Celebrating Women’s Empowerment in the Ourika Valley

By Fatima Zahra Laaribi

Women’s Empowerment Trainer


In the heart of Ourika Valley, the Aboghlou Women’s Cooperative, YSL Beauté, PUR Project, and the High Atlas Foundation succeeded in creating a beautiful organic nursery of calendula and other medicinal plants, as well as almond trees. The nursery is managed by the Cooperative of 39 women.

The women of the Cooperative showed a very warm welcome to the 100 guests by sharing their accomplishments, serving mint tea, designing henna, and sharing a variety of local foods.


The nursery was transformed into celebration space, with open areas covered with traditional red carpets and wool pillows, where the visitors discovered artisanal Amazigh traditions.  The baking barley bread gave a wonderful scent, taking us into the rural lives of the Moroccan women. 

 The 14th of November was a special day for the Aboghlou members, due to the wonderful YSL Beauté visitors who came to celebrate the achievements of the women’s work.

Both hosts and visitors had a great day together, everyone sharing the excitement in each of women’s eyes. This global gathering reflects how HAF and its partners strengthen relationships and bridge gaps between people of all walks of life – for the sake of empowerment.

 This initiative means a lot to the women and it encourages them to discover and achieve their goals, as well as appreciate all the accomplishments that they have realized so far.

 Each partner was given the opportunity to be closer to each other and feel the tangible impact of this project.

 Before concluding the day, each guest was given the opportunity to participate, leaving their good footprint by planting flowers of calendula and medicinal plants.



Water, Rain, Come Our Way!


By Yossef Ben-Meir, Ph.D 

President of the High Atlas Foundation 


We are in the midst of a wrenching drought in Morocco.  There is ultimately no greater relief than rain.   There are though actions we can take together to help safeguard drinking water and the survival of the organic fruit trees we planted.


Water conservation basically comes down to containment and efficiency, and empowered local community management.  In arid places, we also need to deepen wells.  Basins and pipes conserve water by eliminating seepage and enabling us to irrigate with better precision.  They also help to purify the water and reduce water born diseases and infant mortality.  Deepening wells by even five meters we can significantly reduce the economic shock of the drought, and stem food insecurity.


The High Atlas Foundation and community partners achieve these water conservation and supply initiatives, and we must do much more.  If we can provide only the materials to build efficient water delivery systems, the people will take it from there and contribute all the needed work for installation.  Can we meet them halfway?


From struggle can come opportunity, and unity.  In Morocco, we are all wishing for the same thing - rain and rain and more.  Until then, and as we prepare for the future, we are also unified in our need for water infrastructure in order to best utilize the resources that we do have.  Join our shared purpose, and help us implement the common priority of the Moroccan people.      


'Trust' Workshop with Women of the Aboughlo Cooperative in Ourika

Gal Kamarski 

 HAF Intern  


This week, the High Atlas Foundation - including our project manager and coordinator, Amina, and myself - visited the Aboughlo Cooperative in Ourika. As the women who are part of the cooperative asked before, this workshop concentrated on the ability to trust. We started by asking: "Trusting who?" Each woman then raised different interactions she has on a daily basis, which force her to trust both others, but also herself. Some women emphasized the direct link between higher self-esteem and the ability to trust others and indicated that since she is working, she gained more self-esteem and self-appreciation. We continued discussing the different relationships we have in our lives, from our families, partners, children, colleagues, the seller in our grocery shop, etc.

We continued with a game: women set on chairs in a circle, laying on one another, assisting one another not to fall down. Slowly we took out one chair after another, making it difficult for the women to keep relying on one another… through the game, we could discuss the ability of each cooperative member to trust her friends, and lean on them whenever they need, whenever it becomes difficult.  


At the end of the workshop, I asked the women about their first motivation to join the establishment of the cooperative. Furthermore, I asked what made them trust Amina from the beginning. The answers I received were diverse; however, all were directly linked to their ability to gain more independence in their lives. Some indicated that when Amina first came to their village, to discuss the option of doing a shared project, (at first they did not even discuss the establishment of a cooperative), the fact she involved them in the process from its beginning, contributed to their trust in her. One lady shared that when they decided to establish the cooperative, each had to contribute ten dirham, namely they had to trust both the idea of their project, and their partners (women from different villages, some of whom they met for the first time at the beginning of the project), and prove their trust by paying money. For some it was very difficult; however, today they have no regrets. Even though they felt that trust is an ability they should strengthen or learn, during our discussion, some noted that trust was something they started building from the very first minute of their project. It existed, but sometimes it was difficult for them to notice it.

It was amazing to see the personal and communal responsibility these women have to their project. Many of them shared that driven to being part of the cooperative, they gained additional skills and abilities. Self-confidence was the first on the list, alongside with financial, technical, and social skills, and the ability to raise one's voice to speak. They indicated that all these opened the gate for them to be much more influential in each of their communities. 

And as always, we could trust the women of the Aboughlo Cooperative that food and lovely hospitality will be included in the experience. 



Jack Butler, Ph.D

High Atlas Foundation Volunteer

The High Atlas Foundation produces trees. And in the process, it helps people at every step along the way. From schools and youth support centers where High Atlas tree nurseries teach disadvantaged children the healing aspects of farming while they help to grow transplants, to destination family farms where a historically nomadic population gets a chance at a more settled and prosperous life. One by one, the trees are helping to transform arid land on the edge of the Sahara Desert in one of Morocco’s poorest provinces into living, breathing, productive orchards that create prosperity and remove thousands of tons of carbon from the atmosphere each year.

I have spent the past three weeks as a volunteer for the High Atlas Foundation helping farmers in Eastern Morocco use efficient irrigation technology to grow trees with minimal impact on the delicate desert environment. In this arid land, water can be found just beneath the surface, but it must be used sparingly as the aquifer is a limited resource that can be depleted with time. Drip irrigation, in particular, helps farmers make the best possible use of each liter of water, while completely eliminating runoff and percolation of farming chemicals into the groundwater. However, the introduction of drip irrigation will require a new, more scientific approach to crop production in this poor area where literacy rates are low. It requires farmer education and it requires financial resources.


My first stop was at the Center for the Protection of Children in Oujda, a mid-sized city about 60 kilometers from the Mediterranean coast. The Center provides housing and vocational education to children ranging from twelve to eighteen years of age who have been convicted of minor crimes, as well as orphans and abandoned children. High Atlas is in the process of installing a nursery at the Center, capable of growing up to 40,000 trees, where the children will receive valuable hands-on training in farming and will experience the profound therapeutic effects of tending to living plants. 

But there are technical problems. The well that supplies water to the Center does not have adequate capacity to supply the nursery and drilling a new one is prohibitively expensive. The current well can be deepened at reasonable cost, but it is unclear how much additional water this will produce. While at the Center I helped High Atlas staff develop a plan to upgrade the well, size the nursery to match the output of the upgraded well and design a drip irrigation system to make efficient use of every drop the well produces. The plan has been finalized and we expect the nursery to be in full production early next year.

After saying goodbye to the children in Oujda our small team headed inland to Bouarfa, the capital of Figuig Province. Bouarfa is the cultural hub of the Bni Guil nomadic tribe, which has tended sheep in Eastern Morocco for over ten centuries. The nomadic life is harsh, and has become more difficult in the past few decades as changes in Morocco’s climate have made surface water more difficult to find and the closing of the Algerian border has hurt the local economy. In the past several years the Provincial government has helped the nomads by giving them land and training to diversify their sheep herding income with farming. It is against this backdrop that we arrived in Bouarfa to help the farmers use drip irrigation to grow high value organic crops with scarce desert resources, and to find homes for some 50,000 fruit and nut trees from High Atlas nurseries.

The farms we visited are small and remote: many less than three hectares, family managed and over fifteen kilometers from the nearest paved road.  The government has helped the farmers drill wells and install solar powered pumps which are perfect for this place where the sun is always present and electricity is scarce. According to Dr. Jamal Mimouni, Regional Director of the National Agency for the Development of Oasis Zones (ANDZOA), the region has good soil, plenty of sun, and the desert surroundings hide the fact ground water is plentiful - in some places only three meters below the surface. The farmers are hard-working and eager to create a better life through growing crops, but they need help. Many are new to crop production and information is hard to find in this remote region. They lack both the resources and experience required to adopt environment-friendly, world-class farming practices.  

After gathering information, we began work on a plan to transition the farmers from their current use of inefficient flood irrigation to resource-efficient drip systems and to provide them with High Atlas Foundation transplants that were raised in places like the Center for the Protection of Children in Oujda. The plan includes a unique training program catered to specific local needs, drip irrigation equipment and the transplants themselves. Once funded it will enable these small family farmers, less than a generation away from nomadic life, to grow export-quality organic produce using cutting-edge irrigation technology. Yes, the High Atlas Foundation produces trees.

Coming Together for Lake Ifni

By Errachid Montassir 

Project Manager, Sami's Project 

Driving 70 kilometers on a unpaved road from the Aouloz commune in the province of Taroudant, you will find Lake Ifni nestled amid the towering peaks of the Tigolal mountains, near Mount Toubkal.  This blue lake, according to local people, is a place that many young and hopeful brides come to visit.Lake Ifni’s life began 245 million years ago.  There are two sources of the lake’s origin: the first is due to volcanic activity forming the crater, and the second is the accumulated snowfall and its melting – over millennia – filling the large indentation with water.  Lake Ifni is at an altitude of 2,395 meters.  The length of the lake is 900 meters and its width extends to a distance of 400 meters. Its effluent level – or the amount of water it discharges – is at approximately 300 meters per second.

The Regional Management of Waters and Forests and its agency, the Toubkal National Park Management, recently organized a workshop with the immediate beneficiaries of Lake Ifni – the people of the Tifnoute Valley – to create together a sustainable development plan.  Mr. Mohamed Issoual, the Regional Director of Waters and Forests, focused with the workshop participants on the need to work collaboratively to maintain the lake as: a water source upon which thousands of families depend for drinking and agriculture; the beginning waters that eventually contributes to the Souss Massa basin about 200 kilometers away; and as a majestic destination that draws visitors from around the world.

In partnership with the United Nations Development Program and the local Toubkal Association, the High Atlas Foundation is assisting the development and implementation of a new plan, dedicated to enhancing both livelihoods and preservation.  As part of the workshop, we support the efforts of Waters and Forests and the integration of the people and associations into the process of designing actions for livelihoods and sustainable management systems for the lake. 

Since 2003, we have been working closely with the Tifnoute people, growing nurseries and hundreds of thousands of trees (in memory of RPCV Kate Jeans-Gail), securing organic certification of walnuts and almonds, building drinking water systems with 12 villages, promoting opportunities with women’s coops, and engaging schoolchildren in environmental activities.  Using the participatory approach, we created a municipal development plan, engaging all the Valley’s 44 villages. 

The trust we have built with the Tifnoute people is derived from a long extension of advancing with them sustainable projects.  This lake project came several years ago from the community mapping activity we conducted with local people neighboring the lake.

The first day of the workshop began with a detailed presentation from the director of the Toubkal National Park,  Ms. Soraya Mokhtari.  She spoke about the context and framework of this project, leading to the 2020 plan for Protected Areas in Morocco.  Professor Lamiae Kacem of Marrakech presented substantial knowledge about Lake Ifni and its watershed, including its geographic scope and difficulties facing the Lake.

Mr. Larbi Didouqen of HAF discussed with the workshop participants the opportunities associated with the new project, such as actions for the rehabilitation of ecosystems and preservation of threatened vegetation and wildlife species.  Participants then discussed the advantages of the lake:

- As a vital source of water

- The environmental and agricultural benefits

- The cultural heritage

- Its governance and new partnerships to support this

- Its touristic feature

These are all essential reason to develop an integrated, participatory, and sustainable management plan for the Lake.  However, we must address as part of this initiative the difficult obstacles: the absence of guides, waste pollution, deforestation, and the few local products available to visitors.

The discussions surrounding the development plan ended with consensus around several points, which will be part of the project solutions to which we are committed:

- Alleviating erosion

- Grow vegetation

- Initiate waste management

- Provide clean water and other infrastructure

- Establish a guidance center in the area


The following day we visited Lake Ifni with members of Waters and Forests, the park management, and local associations.  There we together fortified our agreement and collaboration to work together for this initiative and will bring our best support for the highest lake in Morocco and the people who depend upon it

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