High Atlas Foundation

The High Atlas Foundation (HAF) is a Moroccan association and a U.S. 501 (c) (3) nonprofit organization founded in 2000 by former Peace Corps Volunteers, and is dedicated to participatory grassroots human development in disadvantaged areas in Morocco, mostly rural. HAF received United Nations Special Consultative Status in 2011. HAF's team is comprised mostly of Moroccans with some international members. Using a participatory approach, HAF works to establish development projects in Morocco that local communities design and manage, and that are in partnership with government and non-government agencies. HAF is committed to facilitating, and training facilitators in, the participatory approac...
Mar 31, 2015

Launching a Nation-Wide Initative

The governor, Hon. Mr. Bathaoui, at the planting.
The governor, Hon. Mr. Bathaoui, at the planting.

Monday, February 9th, 2015 saw the start of a nation-wide intercultural organic agriculture initiative as the honorable Governor of Al Haouz, Mr. Younès Al Bathaoui, presided over a very special fruit tree distribution and planting ceremony at a sacred Jewish site. Around 150 guests - members of the local Muslim farming community and representatives of the Jewish community residing in Marrakesh – attended the event.

As part of the High Atlas Foundation’s ‘One Billion Tree Campaign’, 30,000 seeds and saplings were planted and the same number of two-year-old trees – olive, fig, pomegranate and lemon – are set to be distributed to local farmers. The trees have been raised at Aikrich, just south of Marrakesh, at the community nursery established by the foundation on land lent by the Jewish community of Marrakesh-Essaouira. The nursery is adjacent to the tomb of Rabbi Raphael Hacohen, one of several hundred sacred Jewish sites located throughout Morocco.

Including the above mentioned nursery in Aikrich, the High Atlas Foundation continues to operate tree nurseries on five plots of land surrounding Jewish cultural sites and donated by the Jewish community in Tensift-Al Haouz and Azilal provinces. These organic nurseries not only help Moroccan farmers break the cycle of poverty, but also contribute to understanding and multicultural dialogue.

During the event on February 9th, the proposed extension of this scheme across the entire Kingdom was announced, paving the way for locally-managed organic fruit tree nurseries to be developed at several hundred Jewish cultural sites for the benefit of disadvantaged Muslim farming communities. The High Atlas Foundation welcomes your participation and collaboration to develop this project further across Morocco, for the benefit of Moroccan farming families today and to help enhance the rich cultural heritage of the whole nation in the future.

The nursery in Aikrich.
The nursery in Aikrich.
Mar 3, 2015

Updates from the Mohammedia Training Center

In the past quarter, the High Atlas Foundation’s team has launched Legal Aid Program (LAP) to support democratic participation of CSO leaders and activists in advocacy strategies and increase their role in creating change. This new program will also enable addressing structural impediments that were identified the previous rounds of training especially relating to land ownership and inclusive participation in creating Municipal Development Plans.

The quarter was dedicated to communication about the program and the mobilization of partners. Thus, we held several meetings with the relevant local authorities, directors of youth centers, and elected officials and communal leaders in the different communes of Mohammedia to present the program as well as explain goal and objectives.

Additionally, program staff identified and confirmed participants in the workshops and LAP: law students, civil society organization (CSO) members, activists and community leaders. The project team recruited CSO members for their commitment to advocate for policy change and reforms, their capacity to address local needs, and their desire to design and manage campaigns using a participatory approach. HAF’s team also recruited law students from the Faculty to benefit from the capacity building program and later to provide legal counsel, under professional supervision, to the CSO members involved in the workshops.

In order to measure the knowledge regarding legal framework for advocacy based on Morocco’s newly revised constitution and laws, and to understand local development issues, the team conducted a survey among the program beneficiaries. The survey gathered information on the organizations’ assessment of their current advocacy efforts and watchdog functions as well as current legal barriers, and their needs in terms of legal services.

To meet the outlined objectives and achieve the overall goal of advancing democracy through participation in sustainable development projects, the first quarter involved the implementation of six-month workshops preceding the legal service provisioning phase. The objective of these “Participatory Planning and Development Workshops” is threefold:

  1. To equip the participants with the ability to identify barriers to advancing their change and development goals
  2. To conceptualize positive change
  3. To present participatory tools to help analyze economic, environmental, political, and social conditions and opportunities.

106 CSO activists, communal leaders and students attended three workshops held during the quarter.

  • The first workshop was dedicated to the presentation of the Legal Aid Program, its goal and objectives and to assessing the level of knowledge and expectations of the participants regarding legal services.
  • The second workshop was titled “Techniques and Tools to Identify the Challenges and Obstacles to Realize Change and Concretize Local Development Initiatives”. The workshop included a discussion of the concept of change management and the treatment of modifications of laws to which associations aspire. It also taught techniques to identify obstacles that prevent associations from concretizing their initiatives.
  • The third workshop was related to the association’s self-assessment. The participants learned the concept, importance and types of self-assessment, and gained the skills to conduct the process of self-assessment and as a result to determine the strengths and the functional areas that require support.
Feb 24, 2015

Sami's Project planting season in full swing!

Putting a tree in the ground
Putting a tree in the ground

Moroccan farmers are planting all across Morocco, and the High Atlas Foundation and Sami’s Project are no exception. In mid-January, Project Manager Amina El Hajjami visited twenty-one elementary school students in Al Houz province. The Moroccan semester break is ending, and the next two weeks will bring both many more plantings both around Marrakech and much farther afield.

On January 17th, two HAF staff members visited several schools in rural areas around Amzmiz, a small town at the foot of the Atlas Mountains. At many of the schools visited, as soon as staff members began unloading trees grown in HAF’s nurseries, students rushed to help bring trees and prepare the planting site.

After a brainstorm about the benefits of trees and how they contribute to both the environment and the economy, students got to work planting the tree that they had brought into the school. Some schools were well established and larger, whereas others further outside of the city consist of a network of one-room schools.

By the end of the day, students planted 195 trees at seven different schools, including 80 pomegranate, 30 walnut, and 30 olive trees. This is just one day in HAF’s ongoing planting season. Furthermore, the High Atlas Foundation is currently finalizing draft activities for a standardized environmental education curriculum for teachers and administrators to expand and adapt. In the spirit of HAF’s dedication to participatory planning, teachers will determine the majority of the curriculum design at a workshop including administrators and parent organization members at the end of this month.

Tree plantings at elementary schools in rural Morocco are not just tree plantings—they allow students to gain a sense of responsibility in caring for their tree and a more pleasant environment in which to go to school every day. Thank you for supporting our goal of allowing students to learn about the environment while making their schools better places!

One of the planting sites at Madrasa Al Atlas
One of the planting sites at Madrasa Al Atlas
The last step--water!
The last step--water!

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