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OCP’s Workshop on Volunteerism

 

By Errachid Montassir

HAF Project Manager

At the Mohammed VI Polytechnic University in the city of Ben Guerir, the OCP Group organized a two day workshop about a new program they are launching, called Community Service.

The OCP Group has a Board that was created to carry out the social and societal commitment of the organization.  Its main goal is to develop and implement community programs, focusing mainly on the human development. By adopting and seeking to effectively apply the participatory approach, the new program intends to establish the basis for integrated citizen action for an economic and social development in Morocco and other African countries that are part of a South-South cooperative context.

The idea behind these workshop is to develop sustainable community initiatives, as described by the General Director of the OCP Group, Dr. Mostafa Terrab: "This company will provide short term expert volunteers to the to assist our projects in many dimensions, including entrepreneurship, social economic solidarity, youth training and employability, agriculture, education, art and culture, health, humanitarian support and the environnement.”

The volunteering duration for OCP employees will be four weeks.  During this period, the volunteers will not be controlled, they will continue to receive their salary, on condition they will achieve something helpful for our communities through actions, creating projects with cooperatives and civil associations, assist new workshops, and also provide final reports. The program can also build capacities, means, methods, resources and financial support in some cases.”

More than 200 people attended this important workshop, including OCP partners, members Foundation OCP, and all the participants from different civil groups, cooperatives, and organizations.

The High Atlas Foundation was invited by the OCP Group to attend the workshop as an example of a group working closely already with one of the most recognizable volunteer programs in the United States called Farmer-to-Farmer.  This program is managed by Land O Lakes, who works exclusively with HAF in Morocco to field 30 volunteer-experts to support all aspects of agricultural development.  The technical assistance of these volunteers assist HAF’s community partners in business plan development for the organic product; technical assessments for new nurseries, orchards, seed banks, and product processing; in monitoring carbon sequestration and commercialization of carbon credits; and building local capacities to combat climate change and sustainable management of natural resources.

These volunteer-experts from the United States have done a priceless job with Moroccan cooperatives through the High Atlas Foundation.  HAF shares the experience, technical information, and feasibility documents development with all local and national, public and private partners.

 

The first day of the OCP workshop started by welcoming the attendees to the conference.  The session facilitator, Mamoun, came with a great ecological project; special plastic bottles made to use for a long time, and they gave the bottles to all the attendees.

Mohamed Soual, the chief economist of OCP group, spoke on behalf Chair Mostafa Terrab, and he discussed the importance of organizations and associations in Morocco to play a serious role to move communities forward.  He mentioned how OCP employees are excited about this big upcoming volunteer program.  At the end of his talk, he spoke to all attendees to take this opportunity to make every effort to improve our Kingdom and Africa as well.

The HAF team addressed the participants, about our experiences with the expert-volunteers, its partnerships to support volunteers, and about outstanding volunteer achievements in HAF-community projects, in the environment, education, organic agriculture, and culture.

In the environment workshop, there were three ecological projects selected, including from HAF: Sami's Project, which is working with youth through planting trees with students and their communities to create green spaces in schools and communities and expand the culture of planting between the students.  The project endeavors to make better education available to the rural population through establish clean water systems at schools, build bathrooms and housing (which directly increase girls participation), and facilitate interactive environmental and hygienic activities.

The second day of the workshop was dedicated to creating the operating modes of the community service program.  Some of the basic components include:

- The volunteer assignment should be identified by the collaborators.

- OCP manages the community service program, identifies and manages a list of projects and partners, and allows collaborators to contribute by proposing new projects, which are validated.

- There will be a charter of commitment to be signed by the collaborator before the voluntary action.

The High Atlas Foundation and the OCP Group share the goal to work hard on sustainable development and move forward communities of our Kingdom and of African nations.

 

 

“The Not-so-Ugly Americans”

 

 

 

By Max Bone

Social Media Team Member

 

I am sharing an interesting documentary that suggests that “Not-so-Ugly Americans” outside of the United States are Peace Corps Volunteers. The Peace Corps, which was founded in 1961 by the late President Kennedy to promote “peace and friendship across the world” has sent over 225,000 volunteers to 193 countries across the globe.

 

The aspect of Peace Corps volunteers changing stereotypical images of Americans abroad is outlined in this 1965 documentary, The Not-so-Ugly Americans. The documentary centers on the role that Peace Corps Volunteers stationed in Guayaquil, Ecuador, have on shaping the local public opinion of the American people as a whole.

 

At the beginning of the documentary, all of the featured Peace Corps Volunteers speak of how local people were skeptical of their intentions, they were assumed to be elite politicians and missionaries. Eventually, the local population came to see that there are pre-conceived notions of the visiting Americans were not true, and that they were in fact simply there to be of assistance without ulterior motives. The Peace Corps Volunteers came to find the same of the local people as time went on as well. The building of this mutual trust came to be when successful projects were carried out with all parties involved.  

 

The role of Peace Corps volunteers working towards a more connected and trust-filled world does not end when they are in-country service is over.  Indeed, that is often-times when it begins. One example of this is Dr. Yossef Ben-Meir, who founded the High Atlas Foundation in 2000 with other former Peace Corps Morocco Volunteers.  HAF is dedicated to achieving sustainable development with all Moroccan communities.

 

Hopefully, in the future, the role of the Peace Corps, and other organizations such as the High Atlas Foundation will be able to achieve a world where preconceived notions can be put behind, and all can come together to work towards a better world.

 

For further reading about the Peace Corps and the global opportunities it presents, please read this article in Voice of America, as well as this article by Dr. Ben-Meir on adapting the Peace Corps to this new era.

 

Marketing workshop with women of the Ourika Valley

Marketing workshop with women of the Ourika Valley

 By Gal Kamarski, HAF Intern & Graduate Student  

 

Last Friday, HAF staff conducted a marketing workshop with the women's cooperative center in Tenine-Ourika. Our project manager, Amina, and one of our volunteers, Davide (from Italy), led the workshop.  Gal (myself), the HAF Intern and graduate student from Jerusalem, took photos and notes (also kept the kids busy). More than 30 women, of various ages (including several children as well), participated, asked questions and shared their ideas. We even got a chance to hear one of them sing!

 

 

It takes nearly 40 minutes of driving outside of the city of Marrakech, and you immediately feel the difference. Not only the weather becomes nicer, as you get closer to the mountains, but the all atmosphere seems to be dissimilar (for instance, different language, cloths, etc.). The car stopped right in the middle of Tenine-Ourika, the center of approximately 40 villages. As such, the main road was full with small shops, which sell raw materials, local products, food, and more, alongside with several restaurants and many small coffee shops (most of them with men only). A few meters walking and we were at the women's cooperative center.

 

 

We started with asking: "what is marketing"?

After a short greeting and introduction, we started the marketing workshop. Throughout a participatory discussion, we tried answering what marketing is. First, we created a clear definition of what are the products, the markets and the different participants in our target market. Following that, we discussed the characteristics of both the sellers and the buyers, and the relationships between them. We suggested several new methods for approaching buyers, using both face-to-face interactions, and the media platform. Several additional questions were discussed, such as: how do we set a price for our product? Where should we sell the product? What tools can we use for promoting the product? The last part of the workshop focused on the differences between goals and targets, including a clear differentiation between short and long-term goals.

It was very interesting to hear how these women believe in the value of their product, and how they are open to discuss new ideas to improve it and its marketing.

 

 

 

 While the mothers were participating in the workshop, the young kids seemed a little bored from all the talking… so we decided to play together, so their mothers can feel free to be fully ingaged in the workshop, without worring.

 

We finished the workshop with hot (and very sweet) treditional tea, and planty of tasty cookies, one of the main products which the women make and sell in their cooperative. The sweet (and tasty) gathering at the end of the workshop, was the time to discuss daily matters, ask personal questions, and get to know one another better. As much as the workshop contributed to the success of the women's cooperative, it seemed as the warm gathering at the end, was not less influential. Warm tea, sweets, and the nice center as the platform, enable creating friendship between these women, built of personal relations, and strengthening the trust between them.

 

 

Hopefully, I will keep updating you on how the women's cooperative is developing.

Setti Fadma meeting

Setti Fadma Meeting

 

By Ulrica Muffatto

HAF summer intern

 

 

 

 

On the 10th of August we took part in an interesting meeting in Setti Fadma, province of Al Haouz. Representatives of the surrounding villages were present at the meeting, as well as local authorities and the mayor of Setti Fadma.

 

The objective of the meeting was to present HAF's future plans for the area and get the approval from the local communities to launch the program. As a matter of fact the foundation has been working in the area for several years now, towards a sustainable development. Still now HAF is keeping track of the carbon offset of 20 thousand trees, planted through the noteworthy partnership with Project PUR.

 

The main issue that emerged from the meeting was connected to water, as there are problems with irrigation, droughts and floods. Many pointed out that this issue has to be solved before planting any more trees. The representative of the agricultural association believes that the farmers should be able to join cooperatives, in order to facilitate the access to some resources and be able to easily oversee the progress of the projects. He also recommended to switch to dripping irrigation, as the Moroccan government can finance 90% of its costs. Some agricultural offices are even willing to offer their expertise and HAF will offer a training program for the villages where the trees will be planted. This program is a software that can be used by any smartphone, which will show to the farmers the precise involved areas. 

 

Another important point for HAF is to stimulate people's involvement with the surrounding nature, as they could learn how to benefit from it, but also to make them more aware of the environment and of the sustainable development.

 

 

 

For more information about the PUR Project check out our blog post about it: http://www.highatlasfoundation.org/blogs/812-women-and-participatory-approach-to-achieve-a-professional-work

 

My first solo participatory meeting in Tororde, Azzaden Valley

My first solo participatory meeting in Tororde, Azzaden Valley

Another big day today: my first solo participatory meeting! I met up with Farid and Hamid in the building of their organisations, which doubles as classroom and day-care for the smallest children due to lack of sufficient classrooms. At first I feared it was only going to be the three of us, but I clearly overlooked Moroccan planning: meeting up at 5pm actually means all participants will arrive around 6pm. And so they did, about 15 of them. Half of the group were young people, aged 16 – 30, while the other half were in the 35 – 50 category. All of them were male, owing to the fact that organising meetings for women if the organiser and facilitators are male isn’t done in Moroccan culture.  I was willing to continue on as a start, to build on relationships I had and expand to all going forward including through women’s facilitation.  After some tea, sweets and small-talk, we kicked of the meeting.

 

First, I gave some more information on the High Atlas Foundation, the way we try to help a community identify their problems and link them with donors, our other operational projects and the outline of the project to come in Tassa Ouirgane. Afterwards it was time to hear from the participants themselves. We split up into three groups, with each group mapping out their community as it is in one colour and adding the problems and difficulties in another. Afterwards all of the groups presented their results to me and the others in Darija/tashelhit, with me getting the translation from Farid. It turned out that all three groups identified mostly the same problems, albeit in different order of urgency.

 

 

After hearing all groups present their community, its challenges and possibilities, we started the pairwise ranking exercise. The problems that had appeared were as follows: The mosque needed renovations and maintenance, most notably the toilets and electrical infrastructure. The bridge connecting the two halves of the Douar was, as mentioned before, also in need of restoration. With regards to the roads, different aspects were mentioned: the smaller roads within the douar needed to be redone in cement in order to facilitate life during heavy rainfall, while the larger roads connecting the douars needed to be restored, modernised and redirected in order to better include the village of Tororde. A next big item of concern was the need for a new well and basin for drinkable and agricultural water. Furthermore, all groups mentioned the town’s soccer field needed to be levelled out and restored in order to make it safer and more playable. Lastly, one group mentioned there was a need for more infrastructure for the local schoolchildren.

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