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Meeting the Women from the Aboghlou Cooperative in Ourika

by Celina Böhmer

HAF intern


The weather is getting warmer here in Morocco. The sun is shining the whole day and providing us warmth. Yesterday, HAF project director Amina El Hajjami and I went to visit the Aboghlou Cooperative in Ourika. HAF began working with the women in 2015/16, using a participatory approach and training to identify the skills, capabilities, priorities, potentials, and resources that the women have. Fruit trees and medicinal plants grow very well in the Ourika region because the soil is very fertile. To generate their own income, the women developed the agricultural “Agboghlou Cooperative” there.

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Amina, HAF project director and women from the Aboghlou Cooperative in Ourika

On Wednesday, February 13, we accompanied the women on a visit to the field where the cooperative grows their crops to join them in harvesting the beautiful, orange calendula flowers.

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Women from the Aboghlou Cooperative harvesting calendula flowers in Ourika

The Aboghlou cooperative consists of 33 women, and they produce products like calendula, walnut leaves, geranium, verbena, pomegranate, jasmin, and althea. They are increasing their production and selling rate each year. For example, they produced 63 kg of calendula in 2017 and 163 kg in 2018! In the future, they want to continue improving the quantity and variety of products. Moreover, their vision is to generate products like carob, fig, almond, lemon, and olive for the local markets as well. 

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Calendula Flowers

 

Participation and environmental education in the south’s Boujdour province

Errachid Montassir

HAF project manager

 

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A partnership agreement brought together The High Atlas Foundation (HAF) which works to establish participatory development projects for the Moroccan communities, and Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy (SGRE), the world’s second largest wind turbine manufacturer and provides onshore and offshore wind services. Both are dedicated to working with the communities and schoolchildren in the south of Morocco, and contribute in improving the living conditions as well as to spread the importance of environment protection.

 

Over the course of the past year, HAF and SGRE implemented a project that has been beneficial for rural communities in the Jrifia municipality of the Boujdour province, as two drinking water chateaux were constructed in Byar Triyhin and Khotot, along with pumps and meters built in the Ahl Atriah and Khotot Hbia areas. In Om Rjilat we have additionally constructed a pump and motor for drinking water. Moreover, we have jointly delivered 17 of the trash cans to Aouziouat, Toukb Jrifia, Khotot Hbia, Byar Triyeh, Mntakat Lmsmar, and Om Rjilat. With regards to solar energy, there were four solar panels installed in Byar triyh, Om Rjilat, Toukb Jrifia, and Khotot Hbia, and built a water canal of 520 meters.

 

In order to make this partnership stronger and fruitful, the HAF and SGRE followed-up and came back to conduct environmental and school campaign in Aouziouat with schoolchildren, and plant hundreds of organic fruit trees engaging thousands of students.

 

Driving 15 hours all way from Marrakech to Boujdour, a very beautiful area rich of natural resources, well known in Morocco by the best quality of fish, and a good place for the wind-energy, is an absolute exciting feeling to participate in our environmental and education mission and conduct activities with school children. The team consists of Hana Ezzaoui, HAF’s project manager in the south of Morocco, who coordinates with the schools, the Delegation of Education and local authorities before we start the week’s initiative and facilitates the workshops. Errachid Montassir, Sami’s Project manager at HAF, assists the workshops and sends reports about the activities. Ilyas Dkhissi is HAF’s filmmaker and photographer.

 

We started the activities on Monday, 28th of January just right after the school holiday, which is the best part of the school year to engage more the students in the school activities, “according to the Ministry of Education”. These environmental education workshops provide guidance on how to aid the students in developing environmental awareness and content knowledge which helps them make prudent decisions and foster stewardship of our natural resources, in addition to spread awareness regarding the national environmental laws among them and their communities. We also organized a number of practical workshops such as:

 

1-   Wind turbine work and how does it works: the students split into groups and they create a model of a wind turbine. The main purpose of the workshop is to teach students how wind turbines create clean energy, especially in Boujdour province which is one of the best places in Morocco for creating the wind turbines.

 

 2-  Compost workshop: the students practice how to make compost, and learn more about its essential role in helping the trees and plants to grow in good conditions and produce good quality of fruit.  This workshop explains the importance of recycling and composting, and contributes to increasing the students’ understanding of what material cannot be recycled and is toxic for the environment.

 

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And at the end of each workshop, we do a fun quiz with the students to make sure the most important messages have been understood. As we included the participatory approach to involve the students in finding out what they need more in their schools, and the priorities came as follows: 1- Fruit tress (especially olive), 2- Libaries, 3- Soccer fields.

 

There was great participation of the students during the workshops, which wonderfully helped us to communicate better with them and finish the activities on time.

 

This week, HAF and SGRE visited 12 schools in Boujdour province (7 primary, 3 secondary and 2 high schools), and conducted 24 environmental workshops with the schoolchildren, as we together with the kids, teachers and directors planted 3,76 fruit organic trees, seeking that 5,132 students (57 % female) will benefit from these fruit trees in the future.  More activities are coming soon.

 

Hand in hand to contribute to the growth of the environmental education for this generation and the next one in Morocco.

 

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The Compounding Benefits of Women’s Empowerment

by Fatima Zahra Laaribi

Women’s Empowerment Lead Trainer

High Atlas Foundation

 

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From February 2016 to the present, 467 women participated in the four-day empowerment workshop conducted by High Atlas Foundation. HAF has achieved this in partnership with the Empowerment Institute, Middle East Partnership Initiative, National Endowment for Democracy, Intrepid Foundation, FRE Skincare and other groups and individuals. 

 

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Given that each participant speaks to an average of 25 people about their experience, approximately 11,675 people have been directly impacted as an extension of the network of family and community members who participated in the empowerment workshop.

 

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In addition, evaluation reports indicate that at least 10 more people are indirectly impacted by each direct participant and this growing network, increasing the number of beneficiaries to 116,750 people.

 

When one woman changes her ability to earn money, better care for her health, improve her education, or create a more empowered relationship with her husband in a relatively isolated rural community or low-income urban neighborhood, waves of people benefit, and positive change is amplified.

 

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The importance of Multi-Stakeholder-Partnerships in the face of climate change

By Kerstin Opfer

Operations manager

High Atlas Foundation

Marrakech

 

We are living in a time, where the humankind faces an unprecedented challenge - it is the warmest it has ever been on earth since human presence. The dangers of climate change are known since the 1980s but a lack of political will and societal awareness has inhibited the necessary vigorous change. Further, the people, who are the most affected by climate change are also the most vulnerable and the ones with the least decision making power. We are now at the pivotal point, where with every degree a cascade of tipping point and a “hothouse earth” will become more probable. To prevent this we need political will, a new kind of cooperation, innovative technologies, business models and engaged civil society. It is therefore crucial to learn and offer advice to decision-makers informed by the experience from stakeholders on the ground.

 

In the beginning of January, the High Atlas Foundation (HAF) in partnership with Germanwatch, a German NGO dedicated North-South equity and the preservation of livelihoods, started a Multi-Stakeholder-Partnership (MSP) project for a Moroccan energy transition towards 100% renewables. This project is part of a bigger, African-wide programme called African Renewable Energy Initiative (AREI) that aims to “accelerate and scale up the harnessing of the continent’s huge renewable energy potential” and advocates for an implementation of the AREI that benefits local communities, improves energy access and is ambitious enough to realize the vision of powering Africa with 100% renewable energies.

 

While Morocco is a leader in the expansion of renewable energies on the African continent, renewable projects in the Kingdom so far tend to be large-scale. These large-scale projects have to be complemented by decentralized small-scale installations to benefit local communities and to create development opportunities. The Moroccan component aims to support a decentralized approach to energy transition through creating MSP’s at the regional, national and international level. The experiences that will be gathered on the ground from the implementation of such approaches will then inform recommendations for how national and international energy policy frameworks in Africa and Europe could be improved to enable and promote more decentralized management of renewables.

 

As part of this project, Mr Chemsedine Sidi-Baba, Chair of the Board of HAF-Morocco and Kerstin Opfer, HAF’s Operations Manager, travelled to Germany and participated in the Germanwatch organized conference “Partnership for Transformation - MSP Conference”. MSPs are long-term initiatives voluntarily undertaken by governments, the private sector, research, civil society and other major stakeholders, which efforts are contributing to the implementation of a common goal. They are a key implementation principle of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. MSPs, however, are also highly complicated and often characterized by conflict, power games and individuals. Learning from the challenges and success stories of other MSPs therefore is crucial.

 

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Poster presentation of the Multi-Stakeholder Partnership project for a Moroccan energy transition towards 100% renewables during the conference in Bonn, Germany. Picture: Konrad Brambach (Germanwatch)

 

Together with the project staff of four other MSP projects in India, Kenya, Kosovo and Ukraine, we identified through group discussions and workshops that a lack of ownership, trust, and commitment of key stakeholders is one of the main pitfalls associated with MSP failure. Often this is caused by the lack of an initiative’s MSP design that fosters ownership and commitment and by ignoring power relations between the stakeholders. Neglecting important stakeholders, a focus on technical issues instead of building collaboration and dialogue, and a lack of taking into account existing rules, regulations, and procedures were other key issues associated with MSPs.

 

Creating collective impactful narratives that foster actions, developing a common frame of reference and mindset and fostering dialogue, respect, and mutual learning through networks of change, were identified as key success strategies. Furthermore, by sharing knowledge between stakeholders and empowering the civil society, who is often in a week position due to a lack of power and resources, transparency, and equity is fostered, which increases MSP success. Through establishing institutional processes for engagement, all stakeholders are equally enabled to act as catalysts for change. Finally, through realizing that global change is not one historic moment and one big change but rather an everyday effort of a million small steps the MSP can grow--step-by-step--into a strong, long-term and joined effort towards a common mission.

 

Transformative changes are realized neither through a top-down nor a bottom-up process alone, but through a combination of both. Cooperative approaches of different actors such as political decision-makers, the private sector, researchers, and civil society are necessary. Transformative multi-stakeholder partnerships can coordinate the expectations of these actors and therefore enable changes that could not be achieved by individual actors. The conference in Germany has provided important lessons learned and thought-provoking impulses, which will guide the shaping of the MSP for a Moroccan energy transition towards 100% renewables.



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Project partners from Kenya, India, Kosovo, Ukraine, Morocco and Germany during the “Partnership for Transformation - MSP Conference” in Bonn, Germany. Picture: Konrad Brambach (Germanwatch)

 

Excursion to the Ourika valley with participants of the “KickOff Conference for Decentralization of Renewable Energy in Morocco”

By Celina Böhmer and Kerstin Opfer

 

Last week the High Atlas Foundation in partnership with Germanwatch, a German NGO dedicated to global equity and people’s livelihoods, conducted a kick-off workshop in Marrakesh with important Moroccan stakeholders of energy and decentralization. This workshop marked the start of the Multi-Stakeholder Partnership (MSP) for an African energy transition towards 100% renewables, with a special focus on Morocco as one of the Energy policy pioneers on the African continent.  While Morocco is a leader in the expansion of renewable energies on the African continent, renewable projects in the Kingdom so far tend to be large-scale. These large-scale projects have to be complemented by decentralized small-scale installations to benefit local communities and to create development opportunities.

 

The workshop provided a forum for important project partners and stakeholders to get to know one-another, to share experiences and ideas related to current and emerging challenges, discuss opportunities of energy and decentralisation in Morocco, and plan the upcoming MSP, which aims to support and promote a decentralized approach to Moroccan energy transition.  As part of the two-day workshop, the HAF team and participants visited community member of a village called Aghbalou in the Ourika Valley. Since 2016 HAF worked closely with the community from Aghbalou and utilised a multi-stakeholder approach, where HAF acted as a bridge between national and international civil society, who provided the necessary resources, the High Commission of Waters and Forests, who provided trees and land for the communities to plant on and harvest medicinal plants, and the local community.

 

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First, we visited the “Do Tmkit” cooperative in Aghbalou. This cooperative, which consists of seven women,  produces dried medicinal plants, different kinds of couscous, jam, and teas. They started their production in 2018 with merely 100 medicinal plants but had and still have big plans in mind. One of them is to produce essential oils for medicinal- and skin care purposes. Fifteen kg of berries collected from public land nearby could produce 1 liter of essential oil, which could be sold for 400-600 MAD. Because the berries are harvested from public land and the only costs involved is the workforce of the women, the potential profit for the cooperative is huge.

 

To make this dream reality the cooperative pursues a formalised partnership agreement with the High Commission of Waters and Forests. Currently, harvesting the berries and medicinal plants from publicly owned land is tolerated by the High Commission of Waters and Forests but an official partnership agreement is still missing. Through utilising close working relations, HAF will assist the cooperative to obtain this agreement and thereby enable them to take a big step forward towards their essential oil production. Another plan is to include men in the work because the cooperative wants to increase their production rate and the workforce provided by men would be invaluable to them. HAF’s project director Amina El Hajjami was very excited and surprised to hear about about this plan as this is the first time that a women cooperative want to work in collaboration with men, a sign of growing empowerment.

 

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In the bright and open rooms of the cooperative, we had an interesting talk with Sakia, the women's cooperative leader. Dr Yossef Ben-Meir, HAF’s president, Kerstin, HAF’s operations manager and Celina Böhmer, anthropology student and volunteer with HAF, were very excited to hear about the cooperatives successes and admired their amazing work. Sakia said: “If we continue to work hard, we can improve our life and our children’s lives considerably.”

 

After a tea on the sunny terrace with intense discussions, we met farmers, who were able to plant trees on public land, which was provided by the High Commission of Waters and Forests. The farmers showed us carob saplings, some of them a few years old, some of them planted just recently. The carob trees were provided by the High Commission of Waters and Forests and by the High Atlas Foundation as part of the carbon credit program with PUR Project. In 2017 alone this tree and land donations enabled the farmers to plant 2800 carob trees. Carob trees have a life span of 150 years and one tree can provide approximately 100 kg of product, which can be sold for 12 MAD per kg. A formalised partnership agreement with the High Commission of Waters and Forests will allow communities to harvest the tree products and thereby increase their income and the income of future generations considerably. Simultaneously, the trees, which were planted strategically on eroding mountain slopes, prevent soil erosion and absorb atmospheric carbon dioxide, thereby reducing the effects of climate change.

 

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The trees need to be watered by the farmers regularly. HAF provided them with pipes and an electric pumps. The electricity is paid by the farmer association but they are now discussing to install a solar pump as this will be more cost effective in the long-term. For domestic use gas is the main energy source. Even though gas, which is subventioned by the government, is not expensive, gas is not always accessible for rural communities and it is not as clean as renewable energy. The discussion with the farmers showed that energy is closely connected to all areas of life and a renewable energy transition in Morocco is affecting everyone, even a small-scale farmer in a remote mountain village. Engaging everyone, from remote mountain communities to communities in big cities, will be crucial to achieve a successful decentralization of renewable energy.

 

This field visit provided a valuable opportunity for the energy experts to learn about challenges and needs of local communities related to energy and decentralization. They also experienced hands-on and meaningful community engagement and cooperation with multiple stakeholders. Their lessons learned will help to inform the future projects of the MSP.

 

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