Developing a New Capability for Seed Storage and Preservation in Morocco

By Russ Zick

USAID Farmer-to-Farmer Volunteer

Smallholder farmers in Morocco are engaged in upgrading their agricultural practices in order to increase income by expanding exports to Europe, the United States, and other Southern countries.  The High Atlas Foundation (HAF) has been engaged in that process with several programs such as assisting Moroccan cooperatives in obtaining organic certification for their walnut, almonds, and other products.  During the certification project, HAF, a Moroccan and U.S. nonprofit organization dedicated to using a participatory, collaborative approach to assure sustainable solutions, recognized there were seed storage challenges that needed development for continued progress.  

 HAF partners with Land O’Lakes International Development (LOL) to develop a project concept and proposal to address the seed storage gaps in the nut supply chain.  LOL, in turn, partners with USAID’s Middle East and North Africa Farmer-to-Farmer program to advance sustainable agriculture and forestry activities to enhance economic growth.

 Teaming with High Atlas Foundation

HAF staff is a mix of Moroccans and volunteers from other countries, including men and women, young and old, and they manage a diverse mix of local development projects. Members provide a nurturing, encouraging environment. A typical workweek included attending presentations by staff, interns and other F2F volunteers on their projects. The presentations and comments were a means of project quality improvement, as well as team-building. The events also provided insight as to the fit of the seed storage project within the range of other HAF projects.  The daily routine of family-style group lunches was a way to share Moroccan food and hospitality with everyone that was congenial, memorable, and productive.  I found it an energizing and inspiring experience being included in this uniquely Moroccan HAF team.


Although the final objective of the assignment was clear from the start, “prepare a proposal to the Ministry of Agriculture for seed storage infrastructure improvement”, it took a week and three layout drafts, to clarify the need, size and nature of the concept plan.  HAF project managers provided guidance in discussions and site visits to help me understand in detail the need to assist farmers with capacity for two types of seed storage: 1) storing harvested nuts for short periods prior to post-harvest processing, and 2) storing endemic varieties of tree and wild medicinal plant seeds for ready access during the planting season, especially varieties under threat of being lost to more commercially viable varieties.  HAF partnering with the Idraren Cooperative had recently developed a business plan to produce 1,000 tons of certified organic walnuts.  Seed storage is essential to meet production potential and market demand for years to come.


The assignment provided an opportunity to contribute to development of organic agricultural processing and diversification of endemic seed varieties, benefiting small holder farmers in rural areas. It also afforded the opportunity to use my mechanical engineering experience in agricultural applications and to facilitate the synthesis of a design concept in a cross-cultural setting. In preparation for the assignment, I activated my project engineering network, reviewed professional technical articles on seed storage facilities, and visited a USDA world-class seed storage lab in Colorado. In country, together with HAF colleagues, we visited SONACOS, a large scale quasi-government produce and seed storage distribution center, a large-volume government sponsored agricultural producers’ market, and the recently completed post-harvest processing center at the Idraren Cooperative, located in Asni of the High Atlas Mountains.


The most tangible accomplishment of the assignment was to give HAF a written proposal suitable for presentation to the Ministry of Agriculture. The proposal included a hand-drawn layout drawing, a project narrative describing the need and the proposed solution, a detailed cost estimate and a tentative implementation schedule. It is likely that the highest value of the concept plan will be to stimulate further discussion about the new capabilities needed. The concept plan is undergoing further revision before it is presented to the Ministry of Agriculture, but the plan will help to advance the discussions and can lead to improvements in the current post-harvest processing.

 There were other intangible impacts from the assignment. I will long remember the rhythm of the Marrakech day with the morning and evening calls to prayer, sleeping indoors with the door wide open to the quiet, perfectly cool night air, the excitement about an afternoon rainstorm, even though there was not much moisture; the aesthetic experience of sharing sweet mint tea, poured high above the glass to aerate the tea and the touch of a scorching hot glass. It’s also nice to feel I now have some friends and colleagues in Morocco.


HAF Sami’s Project combines cooperation and environment

Errachid Montassir

HAF Project manager


Cooperation is necessary to meet human needs.  We as people are not able to meet our needs without the help of each other.  Our serious collaboration leads to the integration of society.

HAF continues to establish development projects in different parts of Morocco, with an empowered network through skilled partnerships with government and non-government agencies.  To move forward the environment and economic sustainability of our communities, HAF promotes its partners to be integral to events and activities. 

Sami's Project activities with schools in the sixth edition 2018 is planting 9,107 fruitful organic trees with 154 educational institutions, with the participation of 25,000 students, in 16 provinces of Morocco.

On the 13th of February 2018, the High Atlas Foundation invited partners to an event of planting 600 almond, 50 cypre and 30 Carob trees with the schoolchildren in Ait Ourir rural commune - El Haouz province, attended by:

  • The American School Marrakech (ASM) represented by 27 high school students and their wonderful teacher Mr. Nick Gaunt
  • Cadi Ayyad University (CAU) represented their professor of English and linguist, Dr. Abdellah Elhaloui
  • The Moroccan Alliance for Climate Change and Sustainable Development (AMCDD) represented by Mr. Moetik
  • Alhamama local association, represented by Mr. Mohamed
  • Tamakit local association, represented by Mr. Brahim
  • The press:  "Al Ahdath Al Maghribia"
  • Hundreds of extremely active kids, all of whom added a wonderful touch to the event, by participating in planting the trees and exchanging expertise between each other.  It is amazing when you see people of different ages together touching the ground and making green spaces, which means the environment is a treasure we hold together in trust for future generations.

HAF will stay making positive actions with youth, women and farmers, to protect our earth, which is one of the first steps in doing our part to be environmentally friendly.  And with collaboration, we will be able to wonderfully pass this treasure to the upcoming generation of Morocco.


HAF’s Annual Report: 2018


HAF’s Annual Report: 2018
From Dr. Yossef Ben-Meir
HAF President
Dear Friends,
It has been a journey for us putting together this year’s Annual Report, because we decided to make it comprehensive, including visually, of all of the work of the High Atlas Foundation since its beginning in 2000.  We hope that you like it, and that you feel a connection with HAF’s Moroccan mission.
We work in agriculture, health, education, multiculturalism, in rural (mostly) and urban areas, with projects in all Regions of Morocco, focused heavily on women’s and youth empowerment, with remote communities, in partnership with government, civil society, and business, and all this tied to a single premise: We implement projects that the people together determine, manage, and receive their benefits. 
We concentrate most heavily in agriculture, because rural people do, and because by multiplying the size of its economy—from growing tree and plant nurseries, to commercialization of raw and processed product, building cooperatives, and monitoring carbon offsets—we generate new revenue to reinvest in human development projects, beyond agriculture.
By implementing people-driven development in Morocco, a nation that has enacted this approach in many of its policies, charters, and laws, and by building a revenue-generating mechanism to build local capacities and projects, we can help communities all across the Kingdom implement the change they seek.  This is HAF’s vision, and Morocco’s goal.
Achieving this HAF-Moroccan dream would be profound for the country, the Continent, and the Middle East.  Morocco’s human development journey, facilitated by participatory and decentralization approaches, is indeed a great hope, lighting for the world a sustainable national recourse and pathway.  
The High Atlas Foundation is joined by, and joins, many Partners is this Moroccan-universal journey, to achieve the hopes of the people, all people, especially those who could utilize us most.
Destinations are not certain in our world.  What is certain is that we have a Moroccan national framework for transformative change through participatory democratic means.  It is also certain that Morocco absolutely needs the fulfillment of its sustainable development, and that the nation and those in the world who come to know its model will be most truly better off for it.
Please read HAF's Annual Report: 2018 and let us know what you think - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 
Yours faithfully,

Yossef Ben-Meir

HAF President

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Promoting Human Rights to Support Development in Rural Morocco

Gal Kramarski

 Former HAF Intern and Graduate Student 


There is an intrinsic link between human rights and development. Development, in many cases includes a process of securing access to rights, and their enforcement, whereas the existence of rights enhances development processes. 

Human rights and freedoms are enshrined in the Moroccan Constitution as "immutable constants" (Article 175).  Since its ratification in 2011, these rights are being gradually more respected. Though there is today a specific law that secures women's equal rights, Moudawanat Al-Osra, many rural women are not gaining from what it provides, particularly in remote areas.  We often ask ourselves why governmental decisions, laws, and programs for advancing development, struggle with reaching remote areas. Is this part of what keeps rural communities behind? Will using these laws promote development? How?

Led by these questions, staff and myself, an Intern at the High Atlas Foundation, from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, conducted participatory action-research including focus groups, with over 200 rural women of the Al Haouz Province.  The main findings of our research presented here can help us better understand the needs of rural women, to fulfill opportunities to practice their rights.   

Moudawanat Al Osra (2004) is the Moroccan personal status law, which is based on the Islamic sharia, and the Maliki School. It replaced the 1956 Moudawana, which in fact did not suggest equal rights to women. Moudawanat Al Osra consists of 400 articles of legislation, with the aim of protecting women and their children's rights.

Since the new law was legislated, its implementation in rural areas faces different barriers in terms of both raising awareness and enforcing the new law.  The research analyzed these barriers, alongside different needs raised by the women in this High Atlas mountain area.

Main results

Over 94 percent of the women who participated in the research indicated that they have never heard about Moudawana before, which points out the great lack of awareness to the law in these areas. Most communities stated that the legal age of marriage is above 18, yet most girls still marry at the ages of 14-16. Most communities indicated that they felt left behind; that national changes hardly reached remote areas, and that even if they were aware of their rights, they knew they could not secure them. Conducting this assessment research, we tried to understand the specific reasons they felt this way.

Two control groups were included in the research; the first was university students from Marrakech, the second was members of rural cooperatives with whom HAF already partners to advance development projects.  Cooperative members indicated that they were more independent, both socially and financially in different areas of their lives. Interestingly, students referred to the issue of using Moudawana and promoting women's equal rights as a national problem, which they share responsibility for; therefore students were interested in learning more and passing on their knowledge, to support other women. Most rural women, referred to Moudawana as a personal issue, which they wish to change in their lives; however, they also expressed their willing to pass on the knowledge they gained to others.   

Rural women of Al Haouz Province raised different needs during the discussions.  We can divide these needs into three main categories: education, social and physical:

(1). Education: high illiteracy rates among rural females remains one of the core problems, preventing them from knowing or achieving their rights. Women indicate that this is driven mainly from inequality in access to education.

(2). Social: including a clash between the national law and local traditions which are the ones to be respected in most cases. This clash was raised as one of the biggest obstacles to implement Moudawana in these areas. Lack of independence, as it is considered inappropriate for women to exit the village (however they may prefer) without their husbands. Also, violence and rape were raised as barriers that prevent particularly young girls from gaining their rights.

(3). Physical: lack of physical access to information, lack of suitable roads and transportation, makes it difficult for women to access governmental offices, and appear in front of a judge (as many legislation require). Moreover, women lack financial freedom, which holds them back from accessing their rights. These indications made us understand better the needs of these women, and the proper ways to start working on practicing Moudawana in these areas.   


Conclusion and recommendations

Most women indicated that this was the first time they discussed their own abilities, fears, and personal goals, and this motivated them. Resulting from our participatory workshops, one group started literacy lessons, as they wished to be able to understand their rights. A16-year-old girl from their community, volunteered to teach them.

Another group asked for bureaucratic support to start their own cooperative, and become financially independent. We also acknowledge the fact that in some cases, the effect of these kinds of interventions might result in an indirect influence on the participants, which might now be invisible to us, and become clearer at the future.

For now, our main recommendations include:

(1). A process of inclusively assessing of needs and knowledge with every community we work with is necessary, in order to make the community more involved and support the project's sustainability.

(2). Involve local authorities. We worked only with communities in which HAF gained the trust of their leaders. We see great importance in having the same process of promoting awareness of Moudawana among these leaders, while encouraging them to discuss its potential support of development, for instance through generating money.


(3). Encourage local leadership to promote sustainable development, through creating relationships between rural and urban women. Resulting from this, we designed a program that aims to bring together university students and rural women, to learn about Moudawana, and design local implementations of the law, according to the needs of their villages.  

In most of these areas, traditionally, men were the only ones to be involved in previous processes of raising needs and decision-making. Targeting women separately provides a different point of view on needs of the community, as well as different suggestions of ways to answer them. Furthermore, being based on the Islamic sharia, we hope Moudawana will evoke change regarding women's rights and their role in society, particularly among other Muslim countries. Through that, we aim to support both individual and collective social change, locally and globally.

Gal Kramarski is a M.A student at the 'Glocal' international development program, at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. She was an Intern with the High Atlas Foundation in Morocco from August 2017 to January 2018. 

The High Atlas Foundations celebrates Cross-Country Planting Day


High Atlas Foundations celebrates Cross-Country Planting Day,

Tree planting event totaling 9,000 trees


Marrakech, Morocco: The High Atlas Foundation (HAF) continued its legacy this past Monday, January 15th , through a mass planting of pomegranate, almond, fig, walnut, and carob trees across Morocco. HAF is a Moroccan and United States nonprofit organization dedicated to combating poverty and promoting sustainable agricultural development through targeted empowerment focused campaigns.


Over 9,000 trees were planted with students, women’s cooperatives, and farmers across Morocco in sixteen provinces. Students. HAF planted pomegranate, almond, olive, carob, and argan trees at multiple schools in Tahanoute and Ourika in Al Haouz, Essouira, and Youssoufia Provinces. At the Abdelaziz Ben Dris school in Ourika, volunteers, students, staff, and local farmers from the Aboghlou Women’s Cooperative planted saplings grown from the cooperative’s nursery.  At Izouraine, a women’s cooperative  in Essouira, HAF staff members planted 2,000 argan trees that will bear the fruit the co-op will use to make argan oil.


On behalf of the High Atlas Foundation: “January 15th is a wonderful example of the hard work we put in all year to strengthen and bring economic independence to communities around Morocco. Our staff is passionate about getting out to the field and doing hands on work in order to see the tangible benefits tree planting can provide.”


Since the year 2000, HAF has been able to promote economic growth and sustainability with thousands of families in Morocco through community lead agricultural development. Campaigns prioritizing participatory models when working with women and youth center around the needs and vision of each community.


The High Atlas Foundation is exceedingly grateful to all our current partners in Morocco: Ecosia; Middle East Partnership Initiative; Farmer-to-Farmer with Land O’ Lakes; Siemens Wind Solar; United Nations Development Program; High Commission of Waters and Forests and the Fight Against Desertification; the ministries of Youth and Sports, Agriculture, and Education; Yves Saint Laurent Beauté; Project PUR; Al Akhawayn University; University Sidi Mohammed Ben Abdellah; National Endowment for Democracy; the cooperatives of Aboghlou, Adrar, and Imdoukal Znaga; Moroccan Jewish Community; Empowerment Institute; FRÉ; Kahina Giving Beauty; and the provincial authorities.     


HAF, founded by former Peace Corps Volunteers, continues work in other areas of youth development, women’s empowerment, multicultural development actions, and carbon offsetting throughout Morocco. Find more information about the High Atlas Foundation at or follow them on Twitter @HafFdtn.

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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

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Directions to HAF Marrakech Office


High Atlas Foundation
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