By Hannah Rickard
July 2, 2015
HAF interns tag along with a HAF employee and site director to observe a participatory meeting with the Ourika women’s cooperative.
I gave a big yawn, the original plan was to depart the HAF office at 7AM and watch the HAF participatory method in live action! As I am quickly learning, sometimes…well…many times, plans change, and it’s okay, life goes on! Tuesday was most definitely a lesson in patience and flexibility. In no time, however, a new plan was proposed! Amina Elhajjami, the Ourika site coordinator, with whom I work nearly every day, and who calls me “mon petite Hannah” (my little Hannah) suggested we join her to sit in on a women’s community meeting in Ourika! As 2pm rolled around, a co-intern, Wajiha Ibrahim, three new Moroccan interns, and myself met Amina, and off we went on a big public bus into the breath-taking mountains and to Ourika. The new interns, Soumia Taki, Hanane Moukdad, and Rashed Shinerealge (Kenza Soummane was absent) study linguistics at Cadi Ayyad University in Marrakech. Arabic, Berber, Darija, French, English, Spanish, Japanese, German…Soumia, Hanane, and Rashed are language wizzes! These language skills proved to be quite useful in Ourika, as the meeting was held in Berber, with some Darija. Thanks to our kind new friends, Wajiha and I were able to catch most of the meeting’s discussions.
Held just inside the Saffron farm, and comprised women from five villages within the Ourika region, the topic of Tuesday’s meeting was HAF’s upcoming (and 8th annual) walnut festival in Asni! Lead by the wonderful and intelligent Amina, HAF’s goal in Ourika is to use the participatory approach to understand the priorities of the women and to eventually create income-generating projects within the commune. Because the cooperative is relatively new, the women told Amina they would like to attend the festival in Asni, so that they may meet other cooperatives. The women of Ourika commented that this venture would give them the opportunity to pose questions to the other women’s cooperatives, such as what projects they’ve started, completed or are currently working on, how they manage their coop, what has made them successful, or what has caused difficulties. Amina, Wajiha, Soumia, Hanane, Rashed, and myself sat, listening intently to the women as they brainstormed ideas for what they may want to sell at future festivals. The visit to Asni during the coming weekend would be simply for observation, conversational participation, and of course some enjoyment. Along with some playful remarks, the women of Ourika decided that various olive-based products, hand-made baskets, along with soaps made from saffron, and goods derived multitude of mint varieties, were the most popular and logical (because of their available resources), and decently profitable products. The High Atlas Foundation, along with Yves Saint Laurent-Beauté, will be working with these women to develop these and other projects to develop their livelihoods and that of their communities.
About the Author:
HAF Intern Hannah Rickard is originally from Northern Michigan, but currently studies International Relations and French at Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley, Massachusetts. Since spending a semester abroad in Dakar, Senegal in 2013, Hannah has become highly interested in the intersection of community and religion. She is hoping to expand her knowledge of this relationship while contributing to HAF intercultural initiatives–such as the House of Life Project. Like HAF, Hannah is a strong advocate of the participatory approach for development because she believes in the value of community and strong relationships.
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