At the heart of the Atlas Galle, at an altitude ranging between 1800 and 2000 meters above sea level, there is the touristic village Ait Boughamez, or the so-called Happy Plateau. The population depends on tourism, livestock, beekeeping, and cultivation activities like barley, apple and walnut. The region of Ait Boukmaz is known for its remarkable prosperity as a tourist destination, especially for mountain lovers.
From September 16th to 19th, I had the chance to go to the Ait Boughamez commune with HAF trainer Amina EL HAJJAMII to work on an assessment and empowerment workshop with the women of Ait Boughamez, and especially their “Tigharmin” cooperative members in Agoutti village.
The workshop aims to modify some concepts and beliefs, as well as address life problems that hinder these women from achieving their dreams and forming a cooperative that will benefit them, their families, and the region. The meeting was the first with Najma, President of the Friends of Ait Boughamez Association, as well as the head of Tigharmin agriculture cooperative, which includes twenty women. We defined the “Imagine” assessment and empowerment workshop and the objectives:
Freedom from the limits that are imposed by ourselves;
Learn how to and make our lives the way we want;
Learn how to and dream, and gain the tools to achieve this dream; and
Courage to build the highest visions.
In addition to freedom from pathological views and constraining beliefs, adhering to the basic beliefs that self-responsibility, self-love, and positive attitude as well as keeping up with change, form solid ground to build a balanced personality effective in society.
One of the fundamental questions that made us get closer to the women is: What is the greatest thing that makes you sad, and what is the greatest thing that creates joy in your life? There were multiple answers, but helping the needy and seeing their children go to school are their biggest joy. But it is unfortunate that their financial situation, in other words, poverty impact their joy and the joy of their children. But the women of the villages do not surrender and do not want to be defeated by poverty and so they decided to establish an agricultural cooperative to improve their financial situation, and this is the goal of the USAID-funded Farmer-to-Farmer program to work with agricultural cooperatives, and build capacities surrounding agricultural activities of each cooperative and assist them from field to product marketing.
The workshop aims at identifying the needs of this group of women and the measures that can be taken to establish a cooperative with a successful agricultural product in national and international markets. Through a participatory approach, the trainer was able to reach the basic priorities and needs for the development of the cooperative:
Beekeeping production and marketing of honey;
Valorization of saffron from planting to marketing;
Valorization medicinal and aromatic plants from planting to marketing; and
Marketing of traditional Amazigh carpets.
Collaborative members are also involved in weaving of carpets and aspire to market them in the largest handicraft exhibitions. The University of Washington students, with professors, Ruth HUWE and Kristi STRAUSS were fortunate to attend a day of the Imagination workshop and know about women’s priorities for the cooperative as well as purchase some carpets.
This experience for four days made me know that there are people who have dreams easy to achieve, but there are obstacles to overcome such as fear, limiting beliefs and financial problems. But today, thanks to the workshop, the negative fears and beliefs are exceeded, and with the Farmer-to-Farmer Volunteer program the opportunity to further develop an agricultural cooperative that is successful and nationally recognized is at hand.