By Touda Bazaz
On the 15th of June 2019, a group of volunteers and I left the High Atlas Foundation office in Marrakech at 09:00 am to Setti Fatma commune direction in order to participate in some of the activities that the foundation does. Along for the ride was a group of American high school students as part of Envoys, an international educational program focused on strengthening the cross cultural experience of American youth. Utilizing a portfolio of online courses, workshops, and travel opportunities, Envoys operates its cross cultural exchanges in seventeen countries (four continents) and, resembling HAF’s participatory approach to community development, the organization cites one of its core beliefs as “listening and asking questions.” With our new American visitors joining us, we set off to hold a meeting with a group of twenty women—ranging from 13 to 55 years old—who planned to establish their own cooperative of rugs and food items, such as pastries, dried herbs, and cous cous.
In only our first meeting, we met two organizational objectives: The first, a discussion with the women to discover exactly which products they can produce; the second, a conversation about their experience in and knowledge of cooperative-building. Finally, the women were asked to share their expectations for a future project.
The women showed an enthusiasm and excitement about their project. They believe it will both help them cover their financial needs and help their children pursue an education. Despite having sufficient competencies, abilities, and goals, the women don’t know how to start. They are ready to make their products, but the real challenge lies in how to sell them as the women lack the means of moving their products to the market place. They don’t know much about the market and its rules. So they are in need of guidance and help.
This is exactly what High Atlas Foundation tries to do in this meeting and upcoming ones: Offer workshops and trainings on how to establish a cooperative, as well as provide necessary information about the legal process. After the meeting, we planted ten trees in the area as a small contribution to promote environmental development, one of the main objectives of HAF.
This day was such a wonderful and unforgettable day for me. I discovered Setti Fatma—the burgeoning commune on its way towards market integration—for the first time. I got to know new people from the States. I also enjoyed talking to amazing, wonderful, and innocent children who were full of energy and who accompanied us throughout the whole day. This place is worth many visits for its incredibly hospitable and kind habitants and amazing nature.