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Collaborating for Success: The Journey of Wachmat Cooperative

byHouria Chouhab
onMarch 29, 2023

Houria Chouhab
F2F Field Assistant and Volunteer Technical

The Wachmat Cooperative in the Demnate municipality is setting an example of how cooperatives can adapt to the challenges they encounter.

Wachmat Cooperative was initially established in 2021 and included five women and two men in its membership. The initial goal of this cooperative was to extract essential oils from medicinal and aromatic herbs which grow in the local areas of Demnate. The members of this cooperative also intended to make different products out of carob, but they lacked the technical knowledge on handling and processing carob pods.

In July 2022, members of the Wachmat Cooperative benefitted from a workshop on organizational operations management and created action plans enabling them to improve their management procedures. During our initial meeting in Demnate, the Wachmat Cooperative members invited the High Atlas staff, USAID Farmer-to-Farmer (F2F) Volunteers, and members of the Sanad Cooperative to gather to discuss our collaboration over the next few weeks. This exchange was critical for setting the stage for the rest of the project and understanding where the Wachmat Cooperative was on its organizational and product development journey.

In December 2022, the cooperative conducted its General Assembly for the year and added one woman and one man to their team. The strategic goals of the assembly were pursued following the conclusion of this meeting and each member began executing their daily tasks. The members decided to concentrate on making products out of roasted wheat such as couscous and flour. The cooperative has already submitted three orders of 300kg of these products to Sanad Cooperative, which is considered their supporter based on a July 2022 partnership agreement. The cooperative members aim at moving to a more prominent location where they can execute their daily tasks and promote their products at the same time. The reason behind this decision is their desire to obtain the ONSA certification, which basically means they have to meet the minimum requirements of the National Office of Food Safety.

Upon my last visit to Wachmat cooperative in order to assess the impact of the F2F training, the president told me that she will not be there but the rest of the members will receive us. As I climbed the stairs, the smell of the roasted wheat pushed me to hurry up and discover the changes in the group of Wachmat. The location’s door opened for the F2F team who was surprised to be greeted by a group of four young men who were carrying out the tasks of roasting, winnowing, sifting, and grinding the wheat.

When I inquired about the absence of the women members, the young men explained that they were still fully active in the cooperative and that they had decided to take on other important tasks, such as marketing and networking. The men emphasized that the women had made a deliberate choice to focus on growth aspects of the cooperative. It was heartening to see that the cooperative was truly committed to promoting gender equality and providing needed opportunities to all members, regardless of gender.

When asked about their opinions concerning these traditional ‘women’s tasks’, the four male members explained that the main reason they chose to do these tasks is that they want to break the chain and beat the stereotypes that certain jobs can only be performed by women or vice versa. Their faces were beaming with positive energy which says a lot about their ambition and enthusiasm for what they are doing, and it’s reassuring to see youth working towards the sustainability of their projects despite the challenges.

It’s particularly impressive to see the cooperative members taking on tasks that have traditionally been associated with women, and using their work to challenge gender norms and promote equality. This shows a real commitment to social change and progress and sets a positive example for other cooperatives and businesses in the area.