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20 03, 2019



Houria Chouhab
HAF Volunteer

On Women’s International Day, the High Atlas Foundation visited the Association Assalam for Development in Douar Achbarou. This village is located in the Rural Commune of Tameslouht, which is only 20 kms away from Marrakech.
Beforehand, the activities in this association were run by men only, but since last October, women were integrated into the association and started to work alongside their male peers. The area, like many other ones in the High Atlas Mountains, is traditional, and it was a huge step for these women to get out of their comfort zones and work inside this cooperative.
The idea of creating women’s cooperative was first discussed together with Mrs. Batoul, the president of Association Amal for Development of Women and Children in Achbarou village. Amina Hajjami, Project Director at HAF, prepared a folder and submitted it on the 10th of October to OCP which financed the looms and other materials for the cooperative. As mentioned earlier, women were integrated in the association of men where they occupied three rooms to embroider, crochet and weave carpets. Additionally, a part of the carpet-making room is devoted to learning where women develop their literacy skills, and another room nearby is used for a preschool class.

The room where women make traditional carpets and learn how to read and write.

The women warmly welcomed us and were keen to show us what they made during these five months. We can divide these women’s activities into three groups according to their age: older women who craft traditional carpets, middle aged women who make crochet products and young women who learn tailoring. It is good to mention that there is interaction between women from Douar Akrich who make handicrafts (carpets mainly) and other women from the Achbarou, who crochet.

The carpets are  made by women from Akrich while the crocheted hats and cushions are made by women from Achbarou.

In the courtyard, we gathered with both men and women from this cooperative to drink tea. At the same time, the women thanked the presidents of the cooperative, Mr. Said Idmansour and Abderrahim Badah,  for giving them this opportunity to work inside their association. The men as well appreciated the step which women are taking to improve themselves on both financial and personal levels. “Unlike the past, we have freedom now; for example we can now go to the market, while it was a privilege that only men could have.” said one of the women. Doriss, a German lady who owns an hotel in the neighbourhood, explained how she has always been against the idea that women shall stay at home. “ Women need an outlet away from their houses,” said Doriss.

Women and men gather.
Furthermore, the women’s teacher is doing this job for free. She is instructing them on how to sew and embroider without anything in return even though her husband is against this idea.  » I would love to earn money from this daily work, but what encourages me to do this job for free is these women’s strong determination. » For this reason, HAF’s representative recommended her and the girls to go to Chambre d’Artisanat and submit their application forms in order to get a diploma which will allow them to teach in other villages. The same thing goes with the elder women who transfer their carpet-making skills to the new generation.
Mrs. Batoul is now implementing the idea of creating women’s cooperative which was only a topic of discussion with HAF last October. Yet, it is important for these women to receive training on how to create a cooperative within a legal framework. Accordingly, HAF will conduct the training as well as a workshop on how can these women empower themselves.
After this rich discussion, we have all moved to the garden where women served a traditional and delicious meal for lunch.
Before leaving this beautiful place, some girls performed a play in front of the rest members of the cooperative. This play tells the story of two women who were offered to go to school and combat illiteracy. One of these women were not allowed by her husband and was obliged to stay at home, while the second woman welcomed the idea, broke the social norms and got educated. At the end of the play, women insisted on sending their daughters to school to learn and be able to raise an educated generation. These two women were an example out of many who live in rural areas and want to widen their horizons and expand themselves.

A view  of the village from the opposite side.

20 03, 2019



By Houria Chouhab
HAF Volunteer

Hey! My name is Houria and I am a masters degree student at the Faculty of Arts and Human Sciences in Marrakech. At the end of the third semester (the end of January), I had to apply for an internship that will be the base of my graduate research. I quickly found myself holding an administrative position in a company, but after one week, I decided to look for another internship because I simply was not happy there! When I joined the High Atlas Foundation, I easily  integrated with the team as well as the activities that demand sharing parts of your days with others.
I read once that the beauty of life does not depend on how happy you are but how happy others can be because of you, and HAF lives by this concept while sustaining prosperity around the country. Among the activities that I run within the foundation are distributing and planting trees in rural primary schools. It is a special feeling when you visit a school and meet the students, talk to them about the environment, encourage them to take care of little things and then plant trees with them. This exact act of spending time with them and bringing new notions to their world makes their day, and this is truly something to live for. At the end of the day, you get a sense of accomplishment and purpose to know you have made a change in someone else’s life.

Planting trees with students of a primary school

Another act of making others happy is meeting and fulfilling the young people’s needs and priorities. HAF has always aims to address water access challenges for rural schools and communities in Morocco. Since its start, HAF and its partners have built 24 clean drinking water systems in Morocco’s remote villages, benefiting approximately 5,500 people. These include digging wells, building water towers, and installing solar pumps and  gravity flow systems, which deliver safe drinking water to communities.

Sustainability is also about sharing moments with others, and HAF’s happiness lies in making its staff, volunteers, and interns experience this joy by giving them a chance to do so. Give yourself that chance and be happy!


19 03, 2019



by J Rojas Meyer



One of the High Atlas Foundation’s general objectives in Morocco is to find novel ways to bridge a critical gap so that farmers and others, can afford to make a vital transition to planting and harvesting fruit trees. Depending of the type of trees and variation in local conditions however, the job HAF does is always more complex. The foundation can also lend substantial amounts of technical and material support when needed to enable tree planting to start with seeds and provides for maintenance throughout maturing process to ensure survival. When creating tree nurseries, partners such as participating schools and youth centers, provide grounds and infrastructure to the nurseries that are crucial in the initial phases when cuttings or seeds turn into saplings that will, with time, be distributed throughout Morocco.
However, when the High Atlas Foundation takes the first steps in engaging small, rural, primary schools in their rapidly expanding program, whether in Al Haouze or the Al-Salaam School in Ifrane, there is another opportunity to consider what kind of impact their participation can have, not just in terms of the foundations strategic agricultural objectives but also, on the quality of a child’s and young students experiences at school.

The primary schools of Ennakouch group and Unite Bouaza, about an hour East of Marrakesh, and Ifrane are perhaps typical of rural Morocco: A walled enclosure, a couple concrete classroom buildings, a sports and recreation area and an outdoor washing up facility. There were a number of preexisting olive trees that it appears had become part of the school plan. However, upon nearing the school building and peering through the open window, I was unexpectedly caught up in a sense of deeply rooted familiarity: the basic furniture of classrooms, made of painted steel and formica surfaces, small upright chairs and individual desks organized in neat rows, black boards and white boards, rectangular posters and charts hanging from the wall, open spiral-bound notebooks and pencils scattered around.
The familiarity of these furnishings, instruments and implements borders on the inane, yet the histories of their use and these ‘basic arrangements’ inevitably come to render and shape a child’s sensual experience of learning. The long years of adapting to and learning to use these material instruments are the back-bone of so many of our skilled learned conventions. The things ‘that makes a school a school’ therefore can be understood to become deeply placed in our habitual memories. And it would also be significant to what degree the continuity of these material environments having become subtly incorporated, then come to frame the kinds of knowledge that so many of us later find comfortable or even accessible.

The idea that to the rather ‘dry’ formalities of this time-honored tradition in elementary and secondary schools, something like a tree nursery would be added is, of course, a deeply intriguing prospect. At the heart of its pedagogical prospects are sensual and object lessons in how to grow and what it takes to nurture along this process and its magnificent unfolding morphology. It is also entirely possible that an innate sense of the possibilities of such arrangements already exists in Morocco, where a sensibility of life in and around gardens and orchards is already by-and-large shared and given extraordinary value.

The agreement recently signed between Ifrane’s Education Delegation (the provincial office of the Ministry of Education and Vocational Training) and the Hight Atlas Foundation is a first step in this promising direction. On a provincial level, public support of this type for farmers is entirely novel and therefore breaking ground in imagining futures in terms of the potential held in these kinds of collaborative structures.
J Rojas Meyer’s work is concerned with material culture and the ethnography of landscapes and place-making. He directs the Omaira Work and Study Group.

8 03, 2019



Today on March 8 is International Women’s Day! This day is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating gender parity. International Women’s Day (IWD) has occurred for well over a century, with the first​ ​IWD gathering in 1911 supported by over a million people in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland. Today, IWD belongs to all groups collectively everywhere.

This year on IWD we collectively call for a gender-balanced world. We can help forge a more gender-balanced world by celebrating women’s achievement, raising awareness against bias and take action for equality. The High Atlas Foundation (HAF) has been working in the field of women’s empowerment since 2011. Targeting women corresponds with the global understanding of women’s important role in creating sustainable development and promoting community growth.

An assessment conducted by HAF in 2017 in the Al Haouz region showed that over ninety-four percent of ninety-three participating women, had before never heard about Moudawana. Most communities indicated that they felt left behind; that national processes and changes hardly reached remote areas, and that even if they were aware of their rights, they felt they could not secure them (full study available). This highlights the importance of empowering women especially from remote, marginalized communities.

Working with the Middle East Partnership Initiative, HAF first built capacities in participatory planning with elected women to municipal councils in the Rhamna province. The HAF’s women’s empowerment workshops (2016-2017), funded by the National Endowment for Democracy, have now evolved into a rights-based approach. Using three complementary activities, HAF aims to create agents of social change with university students and rural women. Our empowerment program reduces barriers to manifest women’s place as pillars of society. The three activities and their objectives are:

  1. “Imagine’” is a self-discovery workshop developed at the Empowerment Institute in the United States. Throughout the personal growth process, we assist women in finding their voices and achieving their goals.
  2. Integrated with “Imagine” is ‘Moudawana’ (2004), based on a rights-based approach, bringing together women to learn about legal protections and determine ways to further social justice.
  3. Cooperative-building grows from empowerment gained during the “Imagine-Moudawana” experience and supports women’s cooperatives and their development to create greater financial independence, expand networks, and promote change in women’s roles in their communities.

This program has now evolved into HAF fostering a network of empowered agents of change, who support women in achieving their rights.

The purpose of the Empowerment Workshop is to enable participants to create the life they most want. It is considered one of the foremost personal growth trainings available.

Using above mentioned activities HAF aims to create agents of social change with university students and rural women. In addition HAF aims to strengthens women as rights holders by providing tools to advocate and act on their needs and goals.

To date four-hundred and sixty women benefited from Imagine empowerment workshops, from the Provinces of Al Haouz, Boujdour, Tinghir,  Marrakech and Oujda region. From them, ten female university students received training for trainers to become facilitators of empowerment programs. The results were demonstrated when beneficiaries undertook to create cooperatives and self-employment initiatives. A group of thirty-five women addressed illiteracy by hiring a female university student and starting a literacy program in their village. Participants who attended the training are supporting their children’s education. Sixty-five women joined parent associations and are actively involved in efforts to improve local schools.

Testimonials from workshops are profound, including:

  •  « I’ve never had such an opportunitiy as this. we need such exercises to listen to our inner voice and deliefs. »
  • « I promise myself to look for a dormitory school to complete my studies. »
  • « as a widow woman with two kids, I didn’t have the courage to ask anyone for work. »
  • « As a mother of three I have been busy working at home for many years. Now I am able to participate in empowerment training that helps me to discover that I have great capacities and skills that I truly mould like to use outside of the house. »
  • « I am earning money to live a better life ».

Collective action and shared ownership for driving gender parity is what makes International Women’s Day successful. Gloria Steinem, world-renowned feminist, journalist and activist once explained « The story of women’s struggle for equality belongs to no single feminist nor to any one organization but to the collective efforts of all who care about human rights. » Therefore the High Atlas Foundation calls on everyone of you: Make International Women’s Day your day and do what you can to truly make a positive difference for women!

6 03, 2019

Civil Society Matters to the Sustainable Development Goals

By Peter J. Jacques, Ph.D.

Visiting Expert

Life and death for whole communities hang in the balance of achieving the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that include eliminating poverty, conserving forests, and addressing climate change, passed by the United Nations unanimously in 2015. Take for example, the Indigenous Amazigh people who live in the mountains around Marrakech. They are representative of people who need to be served first by sustainable development.
The High Atlas Amazigh people experience hard lives in small villages. Most work as day laborers and agriculturalists with barely enough income to support their families and heat their homes. Education is a major concern, but is hard to attain for a number of reasons. Sometimes families cannot afford the subsequent costs of backpacks and books, even when the school is open and free. The challenge is especially difficult for girls, because, as one person explained, “How can fathers let their girls study if it is dark when they must travel?”  The effect of incomplete education is profound, and when we asked one 62-year-old man what he thought the greatest threats to the future were for his community, he did not have confidence in his own experiences, noting, “What can I say? I am not read [educated].”
Through a partnership of the University of Central Florida (Orlando), The Hollings Center for International Dialogue (Washington D.C. and Istanbul), and the High Atlas Foundation (Marrakech), we recently conducted field work in the High Atlas Mountains, speaking with the people there who poured their hearts out to us.
The most consistent message we heard from the people of the High Atlas was that the future hinges on water. One group told us that when things are good, it is because the rain is abundant and on time; things are very hard otherwise. They are worried that climate change will affect if the rains come, or that the rain will not “come in its time.” They have good reason to worry because climate change is expected to decrease precipitation significantly, reducing streams, lakes, and groundwater.
Drought is a constant worry. The World Bank estimates that 37 percent of the population works in agriculture, meanwhile production of cereal crops varies wildly due to annual variation of precipitation– and 2018 was thankfully a bountiful year. Climate change will make the people of the High Atlas Mountains much more vulnerable while they are already living on the edge of survival. In one area, this change in precipitation timing and amount was already noticeable, resulting in a significant loss of fruit trees. In that same area, we were told that there is fear that there will be no water in twenty years, and that for these people who are deeply connected to the land, there will be “no alternatives.”
The High Atlas people are in an extremely vulnerable position. One group noted that they are so desperate for basic resources that they burn plastic trash to heat their water. Worse, they believe they have been left behind by society and that “the people of the mountains do not matter.” They feel that Moroccan society is deeply unfair—there is no help for the sick, little support for education, little defense against the cold, and that, for some, corruption is the greatest threat to a sustainable future.
Consequently, civil society has an important role in achieving the SDGs. The High Atlas Foundation has been working to help people in this region to organize themselves into collectives that decide both what the collective wants, and pathways to achieve those goals. Women have organized into co-ops that they own and they collect dividends from their products together. People in one coop lobbied the 2015 Conference of Parties climate meeting in Marrakech. Men’s associations have developed tree nurseries that not only produce income, but which protect whole watersheds – and therefore some water for the future. They are also participating in carbon sequestration markets. In this regard, the Marrakech Regional Department of Water and Forest provides them carob trees and the authorization to plant these trees on the mountains surrounding their villages.
However, perhaps the most important element of these collectives is that they give each person in them a voice. Leaders of these collectives have formal rights to approach the regional governments about their needs, and this voice would not be heard at all without the formal collective organization. These organizations cannot replace government services, but they do add capacity to the community.
Not only do these collectives lend people some influence over their current and their children’s lives, they love each other and they are not struggling alone. We witnessed profound solidarity. Repeatedly, the collectives told us “We love each other, we are one family,” “We are like one,” “We help each other,” and the conviction that “I will be with you.”The world is decidedly on an unsustainable path, so If we are going to meet SDGs, all the people like the people of the High Atlas Mountains must matter and their voice deserves to be heard.
Peter J. Jacques is a Professor of Political Science at the University of Central Florida in Orlando, USA.

Above, Amazigh women in a village with an association that cultivates an olive tree nursery. Photo credit: Peter J. Jacques

Civil Society Matters to the Sustainable Development Goals 2019-03-06T15:11:52+00:00