HAF Thanks Ecosia

Ecosia, a social business based in Germany, has made green, empowering, sustainable, and soon a prosperity-generating difference with farming families and schools in 23 provinces of the Kingdom of Morocco.  A wonderful partner, Ecosia is enabling the fulfillment of true Moroccan stories of youth finding opportunity, women's greater agency, diverse partnership, multiculturalism, natural restoration, and organic product for market and healthy consumption.
Thank you, Ecosia, for helping the people's dreams come true.

HAF and Al Akhawayn University Plant Trees with Communities in Azrou

The HAF-Fes Team organized last Sunday a tree planting event at Azrou, with students from Al Akhawayn University and the village association at Ain Aghbal. One of the professors from Al Akhawayn University, Dr. Duncan Rinehart, participated in the day.  Professor Rinehart is a former colleague of HAF President Yossef Ben-Meir, when he was a faculty member at the School of Humanities and Social Sciences at AUI.   
HAF distributed to the farmers 2590 fruit trees: 650 pomegranate, 400 grapes, 1500 almond, and 40 fig.
We planted some trees with the local farmers, men and women. Professor Rinehart was the first person to plant a tree. The farmers were so happy to receive the trees without cost; because of the trees planted, the farmers' land will gain more value. 
It was a rainy day, but even with that we had a good start for planting the trees on the community's land. 
Thank you, Al Akhwayn University, for lending HAF land for the community tree nursery that serves the region and beyond, and to Ecosia for providing the trees. Thank you to everyone for attending and helping us to organize this beautiful day.  Enjoy the photos.

Visionaries Then and Now

By Thomas Kimmell


USAID Farmer-to-Farmer Volunteer


In the 1980’s, a solo American made a huge impact on Ouaouizerth, Morocco, an Amazigh village, located in the western High Atlas Mountains.  His name was J. Christopher Stevens, a Peace Corps. Volunteer and yes the same J. Christopher Stevens, who as American Ambassador in Libya, was killed in the raid on Benghazi in September 11, 2012. 

Chris is still remembered here as the husky American that lived by the community’s Muslim traditions even though he wasn’t a Muslim. He was well known locally because he always was respectful and open to the town’s people. 

He learned Arabic from Lhoussin Waali, at the time a local grocery owner, who he in turn taught English.  One of the ways he taught Lhoussin English was having him listen to BBC radio broadcasts.   Lhoussin remembers how he and Chris would often discuss the similarities between the Muslim and Christian faiths.  The Arabic that Chris learned here helped inspire his career in the Arab world.  Chris also was active with kids, teaching English at the local youth center.  He was so dedicated to helping the people of Quaouizerth he stayed with them an extra year in the Peace Corps. 

He was known locally principally by his last name, Stevens.  People recall how Stevens would be invited to tea at someone house and he’d walk there regardless of the distance.  He left behind the gift of knowledge.   There was great sadness in the village of Ouaouizerth when they heard about Stevens’s death on television.

Thirty years later an American nonprofit organization founded by former Peace Corp veterans has honored Chris’s memory by bringing farming solutions to mostly agricultural Ouaouizerth.  The High Atlas Foundation, founded by Yossef Ben- Mer of New Mexico, recently dedicated a tree nursery, just outside of town, to the memory of Chris Stevens.  The nursery grows almonds and olive seedlings for transplanting.  The High Atlas grows these seedlings to give to local farmers at no cost.  The farmers’ Cooperative (called Adrar, or mountain) provides the land for the new orchard and High Atlas supplies the trees and expertise to successfully start the new Orchardists on their way. 

While the Stevens-inspired nursery serves the Ouaouizerth area; the High Atlas Foundation currently maintains eleven tree nurseries all over Morocco, partnering with the Ecosia Social Enterprise, to replicate this activity to most regions of the country.  This is the modern version of “Give a man a fish with the he’ll eat for a day, teach a man to fish he’ll be fed for a lifetime”. 

In Ouaouizerth village the High Atlas Foundation nursery caretaker is Hicham Farhat and he has become the pied piper of tree growing to the town‘s people, especially the school children.  This week Hicham showed up at the grade school and he and the kids planted olive trees to enhance the school’s courtyard.  His enthusiasm was only exceeded by the kid’s joy and excitement as they helped to plant the trees.

The High Atlas Foundation is dedicated to the single mission of growing seedlings and distributing them to growers who can use them but can’t generally afford them.  Since each different region has its own growing conditions a variety of trees are grown in the High Atlas nurseries and include carob, walnut, pomegranate, cherry, fig, Argan, and date palm in addition to the previously mentioned almonds and olives.  High Atlas has become the “Johnny Appleseed of Morocco” except with more than just one tree to choose from. 

As you can imagine, the Moroccan government is an enthusiastic supporter with land contributions to this program, but does not contribute financial support.  The primary financial support comes from individual donors and grants (such as from Ecosia).  The Ouaouizerth nursery’s establishment in 2013 was appropriately made possible by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Oceans, Environment and Scientific Research.   The obvious benefits are to the growers who plant the trees but the hard to quantify “Green” contributions are substantial.  Creating “forests” of orchards creates a carbon displacement mechanism to go along with oxygen generation and erosion prevention.   All the nurseries use drip irrigation, a 21st century technology, which is right at home in an arid nation with no water resources to spare.

The actions of the High Atlas Foundation fulfill the spirit of what J. Christopher Stevens stood for thirty plus years ago.  He had the desire to make things better for Moroccans.  The concept of growing and giving away trees is a unique effort, happening only in Morocco.  Just as “Stevens” did his best for Moroccans so does High Atlas with its ambitious goal of covering the country with fruit and nuts trees.

Writing this article I realized I too had joined the work of other Americans who have acted in Morocco.  My career was spent in irrigation and in Morocco no orchards grow without water.  Adding a water component to High Atlas efforts means that the orchards will survive and thrive.

Tom Kimmell is the retired Executive Director of the Irrigation Association, who now volunteers for the "Farmer to Farmer" program created by the US Congress.  Morocco is part of the program and is managed by Land O’ Lakes International Development.

Developing a New Capability for Seed Storage and Preservation in Morocco

By Russ Zick

USAID Farmer-to-Farmer Volunteer

Smallholder farmers in Morocco are engaged in upgrading their agricultural practices in order to increase income by expanding exports to Europe, the United States, and other Southern countries.  The High Atlas Foundation (HAF) has been engaged in that process with several programs such as assisting Moroccan cooperatives in obtaining organic certification for their walnut, almonds, and other products.  During the certification project, HAF, a Moroccan and U.S. nonprofit organization dedicated to using a participatory, collaborative approach to assure sustainable solutions, recognized there were seed storage challenges that needed development for continued progress.  

 HAF partners with Land O’Lakes International Development (LOL) to develop a project concept and proposal to address the seed storage gaps in the nut supply chain.  LOL, in turn, partners with USAID’s Middle East and North Africa Farmer-to-Farmer program to advance sustainable agriculture and forestry activities to enhance economic growth.

 Teaming with High Atlas Foundation

HAF staff is a mix of Moroccans and volunteers from other countries, including men and women, young and old, and they manage a diverse mix of local development projects. Members provide a nurturing, encouraging environment. A typical workweek included attending presentations by staff, interns and other F2F volunteers on their projects. The presentations and comments were a means of project quality improvement, as well as team-building. The events also provided insight as to the fit of the seed storage project within the range of other HAF projects.  The daily routine of family-style group lunches was a way to share Moroccan food and hospitality with everyone that was congenial, memorable, and productive.  I found it an energizing and inspiring experience being included in this uniquely Moroccan HAF team.


Although the final objective of the assignment was clear from the start, “prepare a proposal to the Ministry of Agriculture for seed storage infrastructure improvement”, it took a week and three layout drafts, to clarify the need, size and nature of the concept plan.  HAF project managers provided guidance in discussions and site visits to help me understand in detail the need to assist farmers with capacity for two types of seed storage: 1) storing harvested nuts for short periods prior to post-harvest processing, and 2) storing endemic varieties of tree and wild medicinal plant seeds for ready access during the planting season, especially varieties under threat of being lost to more commercially viable varieties.  HAF partnering with the Idraren Cooperative had recently developed a business plan to produce 1,000 tons of certified organic walnuts.  Seed storage is essential to meet production potential and market demand for years to come.


The assignment provided an opportunity to contribute to development of organic agricultural processing and diversification of endemic seed varieties, benefiting small holder farmers in rural areas. It also afforded the opportunity to use my mechanical engineering experience in agricultural applications and to facilitate the synthesis of a design concept in a cross-cultural setting. In preparation for the assignment, I activated my project engineering network, reviewed professional technical articles on seed storage facilities, and visited a USDA world-class seed storage lab in Colorado. In country, together with HAF colleagues, we visited SONACOS, a large scale quasi-government produce and seed storage distribution center, a large-volume government sponsored agricultural producers’ market, and the recently completed post-harvest processing center at the Idraren Cooperative, located in Asni of the High Atlas Mountains.


The most tangible accomplishment of the assignment was to give HAF a written proposal suitable for presentation to the Ministry of Agriculture. The proposal included a hand-drawn layout drawing, a project narrative describing the need and the proposed solution, a detailed cost estimate and a tentative implementation schedule. It is likely that the highest value of the concept plan will be to stimulate further discussion about the new capabilities needed. The concept plan is undergoing further revision before it is presented to the Ministry of Agriculture, but the plan will help to advance the discussions and can lead to improvements in the current post-harvest processing.

 There were other intangible impacts from the assignment. I will long remember the rhythm of the Marrakech day with the morning and evening calls to prayer, sleeping indoors with the door wide open to the quiet, perfectly cool night air, the excitement about an afternoon rainstorm, even though there was not much moisture; the aesthetic experience of sharing sweet mint tea, poured high above the glass to aerate the tea and the touch of a scorching hot glass. It’s also nice to feel I now have some friends and colleagues in Morocco.


HAF Sami’s Project combines cooperation and environment

Errachid Montassir

HAF Project manager


Cooperation is necessary to meet human needs.  We as people are not able to meet our needs without the help of each other.  Our serious collaboration leads to the integration of society.

HAF continues to establish development projects in different parts of Morocco, with an empowered network through skilled partnerships with government and non-government agencies.  To move forward the environment and economic sustainability of our communities, HAF promotes its partners to be integral to events and activities. 

Sami's Project activities with schools in the sixth edition 2018 is planting 9,107 fruitful organic trees with 154 educational institutions, with the participation of 25,000 students, in 16 provinces of Morocco.

On the 13th of February 2018, the High Atlas Foundation invited partners to an event of planting 600 almond, 50 cypre and 30 Carob trees with the schoolchildren in Ait Ourir rural commune - El Haouz province, attended by:

  • The American School Marrakech (ASM) represented by 27 high school students and their wonderful teacher Mr. Nick Gaunt
  • Cadi Ayyad University (CAU) represented their professor of English and linguist, Dr. Abdellah Elhaloui
  • The Moroccan Alliance for Climate Change and Sustainable Development (AMCDD) represented by Mr. Moetik
  • Alhamama local association, represented by Mr. Mohamed
  • Tamakit local association, represented by Mr. Brahim
  • The press:  "Al Ahdath Al Maghribia"
  • Hundreds of extremely active kids, all of whom added a wonderful touch to the event, by participating in planting the trees and exchanging expertise between each other.  It is amazing when you see people of different ages together touching the ground and making green spaces, which means the environment is a treasure we hold together in trust for future generations.

HAF will stay making positive actions with youth, women and farmers, to protect our earth, which is one of the first steps in doing our part to be environmentally friendly.  And with collaboration, we will be able to wonderfully pass this treasure to the upcoming generation of Morocco.


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High Atlas Foundation
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Directions to HAF Marrakech Office


High Atlas Foundation
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