be selected to sort out the water issue and other environmental challenges in the commune. 


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HafFdtn On Wednesday, February 13, we accompanied the women on a visit to the field where the cooperative grows their crops…
HafFdtn he weather is getting warmer here in Morocco. The sun is shining the whole day and providing us warmth. Yesterday,…
HafFdtn HAF currently manages 15 nurseries with communities in five provinces of Morocco (Al Haouz, Azilal, Fes, Moulay Yac…
HafFdtn The High Atlas Foundation currently has 80,000 almond saplings of the Férragnes, Férraduel, and Prunus amygdalus va…
HafFdtn Evaluation reports indicate that at least 10 more people are indirectly impacted by each direct participant and thi…
HafFdtn Project partners from Kenya, India, Kosovo, Ukraine, Morocco and Germany during the “Partnership for Transformation…
HafFdtn We are living in a time, where the humankind faces an unprecedented challenge - it is the warmest it has ever been…

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
Fax+212 (0)5 24 43 00 02 

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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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