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Unlocking the Potential of Cooperatives and Associations of Bir Gandus: The Promising Future of the Morocco’s Southern Regions

byCheikh Akmach
onMarch 30, 2023

On February the 21st, the High Atlas Foundation’s (HAF) Dakhla Team organized its first community forum in the Bir Gandouz municipality.

This community forum is part of a Middle East Partnership (MEPI) program for participatory planning and the implementation of community initiatives in the Dakhla-Oued Ed-Dahab Region.

The program aims to train 150 individuals from three municipalities in essential skills such as entrepreneurship, civil engagement, digital marketing, and advocacy. The program will also finance three local initiatives that address current challenges that are identified by the people of the three municipal locations: Dakhla, Bir Anezarane, and Bir Gandouz.

The first community forum in the Bir Gandouz municipality (credit: Hajiba Boumasmar/HAF).

This community forum was attended by 31 women. They had previously participated in the Imagine empowerment workshop that was facilitated by HAF trainers. The participants came up with projects that could potentially solve some of the most acute problems that their municipality faces.

These project proposals were vastly more solidified and thought out compared to the previous training. The women had worked in the interim period on refining their previous ideas, slowly making them turn into more practical and that can be implemented by their community. This self-initiative on the community’s part was highly appreciated by HAF trainers, Hana Ezaoui and Hajiba Boumasmar, who were inspired to see the active engagement of the participants.

The previous brainstorming sessions that took place during the first civil society meeting and the Imagine workshop gave rise to a variety of proposals and ideas ranging from cultural hubs, cooperatives that are bakeries, and ice factories.

As soon as the event began, the participants formed groups and started to write down their ideas, and they were presented with guidelines. They complete the idea of the project, determine the beneficiaries, and describe their project’s objectives and capital needs.

Participants working in groups (credit: Hajiba Boumasmar/HAF).

The process went on smoothly and the hall was filled with discussions as the proposals slowly began to take form. Later on, a participant told us that she felt empowered as she saw her ideas being heard and taken into account. She felt that she could change reality if she spoke up and took action—something which had never felt before. Next, every group sent a representative to advocate for their project proposal and present it in front of the other participants. We worked on recording this data to help us in the project selection process later on.

The participants took the stage one by one. The first project was Babit Freeze, a company specialized in creating ice to provide to the Bir Gandouz people who fish and their fisheries.

Bir Gandouz is a coastal village that is situated on National Road 1. It has a somewhat developed fishing industry, with so much more room for growth. The Babit Freeze Project would strive to create more jobs by facilitating the fish preservation process. The company wishes to employ more people and to help in developing the fishing industry in the village. They need financial assistance to expand their business location, to add more machines and to improve their employees’ working conditions by giving them more space.

The second project was proposed by the Maa’tallah Couscous Cooperative, a cooperative that was founded in 2018. It focuses on manufacturing and selling variations of couscous, a traditional Moroccan food. The cooperative wishes to expand its project and to find partners that will help it grow. The need in the local community is real because this particular dish is consumed once a week by almost every Moroccan family. The cooperative stated that by receiving support for their project, they would be able to employ more women.

The third project proposal came from Peace Fountain for Family and Children Association. It is a bakery project that involves baking bread and also making couscous. The association stated that it will strive to target widows and divorced women as its main beneficiaries.

The fourth proposal came from the Bir Gandouz Cooperative for Special Occasions. The cooperative aims to expand its catering services, where they currently provide tents and other services to organize marriage and other events. The cooperative wishes to receive financial support to provide improved and less expensive services to the local community.

Participant presenting her group proposal (credit: Hajiba Boumasmar/HAF).

The fifth project was proposed by ‘Qodwa’ Association. It is a one-of-a-kind project. The association proposes the creation of a cultural, entertainment, and touristic space which will help in preserving the local Hassani Culture and much more. The association proposes setting up a large tent specific to the region with different areas specializing in different products. The tent would encompass an area for local foods like couscous, milk, etc; a second area for locally made jewelry; a third area for tea; and a fourth for traditional clothes. The association aims to make this cultural hub a central attraction of the municipality. It also intends to partner with local business owners to finance the project.

In case this project comes to pass, it will provide new opportunities for local cooperatives that make a lot of useful products, yet currently do not have effective avenues to sell them.

This is just a few of the ideas that were presented in this community forum. The project proposals numbered in the dozens. What I explained here is nothing but the tip of the iceberg.

Hana and Hajiba were happy to see the evolution that took place in the participants’ ideas. They finished the meeting by giving a promise of another meeting in which the participants will receive training in various fields such as advocacy, civic engagement, and digital marketing, which will enhance their ideas even further.

And thus the curtains were closed for this event. While this community forum has come to an end, HAF continues working on the program with MEPI: Participatory Planning and the Implementation of Community Initiatives in the Dakhla-Oued Ed-Dahab Region.

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