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Newsletter: Volunteers Edition

GRATEFUL FOR HAF’S VOLUNTEERS

The High Atlas Foundation was born from volunteerism. HAF is the product of Peace Corps Volunteers from the United States serving in Morocco, and Moroccans serving in their country. We all came together to create an organization that is entirely focused on listening to, and supporting, the dreams of the people.  

Then, the summer of 2018 came. We are now experiencing a new and uplifting level of volunteerism. Our more than 20-person staff doubled with the addition of volunteers from the U.S., from within Morocco and MENA, and from European countries.  Our larger HAF team, dedicated to the cause of people’s participation, has enabled the organization to reach further, do more, and make a greater difference. Read More
 
Yossef Ben-Meir, Ph.D.
President
High Atlas Foundation
 

Give to HAF today and it will be matched!

 


 

  

A NEW NURSERY GROWS ROOTS


By Theodor Maghrak HAF Volunteer

 

I’m volunteering with High Atlas Foundation through a sabbatical option at my not-for-profit organization in the United States…Read More


Give to this empowering project

 

 

WATERING THE SEEDS, NOT THE WEEDS


By Katherine O’Neill HAF Intern

 

Last week, from June 21st to June 24th, 2018, the High Atlas Foundation facilitated a four-day women’s empowerment workshop…Read More


Help achieve women's empowerment

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

   

INVESTMENT IN SAMI’S PROJECT SWIFTLY TRANSFORMING COMMUNITIES


By Julia Al-Akkad 
HAF Intern
 

The High Atlas Foundation’s initiation of Sami’s Project in 2011 led to remarkable success throughout the rural communities of the Kingdom of  MoroccoRead More

 

Give to Sami's Project

 

 

 

 

NEW VOICES TO THE OLD: SPROUTING PROGRESS IN MARRAKECH’S MELLAH


By Aichatou Haidara & Aanya Salot, 
HAF Interns
 

On the 24th of May, the office of the High Atlas was brimming with a total of 91 people as the High Atlas Foundation staff and the people of Marrakech’s Mellah gathered for iftar …Read More

 

Give to Empowering Women for Democratic Participation

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

   

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…Read More
 
 

Give to experiential learning with university students

 

THE NEXT STEP FOR COOPERATIVES IS CERTIFICATION


 By Amy Zhang, HAF Intern
 

This week we celebrate the United Nations International Day of Cooperatives, commemorated every year on the first Saturday of July…Read More


Give to cooperatives and these projects

 

 

Grateful for HAF’s Volunteers

The High Atlas Foundation was born from volunteerism. HAF is the product of Peace Corps Volunteers from the United States serving in Morocco, and Moroccans serving in their country. We all came together to create an organization that is entirely focused on listening to, and supporting, the dreams of the people.  


Then, the summer of 2018 came. We are now experiencing a new and uplifting level of volunteerism. Our more than 20-person staff doubled with the addition of volunteers from the U.S., from within Morocco and MENA, and from European countries.  Our larger HAF team, dedicated to the cause of people’s participation, has enabled the organization to reach further, do more, and make a greater difference.


Our articles that advocate women’s opportunities, youth’s fulfillment, and marginalized communities’ growth have become more numerous and widespread in publication around the world. Proposals and assessments to bring sustainable benefits to larger numbers of people and places were developed and are filled with promise. Perhaps most importantly, the enriching and unforgettable interactions between our volunteer visitors for the summer and Moroccan urban and rural people have continued and expanded.

We dedicate this Newsletter to our volunteers and to the hundreds of volunteers who have given so much during the lifetime of the High Atlas Foundation, without whom so many people’s best dreams might have remained just in their hearts and minds, but instead have found tangible realization. All of these articles in this Newsletter are written by those who came to Morocco to give themselves, and we are honestly and eternally grateful.

We send a special thanks to the University of Virginia’s International Program and to the Farmer-to-Farmer Program of Land O’Lakes and USAID.Happy summer everybody.

 

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Yossef Ben-Meir, Ph.D.
President
High Atlas Foundation
 

An American in Amizmiz: Personal observation and community assessment

By Aurora Bays-Muchmore
HAF Intern
Student, University of Virginia
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Six months ago, when I learned that I had been accepted as an intern with the High Atlas Foundation, I knew nothing of Morocco; not its peoples, its culture, or its challenges. Upon first deciding to pursue a rural community-based assignment rather than a job in the office in Marrakech, I was nervous due to the unfamiliarity of such a lifestyle and the preconceived notions that occupied my brain. I held expectations that now embarrass me for their naïve generalization: expectations of poor sanitation, unsophisticated technology, and lack of contact with the outside world.

To be certain, there are definite lifestyle differences between the societies of Amizmiz and Charlottesville, VA, where I study at the University of Virginia. But from my first day in Amizmiz, I realized that my expectations did not exactly match the reality of this community. I found myself comfortable situated in the small but welcoming house of my host mother, who I will call Kotar. Not only did I find myself with electricity, running water, and consistent cellular data, but I found that Kotar spoke English with enough fluidity to understand me and serve as de facto translator when I met with people in town.

But rather than disrupt my purpose here, the disparity that I found between original expectations and reality actually granted me some freedom to smoothly adjust to life here and refocus around the core goal of my time here: to diagnose and address the primary aspects of need and desire in this community through personal observation.

Whilst designing a plan for my time here, I researched the High Atlas Foundation’s previous efforts, notably a women’s empowerment program and a nursery of almond trees planted in the nearby Atlas Mountains, leading me to assume that these projects would factor prominently in my work here.

However, from my initial observations and interviews, I began to understand—as is reasonable considering the complicated nature of entrenched systematic problems in any society—that the strengths and challenges of life here are more complicated than can be easily summarized. Indeed, beyond the general themes of women’s empowerment and economic stimulus, complex and variable issues such as barriers to health care access and lack of employment opportunities have emerged as potential areas of focus. To truly understand which areas of community development to focus on, I am prepared to patiently witness life here and listen to the concerns voiced by the people around me.

Moving forward, it is only with the companionship of Kotar and my status as a semi-permanent resident that I hope to develop trust with locals to access more candid opinions and also to demonstrate the High Atlas Foundation’s continued interest in being a community partner of Amizmiz. Only as a welcome, familiar guest in peoples’ lives will I hope to learn genuine opinions about what challenges they face.

As I have begun to observe daily routines, ordinary interactions, and cultural norms, I have also grown to realize that one of my primary challenges on assignment will be reporting my observations in a way that feels thorough but not objectifying or reducing people to mere characterizations. Although I am fortunate enough to witness events and interactions wholly foreign and new to me, many of these instances are ordinary and commonplace to any local.

In this regard, I face a challenge in presenting the facts as I experience them while maintaining that they are only the facts according to my version of the truth. While I hope to only present my experiences through the lens of a well-meaning observer, I would be remiss to ignore the fact that I will be representing the lives of others, giving them no chance to review or edit how I present their lives. Given that I will be here for several weeks, I am hoping to gain a thorough understanding of the lives of the people around me so that the narrative that I create through these articles aligns closely with the narratives that these people would write for themselves.

Although I have been here but a short time, I feel already at home in Amizmiz and hope to do justice to it’s peoples and culture through my reportage of observations. Indeed, I will consider my time here successful if I accurately represent life here through these written updates and develop potential future projects to improve upon an already wonderful society.

 

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Agricultural fields in Amizmiz, Region of Marrakech (Morocco)

 

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Aurora’s host family in Amizmiz

 

Give to making a difference.

 

Watering the Seeds, Not the Weeds

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Imagine Workshop in Izourane, June 21st – June 24th, 2018

 
By Katherine O’Neill
HAF Intern / Student at Claremont McKenna College

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Last week, from June 21st to June 24th, 2018, the High Atlas Foundation facilitated a four-day women’s empowerment workshop in a village outside Essouaira called Izourane.

The Imagine workshop was designed by the Empowerment Institute in New York for the purpose of fostering self-discovery and independence. HAF has been conducting Imagine workshops for rural and urban Moroccan women since 2012 as part of its Women’s Empowerment program. HAF’s workshops integrate Moroccan family code (Moudawana) with self-reflection and international human rights principles to give oppressed women a voice to discover their social and economic goals.

On the first day of the workshop, the women are asked to consider their visions for the future. Most often, the women have no response to this request; they have never had the opportunity to consider their own goals and desires. By discussing the following seven areas of life: Emotions, Relationships, Sexuality, Body, Money, Work, and Spirituality, the workshop aims to help the women develop their self-perception and broaden their horizons for future plans.

By “watering the seeds, not the weeds,” i.e. focusing on their potential rather than their obstacles, the women learn confidence and ambition. Many of the women at the workshop this weekend had never held a pen or pencil in their lives, yet through this workshop they became empowered. For example, one young girl was inspired to finish her education, saying, “I promise myself to look for a dormitory school to complete my study.” This empowerment typically leads to improvement in the lives of the women, whether this be through ‘soft’ impacts, such as increased self-confidence, or quantitatively measurable impacts such as the creation of cooperatives. 

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Fatima-Zahra Laaribi speaks to the women of Izourane

 

HAF has helped found 10 different women’s cooperatives across Morocco, each as a result of conducting Imagine workshops. Many of the women participating in this particular workshop are already cooperative members, but throughout the four days they gained increased confidence in their abilities. Unfortunately, the cooperative many of these women belong to has shrunk in the past several years, as women have succumbed to societal pressures to return to the home rather than work in the cooperative. After the workshop, many women expressed renewed motivation to continue the cooperative and become economically independent. For example, one participant said “I want to make sure that this cooperative is successful so that it can make a sustainable income in the future.”

Thank you FRÉ Skincare, for funding this empowerment workshop with Izourane.

Help achieve women’s empowerment.

Cultivating and Saving Varieties of Endemic Moroccan Figs

By Katherine O’Neill
HAF Intern / Student at Claremont McKenna College

 

Since the beginning of 2018, the High Atlas Foundation (HAF) has planted more than 80,000 fig trees, seeds, and cuttings in community nurseries.  We also signed a partnership agreement with the Regional Management of Waters and Forests in Tetouane that contributed a three-hectare parcel of land, which enables us to plant a nursery of threatened fig varieties. The High Commission of Water and Forests in Rabat also partners with HAF by providing nursery land and technical support for a ten-year period. The Commission sees the organic figs project as a way to pursue goals outlined in the government’s Plan Maroc Vert and Environmental Charter, which calls for the rejuvenation and creation of organic endeavors, among other reforestation and agroeconomic goals.

The Plan Maroc Vert especially focuses on fig trees.  Both HAF and the Commission have indicated that fig crops in the Tangier-Tetouan region suffer from ageing, neglect, and a lack of effective marketing. Recently, both pears and plums have disappeared from the region due to the same issues now facing figs. This has caused severe economic and environmental repercussions, and HAF’s nursery aims to avoid this same fate. Additionally, the Commission sees the planned nursery in the region as an ideal way to strengthen the area’s agricultural economy, support rural households, and honor the local tradition of fig cultivation, to which people in the area are deeply emotionally bound.

Morocco is a world leader in fig production: in 2009, the country ranked among the world’s top five fig producers. Figs grow especially well in Morocco due to the country’s hot summers and full sun throughout the growing season. This climate ensures one to two bountiful crops a year, as long as fruit trees receive adequate water. Fig crops from Morocco may tap potential markets in the U.S. and E.U. Despite high U.S. production, acreage dedicated to fig production has decreased by at least 5,000 acres in recent decades. This decrease, combined with stress on California’s agriculture due to severe drought, presents a strong opportunity for Morocco to fill U.S. fig demand, especially in the large organic market.

Small-scale Moroccan fig crops are important to the sustainability of fig crops and nutritional systems worldwide. Through growth in small cultivars and breeding between cultivated trees, farmers uphold and propagate genetic diversity among figs, thereby defending against diseases and effects of climate change.

As part of the partnership, we aim to create a fig nursery, distribute saplings for free, create a scientific teaching garden with regional fig varieties, train farmers in production and value-added processing techniques, and create a fig growers’ cooperative to further explore opportunities in cultivation and marketing. The environment, youth, women and rural families, and communities are all key beneficiaries, and the profit generated through this project will allow individuals and their associations to improve their livelihoods and develop their country’s economy.

While the Moroccan government is contributing land and technical support for the organic figs nursery, HAF is still seeking funding for the significant remainder, without which it cannot pursue the opportunities for rural Moroccans this project provides. In order to ensure the sustained success of the nurseries, HAF will need to implement two irrigation plans, which will involve well-building and extensive water management.  For example, it costs approximately $5,000 to effectively irrigate just one hectare of fig nursery.

The involved organizations plan to reach 35,000 beneficiaries (50 percent of whom will be rural women in Ouezzane province and the greater Tangier-Tetouan region), extend fig crops by 11,000 hectares, and reach a 126 percent increase in fig production by 2020. The incorporation of rural women as primary beneficiaries of this project is highly significant. HAF aims to help disadvantaged populations, and with this project we support not just environmental and economic development, but also the empowerment of rural women.

This project aims to uplift rural Moroccan communities through sustainable agriculture. We are working to create a synergy between human development and environmental protection that will last long after HAF’s involvement. Ultimately, we want to provide disadvantaged communities with the necessary tools to pioneer their own social and economic progress. HAF possesses the required knowledge, experience, and passion, but we rely on your generosity to accomplish this goal.

Help to achieve this Project.

 

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Map of trees distributed in Morocco
between December 2017 and March 2018

 

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Planted seeds and cuttings in HAF nurseries 
from April 2017 to April 2018

 

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HafFdtn January is the traditional tree-planting season in Morocco, meaning that right now, the High Atlas Foundation (HAF)… https://t.co/Ol4H0rPuBD
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HafFdtn George Zalidis outlining Earth Observation approaches to #sustainabledevelopment including harnessing the power of… https://t.co/45xU8MZpfC
HafFdtn Peter Jacques presenting preliminary research with Moroccan communities - at today's conference at Kasbah Angour-… https://t.co/kuGbCetkdc
HafFdtn The Akrich nursery - built on land lent by the Moroccan Jewish community - is producing pomegranate and fig trees t… https://t.co/IADQDq8otf
HafFdtn At the Aboghlo Cooperative for the Women of Ourika today hearing from the women about their plans for certification… https://t.co/IxEd81Ft7V
HafFdtn Please meet Omar, the nursery caretaker for HAF's Tadmamt Almond and Walnut tree nursery established in partnership… https://t.co/TNlaaAXf9W

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 

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HAF in US

High Atlas Foundation
High Atlas Foundation 511 Sixth Avenue, #K110, NEW YORK, NY 10011
USA

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

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