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Al Khouzama Women’s Cooperative:‘’Lavenders Taught Me How to Live Again’’

byZineb Laadam
onDecember 4, 2023

‘’As we spend time with people and pay attention to their needs, we learn that nobody is perfect. We all have long and short-term struggles in this journey we call life. Helping others adds an extra layer of meaning to our daily lives, but when the world fails to bring a smile on my face, when others fail to provide solace to my turbulent life, there is no better place to relax than my small garden where I am surrounded by my purple lavenders,’’ shares Lalla Nadia, the president of Al Khouzama cooperative.

Lalla Nadia El Mourabet aged about 50 years resides at Azghar village of Ajdir commune in Al Hoceima province educated up to primary school. Nadia has no land, she used to stitch cloth and worked as farm labor in other farmers' fields to earn daily bread. Her income could hardly meet the monthly expenses of the family.

In the beginning, she started to extract oils for home consumption then distributed among neighbors and relatives and got good responses from them. It motivated and inspired her to take it up as a business.

She created the Al khouzama Cooperative in 2009 with her friends from the village to produce essential oils of the highest quality using medicinal and aromatic plants, especially lavender. When you hear the name ‘’Al Khouzama‘’ (Lavender), what immediately comes to mind is the unique lavender that is special to the city of Al Hoceima. Lavender plays an important role in the success and productivity of the Al Khouzama Cooperative.

Over the past several years, all the cooperative’s members started approaching the agriculture institutions in the region for information and attended hands-on training conducted on value-added products of different agricultural products.

The promising market and the wide variety of herbs in their region permits the production of different green cosmetics. The Cooperative’s vision for the future was not limited to marketing their products (essential oils), moreover they wanted to produce natural cosmetics by using green concepts and processes.

Through collaboration with Amal association for women and children in the same area, they expressed willingness to improve their technical knowledge and become familiar with the methods and techniques used for an efficient production process. The association provides them with a stable income from other activities, a workplace, and literacy classes.

Team members of the High Atlas Foundation who implement the USAID Farmer-to-Farmer Program (F2F) in Morocco traveled to Ajdir in the Al Hoceima province to meet the members of the Al Khouzama cooperative to see how the program could provide assistance in their growth and improvement of products.

Thus the F2F local volunteer delivered different training workshops on manufacturing natural cosmetics that meet their interests last June. The women from Al Khouzama already had some skills of preparing natural soaps using herbs but they were very much fascinated by the information given during the training workshop.


HAF’s Farmer-to-Farmer team conducting the IMAGINE workshop for the Cooperative’s members (Photo: HAF)

I still remember how happy I was for the women I met with during the women’s empowerment workshop last May. It was a perfect example of how effective small business can be and just how much can benefit from participation. The women beamed with confidence as they showed me their products, and they were very happy with themselves.

Listening to these women was awesome and enlightening; a truly special experience that evoked laughter and tears. As each woman told her story in the cooperative, I reflected deeply on the common themes in each story; themes I was familiar with from my readings and observations of Riffian culture.

Lalla Nadia proclaimed: ‘’Lavenders taught me how to live again! 40 years ago when I was a child, I used to help my father each spring day when I came home from school to maintain his small farm. As the years went by, I did not find time for my father's garden anymore, but today my garden is my passion that I enjoy no matter how exhausted I am. I am happy to say that I still love my lavenders, and I shared this love with other women to create this cooperative and produce natural cosmetics from lavender. The lavenders give me something to take care of other than myself. Keeping plants alive is a challenge, and I’m constantly learning things to do and not to do.’’

Lalla Nadia’s words illustrate that women’s greatest resource is themselves—their personal capacities, including their self-image. And when I met her today, she confirmed it again by continuing her studies and obtaining the middle-school certificate, the thing that makes her a leader by example to her colleagues.

The IMAGINE workshop was beneficial to continue supporting the women to assess their strengths and weaknesses in terms of their cooperative work and personal growth. Additional HAF-F2F training workshops conducted by experts in the specific agricultural fields provided the women of Al Khouzama cooperative with important knowledge and skills regarding their work.

Combining their prior experience with new learned skills has given them the passion to continue running a successful cooperative, and to implement all recommendations given by the expert and even participate in regional agricultural exhibitions.

Through engagement in these two programs, it was the goal of HAF to continue supporting the Al Khouzama women in spreading their passion for their business, products, and lavender to the rest of the community.