By Jo Anne Cohn
In May 2022 I was so fortunate to be a business volunteer in Morocco for the Farmer-to Farmer program. I worked with two cooperatives – The Wardat Al Atlas Cooperative and the Kounouz Almoumtaz Cooperative. The cooperatives were interested in receiving a range of information – everything from creating a Scope of Statement to learning the basics of marketing to understanding what goes into obtaining a sanitation certification.
This was my first trip to Morocco and it was fabulous! Working with the cooperatives was tremendously interesting and rewarding. The first cooperative I worked with is the Wardat Al Atlas Cooperative, a 12 member cooperative in the Ouaouizerth municipality, Azilal province, Beni Mellal-Khenifra region.
Cookies and salty snacks are the main products that the Wardat Al Atlas Cooperative makes. Products are sold at the cooperative and they also do some private catering. The cooperative has a sanitation certificate for its current products and would need a new one for any new products it makes. The cooperative was also interested in learning the basics of marketing, so that they could sell more products.
Zineb Laadam, my counterpart from the Farmer-to-Farmer program, and I developed and trained the president and some of the cooperative members on some basic business skills. They were especially interested in learning more about the 4Ps of Marketing (price, product, place, and promotion). During the upcoming months, the cooperative will come up with some new products to increase their sales. They are very excited about new designs for their cookies. The design I like the best is to make cookies with the design of the flag of Morocco! I think it will be a big hit!
I also had the chance to meet with Sara and Houria, two women from the Kounouz Almoumtaz Cooperative which is outside of Ben Guerir City. This cooperative is relatively new and their main focus is growing quinoa.
Quinoa is an up-and-coming grain in Morocco. Sara said that Moroccans like it because quinoa is not only high in protein but it is better for people who are gluten intolerant. Personally, I like it because it tastes good!
What really impressed me about this cooperative is how committed they are to the environment. Using Sara and Houria’s personal funds, they’ve taken out a loan for solar panels. Their next step is writing a business plan for funding. Farmer-to-Farmer has already started working with them and I have no doubts that they’ll finish it very quickly.
As they are going to be seeking funding and meeting with lots of people, I explained to them how important an “elevator speech” would be to them. They quickly saw the need of having an “elevator speech” in their back pocket and will work on one. They are very computer savvy and I gave them some ideas on how to use Airbnb Experiences or possibly GoFundMe as ways to possibly increase their outreach.
Sara and Houria explained to me that they’ve had trouble getting responses from government officials who will be instrumental in the development of their cooperative. We brainstormed ways to address this. I thought they came up with a super idea. They are going to have an open house this summer and invite people from the local government, NGOs, professors from the University Mohammed VO Polytechnic who already promote or grow quinoa to attend. Both Sara and Houria feel that there will be lots of excitement for the open house and people will be anxious to participate!
But wait…there’s more! In addition to visiting these cooperatives, I was so fortunate to participate in the celebration of International Day of Argania. What a fabulous celebration! The argan tree is native to Morocco.
Argan oil is hailed as the “liquid gold” of Morocco and is used in health care products and cooking. Celebrating the International Day of Argania was total fun! Not only did I get to watch the women make argan oil, I got to help!
My time in Morocco with the Farmer-to-Farmer program is very special to me. I love the people of Morocco, the food of Morocco and the culture of Morocco. People here are so warm and hospitable. I have made new friends and hope someday to return. I guess you could say that I left my heart in Morocco!