By Yaniv Teitel
HAF Intern, graduate student at the Glocal program
I got the chance to join HAF’s Farmer-to-Farmer staff on their first meeting with the Pomegranate Cooperative at Awlad Abdallah. Farmer-to-Farmer is a capacity-building program that HAF is conducting in rural areas in Morocco as part of a partnership with USAID. It was a four-hour drive in each direction, only to have an appointment of an hour and a half. I was very much impressed with the commitment of the staff towards this meeting. Especially since it was a first meeting and no one can guarantee it will lead to future cooperation.
We arrived at a modern packaging factory. Around the table were waiting for us the members of the cooperative, seven men and a woman. They told the story of their impressive social vision of the village and the role of their cooperative in fulfilling this vision. Rashid, the HAF facilitator, was leading the discussion. He was trying to learn the needs of this cooperative. Everybody was taking part in the discussion that was led very well by Rachid, a young facilitator from the big city of Marrakech, but born and raised in its rural outskirts. It was a very pleasant environment.
They spoke about their needs and rated them from the most important to the least most important. I remember thinking how their needs sound just the same as the needs of the farms in other countries I visited and in my home country. While they are successful in exporting their pomegranates to different countries, they are not able to create a sufficient profit from this export. They know the prices of their fruit in the markets in other countries are high, but the profit doesn’t reach them and stays with the middlemen. They have economic and regulation problems which restricts their product development. They also claim to have management problems and wish to better learn how to manage a cooperative. To me it looked from the side, that they are doing pretty well, and it was beautiful to see how they enable each to talk and take part in the management and the discussion.
We drove back, enjoying the sunset over the mountains. The ride back gave me a good opportunity to get to know the HAF staff better and to learn more about Morocco. Everybody seemed to want to help me get started with my own project.