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

Warmly Familiar People in Morocco

Photo by Tim Resch, president of Friends of Morocco
Dr. Yossef Ben-Meir
High Atlas Foundation
There is a joy I feel when talking about Morocco, and the role of the High Atlas Foundation in the great national project to catalyze participatory development with all the nation's villages and neighborhoods.  It is a dream and reality.  Morocco set itself on a path of democratic planning for human development, decentralization, women's freedom, interfaith action, south-south unity, and more.  Its hard trials toward effective implementation in all these areas are also completely real and even troubling.  But, the opportunity to achieve people's participation in the change they determine and seek can build to a national scale - and it is up to the people if that will come to pass.  For the High Atlas Foundation, the engine for such vast community-driven growth is organic agriculture, the entire value chain, including the monitoring and sale of carbon credits.  The new revenue from the agriculture sector we can multiply by five and dedicate it to community planning of development, training facilitators in participatory methods, and be implementing the projects of the people.
I will remember today in Marrakech because I was given the opportunity by Friends of Morocco to share this message and mission with former Peace Corps Volunteers from 16 countries.  I am part of them, and our spoken language together is short-hand.  I also had the chance to meet them at Hotel Toulousain, our home away from our Peace Corps home in the 1990s when we served.  How many times have we developed memories in one place, and then returned again to that same spot in an entirely different point in our lives - and we wonder all kinds of things?  That too happened today.  
I commit to Morocco because its success as a model pathway for sustainable development is essential for its people and deeply meaningful for the Continent and the Middle East.  Morocco is a gateway to a civilization, a crux place, and the realization of its good future is important for the world.  So, continue and come here to play a part in pushing the tide of time and decisions toward fairness.  Fulfillment, no matter how promising, is never a given - and the light of our values in our era hangs in the balance.

Defining Empowerment

By Dr. Yossef Ben-Meir

HAF President


Various perspectives exist on the relationship between participation in development and empowerment.  First, that there is indeed a relationship is now widely recognized.[1] Some writers suggest that empowerment and participation are actually one and the same.  “Participation is another name for empowerment.”[2]


            Just as with other concepts, however, empowerment is difficult to define and prone to alternative explanations.  Often time’s empowerment may be recognized more easily by its absence.  There is no agreed definition but this has not stopped the term from being used increasingly to the point that it has become a buzzword.  


            Empowerment is a long-term objective, and it should not be strictly judged in terms of cost-effectiveness or efficiency.  Rather, just as with the concept of “participation,” empowerment is both a “process” and an “outcome.”[3]  Though, the literature does seem to emphasize process and means, over product and end results.[4]


            Empowerment is operationalized in a range of contexts – economic and political, people and institutions, and at the micro and macro levels.  None of these comparisons are mutually exclusive; for example, an empowering development process is intended to benefit the individual[5] (personal, citizens) and groups[6] (community, partnerships, weakest and poor, women and youth, rural people).


            There are several recurring recommendations for achieving empowerment or instilling the qualities needed to attain it in individuals, communities, different levels of society, and contexts.  Capacity-building, particularly in decision-making, is widely regarded as essential.[7]  For capacities to be built and empowerment to occur, there must be training.[8]  Training towards empowerment includes developing skills and abilities, including in conflict resolution and leadership formation,[9] in catalyzing dialogue, and in listening.[10]  Participatory training is also called for and includes communication, planning, research, and evaluation; integrated initiatives through education; and informal education.  Melkote and Steeves suggest that power must first be understood for there to be the empowerment to be possible, underscoring the necessity of critical thinking.[11]


            Building self and group/community confidence and decentralizing control and decision-making, putting it in the hands of the local level, have also been called for to induce empowerment.  Decentralization is one way to redistribute power, and reverse or change roles, and thereby enable empowerment to occur.[12]  Decentralization is also a way government can support people in becoming empowered.[13]


            Empowerment is a central objective of participatory development.[14]  Participation and empowerment are integral and share a framework.  They are conceptualized in relation to each other.  Operationally, participatory development is a precondition for empowerment.[15]


            Empowerment is stated to include many different outcomes and can be identified by a number of capabilities.  Among the observed benefits are diminished feelings of marginalization[16] and organization toward development.[17]


            This Table lists the attributes of empowerment, according to the following categories: a) action capabilities, b) areas of critical reflection, c) areas of decision-making, d) kind of development that ensue, e) organizational outcomes, f) personal qualities, and g) economic, political, and social outcomes.


  • Action capabilities: on own behalf and interests; for development; to achieve goals; to resolve issues;
  • Critical reflection: awareness of circumstances, causes of dis-empowerment, and identity
  • Decision-making in: planning, implementation, and evaluation, politics, and markets
  • Development: human-centered, sustainable, bottom-up, and small and successful: informed by or co-determined at the local-level
  • Economic outcomes: increase in: efficiency; employment opportunities; security of water and energy; local self-reliance (including food)
  • Organizational: improved capacities of local groups, including to adapt; standard & greater transparency and accountability through peer reviews & public audits
  • Personal qualities: improvement in: self, caring, dialogue, expanding choices, mutual respect, creativity, adapting, managing skills, & applying knowledge (indigenous & scientific)
  • Political outcomes: increase in: participatory democracy; foreign aid managed by smaller organizations; political awareness of political power and rights; good governance; equitable power-sharing between individuals and institutions
  • Social outcomes: increase in: social power; space for culture, spirituality, and learning; basic needs (housing and health); decentralization to civil society; emancipation through education, including non-formal


            Through the years, several dominant criticisms of empowerment and its relationship with participatory development have emerged.  These concerns go beyond the difficulty of achieving empowerment, raising questions about whether empowerment is even feasible or operational.[18]  Thus, empowerment is not liberating as it is purported, or it may simply involve the perception of people’s control of their own lives.[19]  Its impact is not clear, since it is hard to evaluate and measure.[20]  It is also suggested it is unclear who specifically is to be empowered, for there are a number of possibilities (the individual, community, women, the poor, etc.).[21]  Regarding criticisms directed at the relationship between empowerment and participatory development, one writer has called the suggestion that it is a new form of empowerment a “messianic” claim.[22]  According to Green, there is no evidence that participatory development leads to an empowerment separate from the political action that is needed.[23]


            Considering all of the above, empowerment is here defined as a long-term development objective that is achieved by individuals and groups through participatory experiences and training that build their capabilities (both practical and reflective) and confidence.  This definition most closely resembles that of Melkote and Steeves who state that empowerment is “the process by which individuals, organizations, and communities gain control and mastery over social and economic conditions; over democratic participation in their communities; and over their stories.”[24]  Both definitions include individuals and groups and improved development organization through participation and personal growth.  


[1] Rolly, 2001:125

[2] Alamgir, 1989:8-9

[3] Laverack, 2001:2

[4] Williams, 2004:559

[5] Melkote and Steeves, 2001:354-5

[6] Fraser et al., 2005:123

[7] Balacazar et al., 2004:17

[8] Rolly, 2001:125

[9] Singh and Titi, 1995:14

[10] Laverack, 2001:10

[11] Melkote and Steeves, 2001:36

[12] Kumar, 2002:31

[13] Lyons et al., 1999:19

[14] Fraser et al., 2005:123

[15] Green, 2000:69

[16] Turner et al., 2000:1731-2

[17] Dockery, 1996:167

[18] Laverack, 2001:1

[19] Melkote and Steeves, 2001:355

[20] Henkel, 2001:178

[21] Cheater, 1999:599

[22] Mikkelsen, 2005:76

[23] Green, 2000:70-3

[24] Melkote and Steeves, 2001:37

Women's status in Morocco and the historical struggle


By Gal Kramarski

HAF Intern

Graduate Student


Amongst processes of democratization, traditions and the Islamic sharia, stands the debate around women's personal-status-law in Morocco, Mudawana. Enacted in 1958, after gaining independence from France, Moudawana expressed Morocco's unique identity, culture, and connection to the Islamic and Arabic heritage. Moudawana was the first official codex to set particular family legislation in Morocco; beforehand, Morocco's citizens followed local laws, traditions, and the colonialist rules. The year 2004, marked a new era in changing women's role in Morocco, with the initiation of the family-code-law, Moudawanat Al-Osra, replacing the 1958 Moudawana. However, this change had not yet reached all populations.


Following a set of meetings with women from rural villages in the High Atlas Mountains, as a part of High Atlas Foundation's empowerment workshops, we discovered there is minimal awareness to Moudawana in these areas. Though nowadays, a specific law exists, most rural communities keep following local traditions, which became throughout time, the actual "formal" law. Accordingly, women's role in both their domestic environment and communities remains marginal, as many of them indicated. Recognizing the great potential embodied in Moudawana, as a tool to change women's role both locally and nationally, can contribute significantly to development work in that field. In a wider perspective, it might also evoke great change in other Muslim countries, as the law is based on the Islamic sharia, which is highly respected among Muslims.


General background, 1958-1993


Written by a royal commission of ulama, using both the banner of Islam, as a religious framework, and the king's support, being amir al-mu'minin, as a national-civil framework, the Moudawana was enacted in 1958. Moudawana was based on the Islamic sharia, and the Maliki School, which are both highly respected in the Moroccan society. Though enacted under the shade of modernization and independence, with King Muhammad V's support in women's rights, Moudawana's first version was in fact, one of the most stringent women's law in the Islamic world.


According to the 1958 version, women could not get married without the permission of a wali, (male guardian), had to ask their husband's permission to visit their families, or use money independently. The law allowed polygamy. Only men could decide to divorce, and did not have to inform their wives or ask for their permission. Men were the only legal guardians for their children; if a man died, the custody of the children went to his family, and not to the mother.


Although shaped in this form, reflecting patriarchal conceptions under the cover of the Islamic sharia, even the actual existence of a law gave much hope to Moroccan women, to continue their struggle. The first three attempts to change the law had failed, (1961, 1965, 1981), however, this only motivated young educated women to continue their struggle.


The 1960s-1990s, were characterized by modernization, social change, and urbanization. These processes went hand by hand with growing literacy rates, and a general trend of increase in female primary education, and a global growing interest in women's role in development. Local organizations used the rights-based approach framing, in order to gain moral and financial international support. As a result, many organizations were established in Morocco, particularly from the late 1980s to the beginning of the 1990s. They supported, (not only financially), women's local movements, educational programs, associations, and the civil struggle towards reforming Moudawana. There was then a disturbing contradiction between the legal framework that kept oppressing women, and reality, in which women in the cities, became more and more educated, active and socially involved.


The year 1993, marked the first major change. Under King Hassan II's regime, many women, (mostly educated women from the cities, and from left-wing political parties), started protesting for changing Moudawana. This led to the first reform in Moudawana, in September 1993. The reform included, the necessity to receive a bride's verbal consent to marriage, and abolishing the right of the father to compel his daughter to marry. Polygamy from then was subjected to a judge's permission. Children's guardianship changed to be shared custody, in favor of the mother. Though there were calls saying these reforms are just a rubber stamp, nevertheless they were considered as an important step forward, for women's struggle for their rights.


New era, 1993-2004


In 1999, King Mohammed VI inherited his father's throne; this marked the beginning of a new era in Moroccan women's struggle for their rights. King Mohammed VI's innovative approach, emphasized protecting human rights as consistent with Islam. This allowed the Casablanca and Rabat rallies in March 2000; for the first time, the struggle towards changing Moudawana was shifted wide to the streets. Following that, in March 2003, the royal committee announced that instead of altering Moudawana they recommend replacing it with a new law. After long-lasting discussions, in January 2004, the new family code law, Family Moudawana, was ratified by the two houses of the parliament.


Today's Moudawana


The Family Moudawana (2004), consists of 400 legislation (called articles), divided into six main sectors, with the aim of protecting women and their children's rights. The new law constitutes a major landmark in the Moroccan women's struggle as it follows the principle of equality between men and women, in both family, community and Moroccan society. The new law changed the minimum age of marriage from 15 to 18, for both men and women. A woman can now obtain a divorce, if she proves it as the last solution, as mentioned in the Quran. Daughters can inherit property like sons. Polygamy is subject to stringent legal conditions, allowing women to refuse their husbands to take a second wife. The new Moudawana led to the greater presence of women in different leading positions in Morocco.


However, since 2004, there were also voices protesting against the new version, claiming, "Women now have too many rights"; a sentence that many women's movements faced through their struggles, globally. Since 2004, the implementation of Moudawana faces barriers in terms of both raising awareness and enforcing the new law, mainly in rural areas. As a part of our empowerment workshops that aim to provide rural women tools to raise their voices, we discovered that there are places that are hardly influenced by any law.


Did the change reach all populations? What can we do?


Almost 100 percent of the women we asked, shared they were not aware of the law. The main difficulties they raised were either knowledge-related or physical. As many women are illiterate, many cannot read the law; if they are able to read it, some cannot understand the language (literature Arabic). Either of them has the legal knowledge to interpret it, and they do not have access to a lawyer. Some laws obligate to appear in front of a judge; for many, this is impossible, financially or physically, (in terms of access to transportation for example). Their communities clearly separate between religious orders, and local traditions, which are the ones to be commonly respected. For instance, in the case of a divorce, both Moudawana and Quran allow divorce as the last solution, however, the traditional law, refers to divorce as a taboo.


We can strongly indicate that the great change of 2004's Moudawana did not reach all populations. Using this knowledge, we wish to assist rural women, by creating bridges between their needs, and optional solutions. The High Atlas Foundation’s Moudawana project, follows the 'Imagine' self-discover empowerment workshop; through them, we aim at both reaching individuals and to encompass social change.


In the future, HAF’s project intends to bring together female law students and women from different rural villages, to learn together how to use Moudawana to change women's role at all levels. Students assist by consulting rural women. Together, they share knowledge with the final goal of creating active social agents, in both populations to improve women's status also in remote areas that were left behind until today. Being based on Islamic laws, we hope Moudawana will evoke change in women's role not only in rural Morocco, rather in many other Muslim countries as well.


Gal Kramarski is a M.A student in 'Glocal', International Community Development, at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. She is currently an Intern at the High Atlas Foundation, working in the field of women’s empowerment.

What a Palestinian can Learn from Morocco

Marwa Natsheh


Through her internship in Morocco, the writer has been inspired to think differently about interfaith relationships. This article presents this experience and highlights the lack of global perspectives of those living in the midst of a conflict.


From the first day I landed in Morocco for my internship, I have learned more than I had expected from Moroccan society and the Moroccan people, primarily regarding the coexistence between the Muslim and the Jewish communities. In this experience, especially in Marrakech, I have been able to contrast the Moroccan experience with my own in Jerusalem.

As a Muslim, the Palestinian woman from Jerusalem, I am used to daily interaction with the Jewish Community whether in school, work or business, and I understand well how both communities feel about the other in our country. Emotions on both sides are very intense, and deeply connected to politics, which ruin the social, economic, and religious realities for everyone living in the city. Jewish and Palestinian kids are educated on different historical narratives and learn from their societies to react to the other community mostly with hate and fear. As the other side is so demonized and clearly seen as the enemy, violence and destruction are legitimized as an action to defend your people. Although there are still people who believe in peace and coexistence, it is very hard to act according to these ideals when confronting the political situation, which seems to get worse every day, as both sides continue to disrespect each other.

I have discovered that Jewish-Muslim community relations are not the same in Morocco. In the High Atlas Foundation, the local NGO in which I interned throughout my studies at Glocal, I encountered different moments that showed how beautiful it can be to forget the religion of those around you and just to see them as humans. I was also inspired by the CEO of the foundation, Dr. Yossef Ben-Meir, a Jew who moved to Morocco twenty years ago, especially in his work with human development projects, which target Moroccan communities across the country, focusing on those who live in rural areas.

One of the foundation projects is planting trees for carbon dioxide sequestering. Thus, I was offered a trip to one of the sites planted earlier in the year in order to visit the site. When I arrived, I noticed that the site happened to be a Jewish cemetery, located in Akrich, 25 kilometers from Marrakech. Immediately, I felt a range of emotions visiting the cemetery.  Firstly, it felt familiar, coming across Hebrew, a language I speak from home. Secondly, I was really happy to see a Muslim man taking care of a Jewish cemetery and knowing its history perfectly, while remembering that in other places, particularly in Palestine/Israel, religious sanctuaries are generally looked after exclusively by members of the same faith. I was also struck by the fact that the Jewish community donated this cemetery, among other cemeteries, for the benefit of local Moroccan farmers to use the land for growing trees, such as pomegranate, figs, and olives, which are symbolic for both Muslim and Jewish religions. Furthermore, I was surprised to learn that the Akrich cemetery contains a seven-hundred-year-old shrine of Rabbi Raphael Hacohen, venerated as a miracle worker in ancient Moroccan tradition, and is visited by both Muslims and Jews, who celebrate together at this place.

After the visit, I compared our reality in Palestine and the one in Morocco. The difference was significant as while in Morocco both faiths are collaborating for preserving the cemeteries, in our country both Israelis and Palestinians invest in destroying each other’s history, by harming historical monuments and religious places and by disrupting religious holiday celebrations.

Furthermore, specifically, in Palestine/Israel, religious cemeteries are not treated with the same respect as in Morocco. For example, the Muslim burial ground, Ma’man Allah (Mammilla) in Jerusalem, which is believed to be the oldest Muslim burial site in the city, dating back to the 7th century, has been under threat of destruction from the Israeli government for decades. Although it is believed that the companions of Prophet Muhammad were buried there, as well as soldiers and officials from the Saladin conquest or leading nobles from the Husseini and Dajani families, Israeli officials converted the cemetery into a public park,  named the “Independence Park”, after 1948, marking Israel’s victory in the war. In this process, the graveyard was disturbed, including the disrespectful actions of opening graves or moving remains of bodies.

Furthermore, in 1970, a school was built in a section of the cemetery, and in 1986, UNESCO dropped investigations after Israel promised that “no project exists for the deconsecration of the site,” and that “its tombs are to be safeguarded". However, in 2008, Jerusalem families, together with the Northern Islamic Movement, failed to persuade the Supreme Court to stop the construction of the “Museum of Tolerance”, which is expected to open in 2017 on the same land.

In a journalistic investigation by Haaretz,, workers on the site revealed that in preparation for the construction in 2011, excavated skulls and bones were stuffed into cardboard boxes. Moreover, over the years, the cemetery was disrupted for luxury developments such as hotels, restaurants, museums, shops and other Israeli building projects that can now be seen at the site. It is clear by Gideon Suleimani, an Israeli archaeologist who worked on the Museum of Tolerance excavations, that “The policy is to dismantle what is left of Islamic heritage in Jerusalem piece by piece, to clear the area and make it Jewish.”

This is not the only example. In August 2015, the Bab Al-Rahmeh cemetery, dating back to the 8th century, and located outside Jerusalem’s old city walls close to the Al-Aqsa Mosque, was fenced by the Israeli authority. Although it is still used by Muslims, it will be confiscated in the near future. The feeling contributes to the general fear of Palestinians that their history and religious sites are threatened by the Israeli government, which does not honor them.

I question why this cemetery was chosen for the park. Was it impossible to establish the park or the museum in a location other than the cemetery where Muslim soldiers and heroes were buried? It makes me sad to see that Palestine/Israel, which is considered to be the sacred place of the three major world religions, lack mutual respect that can be seen in Morocco. Instead, the Palestinians and Israelis let politics and conflict regarding land disputes be mixed with religion while destroying other aspects of life or opportunities for interfaith partnerships. Instead of raising the next generation on hate and fear, I only wish that the model I have seen through my internship in Morocco can be replicated in Palestine/Israel, in peace, and with greater respect.


Join us on facebook

HAF tweets

HafFdtn On Earth Day, These Leaders Will Restore Your Hope
HafFdtn My week on Twitter 🎉: 3 Mentions, 804 Mention Reach, 18 Likes, 17 Retweets, 7.57K Retweet Reach. See yours with…
HafFdtn Our biggest fans this week: @ProfessorBone, @infomorsels. Thank you! via
HafFdtn This climate ensures one to two bountiful crops a year, as long as fruit trees receive adequate water to ensure fru…
HafFdtn Figs grow especially well in Morocco due to the country’s hot summers and full sun throughout the growing season.
HafFdtn Morocco is a world leader in fig production: in 2009, the country ranked among the world’s top five fig producers (…
HafFdtn Youth and women are key targeted beneficiaries, and the profit generated through this model allows these individual…

HAF in Morocco

High Atlas Foundation
4 Rue Qadi AyaadAl Manar 4A - 3rd floor - Appt. 12 El Harti, Guéliz, MARRAKESH 40.000 - Morocco

Tel: +212 (0)5 24 42 08 21
Fax+212 (0)5 24 43 00 02 

E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Directions to HAF Marrakech Office


High Atlas Foundation
High Atlas Foundation 332 Bleecker Street, #K110, NEW YORK, NY 10014

Phone: +1 (646) 688-2946
Fax: +1 (646) 786-4780

E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Follow us