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28 06, 2018

HAF Welcomes New Board Members

2018-06-28T20:50:28+02:00

On December 11, 2005, the High Atlas convened the annual meeting of its Board of Directors.  We are very happy to welcome to our board the following new members– Fatima Ferza-Anderson, Kimeo Carr, Mohamed Chbani, Charles Dahan, John Farino, Charlie Kellett, Cynthia Mirei Kerr, and Kate McLetchie.  We are fully dedicated to an ever more effective service to the rural communities of Morocco.

At the meeting, HAF’s President, Jason Ben-Meir, reported on his most recent trip to Morocco, which was made possible by a grant from Royal Air Maroc.  Jason met with the Minister of Social Development, Family, and Solidarity, Mr. Abderrahim Harouchi.  As a result of the meeting, HAF is now working with the Moroccan government to develop a training workshop for rural teachers in participatory activities that promote community development.  Jason also met with the Dean of the Faculty of Law, Economics and Social Sciences, Dr. Mohamed Dasser, and we are developing together an agreement that will create a Center at the university for training and studies in issues related to community development, and that will also house the administration of HAF in Morocco.  Jason discussed with former U.S. Ambassador to Morocco, Edward Gabriel (who serves on HAF’s Advisory Board), plans for a fundraising event in Casablanca that will have diverse and broad participation.  Finally, Jason also met with our partners for an ambitious tree planting project, which is pending funding from the Middle East Partnership Initiative.

The Board voted to support several new projects, including two women’s cooperatives (one outside Taza and the other outside Marrakech), an irrigation basin near Tafraoute, and a tree planting project also outside of Marrakech.  These important grants were made possible by our generous donors.

HAF Welcomes New Board Members 2018-06-28T20:50:28+02:00
28 06, 2018

Plant a Tree!

2018-06-28T20:49:22+02:00

With the planting season just around the corner, it is time to call out – Plant a Tree. Our project goal for this initiative (which also includes potable water) is an ambitious $500,000. Benefits for communities involved in this project include income diversification and employment, ecosystem restoration, technical capacity building, diversification of household diets, the formation of local associations, and prevention of socio-economic dislocation and urban migration caused by international free trade.

To achieve this, we are working to create a broad international partnership. The projects we support are determined by communities, are often with women’s cooperatives, and are in partnership with Moroccan government and non-government groups.

We can each continue to play an important part in improving the lives of Moroccan families. Do you have time to volunteer and help create projects that enhance the lives of local people and build international friendship? Write to us and let us know. We will keep you informed of our activities and upcoming opportunities to make a difference for Morocco.

Plant a Tree! 2018-06-28T20:49:22+02:00
28 06, 2018

« Kick-Off » Reception a Huge Success

2018-06-28T20:47:47+02:00

To all who were part of the High Atlas Foundation’s “Kick-off” Reception in New York City, we sincerely thank you.  We are thrilled to tell you that we had over 140 guests and achieved our fundraising goal – $20,000!  The proceeds will go towards an irrigation and tree-planting project in the Ait Wafqa Commune near Tafraoute (benefiting over 100 families) and help build three women’s cooperatives that Peace Corps Volunteers are assisting.

We would like to give a special thank you to our Honorees, Moroccan Ambassador Aziz Mekouar and H.E. André Azoulay, Advisor to His Majesty King Mohammed VI.   We are immensely grateful to our sponsors – ABM Institute, Caterpillar, Chemonics International, Edward L. Millstein Foundation, Hackerthreads, Harris Rand Lusk, Jnane Tamsna, and Royal Air Maroc.

« Kick-Off » Reception a Huge Success 2018-06-28T20:47:47+02:00
28 06, 2018

Peace Corps Volunteers Remain Committed to Morocco

2018-06-28T20:47:17+02:00

American Peace Corps Volunteers in Morocco spend two years living and working at the local level – often in very remote areas. They live with families and create projects that meet the needs of the communities, in the areas of health and sanitation, maternal child health, agriculture, and environmental sustainability. A typical project might involve educating young mothers on the need for clean drinking water, especially for babies. In many cases, mortality rates dramatically decrease in a very short time as a result of simple hygienic practices. Many Volunteers have known women who gave birth to a number of babies, only to have a majority of them pass away from preventable causes such as contaminated drinking water. When a father was asked how he carries the grief of losing eighteen children, he responded that pain of the loosing his last was as totally overwhelming as his first.

The memories of these projects have stayed with Volunteers long after they return to the United States. In 2000, they were moved to create a nonprofit organization called the High Atlas Foundation, whose mission is to establish community-based projects in rural Moroccan villages. Five years later, they are working across the High Atlas (and beyond) to plant thousands of fruit trees and implement potable water and irrigation projects benefiting tens of thousand of people. The strength of the High Atlas Foundation is their ability to develop understanding, communication, and productive relationships between rural villages and Moroccan government and nonprofit organizations. They emphasize the inclusion of all community members (particularly women) in the design of projects, which often takes great determination to achieve. Their Peace Corps service taught them that people are more invested in projects that they feel ownership toward.

The goal of the High Atlas Foundation is to empower people and ensure that the needs of the most vulnerable men, women, and children are heard and addressed. The Board of the High Atlas Foundation stresses that the organization allows them to serve as a constant bridge between United States and the country (and especially the people!) they came to love as Volunteers. They work to mobilize broad-based support from across the United States including former Peace Corps Volunteers, Moroccan ex-patriots, and anyone who cares about Morocco’s future. The High Atlas Foundation will host a reception in New York City on Thursday, September 15, 2005. For more information, visit www.highatlasfoundation.org.

Peace Corps Volunteers Remain Committed to Morocco 2018-06-28T20:47:17+02:00
28 06, 2018

HAF President and Vice President Meet with the Moroccan Ambassador, Peace Corps Director, and National Peace Corps Association

2018-06-28T20:44:33+02:00

Jason Ben-Meir and Liz Fanning traveled to Washington, DC, on Friday, July 22, 2005, for a series of meetings around the upcoming reception and gala events in New York City.  They met with Ambassador Aziz Mekouar at the Moroccan Embassy.  They updated the Ambassador on the progress of the reception set for September 15 at Le Souk in the East Village, and asked for and received extensive support from the Embassy.

Later in the day, Jason and Liz met the Director of the United States Peace Corps, Gaddi Vasquez, at his office at the Paul D. Coverdell Peace Corps Headquarters.  Also present were Jay Katzen, the Peace Corps’ Acting Chief of Staff, and Amy Adair Horton, Director of Peace Corps Domestic Programs.  Jason and Liz explained how the High Atlas Foundation grew out of the Peace Corps experiences of former volunteers in the environmental sector and has grown to become a major player in community development at the national level.  Director Vasquez was impressed by the High Atlas Foundation’s successes so far and the sustainable relationships it promotes.

Across the street from Peace Corps, they met with Kevin Quigley, President of the National Peace Corps Association (NPCA).  NPCA is a nonprofit organization of returned Peace Corps Volunteers, former staff, and friends committed to fostering peace through service, education and advocacy.  NPCA publishes WorldView magazine and other widespread publications.  Quigley is an Honorary Chair of the upcoming reception and gala events and was extremely helpful with strategy and exposure.

Finally, Jason and Liz hosted a get-together for Moroccan RPCVs and friends in the DC area.  Trevor Riggen, Charlie Kellett, Tim Resch, Michelle Ghiselli, and others were in attendance.  They shared news, swapped business cards, and caught up on gossip from the extensive RPCV family.

HAF President and Vice President Meet with the Moroccan Ambassador, Peace Corps Director, and National Peace Corps Association 2018-06-28T20:44:33+02:00
28 06, 2018

HAF Plants 7,000 Apple and Cherry Trees with Ten Villages

2018-06-28T20:42:03+02:00

On Friday March 18, 2005, the High Atlas Foundation, working in partnership with USAID, Morocco’s Ministry of Waters and Forests, and the Marrakech 21 Foundation, distributed 7,000 apple and cherry trees to ten rural villages in the Marrakech Province. US Ambassador to Morocco Thomas Riley provided the funding and critical leadership to the project. This initiative signifies American commitment to support communities that are affected by the recent Free Trade Agreement between the Kingdom of Morocco and the United States. The outcomes of this activity are expected to facilitate revenue and employment growth, strengthen civil society, leverage new commitments and funding, and serve as a catalyst to mobilize the rural community. As Ambassador Riley stressed, the success of this activity “will be a lasting gift of the American people.”

Fruit trees will provide an alternative source of income for small farmers, generating a more diverse income base, and conserving the natural resources of the area. For generations, these villages have depended largely on raising animals for food and income. The animals’ grazing is destructive to the environment because it decimates local flora and causes severe erosion. In addition, the traditional crops of wheat and corn cannot meet the growing demands of the population. Fruit trees provide substantially more income, which will further integrate these communities into a cash economy, allowing them to more successfully meet their basic needs.

This ambitious project is the result of community members coming together with government representatives to determine the priority needs of the region. “It serves as a model for future cooperation between the government and the people they serve,” said Jason Ben-Meir, President of the High Atlas Foundation. “Also, when the US supports fruit tree planting in Morocco and other Islamic countries, it builds trust and goodwill, which is so important at this critical time.”

HAF Plants 7,000 Apple and Cherry Trees with Ten Villages 2018-06-28T20:42:03+02:00
24 06, 2018

OPTIMISM FOR RIVER MANAGEMENT WITH THE TASSA OUIRGANE COMMUNITY

2018-11-13T11:15:27+02:00

By Julia Payne
HAF Intern

On Monday June 4, 2018, we took the snaking roads through the High Atlas Mountains to the Tassa Ouirgane community nestled between two towering mountains in the Toubkal National Park. The purpose of the day’s visit was to have the community participate in a training workshop on how to manage rivers. The water expert, Ali Blali, would discuss potential options for this community that has been ravaged by flash floods (most notably in 1995) and has struggled with agriculture due to soil absorption.

HAF has been working in conjunction with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to provide the Tassa Ouirgane community with a water well. Already, HAF has built an olive nursery which we stopped by on our way to the community meeting. The baby sprouts were thriving under the steamy plastic covering that maintained a toasty 42 degree atmosphere. Spending only a few sweaty seconds in this plant haven, we soon made our way farther up the mountain to community center.

 

 

A group of about a dozen men shuffled into a brightly painted classroom surrounded by breathtaking green landscape. The projector blinked through different informational pages and pictures of a variety of embankments, gabions, water gates, and other channeling methods utilizing diverse materials—stone, masonry, vegetation—that have been implemented around Morocco. The overall optimistic emphasis was that managing a river is an achievable goal; many other local farmers have innovated solutions to problems similar to those that Tassa Ouirgane faces.

At the end of the presentation, the men turned to discussing what would best work for them. Several concerns came up including the fact that controlling a river must be done broadly, not just locally. Work at the top of a river can affect it farther down, but access to these upstream locations is limited. In addition, apprehensions about planting vegetation for it to be potentially washed away eliminated that option. One man said families live near the river and he was concerned about their safety in the event of floods. The community is also remote and has limited funds, which ruled out options like masonry.

Eventually, community members reached the conclusion that they would make an embankment of “filets” which are large mesh nets of stones that can be put in a river in order to block seepage into the soil, thereby increasing the overall water supply that can be used for agriculture. The banks made of filets will help control the water flow as well. HAF’s provincial association president, Haj Ahmed Amazzal, and Mr. Blali settled with the plan to start the construction in water training once Ramadan ends. Moving large mesh nets of stones will certainly not be easy, especially in a community where they do not have access to large machinery. However, the men had listened intently to the presentation and clearly absorbed the information, concluding the meeting optimistically with the hope that their plan would help the community, Incha Allah.

Give to community irrigation projects in Morocco.

OPTIMISM FOR RIVER MANAGEMENT WITH THE TASSA OUIRGANE COMMUNITY 2018-11-13T11:15:27+02:00
24 06, 2018

INVESTMENT IN SAMI’S PROJECT SWIFTLY TRANSFORMING COMMUNITIES

2018-11-13T11:18:26+02:00

By Julia Al-Akkad
HAF Intern


The High Atlas Foundation’s initiation of Sami’s Project in 2011 led to remarkable success throughout the rural communities of the Kingdom of  Morocco. The sustainable development project seeks to improve the education system by creating green spaces through distributing and planting trees at local schools. The green spaces encourage the transformation of students into environmental agents, in which they develop an appreciation for their surrounding environment, while building innovative agricultural techniques to aid students in the future.

Inspired by Sami, who passed away at five years old amidst his struggle with cancer, the project upholds his admirable devotion and gratitude for the environment around him. His story empowers students across Morocco to transform into environmental stewards. Through cooperation of the organizers, volunteers, teachers and students, Sami’s Project instills the core values of fellowship, mutual respect, trust and dedication.

Holding events such as environmental workshops within the local communities engages the students in sharing their personal visions for the school environment, while building vital skills to take initiative in not only the tree planting project, but in their future endeavors. The participatory approach of the High Atlas Foundation creates transformational and lasting change in these communities, a key contributor to Sami’s Project outstanding success.

Sami’s Project additionally builds necessary infrastructure, that tend to be weak in poor, rural communities, to encourage a productive learning community including clean water systems, bathrooms and classrooms. Thus far, the High Atlas Foundation contributed to the construction of efficient water systems and bathrooms for twelve schools, along with three classrooms in various provinces.

In the first three months of 2018 alone, HAF worked across 23 different provinces with 156 schools – involving 19,000 students – to plant 16,763 trees. Since 2013, HAF conducted interactive environmental activities and planted approximately 33,000 trees with nearly 350 schools. Considering just over 3,000 trees were planted in 2015, the progress of Sami’s Project is a testament to the hard work of the volunteers, students and teachers dedicated to the mission.

The project is continuing to expand as students and team members contribute valuable input regarding the direction of the project. There is a movement towards expanding the types of trees planted, which now include both fruit trees and medicinal plants, a demonstration of the immeasurable potential of the project. Constructing environmental clubs and competitions between schools are just a few of the additional goals the project aims to develop.

Empowering disadvantaged youth from agricultural families by cultivating knowledge and tangible skills in modern arboriculture, generates substantial benefits for both the local environment and the students’ lives by expanding employment opportunities. Sami’s Project illustrates how prioritizing investment in fostering productive educational environments results in an empowered, youth force that are capable of creating valuable change that transcends their communities.

Give to Sami’s Project.

INVESTMENT IN SAMI’S PROJECT SWIFTLY TRANSFORMING COMMUNITIES 2018-11-13T11:18:26+02:00
22 06, 2018

ORGANIC NURSERIES, ORGANIC FRUITS

2018-11-13T11:23:45+02:00

By William Nichols 
F2F Volunteer 
Land O’Lakes International

I am a late career American businessman.  Currently I spend up to half of each year volunteering with NGOs in developing and middle income countries.  I assist across a range of business disciplines (marketing, sales, strategic planning, and organizational improvement.) Over the past eight years I have conducted 45 volunteer assignments in 20 or so countries.

Just recently, I spent three weeks conducting a volunteer business assignment in Marrakech, Morocco.  Two US-based NGOs, IESC and Land O’Lakes, sent me on this assignment.  Our client was the High Atlas Foundation (HAF), a United States and Moroccan NGO reaching twelve provinces throughout Morocco. HAF trains communities to integrate agricultural and other human development initiatives. HAF invests in projects in participatory democratic governance, sustainable agriculture, school environment, health and sanitation, integration of women in economic and social environment, and environmental resource management.

My specific assignment was to address HAF as a crop nursery business. Since 2003, HAF and its partners have planted more than three million trees and are currently engaged in a campaign with its public, business, and civil partners to plant one billion trees in Morocco. HAF and community tree planting efforts benefits 5,000 households (about 45,000 people) throughout Morocco.

HAF is the only non-profit tree-providing nursery in Morocco. Thus it has no direct competitors. The foundation views commercial nurseries, not as competitors, but as business collaborators.  Some 50 percent of the seedlings HAF donates to beneficiaries are sourced from commercial nurseries. HAF offers multiple fruit and nut trees as well as herbs and medicinal plants to its customers.

HAF donates its nursery crops free to beneficiaries, usually funded by donor grants. In 2017 to date, 101 organizations (cooperatives, communities, and schools) have received various trees and plants from HAF.

HAF offers multiple fruit and nut trees as well as herbs and medicinal plants to its customers. Demand likely exceeds supply for the most popular trees provided by HAF nurseries. The foundation will benefit by focusing on a more limited number of products offered.  It is difficult to be efficient and successful when trying to be all things to all people. Consequently, HAF requested assistance to develop a business plan for their tree and plant nurseries.

The following organic trees plus various plants are offered or under consideration by HAF.

1.  Almond
2.  Argan
3.  Carob
4.  Cherry
5.  Dates (under consideration)
6.  Figs
7.  Lemon (under consideration)
8.  Olive
9.  Pomegranate
10.  Walnuts
11.  Plants (oregano, thyme, wormwood, fennel, rosemary, verbena, lavander, marjoram, sage, geranium, peppermint, capers)

I conducted a strategic analysis of the HAF nursery business in order to identify action steps required for the organization to take and included this information in the development of a business plan.  The recommendations provided were designed to be realistically implementable and to offer paths of improvement to HAF.

In order to prioritize HAF’s crop offerings ideally we would evaluate such measures as:

– Production for the domestic market
– Production for the export market
– Sales value of seedlings and of harvested crops
– Cost of production
– And so on…

However such metrics are not easily available, consequently we elected to rely on estimates and qualitative criteria in order to prioritize the products. The following list shows eight metrics that we have used to prioritize our product offerings.

– Uses (food, medicine, cosmetics, environmental, fuel)
– Years until transplantable as a seedling
– Years until commercially viable
– Life of orchard in years
– Current demand for seedlings
– Production metric tons 2014
– Seedling sales price
– Water demand

The result of our analysis showed that the most attractive trees to concentrate on were olive, pomegranate, carob, fig, and walnut.  Next in line were almond, cherry, and medicinal plants and herbs.

I thoroughly enjoyed my three week volunteer assignment with the HAF organization.  I hope to be able to assist them again in the future.

Finally, HAF is an NGO with noble goals and with substantial skills.  The foundation has achieved notable success to date.  Even if none of the recommendations offered in our business assessment are implemented, HAF and its organic nursery business would continue to be a force for good in Morocco. However, the organization has even greater potential to achieve good in the country.  With the implementation of the business plan presented, I believe that the High Atlas Foundation, its partners, and particularly its beneficiaries will all reach an even higher level of success.

Plant Argan with Moroccan Communities!

ORGANIC NURSERIES, ORGANIC FRUITS 2018-11-13T11:23:45+02:00
30 05, 2018

IFTAR, 2018

2018-11-14T13:26:17+02:00

For most people who are familiar with Islam, they are aware that Ramadan is a holy month; that it consists of fasting from sunrise to sunset. However, Iftar is not simply the breaking of fast. It is also a time when friends and family can gather in celebration. On May 26th, current and previous HAF staff and volunteers did just that. As the room filled with people, joy and and a sense of unity simultaneously seemed to seep into every nook and cranny of the room. Gentle greetings passed between soon to be friends and old friends, and new volunteers were quickly welcomed and shown great affection by those they just met. I guess that can be expected when the president of our organization has beautifully passed on to each and every one of us the Moroccan values of cherishing all those who come into your life.

Before breaking fast, President Yossef Ben-Meir cleverly suggested that we play a game so that everyone could get acquainted. Others may have likened it to speed dating, but I think we would all agree that it was more like speed bonding. I learned about people’s majors, hobbies, times at HAF, and a few fun facts. My favorite experience of the night was talking to a previous volunteer who who learned to speak Korean, with its nuanced cultural expressions, only from watching Korean dramas. Just as Iftar began, Dr. Yossef and a previous intern shared a few words to show their appreciation for everybody in the room, and then we dug in. Dates were flying about, we dove into cups of juice, tore into pieces of “msemen” (a Moroccan pancake), and fought our way through much more Moroccan cuisine, wondering if our taste buds would survive the bombardment of flavour. Nonetheless, the room never ceased to resonate with laughter and radiate with enjoyment. Towards the end of the night, I took a moment to sit back and observe the room. I found myself amazed at the group of people in front of me. The HAF brought all of us together, new and old, in celebration of Ramadan, and the work that continues to be done for Morocco’s development. On May 26th, 2018, I laughed, I ate, and I made new friends. Most importantly, I became part of a new family, the High Atlas Foundation.

IFTAR, 2018 2018-11-14T13:26:17+02:00