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University of Virginia Students Visit Akrich Nursery

By Mustapha Tarhbaloute

Students visit the nursery in Akrich  Photo: High Atlas Foundation

The High Atlas Foundation (HAF) organized an exploratory trip to Akrich nursery, in the commune of Tamslouhte, in the Al Haouz province for a new group of visitors. In this event, the HAF presented its tree planting program staff who aim to plant various types of trees in most regions of Morocco and the Dakira-USAID program, which in turn teaches about religious groups in Morocco with the people of Morocco and around the world, including those from the University of Virginia in the United States.

The visit was concerned with discovering the features of this nursery, which was built by the HAF and community partners in 2012, in close collaboration with the Marrakech Jewish community. After that, volunteers and visitors have seen the nursery to find out the types of trees and seeds that are planted, especially carob, pomegranate, figs, etc., and the natural conditions in which they grow to be ready for distribution with farming families in various regions.

The head of HAF, Yossef Ben-Meir, provided information about the tomb of Raphael Cohen, which is adjacent to the nursery, and the successive visits of Jewish visitors from inside Morocco and internationally, explaining about the history of the cemetery, and some of the religious rituals performed there. The U.S. volunteers in particular expressed their astonishment at the idea of ​​building a nursery to plant fruit trees in Morocco near a Jewish cemetery, especially since a large number of agricultural societies and cooperatives have benefited from these trees for eight years now, explaining that this is one of the manifestations of peaceful solidarity between religions and cultures.

A workshop on the topic of “what is identity” was held inside adjoining community hall, where there was discussion and exchange of ideas on this topic and a briefing on all its aspects historically, religiously and economically. After that, the students were acquainted with the methodology used by the HAF team to monitor trees that are planted every year in Morocco, through a workshop presented by Said Bennani, the tree planting project manager.

These activities concluded with a visit to a women’s cooperative in the Achbarou village, near the cemetery, where the activities practiced by this cooperative include traditional carpet-making and weaving wool, as well as planting and preparation of some types of medicinal and aromatic herbs. This cooperative was established after a series of vision building and rights-based workshops facilitated by the High Atlas Foundation with these local participants, especially with regard to self-empowerment, the development of personal capacities, and the growth of their cooperative.

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