By: Ramzi Talbi
Our most recent adventure with High Atlas Foundation (HAF) was thirty kilometers from Marrakech. The Ourika Valley is home to one of HAF’s nurseries, located on the land of Lhaj Abdlekbir by the Ourika river. The nursery is maintained by women of the Aboghlo cooperative, a group of local women who strive to improve their economic and social life. In addition to working at the nursery, they produce locally-grown products, such as couscous, herbs and jams and HAF is using the participatory approach to implement projects that suit the needs of this local community.
The Aboghlo women work at the nursery twice a week and start their day around 6 am. This is great way for them to socialize, support each other and transfer knowledge from one generation to another.
Before HAF’s connection with the cooperative, the women used olive trees’ shadows to protect from the sun and take their breaks. Our staff thought about a better alternative – a place where the women can host visitors and take breaks. HAF’s staff and volunteers brainstormed a plan to build a shelter which would provide more reliable shade.
In order to fund the cabin’s construction, HAF’s volunteers and staff contributed money and received a donation from Evan Green, OES.
After getting the approval of the land owner, Haj Abdelkibir, we went to a local market in Marrakech to bargain and buy the wood and bamboo for the cabin. On Saturday, June 4th we met at our office at 7:45 am and packed all of the necessary cooking dishes and ingredients that we needed for the day. The spot where we constructed the shelter was far from restaurants and houses so we need to make our own food.
After an hour drive from Marrakech, we reached our destination, bought more supplies from the local hardware store and started digging holes for the pillars that were to serve as the foundation. The rest of the team went to gather sand and rocks from the river. To be as sustainable as possible, we used natural and local material for the construction. Atika, our chef made breakfast for the crew and we had our first meal of the day alongside to some of the Aboghlo cooperative members who were working at the field that morning.
Our work continued after breakfast and our goal was to finish building the cabin before the end of the day. Haj Abdelkbir and Mohamad, the land owner and Nursery care taker, were kind to help our mostly inexperienced crew. Their help was critical in assuring that the shelter would be finished by the end of the day.
We faced some obstacles, namely big rocks and the hard pack of the land. But our highly motivated team surpassed these natural obstacles.
After much physical exertion, our mid day tea break was refreshing for the entire crew. Work continued after the tea break and as time went on, we made even more progress on the hut. After another couple of hours of hard work, the crew started to look forward to the “fruits of their long day of labor” and liked the beauty simplicity of the design.
Finally, our slow cooked Tajine was highly deserved at the end of the day. We had gathered in the newly build shelter and had the tasty lunch benefitting from the new-found shade! We ended our meal with celebratory black coffee and headed back to Marrakech.