Improve Rural Moroccan Schools: Sami's Project

Mar 27, 2013

Making the Most of the Planting Season

Planting with Students on a Rainy Day
Planting with Students on a Rainy Day

Thanks to you, HAF helped improve the lives of over 700 children and their families by delivering fruit trees for students to take home and planting fruit trees in the schoolyard, teaching students agricultural techniques for sustainable development. This planting and distribution with children is the pinnacle of Sami’s Project, a HAF program inspired by the loving memory of Samil El Kouhen to bring sustainable benefits to youth in Morocco.

Every weekend for the past month, HAF's team has joined local educational and community leaders to plant trees in schools throughout Rhamna and Al Haouz provinces in rural Morocco. Trees planted include pomegranate, lemon, fig, and olive. Others are given to the students to bring home to their families. HAF has been greeted by songs and presentations from eager, clever, and passionate youth. 

Sami's Project encourages children to be their own advocates for education through the participatory approach that gives them a stake in their education, assuring that Sami's students aren't part of the 400,000 students in Morocco who drop out of school before their baccalaureate. This is because HAF teaches the benefits of small scale farming by showing the direct impact of innovative agricultural techniques on families' income. Students that learn how to properly care for a fruit tree understand the opportunity to scale up and agricultural and market entrepreneurialism. HAF and communities are working to improve this model and the economic benefit as it seeks to incorporate organic certification of fruit trees around Morocco, and train students and families in these methods.

The benefits of Sami’s Project resonate around Al Haouz and Rhamna, because the results are sustainable, and the next generation in Morocco will benefit the most. Sami’s Project teaches elementary school students the numerous benefits that trees can bring to a community, and then trains them in how to plant and maintain trees in their school yards. The eventual fruits of the trees will benefit each school. HAF coordinates this project with teachers, community members, local Ministry of Education delegates and members of communal councils. Labor to plant the trees is provided in-kind by the communities, and the students participate wholeheartedly in the planting.

Sami’s Project was conceived by the El Kouhen family, inspired by loving memories of their 3-year-old son Sami (in the photo) who, before losing his battle with cancer 5 years ago, had already shown his love for the outdoors even at such an early age.  Sami’s father, Dr. Rachid El Kouhen, catalyzed this initiative with HAF Board Members, and together they organize the youth activities.

HAF is concerned with all aspects of community development. HAF recognizes that it is not only tree planting that encourages students to become entrepreneurs through education and good practices. It is also improving conditions in communities by bringing clean drinking water, which leads to a 16 percent increase in attendance rate (HAF Study in Tassa Ouirgane 2011). HAF both works with children to improve their technical education, and encourages participation in education through clean-water projects, school infrastructural and botanical garden initiatives, and participatory trainings.

Planting Proudly in Morocco
Planting Proudly in Morocco


Dec 28, 2012

Identifying Schools in Time for Planting Season

Space available behind the class rooms to plant
Space available behind the class rooms to plant

Ouafa Elbargui, the HAF’s Center Coordinator and Malika Kassi, the Field Facilitator have identified two schools; one is situated in Touama Rural Commune and the other one,Youssef Ben Tachafin School, belongs to Aghouatim Rural Commune, both of these Rural Communes are in  Al Haouz Province. The two schools are chosen to be planted by the High Atlas Foundation in respond to the request of their headmasters. The purpose of this first visit is to identify the school space, introducing the HAF and Sami’s Project objectives. 

It is a central elementary school which is situated  in a rural village named  Talat Marghen  which belongs to  the territory  of Aghouatim Rural Commune, Al Haouz Province. It is about 3 Km from the center of Tahanaout town. There are 291 students studying for this school year 2012/ 2013.

The school was selected for the reason that it has an adequate space for fruit tree planting, and the water is available for tree irrigation as well.  Thanks for all of your support so we can continue the growth and prepare for planting season, which begins in January. We hope to be able to send each student home with fruit producing trees. 

Check out the photos to see all the space available for planting. Our goal is to bring green space to all the schools, with your support. 

Large space for planting
Large space for planting
Play area for children in need of greening
Play area for children in need of greening


Sep 28, 2012

Summer 2012 update from the Province of Al Haouz (near Marrakech), Morocco

Summer months are very hot and extremely dry in the High Atlas Mountains of Morocco, so during the summer vacation, project manager Ouafa Elbarqui decided to visit the trees planted with schoolchildren this past season to see how they’ve been doing in this heat.

[Her report with photos is attached.] 

As she explains in the attached photo essay, the school staff and students have made sure that the trees are being watered regularly even during the summer.

In the meantime, the next round of Sami’s Project is in the early planning stages, with one project to plant and distribute 2,000 trees, benefitting 100 students and families in Taza and other projects still to come.

This initiative aims to instill in young schoolchildren an appreciation of nature and allows them to experience that they can make a difference in their environment. Schoolchildren outside Morocco who have helped to raise funds for the trees have learned too that they can help others. We look forward to building upon this as the project enters its second year, and all ideas are welcome.

If you know of any youth group (outside Morocco) interested in teaming up with HAF for Sami's project, please contact me at:

Jun 29, 2012

POSTCARD: Project Site Visit

All of us walking down to the orchards.
All of us walking down to the orchards.

Shonali Banerjee and Aliza Appelbaum are In-The-Field Representatives for GlobalGiving.  They are visiting projects in Morocco, Spain and France.  Here is their most recent "postcard" from Morocco: 

On June 27, 2012, Aliza and I had the pleasure of visiting two local High Atlas Foundation project sites, both in the High Atlas Mountains outside of Marrakech. In the afternoon, HAF Project Manager Abderrahim took us to Tassa Ouirguane, a rural village home to Sami's Project and several other development projects. 

After arriving in the village, we were invited into the home of the local town leader, Hassan.  While there, we discussed the benefits of the project whie enjoying tea, fresh baked bread and olive oil made from local olives.  Since Hassan only spoke a Berber dialect, Abderrahim kindly acted as translator for us while we talked about how Sami's project has impacted the village and improved the livelihoods of the local citizens. 

After leaving Hassan's home, we walked down the road to see the orchards and site where they will build a women's co-op. The co-op is the next project the village leaders have chosen for their community, and Abderrahim told us it can be built in about two months. We were thoroughly impressed by how quickly this project will be completed. Hopefully the next time GlobalGiving representatives visit Morocco, they will be able to see the finished co-op! 

We were accompanied to the orchards by Hassan and his son Abdul Karim (pictured below), who brought an empty crate to pick some of the fruit. We saw apricots, plums, and nectarines, all ready to be picked. As we came to different kinds of trees, we got to try all the different kinds of delicious fruits. After a few minutes, we decided to climb up in the trees also to pick our own. It was a fun and interactive site visit! 

This also felt rather like coming full circle. In the morning, we were able to see the small cherry and walnut saplings in the nursery. In the afternoon, we saw a flourishing orchard, where village leaders are successfully selling the produce in local markets.

Sadly, the school was already closed for summer vacation, but we stopped by to see it on the way back to Marrakech. The school is for primary education only right now, but considering the low literacy levels endemic to the region, this is a great start for the village.  Aliza and I were thrilled to visit this site, and see just how much of an imapct this High Atlas Foundation project is having on the local community. 

Abdul Karim picking plums to sell in the market.
Abdul Karim picking plums to sell in the market.
Picking fresh plums from the tree!
Picking fresh plums from the tree!
Aliza enjoying a juicy fresh plum!
Aliza enjoying a juicy fresh plum!
Local families came out to say hello!
Local families came out to say hello!
The Sami
The Sami's project primary school.


May 11, 2012

1st Planting Season Ends: April/May 2012 updates

May 2012 Updates 

The partnership agreement between HAF and the provincial Director of National Education in Tahanaout states that the HAF will provide 500 trees to benefit five schools — one situated in the territory of  Tahanaout municipality and the other four schools in Ouirgane rural commune. After finishing with the first school in Tahanaout (named Alkairaouane),  the HAF resumed the tree planting at the other four schools in Ouirgane commune:

April 24, 2012   Sami’s Project resumption, Tassa Ouirgan, Ouirgane and Tororde elementary schools and Ouirgane Middle school, Ouirgane rural commune, Al Haouz Province.

On April 24th, the tree planting was started at schools,Ouirgane, Al Haouz Province. HAF’s project team, Students, teachers and managers of the schools  accompanied with some members of students Parents association and some villagers participated together in planting 400 trees. The HAF’s staff explained and introduced the Sami’s project and HAF’s work to the school children, while the teachers made the students aware about the importance of the tree and the different benefits we get from it. The professional farmers of each school community showed the students how to dig the holes and how to plant in their school yards. The HAF’s project team spent three days planting with four schools in Ouirgane. Personally, as a HAF’s project coordinator, I enjoyed the three days of sharing with these students – girls and boys from different ages and grades – the inspiring beautiful moments of tree planting. I kept observing passionately the joy and glory shining from their eyes while holding each tree and removing the black plastic carefully from  its roots to the ending moment  when they put it firmly into the hole and covered its roots with soil. 

April 24, 2012: Tree planting at Tassa Ouirgane school.

There are 70 students studying at this small elementary  school; around 10 trees were planted at the school yard but no tree was planted in the outside space of school because the parents of the students and the school staff assured that the outside is not protective for the tree planting. In view of the narrow space at school, the HAF’s project team distributed the rest of trees to all of the students to plant them in their family’s orchards. The attached photos display the tree planting and distribution event at Tassa Ouirgane school.

April 24, 2012: Tree planting at Ouirgane elementary school.

This school and that of Tassa Ouirgane were planted simultaneously that’s why I was not able to attend at Ouirgane elementary school during its planting day, about 15 km from Tassa Ouirgane school. There are 200 students studying at this elementary  school; around 50 trees were planted at the school yard and  alongside the school wall and the rest of the trees were given as a reward to the villagers and parents of students, who took part in digging holes and showing the students how to position and care after a tree; they were given simply to the people who participated eagerly to make this splendid event happen. The school manager and teachers stated that they were very happy and lucky, for their school is one of the selected schools to be planted by the help of  HAF. The attached photos display the tree planting and the setting of a fence to protect trees at Ouirgane elementary school.

April 26, 2012: Tree planting at Tororde school.

On 26th of April 2012, at 10:00 am, all the students of Tororde school were gathered wholeheartedly to plant their school yard. Unfortunately, the school manager was not there that day because she had a training in Marrakech. There were about 31 students at school, 14 members of the association of students parents, two teachers and the HAF’s project coordinator  all of them worked hand-in-hand; each one from his role to make this day a very interesting day to celebrate the Earth Day. The attached pictures show the enthusiastic atmosphere of the team during tree planting and distribution at Tororde school.

May 03, 2012: Tree planting at Ouirgane Middle school.

On the  26th  of  April, The HAF’s project coordinator took 100 trees to this school. Every school year, the students of this Middle school allocate a day for environment, so this day was timed to coincide with the April tree planting season done by HAF. On the 3rd of May, the school staff and  students organized  many workshops to celebrate this day in which each group of students carry out its mission to accomplish it by the end of the day. There were three workshops: School cleaning, walls painting, and tree planting. I was with the third group –Tree planting- we spent the whole morning planting trees in some empty spaces mentioned by the manager of school. The group of students feel very satisfied for they had managed to dig holes and plant a lot of trees in their school yard in a successful and skillful way especially when some students tried to make a logical link between their theoretical studies at school about plants, the techniques of tree planting they learnt from their fathers, as most of them are sons of farmers, and the practical exercises they did during that moment of planting. The attached pictures shows the tree planting at Ouirgane Middle school:

Sami’s Project

Sami’s Project strengthens the relationship between these children and their environment. It is by planting a tree in a school yard or in one’s family’s orchard, and by maintaining it and caring deeply about it , these children can appreciate the benefits of this tree, perceive the importance of the environment and life in general; they can also learn how to protect and maintain their Earth as our original mother. This is what was explicitly shown  in all of these students actions and deeds when digging holes, and when holding, planting and watering trees; the whole procedure from the beginning to the  end  is a sort of  an interaction between kids  and trees, between future and life. 


Finally, on behalf of these students and HAF, I’d like to thank a lot the Elkouhen Family, who devote their time and effort to offer these valuable trees to these Moroccan elementary schools in memory of their small child Sami, and I’d like to thank also all the potential donors, who keep contributing their money day after day  to make “Sami’s Project :Trees for kids” go on.


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Project Leader

Alex Stein

New York City and Marrakech, NY (US) & AlHaouz (Maroc) Morocco

Where is this project located?

Map of Improve Rural Moroccan Schools: Sami's Project