BLOG 2018-11-28T12:10:33+00:00

THE START OF A FIVE-DAY TREE PLANTING CAMPAIGN IN FES, SEFROU, AND MEKNES

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By Youssef Moussaoui

HAF Volunteer

I have been volunteering for the High Atlas Foundation (HAF) for nearly a month now. Every day is a new experience, and the excitement never seems to end. This time, HAF planned a five-day tree-planting campaign in Fes, Sefrou, Azrou, and Meknes. Project manager Said Bennani and I travelled from Marrakech all the way to Fes. After a long drive, we arrived in Fes, safe and sound, hamdolilah (thank God). We met with Said’s old friends from when he lived in Fes; they were very nice people. Old friendships were rekindled.

Early morning on Monday, February 11, we went to the Abd Elaziz Ben Idriss Children Protection Center, where the HAF tree nursery also resides. We started with meeting the director; he welcomed us and expressed how happy he was to see us. Then he took us to see the children and they were very happy to see their good friend Said once again.

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Some of the children’s metal work under Si Hamid’s coaching

We didn’t have so much time, so we decided to take plants to Skoura M’daz commune, and this is the first time HAF is implementing tree-planting activities in that region.

Khalid, the nursery caretaker, decided to come with us too to help with the process and learn more about the area and children there.  After an hour drive, passing beautiful green hills filled with life, we finally arrived at Chariff Idrissi High School in Skoura M’daz.

We met with the Peace Corp volunteers; who came to learn as well. We conversed with everyone, including Khaoula Goumni, the person in charge of the planting. Every one introduced themselves and explained to the children how to plant trees and how to keep the trees healthy; they were very keen to participate.

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Said introducing the High Atlas Foundation and its objectives

The planting began afterwards. Everyone planted their own tree, and we planted 33 trees in total: 9 almond, 9 fig, and 15 pomegranate. The Peace Corp Volunteers didn’t hesitate to get their hands dirty and help with the process. After we completed planting at the high school, we then went to the elementary school right next door to do their share of planting as well.

In contrast with the high school students, elementary school students were very curious and kept asking so many questions about nature, trees, and HAF.  After all the questions had been answered, we began digging holes for the trees.

Even though the students are still very young, they were very hard workers. They dug most of the holes themselves. After we finished planting all the trees, the children thanked us for improving their school and vowed to watch over the trees until they grow. One of the students there approached us on the way out and said, “We are very sad that you are leaving but at the same time, we are very happy that you made our school more beautiful.”

At the end of an amazing first day in Skoura M’daz schools, we headed back to Fes with beautiful memories and so much gratitude for ECOSIA (the investor in HAF nurseries) and to HAF for this amazing opportunity. With the student’s kind words in our minds, we look forward to the new experiences and excitement tomorrow might bring.

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PMBF FUNDS SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT RESEARCH PROJECT IN MOROCCO

Peter Jacques, Ph.D., Professor UCF Political Science Department

The Prince Mohammad Bin Fahd Program for Strategic Research & Studies (PMBF) has matched funds awarded to UCF Political Science Professor Peter Jacques to conduct a research project looking at sustainable development, water, and food security in Morocco. Jacques, who is partnering with the Marrakesh-based High Atlas Foundation (HAF), won a competitive grant offered by the Hollings Center for International Dialog.

The project, which will be launched this fall, includes both field research and an international workshop on the relationship between sustainable development practices (SDPs) and food security in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. The interdisciplinary field research will provide biophysical and social science assessments and involve local participation. In addition to Jacques, the research team includes University of South Florida water expert Thomas Crisman, Dr. George Zalidis of Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Greece, and Yossef Ben-Meir of HAF. The project also includes a number of other Moroccan experts, including local farmers, government officials, and scientists.

Yossef Ben-Meir, HAF

After conducting field research, Jacques and HAF will host a two-day workshop in Marrakesh to share ideas and findings. The team will then produce a policy brief, academic paper, and a short film on the relationships of sustainable development practices and food security.

“Our project attempts to build and strengthen food and water security in the MENA region. We will specifically investigate, discuss, and communicate links between sustainable development practices and food and water security. Typically, these SDPs advance social, ecological, and economic wellbeing now and into the future. I look forward to working with our partners and research team on this meaningful project,” noted Jacques.

The PMBF Program, which has an ongoing resource initiative, has sponsored a series of conferences, roundtable discussions, lectures, and fact finding trips on issues related to water, food, and energy security in the MENA region. PMBF has partnered with the Hollings Center on three regional dialogue conferences in Istanbul, Abu Dhabi, and Casablanca over the past several years.

“Like UCF more broadly, the PMBF Program is committed to promoting sustainability. We are happy to support Dr. Jacques and his impressive team as they dig deeper into these issues. It is also important that they will work with locals in order to get a comprehensive understanding of the challenges in Morocco – and how they could be applied more broadly to the region,” added PMBF Director David Dumke.

Jacques chose Morocco because it has many notable tools in place – including institutions that facilitate SDPs, a robust civil society, and an ideal partner in the High Atlas Foundation. HAF organizes SDPs to assist agriculturally dependent local people in different parts of the country. There are also several obstacles to sustainable food and water security in Morocco that are instructive to environmental security challenges broadly. The project is organized to study and report on the details of these SDPs in different locations of Morocco to better understand how food security can emerge from SDPs, as well as to provide technical advice on resource management. The project’s total budget is $30,000.

For additional information about the Moroccan project, or the PMBF Program, please contact Kinda Haddad at kinda.haddad@ucf.edu, or by calling (407) 823-2510.

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MEETING THE WOMEN FROM THE ABOGHLOU COOPERATIVE IN OURIKA

by Celina Böhmer

HAF intern

The weather is getting warmer here in Morocco. The sun is shining the whole day and providing us warmth. Yesterday, HAF project director Amina El Hajjami and I went to visit the Aboghlou Cooperative in Ourika. HAF began working with the women in 2015/16, using a participatory approach and training to identify the skills, capabilities, priorities, potentials, and resources that the women have. Fruit trees and medicinal plants grow very well in the Ourika region because the soil is very fertile. To generate their own income, the women developed the agricultural “Agboghlou Cooperative” there.

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Amina, HAF project director and women from the Aboghlou Cooperative in Ourika

On Wednesday, February 13, we accompanied the women on a visit to the field where the cooperative grows their crops to join them in harvesting the beautiful, orange calendula flowers.

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Women from the Aboghlou Cooperative harvesting calendula flowers in Ourika

The Aboghlou cooperative consists of 33 women, and they produce products like calendula, walnut leaves, geranium, verbena, pomegranate, jasmin, and althea. They are increasing their production and selling rate each year. For example, they produced 63 kg of calendula in 2017 and 163 kg in 2018! In the future, they want to continue improving the quantity and variety of products. Moreover, their vision is to generate products like carob, fig, almond, lemon, and olive for the local markets as well.

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Calendula Flowers

 

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PARTICIPATION AND ENVIRONMENTAL EDUCATION IN THE SOUTH’S BOUJDOUR PROVINCE

Errachid Montassir

HAF project manager

 

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A partnership agreement brought together The High Atlas Foundation (HAF) which works to establish participatory development projects for the Moroccan communities, and Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy (SGRE), the world’s second largest wind turbine manufacturer and provides onshore and offshore wind services. Both are dedicated to working with the communities and schoolchildren in the south of Morocco, and contribute in improving the living conditions as well as to spread the importance of environment protection.

Over the course of the past year, HAF and SGRE implemented a project that has been beneficial for rural communities in the Jrifia municipality of the Boujdour province, as two drinking water chateaux were constructed in Byar Triyhin and Khotot, along with pumps and meters built in the Ahl Atriah and Khotot Hbia areas. In Om Rjilat we have additionally constructed a pump and motor for drinking water. Moreover, we have jointly delivered 17 of the trash cans to Aouziouat, Toukb Jrifia, Khotot Hbia, Byar Triyeh, Mntakat Lmsmar, and Om Rjilat. With regards to solar energy, there were four solar panels installed in Byar triyh, Om Rjilat, Toukb Jrifia, and Khotot Hbia, and built a water canal of 520 meters.

In order to make this partnership stronger and fruitful, the HAF and SGRE followed-up and came back to conduct environmental and school campaign in Aouziouat with schoolchildren, and plant hundreds of organic fruit trees engaging thousands of students.

Driving 15 hours all way from Marrakech to Boujdour, a very beautiful area rich of natural resources, well known in Morocco by the best quality of fish, and a good place for the wind-energy, is an absolute exciting feeling to participate in our environmental and education mission and conduct activities with school children. The team consists of Hana Ezzaoui, HAF’s project manager in the south of Morocco, who coordinates with the schools, the Delegation of Education and local authorities before we start the week’s initiative and facilitates the workshops. Errachid Montassir, Sami’s Project manager at HAF, assists the workshops and sends reports about the activities. Ilyas Dkhissi is HAF’s filmmaker and photographer.

We started the activities on Monday, 28th of January just right after the school holiday, which is the best part of the school year to engage more the students in the school activities, “according to the Ministry of Education”. These environmental education workshops provide guidance on how to aid the students in developing environmental awareness and content knowledge which helps them make prudent decisions and foster stewardship of our natural resources, in addition to spread awareness regarding the national environmental laws among them and their communities. We also organized a number of practical workshops such as:

1-   Wind turbine work and how does it works: the students split into groups and they create a model of a wind turbine. The main purpose of the workshop is to teach students how wind turbines create clean energy, especially in Boujdour province which is one of the best places in Morocco for creating the wind turbines.

 2-  Compost workshop: the students practice how to make compost, and learn more about its essential role in helping the trees and plants to grow in good conditions and produce good quality of fruit.  This workshop explains the importance of recycling and composting, and contributes to increasing the students’ understanding of what material cannot be recycled and is toxic for the environment.

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And at the end of each workshop, we do a fun quiz with the students to make sure the most important messages have been understood. As we included the participatory approach to involve the students in finding out what they need more in their schools, and the priorities came as follows: 1- Fruit tress (especially olive), 2- Libaries, 3- Soccer fields.

There was great participation of the students during the workshops, which wonderfully helped us to communicate better with them and finish the activities on time.

This week, HAF and SGRE visited 12 schools in Boujdour province (7 primary, 3 secondary and 2 high schools), and conducted 24 environmental workshops with the schoolchildren, as we together with the kids, teachers and directors planted 3,76 fruit organic trees, seeking that 5,132 students (57 % female) will benefit from these fruit trees in the future.  More activities are coming soon.

Hand in hand to contribute to the growth of the environmental education for this generation and the next one in Morocco.

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THE COMPOUNDING BENEFITS OF WOMEN’S EMPOWERMENT

by Fatima Zahra Laaribi

Women’s Empowerment Lead Trainer

High Atlas Foundation

 

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From February 2016 to the present, 467 women participated in the four-day empowerment workshop conducted by High Atlas Foundation. HAF has achieved this in partnership with the Empowerment Institute, Middle East Partnership Initiative, National Endowment for Democracy, Intrepid Foundation, FRE Skincare and other groups and individuals.

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Given that each participant speaks to an average of 25 people about their experience, approximately 11,675 people have been directly impacted as an extension of the network of family and community members who participated in the empowerment workshop.

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In addition, evaluation reports indicate that at least 10 more people are indirectly impacted by each direct participant and this growing network, increasing the number of beneficiaries to 116,750 people.

When one woman changes her ability to earn money, better care for her health, improve her education, or create a more empowered relationship with her husband in a relatively isolated rural community or low-income urban neighborhood, waves of people benefit, and positive change is amplified.

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THE IMPORTANCE OF MULTI-STAKEHOLDER-PARTNERSHIPS IN THE FACE OF CLIMATE CHANGE

By Kerstin Opfer

Operations manager

High Atlas Foundation

Marrakech

 

We are living in a time, where the humankind faces an unprecedented challenge – it is the warmest it has ever been on earth since human presence. The dangers of climate change are known since the 1980s but a lack of political will and societal awareness has inhibited the necessary vigorous change. Further, the people, who are the most affected by climate change are also the most vulnerable and the ones with the least decision making power. We are now at the pivotal point, where with every degree a cascade of tipping point and a “hothouse earth” will become more probable. To prevent this we need political will, a new kind of cooperation, innovative technologies, business models and engaged civil society. It is therefore crucial to learn and offer advice to decision-makers informed by the experience from stakeholders on the ground.

In the beginning of January, the High Atlas Foundation (HAF) in partnership with Germanwatch, a German NGO dedicated North-South equity and the preservation of livelihoods, started a Multi-Stakeholder-Partnership (MSP) project for a Moroccan energy transition towards 100% renewables. This project is part of a bigger, African-wide programme called African Renewable Energy Initiative (AREI) that aims to “accelerate and scale up the harnessing of the continent’s huge renewable energy potential” and advocates for an implementation of the AREI that benefits local communities, improves energy access and is ambitious enough to realize the vision of powering Africa with 100% renewable energies.

While Morocco is a leader in the expansion of renewable energies on the African continent, renewable projects in the Kingdom so far tend to be large-scale. These large-scale projects have to be complemented by decentralized small-scale installations to benefit local communities and to create development opportunities. The Moroccan component aims to support a decentralized approach to energy transition through creating MSP’s at the regional, national and international level. The experiences that will be gathered on the ground from the implementation of such approaches will then inform recommendations for how national and international energy policy frameworks in Africa and Europe could be improved to enable and promote more decentralized management of renewables.

As part of this project, Mr Chemsedine Sidi-Baba, Chair of the Board of HAF-Morocco and Kerstin Opfer, HAF’s Operations Manager, travelled to Germany and participated in the Germanwatch organized conference “Partnership for Transformation – MSP Conference”. MSPs are long-term initiatives voluntarily undertaken by governments, the private sector, research, civil society and other major stakeholders, which efforts are contributing to the implementation of a common goal. They are a key implementation principle of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. MSPs, however, are also highly complicated and often characterized by conflict, power games and individuals. Learning from the challenges and success stories of other MSPs therefore is crucial.

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Poster presentation of the Multi-Stakeholder Partnership project for a Moroccan energy transition towards 100% renewables during the conference in Bonn, Germany. Picture: Konrad Brambach (Germanwatch)

Together with the project staff of four other MSP projects in India, Kenya, Kosovo and Ukraine, we identified through group discussions and workshops that a lack of ownership, trust, and commitment of key stakeholders is one of the main pitfalls associated with MSP failure. Often this is caused by the lack of an initiative’s MSP design that fosters ownership and commitment and by ignoring power relations between the stakeholders. Neglecting important stakeholders, a focus on technical issues instead of building collaboration and dialogue, and a lack of taking into account existing rules, regulations, and procedures were other key issues associated with MSPs.

Creating collective impactful narratives that foster actions, developing a common frame of reference and mindset and fostering dialogue, respect, and mutual learning through networks of change, were identified as key success strategies. Furthermore, by sharing knowledge between stakeholders and empowering the civil society, who is often in a week position due to a lack of power and resources, transparency, and equity is fostered, which increases MSP success. Through establishing institutional processes for engagement, all stakeholders are equally enabled to act as catalysts for change. Finally, through realizing that global change is not one historic moment and one big change but rather an everyday effort of a million small steps the MSP can grow–step-by-step–into a strong, long-term and joined effort towards a common mission.

Transformative changes are realized neither through a top-down nor a bottom-up process alone, but through a combination of both. Cooperative approaches of different actors such as political decision-makers, the private sector, researchers, and civil society are necessary. Transformative multi-stakeholder partnerships can coordinate the expectations of these actors and therefore enable changes that could not be achieved by individual actors. The conference in Germany has provided important lessons learned and thought-provoking impulses, which will guide the shaping of the MSP for a Moroccan energy transition towards 100% renewables.

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Project partners from Kenya, India, Kosovo, Ukraine, Morocco and Germany during the “Partnership for Transformation – MSP Conference” in Bonn, Germany. Picture: Konrad Brambach (Germanwatch)

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PARTICIPATING IN THE ANNUAL FARMER-TO-FARMER IMPLEMENTERS MEETING IN RALEIGH, NORTH CAROLINA

   
Participating in the Annual Farmer-to-Farmer Implementers Meeting
in Raleigh, North Carolina
By Yossef Ben-Meir, Ph.D.
President, High Atlas FoundationHere is what I consider a joyful and fulfilling week: 80 or so people gathered from around the world to consider together wide-ranging issues in relation to supporting expert volunteers, for instance how they, cooperatives, and societies may successfully develop the agricultural sector, and all the while discovering co-participants who are wonderful, generous, experienced, and dedicated to serving most vulnerable groups.That in a nutshell was the beautiful time I spent at the Farmer-to-Farmer Implementers Meeting last week in Raleigh, North Carolina.  For that memorable experience we (myself and HAF colleague Aissa Azzouzi) thank USAID and Partners of the Americas for the invitation to not just observe but also to contribute to such an important and informative gathering.  We gained excellent ideas and eagerness to implement them alongside the team of the High Atlas Foundation in Morocco…Read more
Gaining applicable knowledge and sharing laughter are what I carry with me from the Annual Farmer-to-Farmer Implementers Meeting in Raleigh, North Carolina, January 28th-February 1, 2019.

VISIONARIES THEN AND NOW

by Thomas Kimmel, HAF Blog

In the 1980’s, a solo American made a huge impact on Ouaouizerth, Morocco…Read more

COMING OF AGE IN TASSA OUIRGANE

by Mark Apel, published in Modern Ghana

From 1985 until 1986, I was a Peace Corps Volunteer living in the Azzeden…Read more

DEVELOPING A NEW CAPABILITY FOR SEED STORAGE AND PRESERVATION IN MOROCCO

by Russ Zick, HAF Blog

Smallholder farmers in Morocco are engaged in upgrading their agricultural practices in order to increase income…Read more

TREES FOR A FRUITFUL FUTURE

 by Mohamed Abdul-Rahman, HAF Blog

The Farmer to Farmer (F2F) program is a USAID development initiative that is implemented throughout the world…Read more

ORGANIC NURSERIES, ORGANIC FRUITS

by William Nichols, HAF Blog

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…Read more 

PLANTING SEEDS

by Jack Butler, HAF Blog

My image of Morocco was dry, a desert, and not a place of agricultural growth I was surprised by the vast olive groves and orchards…Read more

MARKETING FOR COOPERATIVES: FROM LIFESAVERS TO PIKE’S PLACE

by Katherine O’Neill, HAF Blog

On Friday, July 13, I visited the Tifaouine Women’s Cooperative in Amizmiz, Morocco with High Atlas Foundation (HAF) Coordinator Errachid M

ontassir…Read more

CONSERVING CROP DIVERSITY AND WILD MEDICINAL PLANTS IN MOROCCO

by Abderrahim Ouarghidi, International Policy

The Moroccan proverb “New things have a charm and old ones should be preserved”…Read more 

WOMEN AND TREES – SIMPLICITY FOR THE SAKE OF THE PLANET

by Mark Apel, published in The Hans India

This spring, I had the privilege of volunteering in Morocco for the High Atlas Foundation (HAF), a US 501(c)(3) and Moroccan non-profit organization…Read more

TREE PLANTING AND VALUE-ADDITION FOR RURAL FARMERS IN MOROCCO

by Gregory Sullivan, HAF Blog

The High Atlas Foundation (HAF) in Morocco is using innovative approaches …Read more

THE HIGH ATLAS FOUNDATION PRODUCES TREES

by Jack Butler, HAF Blog

The High Atlas Foundation produces trees. And in the process, it helps people at every step along the way.…Read more

GG Rewards Superstar status as of Jan. 31, 2019

High Atlas Foundation has earned the following badges on GlobalGiving:

      

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EXCURSION TO THE OURIKA VALLEY WITH PARTICIPANTS OF THE “KICKOFF CONFERENCE FOR DECENTRALIZATION OF RENEWABLE ENERGY IN MOROCCO”

By Celina Böhmer and Kerstin Opfer

 

Last week the High Atlas Foundation in partnership with Germanwatch, a German NGO dedicated to global equity and people’s livelihoods, conducted a kick-off workshop in Marrakesh with important Moroccan stakeholders of energy and decentralization. This workshop marked the start of the Multi-Stakeholder Partnership (MSP) for an African energy transition towards 100% renewables, with a special focus on Morocco as one of the Energy policy pioneers on the African continent.  While Morocco is a leader in the expansion of renewable energies on the African continent, renewable projects in the Kingdom so far tend to be large-scale. These large-scale projects have to be complemented by decentralized small-scale installations to benefit local communities and to create development opportunities.

The workshop provided a forum for important project partners and stakeholders to get to know one-another, to share experiences and ideas related to current and emerging challenges, discuss opportunities of energy and decentralisation in Morocco, and plan the upcoming MSP, which aims to support and promote a decentralized approach to Moroccan energy transition.  As part of the two-day workshop, the HAF team and participants visited community member of a village called Aghbalou in the Ourika Valley. Since 2016 HAF worked closely with the community from Aghbalou and utilised a multi-stakeholder approach, where HAF acted as a bridge between national and international civil society, who provided the necessary resources, the High Commission of Waters and Forests, who provided trees and land for the communities to plant on and harvest medicinal plants, and the local community.

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First, we visited the “Do Tmkit” cooperative in Aghbalou. This cooperative, which consists of seven women,  produces dried medicinal plants, different kinds of couscous, jam, and teas. They started their production in 2018 with merely 100 medicinal plants but had and still have big plans in mind. One of them is to produce essential oils for medicinal- and skin care purposes. Fifteen kg of berries collected from public land nearby could produce 1 liter of essential oil, which could be sold for 400-600 MAD. Because the berries are harvested from public land and the only costs involved is the workforce of the women, the potential profit for the cooperative is huge.

To make this dream reality the cooperative pursues a formalised partnership agreement with the High Commission of Waters and Forests. Currently, harvesting the berries and medicinal plants from publicly owned land is tolerated by the High Commission of Waters and Forests but an official partnership agreement is still missing. Through utilising close working relations, HAF will assist the cooperative to obtain this agreement and thereby enable them to take a big step forward towards their essential oil production. Another plan is to include men in the work because the cooperative wants to increase their production rate and the workforce provided by men would be invaluable to them. HAF’s project director Amina El Hajjami was very excited and surprised to hear about about this plan as this is the first time that a women cooperative want to work in collaboration with men, a sign of growing empowerment.

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In the bright and open rooms of the cooperative, we had an interesting talk with Sakia, the women’s cooperative leader. Dr Yossef Ben-Meir, HAF’s president, Kerstin, HAF’s operations manager and Celina Böhmer, anthropology student and volunteer with HAF, were very excited to hear about the cooperatives successes and admired their amazing work. Sakia said: “If we continue to work hard, we can improve our life and our children’s lives considerably.”

After a tea on the sunny terrace with intense discussions, we met farmers, who were able to plant trees on public land, which was provided by the High Commission of Waters and Forests. The farmers showed us carob saplings, some of them a few years old, some of them planted just recently. The carob trees were provided by the High Commission of Waters and Forests and by the High Atlas Foundation as part of the carbon credit program with PUR Project. In 2017 alone this tree and land donations enabled the farmers to plant 2800 carob trees. Carob trees have a life span of 150 years and one tree can provide approximately 100 kg of product, which can be sold for 12 MAD per kg. A formalised partnership agreement with the High Commission of Waters and Forests will allow communities to harvest the tree products and thereby increase their income and the income of future generations considerably. Simultaneously, the trees, which were planted strategically on eroding mountain slopes, prevent soil erosion and absorb atmospheric carbon dioxide, thereby reducing the effects of climate change.

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The trees need to be watered by the farmers regularly. HAF provided them with pipes and an electric pumps. The electricity is paid by the farmer association but they are now discussing to install a solar pump as this will be more cost effective in the long-term. For domestic use gas is the main energy source. Even though gas, which is subventioned by the government, is not expensive, gas is not always accessible for rural communities and it is not as clean as renewable energy. The discussion with the farmers showed that energy is closely connected to all areas of life and a renewable energy transition in Morocco is affecting everyone, even a small-scale farmer in a remote mountain village. Engaging everyone, from remote mountain communities to communities in big cities, will be crucial to achieve a successful decentralization of renewable energy.

This field visit provided a valuable opportunity for the energy experts to learn about challenges and needs of local communities related to energy and decentralization. They also experienced hands-on and meaningful community engagement and cooperation with multiple stakeholders. Their lessons learned will help to inform the future projects of the MSP.

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“THE JOURNEY OF TREES – 7.100 FRUIT TREES FROM FÉS TO THE MIDELT REGION FOR SUSTAINABLE COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT”

by Celina Böhmer, HAF Intern

 

In January, as part of the HAF team, project manager Said and interns Nisreen and myself, travelled from Marrakech to Fés and then to the Mideltarea. To learn about our first days in Fés, have a look atour former blog articles.

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Trees ready for being planted, donkeys ready for taking the trees to the field and members of the local association

On January 17thwe went to Mougeuer and TiteNali, two villages in the Gourrama commune in the Mideltprovince, to watch the 7,100 fruit trees from the tree nursery in Fésbeing distributed to the local farmers and planted. At first, we gathered together with thefarmers and provided a discussion about the challenges the communities face and the needs they have. We were joined by Tarik from the local associations “El Karama” and“Mougueur-Zetouar du Development et d’ActionSociale” and by ProfessorAlami from the association “Experts Bénévoles” for development, in Fés.It was a bright day with a blue sky and the cleanest air I’ve experiencedfor a few weeks.

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Distributing trees to the local farmers

Many people raised their voice and expressed their needs. They told us that they have tremendous problems with flooding and erosions, that electricity for pumping water is very expensive,that some of their fruit trees are sick, that they face a high unemployment rate and that the youth do not have a place to play soccer or to do activities together. What was mentioned the most, were the challenges with the consequences of flooding and erosions. For example, bridges where pulled down, huge stones ended up on the fields, so farmers cannot grow crops there anymore, for several months the children werenot able to go to school, because their paths to the schools were flooded.

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Discussing the challenges and needs of the community

One of the village elders raised his voice too. He was wearing a grey Jelaba, beige shoes, hehas a white beard and a friendly expression on his approximately 70 years old face. He gave a long speech and the others expressed their agreement with nodding and with their voices. He didn’t only speak about the challenges, but also about their needs and ideas for solutions.  To fight erosion the community plans to build terraces and to reforest their lands so the soil holdstogether. Furthermore, they would like to install solar pumps instead of using the electric ones to pump the drinking and irrigation water. He also mentioned that children need to walk too far to school and that they at least need to build a bridge, so the kids have a safe way to school. Others also spoke about the sicknesses their olive and almond trees face and that they are striving for solutions. A representative of the youth also took the chance to speak and expressed the youths wish to have a place where they can gather together, plan activities and play soccer. He also said that the school bus has not enough space for every student and that many young people leave to the village to study at the universities in bigger cities like Errachidia.

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 Nisreen and Said speaking with the representative of the youth who asked for suggestions to improve his English skills

A young man from TiteNali, who holds a bachelor’s degree in environmental geography raised his voice by saying that protecting the environment is of utmost importance. To fight the problem of erosion, people donot need to build expensive things like gabions, but should rather reforest their lands. Another problem which needs to be solved is, according to him, the pollution of water and the sanitary systems which lead to dirty water in the ground and pollutes the ground- and drinking water. He is against using fertilizers who as he says, damage the environment. He promoted organic agriculture instead. This seems to be an important topic; many farmers start to get into the discussion. This young man himself received 200 fruit trees on that dayto plant them on his 2hectares of land. Later we visited his sites, which are quite far away in the mountains in the middle of a beautiful landscape.

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 The young man’s land where he planted 200 fruit trees to fight erosion

To see where the trees found a new home, we also visited the fields of other farmers and did monitoring there. For me personally, this was a great experience because I got the chance to see how agriculture works in this rural area of Morocco. This afternoon and the next morning we spent by walking from one field to the other, again surrounded by the beautiful nature, the mountains, the clean air and the quietness of the countryside, accompanied by men from the local association and by local farmers. We saw the first trees, which were grown in Fés by the tree nursery at the ChildrenProtection Center with funding from ECOSIA (the search engine that plants trees), being planted in this great scenery. Here they will continue their living by, in a few years, providing a sustainable income for the community with the fruits they produce, which can be sold on the markets, and by protecting the environment, holding the soil together against erosions, with producing oxygen and filtering CO2 from the air. The farmers also signed contracts, that those trees later can be part of the carbon credit project and like this, they will generate income for the community.

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    …where the trees found a new home!

We also got the chance to see a corn mill which runs with hydraulic energy and an olive mill and oil press. I grew curious and learned a lot from our host Jamal who explained to me the processing.

During my weeks in Morocco, I realized the value of the work such local associations do. I am eager to get to know more about their work and about what kind of people they are. The local association is working hard on fulfilling their goals to prevent migration to the cities. To encourage tourism in this area, they already started to repair a huge, old and beautiful Kasbah, they already have the rooms for a museum and are collecting traditional and local objects, and they are planning to launch a guesthouse in the village. They say, like this, tourists can benefit from the beautiful landscapes and nature and the community can benefit from the income this would provide. Broader, the local association has plans to work on improving education for the children and agriculture.

The days we spent in Gourrama were shaped by rememberable breakfasts, lunches, dinners, tea breaks and last but not least, inspiring and thoughtful discussions full of plans for the future! The evenings, we spent sitting in a room with an oven, being nicely warm, havingsoup and discussing with members of the local association and with local farmers. We learned that the tree distribution day was a special day for the villages and many people, who havenot visited the village for 40 years came back to be part of this event. We were wallowed in memories of the past and discussed ideas and plans for the development of Gourrama. The High Atlas Foundation plans to work further with the communities of Gourrama by doing a participatory community mapping and a women empowerment workshop in the next months, InshaAllah.

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HAF’s team “Fés-Midelt” (Said, Celina and Nisreen) visiting the ancient Kasbah ruins in Mougeuer

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ETERNALIZING THE MOMENT ON TREE PLANTING DAY

by Sofia d’Ávila Heidenreich Lacerda

 

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It was on the beggining of my second week of volunteer work at the High Atlas Foudation and my first time on a field trip with them. I had an incredible experience. On January 21st, the staff from HAF, partners, other volunteers and the local people worked together to make the Tree Planting Day happen.

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In the morning we went to the Centre de Sauvegarde de L’enfance (Child Protection Center) in Douar Laâskar, Marrakesh. The institution takes care of vulnerable children, some of them in real risk situations. First, we went to the girls’ area of the Center. The teachers brought the kids to meet us and we all had a nice talk about the importance of planting trees. They got very curious and many questions poped up. It was really important for me to watch the young and sweet girls talking to the people while getting closer to the environmental care with shy but sparkling eyes. I took lots of pictures of them while working, trying to eternalize the moment with my own view of it. At the end of all the handwork, we planted two almond trees and one argan tree. The girls didn’t lose all of their genuine timidity, but I can say for sure that some seeds were planted in their hearts.

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Around 11:00h we went to the boys’ section. It was a completely different vibe. They didn’t ask lots of questions. Actually we didn’t communicate that much, there was no need of it. They simply took the tools and started planting, as if they had done it their whole lives. This really amazed me. We helped each other like equals, with true looks and kind gestures. On this day we planted nine Almond trees! To be honest, I didn’t photograph that part of the experience very much. I was so present at the moment, observing their facility and trying to figure out what was on their minds. They seemed to be on a meditative state, so concentrated but also so peaceful. After all, the main feeling that I kept was gratitude. Gratitude to be there and to show these young people that they have lots of options and a future in front of them.

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In the early afternoon we started our road trip to Essaouira. Our destiny was to Ounagha, to meet the women responsable of the Cooperative Feminine Mogador Arganara (Female Cooperative Mogador Arganara). At 16:00h we arrived there. They received us with open arms and a delicious Morrocan lunch. We were able to talk and see the women making argan oil with their lived hands in a easygoing ambience. It is impossible not to notice how much work they have with each small argan seeds, even so they do it with patience and love. I learned a lot about the variaty of products that can be done with argan oil and the importance of those trees to the Cooperative as well as to Morocco’s economy. We had a wonderful time and so much fun there. For me, as a woman, it’s amazing to feel that we can be self sufficient with our professional life, and I felt this on their proud while presenting all their incredible products. Furthermore, we planted in total five argan trees with them.

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Today, during the week after the January 21st, looking at all my photografic records, I could feel again some of the emotions that the Tree Planting Day gave to me. Living these experience brougth me a huge personal growth and only made my love and concern with the planet Earth increase. This day also gave me hope. Hope in real people, the ones that don’t gave up easily and truly believe in their own strength. Those people will change the world. Maybe someday I’ll be able to be like them. In sha Allah.

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