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The Cogwheel of Sustainability in the High Atlas

By Salim Syassi

HAF Intern and Student at Al Akhawayn University

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Anamer and Aghbalou may seem to be two typical villages in the mountainous Al Haouz province of Morocco, but they embody exceptional efforts of participatory development led by the High Atlas Foundation (HAF), local communities, and the High Commission of Waters and Forests. As HAF Interns, we were delighted to come across their path and unveil the dynamic and fruitful relationship these parties came together to create. We organized a focus group that spearheaded conversations on effectiveness and cooperation between all involved parties.

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It is crucial to draw special attention to the pursuit of new development opportunities for communities. The two villages represent the results of joint efforts to achieve sustainable development by adopting alternative methods that consist of coordinating various modes of production to achieve a green economy. In their case, the two villages were fully aware of their ordeals rooted in poverty conditions and efficiently tackled their needs by identifying key elements enabling the betterment of their economic conditions.

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It is critical to highlight the partnership with the High Commission of Waters and Forests because it acts as a catalyst for other villages to embrace similar approaches to sustainability.  With HAF’s facilitation, the Marrakech Regional Department of Waters and Forests granted them the right to plant thousands of organic and highly lucrative carob trees on public domain mountainsides surrounding their communities.  The consulting, planning, partnership-building, and implementing involved inspired the local people to redefine for themselves what is possible and opened a gateway for them to achieve new possibilities.

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After surveying both men and women in Anamer and Aghbalou, the most striking aspect of our encounter was the villagers’ willingness to challenge traditional mindsets and progress forward. This commitment to development takes shape in the form of education and access to information, resulting in a community that is fully aware of its needs and its remedies.

In this case, the establishment of a textile cooperative in Anamer and a honey-production cooperation in Aghbalou would enable the creation of revenue; thus, animating a sense of economic diversity and growth. The formation of these efforts would also enhance and encourage capacity building, innovation enactment, and, finally, the implementation of a replicable sustainability model.

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Give to tree planting through partnership.

Experiencing ‘Imagine’ Women’s Empowerment

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By Salma Chamikhe and Gal Kramarski

HAF Interns

 

Women from mountain villages took part in the IMAGINE initiative as they participated in the 4-day empowerment workshops in their home communities and at the High Atlas Foundation’s office in Marrakech, Morocco.  The men-free zone boosted the women’s ability to candidly share their feelings as they answered questions they were never asked before, such as « How do you visualize your future? »

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In one of the first empowerment workshops we conducted, in a small village at the High Atlas Mountains Region, we asked the participants to take a moment and visualize their own future. Twenty-five female participants were present in the room. None of them reacted to what we asked. At first, we thought that the word "vision" was not clear to them; hence, we tried to express it in several different dialects or languages. When this did not help, we realized that the problem was not the lack of comprehension of the language. In fact, a possible reason could have been lack of understanding of the concept: that one has the option, the ability, or the right, to visualize her future differently.

It takes a great amount of courage to openly share thoughts and feelings with a group, but it is always worth it once you achieve satisfying results.  All the women received participation certificates and we hope they take part in similar experiences with HAF in the future. 

For example, a group of women from the rural commune of Aghbalou – Ourika, Morocco participated in the 4-day IMAGINE initiative workshop. IMAGINE aims to empower women by helping them discover themselves, reconnect with their feelings, find their strenghts, live up to their fullest potential, as well as be productive in their communities.  All the participants from the Aghbalou commune received a certificate at the end of the workshop as a reminder of what marked the beginning of their life journey as agents of change.

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On the last day of the workshops we hold ceremonies among the women, such as at the Angour Qasbah, celebrating four days of self-discovery and achievements. 

HAF participated in a global gathering in the rural commune of Asni, Morocco with the Empowerment Institute founders. They came to assess the IMAGINE initiative’s impact in Morocco.  A total of 20 IMAGINE participants were present alongside HAF’s empowerment trainers and other staff members.  Imagine’s founders were pleasantly surprised by the achieved results based on participants' testimonials, and they both consider the Moroccan experience a success.

The greatest discussions emerge from circle talks.  Under the supervision of HAF’s IMAGINE trainer, a group of women from Sgour-Ourika were very glad to discover empowerment and take home a symbolical certificate and the kowledge that comes along with it.  The empowerment workshop mostly consists of practical work, giving women the ability to express their thoughts and feelings through both drawings and words.

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HAF has been working in the field of women empowerment using two main programs: (1). 'Imagine', a shared partnership with the Empowerment Institute (EI), which is a self-discovery participatory workshop. The program aims at capacity building and assisting rural women in finding their voices, stating their goals, and achieve their dreams. (2). 'Cooperative project', supports the establishment of women's cooperatives and their development, in order to create financial independence, expand networks, and support changing women's role in their communities. Built on an evaluation report, and the feedback HAF obtained from their participants, the project strengthens women's capabilities, including becoming more independent, gaining skills and knowledge, and enhancing the capacity to improve their realities.

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Hundred women who now have the ability, create change for themselves and pursue happier lives.  What they learned at IMAGINE will impact many of their future behaviors, decisions, and actions.

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From Transit to Integration: A Moroccan Initiative for Community Development

This article by Nathan Park, a HAF Intern from the University of Virginia (USA), addresses the need to implement a Law Clinic that not only benefits migrants and refugees in Morocco, but also brings together civil society and young law students towards one central goal: a more socially unified Morocco. Its participatory method makes it relevant and pertinent for any community.

 

Yours faithfully,


Yossef Ben-Meir, Ph.D.
HAF President
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
 

 

From Transit to Integration: A Moroccan Initiative for Community Development

By Nathan Park
HAF Intern
 

International migration from sub-Saharan Africa towards Europe and the United States has significantly increased over the past decade. These migration trends, especially towards Europe, directly influence migration patterns to other North African countries.

The specific migration pull and push factors vary depending on each country and individual, but economic reasons remain a primary factor. According to Pew Research Center, in 1990, 40 percent of sub-Saharan African migrants moved for economic reasons, by 2013, this number had increased to 90 percent.

In 2015, the UNHCR gathered that over 1 million refugees, displaced people groups, and migrants fled to the EU in order to escape conflict or seek better economic opportunities. This resulted in further militarization of EU borders in attempts to manage what the European Commision called an “unprecedented displacement crisis.”

They confirmed that EU’s stricter border control initiatives have lowered the number of irregular migrants (those without legal paperwork) entering and have made “transit countries” more permanent residences for many migrants.

The Kingdom of Morocco is one such country.

According to Mehdi Lahlou from Istituto Affari Internazionali, an estimated 5,003 irregular migrants in 2010 used the western Mediterranean route, primarily Morocco, to access Europe. In 2014, this number increased to 7,842. The number of illegal entrances into Europe has decreased since 2015 due to these border restrictions, but migration flows to and from Morocco continue.

Morocco is seen as being one of the few stable and secure countries in the MENA region. With the EU’s tighter security, it is becoming a destination of both passage and residence for many migrants.

Morocco’s long migration history has led to well-established sub-Saharan African migrant communities throughout some of its major cities like Rabat, Casablanca, and Tangier. Germany’s GIZ identified that these established social, religious, and economic networks act as appealing factors for increased settlement in Morocco.

Further signs of Morocco’s growing migration mediary role is reflected by Pope Francis’ planned visit to Morocco, next December, for an international migration conference. The North Africa Post anticipates the formation of an international “global compact” for regularizing migration during his visit. 

However, four years after Morocco implemented its more humanitarian migration policy reform, many migrants and refugees continue to live in clandestine conditions, lack working opportunities, face tension within local communities, and remain unaware of their legal rights under Moroccan law.

The students of University Sidi Mohamed Ben Abdellah (USMBA) in Fez diagnosed the need to help the growing number of refugees and asylum seekers and improve the conditions for their societal integration.

In this way, they desire to launch a Law Clinic to guide civil society by taking a model already established by Hassan II University’s Faculty of Law, Economics, and Social Sciences in Mohammedia––a program for marginalized families funded by the National Endowment for Democracy.

USMBA President Omar Assobhei explained that Fez has become a necessary stop on Morocco’s transportation highways for migrants heading to Tangier, and then potentially Europe. Fez already hosts a large sub-Saharan student population in institutions and higher education, but this increased traffic has created a dire need for legal support for those that fall into precarious situations.

University students propose creating a Law Clinic that aims to: 1) provide leaders of civil society organizations (CSOs) with legal skills to better integrate vulnerable migrants; 2) strengthen the capacity of law students’ as well as those of these vulnerable populations through business development and legal practice; and 3) advance community cohesiveness and sustainability.

University officials would identify 10 CSOs, 40 law students, and 100 migrants and refugees to participate in joint legal workshops covering new migration policies, integration, and entrepreneurial development.

This 1st phase will be followed with specific legal aid given by law students to benefit participating migrants and refugees.

The idea is to bring the students, migrants, and the associations together to assess the situation. The members of each group benefit from the participatory workshops they experience together and from hearing differing perspectives regarding problems facing the community.

Students gain experience interacting with real people requiring legal aid, associations will be better informed on legal aspects of their work and feel empowered to advocate, and migrants are equipped with legal knowledge and entrepreneurial skills.

This Law Clinic’s legal provision will enable more irregular migrants to socially integrate into society, which in turn, will help alleviate tensions between sub-Saharan African and local Moroccan communities.

Using the same participatory development method from the first initiative, this Law Clinic will be sufficiently equipped to tackle all legal concerns presented by the community.

Due to its adaptable nature to different academic institutions and its tendency to spark community involvement, this symbiotic education and learning model holds positive future benefits for surrounding regions and universities.

St. Andrew’s Church in Cairo, Egypt established a similar refugee legal aid program that provides 3,000 refugees annually with everything from referrals, representation, rights advocacy, and education. It is an example that reveals the potential outcomes that can be realized in Morocco.

This Law Clinic’s implementation is a solid bridge for fostering intercultural, societal, and economic dialogue essential for perpetuating a harmonious future of coexistence for Morocco’s growing diversity.

 

Give to experiential learning with university students.

Nathan Park (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.) is an undergraduate student in his fourth year at the University of Virginia and he is currently interning with the High Atlas Foundation in Marrakech, Morocco.

 

Iftar, 2018

iftar HAF

For most people who are familiar with Islam, they are aware that Ramadan is a holy month; that it consists of fasting from sunrise to sunset. However, Iftar is not simply the breaking of fast. It is also a time when friends and family can gather in celebration. On May 26th, current and previous HAF staff and volunteers did just that. As the room filled with people, joy and and a sense of unity simultaneously seemed to seep into every nook and cranny of the room. Gentle greetings passed between soon to be friends and old friends, and new volunteers were quickly welcomed and shown great affection by those they just met. I guess that can be expected when the president of our organization has beautifully passed on to each and every one of us the Moroccan values of cherishing all those who come into your life.

Before breaking fast, President Yossef Ben-Meir cleverly suggested that we play a game so that everyone could get acquainted. Others may have likened it to speed dating, but I think we would all agree that it was more like speed bonding. I learned about people’s majors, hobbies, times at HAF, and a few fun facts. My favorite experience of the night was talking to a previous volunteer who who learned to speak Korean, with its nuanced cultural expressions, only from watching Korean dramas. Just as Iftar began, Dr. Yossef and a previous intern shared a few words to show their appreciation for everybody in the room, and then we dug in. Dates were flying about, we dove into cups of juice, tore into pieces of “msemen” (a Moroccan pancake), and fought our way through much more Moroccan cuisine, wondering if our taste buds would survive the bombardment of flavour. Nonetheless, the room never ceased to resonate with laughter and radiate with enjoyment. Towards the end of the night, I took a moment to sit back and observe the room. I found myself amazed at the group of people in front of me. The HAF brought all of us together, new and old, in celebration of Ramadan, and the work that continues to be done for Morocco's development. On May 26th, 2018, I laughed, I ate, and I made new friends. Most importantly, I became part of a new family, the High Atlas Foundation.

Iftar HAF1

Experience at Cadi Ayyad University

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By Fatime Zahra Machloukh

Student at Cadi Ayad University

 

When we talk about Cadi Ayyad University, we are talking about a history, which involves a long period of hard work and great efforts. The eclectic student population is the best part of this University, since it comes from different places, with different ideas, goals, ambitions and beliefs. However, there is one special thing that ties us together - LOVE. We all love discovering, experiencing new things, meeting new people, and making new friends.

Thanks to this University, we have learnt so many things, from writing short paragraph essays, to dealing with hard situations. We have laughed, cried, and shared a lot of feelings with each other inside this warm place. We feel that we belong to this university. The feeling that I am talking about, is not that simple.  When I say I belong to this University, I mean I am a part of this University. When I say I belong to this University, I mean I have a role in this University. When I say belong to this University, I mean I love this University.  I love it no matter what happened in it in the past, or the challenges I might face in the future. No matter how hard the journey, at the end of the road, you will realize that you have enjoyed and learnt so many things about yourself and life as well.

I still remember my first day here. I still remember that girl; that ‘little girl’ with limited ideas, experiences and dreams. However, all these things immediately changed, because this ‘little girl’ started to think bigger and see things in a different way, that helped her to build her personality. A way that made her stronger, more productive and clearer about her dreams.  All the things the ‘little girl’ developed, were because of this university. After this, I realized 

that this amazing place deserves to be in a better condition, and we must do something to ameliorate it. We should give back, what we take from the university. The best thing that we can give this university, is our time and energy. Our time to create something unique, and our energy to study and work hard.

This piece of my story, about my metamorphism at Cadi Ayyad University, is an experience that must be shared, regardless of how it is received by others. Perhaps, it will allow other students to appreciate our university and its historical context in shaping lives of those who have attended it, since 1978.

After university students Cadi Ayyad University evaluated their ideas for change (with the participatory facilitation support of the High Atlas Foundation), Fatime Zahra Emachloukh was inspired to write these thoughts about her student experience.

 

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