Mapping needs with women of Talatan, Ourika Valley


Gal Kramarski

HAF Intern


The HAF team, including Fatima-Zahra, Amina, Ibtissam, Gal and Abd-El Jalil, visited the Village of Talatan in the Ourika Valley.  We have been working in this mountain region a lot, and it is always exciting to see it changing in front of our eyes. The weather is indeed changing too.  The beautiful mountains are covered with snow.  The people of Morocco’s prayers for rain were answered; the mountains are white.

 The road to Talatan is very long.  It was one of the remote villages that we started working with their women. It was the first time we are meeting these women, in order to have a participatory assessment of their particular needs, and their knowledge. Forty women, of various ages (18 to over 60), took part in our workshop, which was very successful.

 Amina started the discussion with mapping what are the most important things they have in their lives, followed by what they wish to change in their environment. Following that, we continued with discussing specifically their needs as women, their knowledge about their rights, and the future they wish to see for their children. Many of the women indicated that one of the most needed initiatives in their area is a secondary school for their children.

 Moreover, they wish to have a college for women, to learn how to read and write, and how to calculate numbers, since almost all women in their village are illiterate. The second most important thing they said they wish to change, is to have cellular reception in their village. The women said that it feels as if the Moroccan state neglected them, since they are located in a remote area. "Other villages around get cellular reception and we do not; if a woman gives birth, we cannot inform anyone, and no one can assist her." Off course, the third thing was having a hospital, or any other medical service closer to their village, or an easier road to travel outside of the village. In addition, they shared their skills, sewing for example, and we thought together how they could use these skills in any future project.

 Since we did not want to travel in the mountains at dark, we had to finish the workshop, though it felt as if we could discuss with the women for hours more. We had sweet mint tea, said goodbye, knowing that it is only the beginning of the process, and for sure we will come back and together we will create a more positive and independent future for these women.


HAF Promotes Tree Planting & Value-Addition for Rural Farmers in Morocco

By Gregory Sullivan, Farmer-to-Farmer Volunteer


The High Atlas Foundation (HAF) in Morocco is using innovative approaches to tackling poverty in this North Africa country,  as well as addressing the challenge of climate change.  HAF is a non-profit organization dedicated to improving the livelihoods of rural households. The Foundation was established in 2000 by former Peace Corps Volunteers and registered in both the USA and Morocco.  It set an ambitious goal to plant one million trees and successfully met that challenge in 2014. HAF is not stopping and has agreed to support the Government of Morocco to reach its target to plant one billion trees, and has created model nurseries and partnerships to achieve this transformative milestone.

At the HAF’s headquarters is in Marakesh, the office is constantly buzzing with the enthusiasm of young volunteers from Morocco, Europe and the USA committed to make a positive impact on Morocco.  HAF is at the center of the wider global initiative to address climate change.  The United Nations’ climate change conference was held in the city in November 2016. HAF’s goal is to empower people to improve their livelihoods and the climate through community action. For HAF, it all starts with the establishment of its eleven nurseries in seven provinces. HAF partnered with several organizations both government and non-government and from inside and outside Morocco to establish these nurseries. A German organization, Ecosia, provides funding for five of these nurseries.  At the same time, HAF continues to evaluate the possible addition off our new nursery sites.  In some cases, a nursery site was provided by the High Commission of Waters and Forests, the Ministry of Education, the local council and cooperative or even a religious organization.  This reflects buy-in from a wide spectrum of the stakeholders in the donor community.

HAF’s nurseries are in different ecological zones which offer a diversity of trees and plants to meet the needs of rural households and schools in different planting zones (see Figure 1). Most of the nurseries are in the hotter, drier zone having a continental climate. Temperatures can exceed 40 celsius and a dry season lasting three to four months. Tree and aromatic seeds are collected locally for the nurseries for better adaptability to growing conditions. Some popular tree species are walnut, almond, pomegranate, olive, and fig. A few nurseries produce aromatic plants (Verbena, mint, sage and thyme) which are popular items added to tea. Aromatic plants are planted by women to be grown for both home-use or sold fresh or processed in the local markets to provide additional income for women. Water availability in this drier climate is a challenge, and HAF promotes the use of drip irrigation systems conserving scarce water.

Figure 1. HAF’s Walnut and Almond Tree Nursery (at Tadmamt, in partnership with the UNDP)

HAF’s mission is to address challenges along the value chain facing producers, and it invests in value addition activities in processing and marketing, not just planting trees.  In the town of Asni, HAF supported the establishment of a walnut processing facility with the local government and the Idraren Cooperative. HAF purchased some of the equipment (funded by OES, U.S. Department of State) installed in the plant and helped to train the staff. The cooperative with the help of HAF will find markets for producers’ nuts and bottled walnut oil.  The market plan is to develop branded organic walnut products which are sold in both the domestic and international markets.  In the first year of operation in 2016, the cooperative 10,000 kilograms of nuts, as well as 1,000 liter bottles of walnut oil for cosmetic use.

Figure 2. Walnuts at the Asni Idraren Cooperative

Where possible, HAF works to build the capacity of women cooperatives to empower them for positive economic and social change in their communities (the National Endowment of Democracy was an early supporter of this initiative). HAF teamed up with the French cosmetic company, Yves Saint Laurent Beauté (YSLB), and Project PUR to contract with the Aboghlou Women’s Cooperative in Ourika Valley, which is approximately 30 kilometers southeast from Marrakesh. The Cooperative has 39 women, and they grow the flower, Calendura officinalis (marigold), used by YSLB for the manufacture of their cosmetics. HAF and YSLB supported the women with training and made initial start-up investments in a small building with a bathroom, irrigation equipment (see Figure 3), a well and a water tank for storing water during the dry season to extend the production season when water levels fall.The women have learned how to collect seed from nearby fields, propagate and  transplant seedlings (see Figure 4). The women then harvest the flower, transport in local basket (see Figure 5) to their homes where they dry the petals and then pack and ship them to France. These value-added processes allow the women to be paid 1,000 MAD (approximately U.S. $100) per kilogram for dried petals. The women expect their first shipment of 60 kilograms of dried petals in 2017, reinvesting and sharing the new revenue among members of the Cooperative.  On the 14th of November 2017, the Coop’s members and their nursery were visited by 90 YSLB team members, celebrating empowerment (see Figure 6).   

Figure 3. Newly establish fields of Calendula with drip irrigation

Figure 4. Mature Calendura plants ready for harvest

Figure 5. A basket of Calendula being transported home to dry

Figure 6. Team members of Yves Saint Laurent Beauté and the Aboghlou Cooperative enjoying their special day

HAF is making a significant difference for large numbers of rural households in Morocco through tree planting, and it is turning producers into entrepreneurs evident by the success in establishing the walnut cooperative in Asni and the Calendula cooperative in Ouirka.  These business models will be replicated in other villages and towns in Morocco and will directly increase rural incomes and at the same time address the threats of climate change facing Morocco.  By mobilizing communities to plant trees and aromatic plants, HAF is helping rural Morocco on its path to economic sustainability.

تعاونية أبغلو ثمرة تلاحم الأيادي بواد اوريكة


بقلم أمينة الحجامي

مديرة مشروع مع مؤسسة الأطلس الكبير

    جميل أن نعرف أن هناك أشخاص يدعموننا من بعيد لتحقيق أحلام العديد من النساء ببواد جبال الأطلس مند ثلاث سنوات و أن يكون هولاء الأشخاص من دولة أخرى لا لغة ولا ثقافة مشتركة، لكن لديهم إيمان بأننا في يوم من الأيام  سوف نحقق أحلام نساء لديهن أمل كبير على تغيير أنفسهن إلى الأحسن، والأفضل أن نرى هولاء الأشخاص قطعوا مسافات بعيدة من أجل مشاركتنا لحظات قليلة إلا أنها لا تنسى احتفالا بالإنجازات التي قامت بها نساء تعاونية أبغلو (Aboghlou cooperative) ، فرحة بعد قطعهن لأشواط عديدة  في مشروعهن الهادف إلى التنمية المستدامة، إنه الفريق الرائع لأيف سان لوران بيوتي (Yves Saint Laurent Beauté).

سرني جدا أن تتكرر الأفراح  لدى النساء اللواتي أعمل معهن و أن يكون هناك تقدم في المشروع ففي نفس اليوم من السنة الماضية عشت فرحة مع بعضهن من اللواتي مثلن المغرب والمرأة الأمازيغية مع نساء من دول عالمية عديدة وشاركنا بأفكارهن وأحاسيسهن في موضوع علاقة النساء بالتغيرات المناخية خلال مؤتمر الأطراف المقام بمراكش السنة الماضية، وهذه السنة استقبلت النساء أكثر من 90 زائر من  فريق شركة إيف سان لوران بيوتي القادمين من العاصمة الفرنسية باريس وممثلة بور بروجيكت (PUR Project) من أجل زيارة النساء والتعرف على مشروعهن عن قرب.



حل فريق إيف سان لوران بيوتي صبيحة يوم الثلاثاء 14 نونبر بمشتل الأغراس والأعشاب الطبية التي تعمل به نساء تعاونية أبغلو وتؤطره مؤسسة الأطلس الكبير (High Atlas Foundation) بشراكة مع إيف سان لوران بيوتي وبور بروجيكت من أجل تشجيعهن  على تطوير مشروعهن وإدماجهن في الاقتصاد الأخضر من خلال عدة تكوينات لها علاقة بتقوية القدرات من الناحية الشخصية والمهنية من خلال غرس الأشجار المثمرة والأعشاب الطبية والعطرية وتسويقها محليا ودوليا.

استعملت النساء أثناء استقبالهن للزوار رموز كثيرة من أجل تكسير حواجز اللغة من خلال الابتسامة، تحية السلام ، طقوس الحناء، وضع الورد على المائدة الفضية، قالب السكر، كسو المائدة بغطاء المرأة الأمازيغية الذي ترتديه في الأفراح للدلالة على الفرح، كلها رسائل ورموز  أمازيغية تقليدية محضة تستعملها نساء جبال الأطلس كدلالة على الفرح، حسن الضيافة تعبر من خلالها عن حفاوة الاستقبال والترحيب باللضيوف وكذا التعريف بالموروث الثقافي الأمازيغي وشكرهم على الزيارة.



في أخر الزيارة اجتمع الزوار مع النساء في صورة  كتذكار راسخ على هذا الحدث المهم ، وتلتها صورة جمعت ما بين النساء، السيد سيتفان (Stefan) عن فريق إيف سان لوران بيوتي و رئيس مؤسسة الأطلس الكبير  السيد يوسف بن مير (Yossef Ben-Meir) ، وأثناء تصويرها أخذت النساء في ترديد أهازيج أمازيغية تدعو من خلالها إعادة الزيارة في المستقبل.


هذا المشروع  بالنسبة لي كطفل صغير عشت معه تجربة لا تنسى من مرحلة لا يقدر على التحرك لكن ابتسامته وحركاته دليل على مشيه في المستقبل ودليل على قدراته على الوصول إلى هدفه ووقوفه على قدميه، هكذا أعتبر مشروع نساء اوريكة، فقد كانت البداية صعبة لكن الإرادة والرغبة الجامحة التي تراود النساء والبريق الذي رأيته في أعينهن جعلتني أتشجع وأبلغ قصارى جهدي لمساعدتهن ومساندتهن في حلمهن لتحقيقه بعدما كان مرسوما على الأوراق فقط.

  لا تفوتني الفرصة لشكر فريق إيف سان لوران بيوتي على هذه الزيارة التي سوف تعطي للنساء شحنة إيجابية من أجل تطوير مشروعهن واستدامته واخص بالذكر السيدة كارولين نيكر (Caroline NEGRE) التي بذلت مجهودها طيلة المشروع والسيد ستيفان الذي أعطى من وقته لزيارة المشتل ولقاء النساء، كما لا أنسى شكر الآنسة كاميل لوستخديك                   (Camille Le Stradic) عن بور بروجيكت التي ساندت المشروع لمدة سنة، وأهنئ مؤسسة الأطلس الكبير التي تساند دائما وتدعم المشاريع النسائية بالعالم القروي في جل أقاليم المغرب برئاسة الدكتور السيد يوسف بنمير.

في الأخير متمنياتي أن تتكرر هذه اللقاءات  والأحداث التي تجمع منظمات عالمية من أجل هدف إنساني مشترك ونبيل وأن ندعم نساء أخريات في العالم القروي ومشاريع أخرى تعود بالنفع على الساكنة المحلية.



Volunteers Create Worlds


By Yossef Ben-Meir, Ph.D.

President of the High Atlas Foundation


A world created is one that begins with a path taken by an individual who gives time, energy, thought, and care without personal material return, to people seeking a genuine change.  The volunteer-of-oneself may begin this journey with heavy concern over the unknown, with boundless belief in the infinitely possible, and with even outright alienation from the people to benefit.  The giver-without-recompense may start a dialogue within oneself, asking why am I here, what can I do that really matters, and must I do this and feel cold, tired, hungry, and alone?


The passage of time, persistence, and remaining true to the ideal of service-to-others leads to people’s familiarity with the volunteer.  Stories of joy and hardship are sometimes shared, dreams and fears may be expressed, and trust emerges from the people’s observations of the volunteer during setting after setting.  Finally, the people’s acceptance opens a pathway for creation. 


There can be no set timetable for this new path to development becoming open.  Social and environmental factors that are understood, that could take a lifetime to precisely identify, or that are oftentimes uncontrollable, bear upon the pace at which a volunteer’s service may become supported by the people.  At a certain point, however, a moment is reached after the volunteer passes an unacknowledged and informal trial set by the community when they become willing to gather for a meeting, facilitated by the volunteer.  At this time, there are methods – call them participatory, action research, community management, or by more than 100 other names – that assist the local participants in assessing their priority needs and viable project options.


The volunteer plays a key role in launching this analytical process taken by the community.  The giver to local sustainable change helps to coordinate a suitable time and location for people to meet.  The volunteer works to ensure that all people – women and men, homeowners and homeless, youth and retirees, all and one – are part of the conversation about the first and following initiatives they create.  The volunteer shares information about prospective public and civil, local and distant, partners to a given development project.  The volunteer organizes the community’s data, searches for synergies, writes proposals, identifies funding – and builds the capacities of the people so that they can carry forward this change process for themselves.


What exactly is the new world created from this evolving experience? An empowered path taken by the people; a discovery of a future far more fulfilling than the future prior imagined; new and changed relationships derived from a new and changed sense-of-self; and a new world gained from livelihoods derived from one’s own production that is achieved in conjunction with others.  In Morocco – where I have given as a Peace Corps and civil society volunteer and then supported others in their giving – this means women’s healing and legal recourses from abuse, drinking water in schools and deserts, organic fruit trees stopping eroding places, university students once volunteers facilitating change and now employed to accomplish change, and Muslim, Christian, and Jewish people restoring together their sacred sites as a strategy for poverty-alleviation.  It involves program and policy advocacy at all levels to advance the sustainable development the nation has envisioned for itself.  It means consequences that we can measure, and generational ones that have yet to enter our imagination.


For many volunteers, they may not have to blaze that initial beginning difficult pathway to new worlds, the winding road with its enough measures of doubt, misunderstanding, and even risk.  They may instead find a placement to help already-accepting-others to further along an existing development pathway to transformation, or maybe even evaluate the tangible empowerment changes that have been generated by new projects.


In any case, there are also new worlds formed for and by the selfless traversing of the volunteers.  They may be introduced to a profession that provides the wonderful flexibility to promote the people’s self-growth.  Their studies may take an action-orientation, which recognizes that to explain a social problem without improving the situation leaves the research design incomplete.  They move along a new way they would not have otherwise, meeting people, forming relationships, and effecting communities never before projected.  They discover more of themselves, love more themselves and others, and find higher meaning that a harsh reality cannot take away.  They become filled with the people’s stories, and can with time and the accumulation of the narratives, communicate on behalf of the marginalized.


Advocates of including service in schools and the workplace remind us that we are three times more likely to volunteer if we are asked to do so.  With December fifth’s International Volunteer Day mobilizing thousands of volunteers, let’s join this chorus and energy that will forge better worlds that reflect our giving-selves and the sustainable projects that are just steps away.



Dr. Yossef Ben-Meir is president of the High Atlas Foundation and a sociologist.

Give on this giving day - Water to benefit women and youth

There is a drought in Morocco. We hope this giving day enables further water capturing and containment for drinking and cultivation, for women and youth, for people who have prioritized this project as most important to them.  

We will get through this dry time when in fact the rains usually fall.  Uniting is the best hope.
Yossef Ben-Meir, Ph.D.
High Atlas Foundation

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