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. HAFas 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...
Jun 2, 2014

Progressing towards a billion trees

The High Atlas Foundation has planted over one million trees across Morocco, helping around 50,000 people out of poverty. HAF's nurseries and fruit tree plantations show how Morocco can produce efficiently and profitably a billion trees and plants. These projects also show how Moroccans can overcome existential challenges shared with other nations in the region and the world: pervasive rural poverty, the marginalization of youth and women and land degradation . Other HAF projects include: the construction of drinking water systems in villages that are among the most distant (by decreasing infant mortality by half); the creation of women's cooperatives, including agricultural terraces and installation of drip irrigation systems (in providing social services and employment); building schools, housing for teachers and bathrooms to schools, and training in participatory planning and arboriculture and organic farming. Due to the success of the "One Million Trees campaign," in 2014, HAF aims to expand and improve Sami's Project to educate and impact a wider audience with the following steps towards:

  • Educating the public, especially young people, in the preservation of the environment, and promoting the benefits of small-scale tree showing the direct impact of innovative farming techniques on family incomes.
  • Encouraging youth to defend their own interests in education, socio-economic community development and environmental conservation through the participatory approach. 
  • Enhancing the activities of  civil society and strengthening linkages and exchanges between schools, communities, and other partners to build strong school communities in order to support disadvantaged youth in rural Morocco. 
  • Maximizing opportunities to improve, disseminate, and utilize the project results to other regions in Morocco

An important objective of HAF is to establish the need to create and implement sustainable projects that benefit entire communities. By strengthening the capacity of stakeholders in the agricultural sector and project management, community members will have access to a wider range of pathways to economic prosperity. This entrepreneurial model includes preparing the younger generation for economic growth by teaching farming skills that can be reproduced in their homes with trees provided by Sami's Project.

In collaboration with the Organice Cooperative Nursery, environmental and educational projects will build on the activities carried out by HAF in the province of Essaouira, exposing a larger number of rural citizens to the Foundations' participatory approaches. This will allow further identification of needs and potential human development projects in rural areas, including in the participating schools. Activities preceding planting in the Provinces of Al Haouz and Rhamna led to the development of construction projects such as toilets, accommodation for teachers and students and also to projects in the field of hygiene.

HAF and the El Kouhen family are thankful to the support of so many contributions that have helped this project thrive and grow.  Now that HAF has planted one million trees, we look forward to planting one billion trees so that thousands of young people may benefit from Sami's project and his legacy.

May 28, 2014

Improving civic engagement via capacity building

The past quarter was impressively productive, as the project team successfully completed a total of 12 capacity building workshops, round table discussions and meetings involving 345 target citizens, CSO activists, and students from the different communes of Mohammedia.

These different meetings constituted opportunities to the targeted beneficiaries to learn about public issues and acquire skills, knowledge and practical experience of relevance to the role of functioning as a citizen. Therefore, significant improvement was noticed in the level of civic engagement, among target citizens, through their active participation in community meetings, community council monthly meetings, and the design and implementation of community initiatives and projects.

Using knowledge and skills gained through the capacity building workshops provided by HAF, CSO leaders continued to use different ways to identify and recruit stakeholders to participate in the planning and implementation of community development initiatives. 13 CSO-government partnerships were created to address key social and economic issues, including a project to integrate children with Down syndrome into the education system. As a result, a specific curriculum was developed in two public elementary schools to the benefit of 45 children. A third class will be opened in school year 2014-2015, which will be dedicated to professional training for a group of 12 teenagers with Down syndrome. The program will also include different activities and performances by these children to educate the public and officials about the needs of children and teenagers with Down syndrome.

Another funded project planned and implemented by CSOs from the rural communes of Beni Yekhlef and Sidi Moussa Ben Ali have been completed in partnership with the local department of agriculture. The project received funding and in-kind donations to train poor farmers in modem agriculture practices. 250 farmers benefited from capacity building workshops in the area of drip irrigation, converting to new crops with added value and the value of cooperatives.

The coalition of CSOs in the commune of Beni Yekhlef, reported a newly signed agreement with the local delegation of the Ministry of Public health and the local hospital. With the goal to create a mobile medical unit for poor and isolated communities, this partnership will benefit over 5000 people. 

CSO leaders from the commune of Ain Harrouda reported three partnerships with the National Initiative of Human Development and were able to secure funding to help address the challenges faced by workers in the informal sector. 80 beneficiaries are currently actively participating in a capacity building program aiming at helping the workers adapt basic small business management techniques.

On the other hand, CSOs activists participated to different meetings with the local political officials as unique opportunities to influence the decision making process. In the commune of Ain Harrouda, 85 Citizens participated in a meeting with a group of 10 elected officials. The meeting aimed at reviewing and assessing the five years communal development plan and was a great opportunity for participating citizens to voice their ideas and concerns and to suggest ways to address pressing economic and social challenges. 75 citizens participated in round table discussions with public officials to develop a vision of an “ideal” city as an ambitious project to create a new city called Znata. Several challenges related to economic and social impacts of this new city were identified from this process.

35 CSO activists played a leading role in the review process of urban plans and distribution of social housing to poor families in the city of Mohammedia. The advocacy efforts of the CSOs and community citizens are showing tangible results, reflected by the ongoing participation to regular meetings with the city planners and local authorities to develop solutions to issues associated with dismantling shantytowns in the city of Mohammedia and providing subsidized housing to poor families. 

As for our trained students, 27 students demonstrated improvement in their advocacy capacity. These students, who have worked on creating Student Advocate Body as a resource that provides academic support and advocacy for students at the Faculty of Juridical, economic and social Sciences in Mohammedia, has been working with International students from Sub-Saharan countries and the University administrators to improve conditions for better integrations of international students.

Thanks to the generous support of our donors to the program, our trainees are developing their skills day after day, are successfully implementing development actions and initiatives, and multiplying the impacts of the development programs for the local communities. Thank you for helping to the creation of brighter futures for the communities of Mohammedia.

May 19, 2014

Expanding capacity-building activities around Intercultural Heritage in Essaouira

Essaouira Cemetery Restoration
Essaouira Cemetery Restoration

The cemetary project, HAF's first in Essaouira and its first in this urban intercultural sphere, achieved great visibility and penetration for HAF. In order to maintain momentum of HAF's intercultural agenda and our work with young people and civil society in Essaouira we submitted a proposal to the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations (UNAOC) and the BMW Group. This will expand our field of activity to include built heritage (often disappeared or fallen into disuse) which stands as a reminder of the rich multicultural past of this port city, where Arab, Amazigh and African Muslims, Jews and Christians shared a town, a life, work, a culture, and a language.

Although the medina of Essaouira has been classified as a UNESCO World Heritage site since 2001, the restoration of historical sites and buildings has been slow to proceed. Our aim now is to support the creation of an interactive multi-player committee to intervene in the dialogue and eventually the protection of built heritage of Essaouira. The main activites of this project include the following:

  • Reflection and dialogue day - This will promote discussion among civil society of the value of built heritage.
  • Creation of a self-guided brochure - Expanding upon the inital brochure of historical cemetaries, this additional one will include a map of cultural heritage sites in the medina to be placed in the buildings and in community and tourist centers.
  • Weekly community meetings - These meetings will include training of local civic actors in participatory community planning with the intention of creating a multi- player heritage forum. 
  • Educational Program - Will support continued integration of local youth associations and schools.

Thanks to your support the cemetary project was a success and allows HAF to expand its activites and build on this success to train local actors to truly adopt this agenda as their own. Thank you for helping to support the cultural heritage of Morocco. 

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