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Environmental and Water Campaign in Boujdour: A Project of HAF and Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy

 
By Amina El Hajjami (HAF’s Director of Projects), Hana Ezaoui (HAF’s Project Manager in Boujdour), and Indrianty Lihardinata (HAF Intern from Pepperdine University)

 

The High Atlas Foundation (HAF) and Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy (SGRE) have been partnering since July 2018 to promote an environmental campaign and to provide clean drinking water for nomadic communities in the Boujdour province. The project’s mission is to build a canal of 520 meters to cool down the water and enable animals (camels, sheep, and goats) to drink. The project has been beneficial for the community as two drinking towers with pumps and motors have also been built in the Ahl Atriah and Khotot Hbia areas. In addition, four solar panels have been installed in Byar Triyeh, Khotot Hbia, Amat Sfia, and Toukb Jrifia. The HAF-SGRE partnership also facilitated several environmental campaign activities in the province on the ninth and tenth of October in Boujdour.

 

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On Tuesday, 9 October, the campaign took place in Awziouat Beach in Jrifia Commune. Approximately 100 local people--teachers, female and male students, women’s and men’s cooperative members, representatives of the local authorities, people from the media, and public social service workers--attended the event. The event started with a Koran recitation about water, the sky, land, and the stars. HAF and SGRE then spoke about how to protect the environment and diminish pollution. “We have to reduce using plastic, including plastic bottles, as plastic takes 450 years to decompose,” said Sonia Adnane from SGRE. Representatives of the students, teachers, local associations, and the environmental delegation of Boujdour also shared their thoughts on the campaign’s importance, and how unique was this day.

 

The students participated in educational drawing and singing activities, and were having fun learning more about protecting the environment. The event carried on with a beach cleanup. According to Mouhssin Allouch, a Boujdour native, the environmental campaign is crucial as people in the area are not aware of the negative impact of plastic, human health, and even that tourism can have. Amina El Hajjami, HAF’s Director of Projects, concluded the event by reminding students to be ambassadors of the environmental campaign to their peers.

 

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After the memorable event, HAF and SGRE continued the environmental campaign event on the following day at Al Masira Khadra and Annahda primary schools. The students from Al Masira Alkhdra primary school were taught the vital importance of recycling and created decorations from the recycled materials, such as paper and bottles. They also learned how to plant trees correctly before singing a song regarding the importance of environmental protection.

 

At the second school, Annahda primary, students learned how to prune and plant trees, collect waste, and paint vases. The 10th was another successful event as the teams from SGRE, HAF, local authorities, and school members had a productive discussion on how to create sustainable environmental changes at the school. HAF and SGRE will continue to facilitate participatory and environmental actions with the students in the remaining 15 schools of the Boujdour province.

 

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Finally, HAF and SGRE colleagues were fortunate to be able to visit the progress of the pump and motor installation in Om Rjilat, located 72 km from the city of Boujdour. The objective of this project is to provide drinking water for nomadic communities and the families in the province. Clean water also prevents the herds from thirst and is used for cooking and washing. In addition, solar power is also being installed near the water source to provide light, making the water accessible for everyone who lives in the desert. Mr. Laarousi, one of the nomads who was born and lives in the area, thanked SGRE and HAF for the project initiative as they no longer need to keep moving to find water. According to him, the community in Toukb Jrifia also considers the project well done because the water sources are easily reached. Also, Mohammad, who is responsible for the pump, expresses his gratitude as he finds the machine provides a convenience.

 

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It has been a beautiful three days for us at HAF and SGRE. The two-day environmental campaign became a starting point to keep Boujdour clean. We are hopeful that targeting the campaign for the youth would be beneficial as they will make it a habit and pass the legacy to the next generation. Furthermore, we understand that water is a crucial aspect in a nomadic community as they count on water accessibility the most. Together, we continue our movement to protect the environment and provide water for everyone in need.

 

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At the end, we would like to thank so much our amazing partner, Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy, and especially Sonia Adnane and Basma Lahmine for the great job that they did from the very beginning of the project. We wish to work with you and everyone at SGRE on other projects in the future.
 

 

Collaborations that make a difference: Investing in rural girls

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By Errachid Montassir
HAF Project manager

  

According to UNESCO, there are 10 million people who are illiterate and 1,137,546 youth who have not received a primary or secondary education. In Morocco, nearly 20,186 girls did not attend school in 2014, in contrast to 17,183 boys that same year.

 

Female youth are often deprived of a formal education. In 2014, 58.18% of Moroccan girls in rural areas did not go to school, opposed to 18.68% in urban areas (Eba Nguema). Lack of female attendance is attributed to the mentalities and traditions that favor boys’ education over that for girls’ as well as poor school infrastructure, which plays a major role in high dropout rates. Oftentimes, rural schools do not have accessible bathrooms and, as a result, female students are deterred from continuing their studies. In addition, work and early marriage is commonly forced upon young girls. Both poverty and ignorance lead parents to send their daughters to work as housemaids so they become a source of income, rather than a source of knowledge. These factors consequently endanger the education, health, and development of girls in Morocco.

 

Akrich is a rural village in Al-Haouz Province where HAF had previously implemented a successful sustainable project in which we facilitated the construction of a fruit tree nursery that now provides organic fruit trees to many regions in Morocco. Following this, HAF introduced “The Sewing Project” in collaboration with the OCP Foundation to address the ongoing problem of low attendance of girls in school. The Sewing Project is an exceptional idea that was identified by the Akrich community as a result of several participatory approach meetings, and after prioritizing their village’s needs. Specifically, they recognized that more than 30 girls could not continue their studies, and that those students have no alternative to build their capacities to achieve their goals in the future. Therefore, HAF and the OCP Foundation committed to creating a special opportunity: through an agreement that urges the provisions of sewing machines, equipment, and materials, this start up project also provides crucial trainings related to women’s empowerment, team building, and skill enhancement for the girls.

 

On Saturday, October 7, 2018 at 9:00 AM, HAF President Dr. Yossef Ben-Meir met with 16 volunteers from the OCP Foundation. Before spending the day on a field visit that I led, the volunteers learned about the participatory approach during a brief presentation delivered by Dr. Ben-Meir. The meeting served as a good opportunity to strengthen the relationship between HAF and the OCP Foundation, and to open doors to collaboration on future development projects with our communities.

 

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The volunteers and I then headed to Achbaro, another village in the Al-Haouz province. Everyone was extremely excited to meet the community and talk to them. We arrived at 11:20 AM and walked to a women’s center where we met Ms. Lbatoul, the president of a local cooperative, as well as her team of 30 women cooperative members, seven men who helped organize the meeting, and 16 children. They warmly welcomed us with breakfast prepared by the girls in the center, after which we had the chance to learn more about the cooperative and its members. The girls spoke of their ideas for the future as well as their current experiences working. Siham, one of the members said, “I cannot believe that I’m able to work and participate in the trainings when I left school after 6th grade, in primary school. I thank you all so much.” Mr. Said El Darfouli, one of the OCP Foundation volunteers replied, “We are happy to be here and meet you all. This is just a startup, and we are thankful to Ms. Lbatoul for having us. We are also grateful to the High Atlas Foundation for this enduring collaboration.”

 

After discussions, an expert installed sewing machines and conducted a training workshop for the girls. He taught them about the methods and steps of sewing. While the women were learning, OCP volunteers kept the children busy by playing educational environmental games with them.

 

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It was wonderful to meet the community and was also a remarkable day with the volunteers from the OCP Foundation leaded by Mr. Sefouar Noureddine. From this experience, I gained insight into the positive impacts of project collaboration. By working with likeminded partners, many successful initiatives could be implemented in our communities in Morocco. HAF and the OCP Foundation will continue working together to achieve several future development projects and, thus, a social transformation that will alter the lives of the women, men, and youth in Morocco.

 

HAF on Moroccan Radio - Come listen (in Arabic)

 

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The Moroccan national station "Radio Plus" interviewed Dr. Yossef Ben-Meir, President of High Atlas Foundation (HAF), and talked about the participatory approach to implementing development projects with communities in Morocco. He focused on participation's intrinsic link to sustainable development, and HAF's vision in building agricultural projects throughout the Kingdom. Errachid Montassir, HAF Sami's Project Manager, spoke about the importance of creating seed banks in Morocco and engaging Moroccan youth in development. Professor Mohamed Afriqui from University Cadi Ayyad Semlalia shared important information about the many indigenous fruit varieties of Morocco and how they are sadly being lost.

 

Global Perspectives and Shared Visions for Advancing Human Development in Morocco

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By Eliana Lisuzzo
Program Assistant

 

A typical day’s work for the High Atlas Foundation (HAF) varies greatly depending on the role of a staff member, the region of Morocco in which they work, and projects that are being planned, prepared to be implemented, or that are currently being administered. During any given day, organic fruit trees are being delivered to and planted in communities; tree nursery infrastructure and cleaning drinking water systems are being constructed; youth and women are being trained in skills building or engaging in activities that result in economic prosperity; communication with our national and international partners, Moroccan government officials, as well as communities is being coordinated to further human development; efforts are being made to secure funding to continue sustainable projects; and HAF staff is utilizing the participatory approach when meeting with community members in various provinces jumpstarting, assisting, or following up with previous projects.

 

October 9, 2018 was a particularly eventful day for HAF. Our Board of Directors, based in the United States, came to Morocco to not only discuss HAF’s current course of action and project sustainability strategies but also to visit the communities with which HAF works. Board member Doug Seidman, a retired legal aid lawyer who spent 43 years providing free legal services in New York City to people living in poverty, said of his experience: “It was eye opening to see the various sites that we visited to learn firsthand of the challenges and the benefits of the projects that HAF is working on.” Board member Harry Palumbo, a retired international banker and current part time financial consultant, reiterated this point:

 

“The visits to the two nurseries—one at the Jewish cemetery site, gave me the opportunity to view not only the nursery but also the symbiotic relationship between both the cultural and the agricultural pillar of the organization. The second visit to the National Forest where HAF plants organic fruit trees, again, gave me an overview of not only the nursery but also the partnership with the government of Morocco. Also, our visit to the women’s cooperative focused on our objective of the empowerment of women and the accomplishments of both educational socialization and economic improvement in women’s lives.”

 

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Board member Ellen Paquette is a highly experienced international development professional, having dedicated 28 years to Peace Corps—first as a Volunteer in Liberia (1972-76) and later as Director of Peace Corps Morocco, in addition to having held several other executive Peace Corps roles across Eastern Europe, North Africa and Middle East, Asia, and the South Pacific. She reported feeling “impressed” with HAF and our projects. Describing her thoughts further, Ms. Paquette said:

 

“I appreciate the diversification of the projects, including women’s empowerment and sustainable water such as irrigation and potable water sources for communities; also HAF’s overall philosophy of helping improve the quality of their lives through community participation. As a current board member and long term supporter of HAF since its inception, I’m very proud to see the continuation and the sustainability of the initial projects, which were all agricultural and tree planting, and HAF reaching incredible vaults: first planting 1 million trees and, then, a higher level of 1 billion trees, nationally.”

 

After a day of visiting tree nurseries, a women’s cooperative, and a walnut production cooperative in the Marrakech region, HAF’s Board of Directors and staff hosted an event, “Fulfilling Moroccan Development Visions.” This reception, which was dedicated to discussing past, current, and future sustainable development efforts in Morocco, brought together 180 attendees committed to advancing human development in the country. Moroccan local government officials, farming families, cooperative members, current Peace Corps Morocco volunteers, representatives of nonprofit organizations as well as representatives from the U.S. Consulate—including Consul General Jennifer Rasamimanana and Political-Economic Chief Sasha Suderow—gathered from 8:00pm to 10:00pm at Mohammed VI Museum for the Water Civilization in Morocco. As HAF Project Manager Errachid Montassir said, “Organizing events, conferences, and receptions is always a great opportunity to expand the network and come up with many positive results.”

 

The event began with opening remarks by Ms. Fatima Zahra Laaribi, HAF’s Women’s Empowerment Trainer and Financial Manager. Following, Mr. Abderrahim Gahwan, the President of Ait Taleb Municipality of Rhamna, shared how HAF not only helped his community but also his personal development. For example, he credits learning the participatory approach from HAF for leading him to his position as President and for leading successful projects in Ait Taleb. Similarly, Ms. Rachida Outichki, the President of the Aboghlou Women’s Cooperative of Ourika, discussed how participating in HAF’s women’s empowerment training built her and her female peers’ capacities to talk about themselves and pursue projects. Aboghlou is a successful cooperative that exports calendula (a Moroccan medicinal herb) to L’Oreal in France and sells food products such as couscous.

 

HAF staff took to the podium as well. Dr. Yossef Ben-Meir, HAF co-founder and President, led a moving conversation on the progress of development in Morocco and the necessary means to further advance economic prosperity, livelihoods, and gender equality. Dr. Ben-Meir explained how HAF contributes to a vision for development in Morocco occurring now and in the future, but it is the local people who ultimately turn each of their own visions into reality and sustain the impacts. He effectively elicited motivation from Moroccan attendees who, during the “open mic” segment of the event, “wonderfully expressed their visions and brought up good project ideas,” as Mr. Montassir described. Dr. Ben-Meir also encouraged university students and younger generations to continue development in their communities and to implement projects not only for themselves and their families but also for future generations. Said El Bennani, HAF Project Manager in Fes and Ifrane, seconded this notion. “Youth participation in development means a lot. Without youth, we are not working forward in development.” One primary school-aged girl sitting in the audience announced the pride she has in having participated in the annual tree planting event led by HAF this past January.

 

As HAF board member Bruno Mejean eloquently said, “[Fulfilling Moroccan Development Visions] was very inspiring. It brought together different cultures and backgrounds. From one end of the spectrum—the U.S. board members, with a global vision and global perspective—to the individual students, women cooperative members, and farmers who also attended the presentations. Everybody was focused on the same cause, which is to improve the lives of the Moroccan citizenry.”

 

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Fulfilling Moroccan Development Visions

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By Fatima Zahra Laaribi
HAF Financial Manager and Women’s Empowerment Trainer

 

The event “Fulfilling Moroccan Development Visions,” held the 9th of October 2018, began with expressions of gratitude to The High Atlas Foundation (HAF) for organizing such an important gathering. Gratitude was extended to all staff members of the Mohammed VI Museum for the Water Civilization in Morocco for hosting the event as well as to all of the distinguished guests, including HAF’s partners in addition to the foundation’s Board of Directors in the United States. HAF was congratulated for facilitating another environmental event in partnership with Siemens Gamesa in the city of Boujdour.

 

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This event was an important moment that marks the initiation of the discussion and analysis of fulfilling Moroccan development visions. It was a special opportunity to share our personal experiences about development with partners, associations, and communities we have worked with in Morocco. Ms. Fatima Zahra Laaribi, HAF’s Women’s Empowerment Trainer and Financial Manager, shared one of many successful projects for women: Rural Women’s Bold Future. It was a privilege to share the work HAF has achieved with rural women, and to continue to speak with and listen to them.

 

Ms. Fatima Zahra expressed that women can be—and are—agencies of change, drivers of progress, and decision makers. All they need is a chance to demonstrate their capacities in all aspects of life. Further, it must be realized that when women participate in development, everyone benefits. Ultimately, they are an essential part of change in Morocco. An Arabic proverb says, “The woman is half of the society,” and if half of society prospers, then all of society will as well. Ms. Rachida, the President of Aboghlou women’s cooperative shared her Living Dream—to not only manage a successful cooperative on a local level but also a national one— with the attendees of the event. She candidly shared that although she achieved her goal to become president of a cooperative, she and her members struggle to reach national success. As a result, she has identified her vision for sustainability and outlined short term goals for long term sustainability.

 

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Notably, HAF’s central focus is not only on women. Men have also benefited from HAF’s sustainable development projects—such as establishing organic fruit tree nurseries—and the participatory approach. For example, the men in the rural municipality of Ait Taleb in Rhamna province changed their reality by utilizing the lessons they learned from HAF. In particular, Mr. Gahwan, President of the rural commune, shared during his speech the positive impacts of the participatory approach on both a personal and community level. Initially president of an association, he implemented the participatory approach he learned from HAF, after which he was elected president of the municipality.

 

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Later in the evening, Dr. Yossef Ben-Meir delivered a speech about current Moroccan development visions. His speech received good responses and prompted many interactions as people became motivated to concretize the Moroccan development vision. This sparked the great opportunity to talk about youth development. Both Mr. Errachid Montassir and Mr. Said El Bennani, two of HAF’s Project Managers, spoke about the roles youth play in development and the challenges they face today.

 

The event concluded with encouraging words to plant organic fruit trees this upcoming planting season in communities. HAF announced that, that this year, farming families, schools, and beneficiaries will be provided with organic certified trees at two dirhams each. We look forward to helping communities implement the visions they shared with us and achieve their dreams.

 

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