Jun 11, 2012

Zaouiat Cheikh's Participatory Planning Meetings

— April 2012

As part of HAF’s partnership with the Organization of the Moroccan Community in the United States (OMC-US), the High Atlas Foundation is facilitating participatory planning meetings in Zaouiat Cheikh and the Ait Oum Elbeikht communes, in the region of Ben-Mellal. Initial meetings since January 2012 were held at the social municipality club, and in recent weeks with community members in their gracious homes and villages.

The purpose of these gatherings of local men and women is for them to identify the types of projects they would like to implement in their community to achieve their socio-economic and environmental goals. The meetings have been wonderfully enthusiastic and interactive. People are listening carefully to each other, and acknowledging everyone’s needs and interests.

Community members are continuing to hone in on the specific project priorities, which are in the areas of irrigation, handicrafts and education (including literacy). Several people recommended that if these participatory planning activities were carried out by facilitators in every local Moroccan community, then the development would be more truly democratic. We totally agree.

All of us at HAF are very grateful to Dr. Abdelkader Abbadi and the entire OMC-US Board for believing in and financially supporting development projects by and for the people of Zaouiat Cheikh, which will soon be entering the project implementation stage.

It is wonderful that all HAF community, civil, corporate and government partners are real supporters of this premise – that community participation drives project sustainability. HAF’s programs make participation in development a reality for many Moroccan communities and groups, who are marginalized.



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.

Mar 27, 2012

Continued Participatory Planning Process Reveals Additional Need

March 2012

According to a February 2012 report by HAF Project and Training Manager Abderrahim Ouarghidi, a series of Participatory Planning meetings has been completed in 19 separate villages and attended by a total of 800 villagers. The objective of these meetings is always to identify their needs, define projects that can best serve these needs, and then prioritize these projects to determine how best to accomplish them (and in what order).

Over time, and after completing the multiple planning processes of mapping and discussing, it became clear that a small health center with a nurse is long overdue to serve this region of 10,000 inhabitants. They all felt that this would almost immediately improve the women’s health and that of their children by providing much-needed medical advice and follow-up care.

As a result of these meetings and processes, community members gained a heightened understanding of the direct links between waterborne illnesses, unclean drinking water and their health. This line of discussion brought out a pronounced recognition of their need for clean drinking water for better health — and irrigation systems that will ensure available water for the survival of their plants during drier periods. 

In this region, the natural floodings caused by spring thaw and heavy rains most years (and the resulting erosion) threaten the local terrain, and water levels often drop too low in reservoirs used for irrigation. 

Once again, an attempt to identify a solution to one problem revealed other, equally important problems that need solutions as well, so that in order to succeed, the final plan needs to incorporate them all.

NOTE: The attached document "Participatory Planning Mapping Diagrams" contains photos of the visual diagrams (which, as you can see, are very effective — and visual — assessment and analysis tools) made during the participatory planning meeting “mapping” exercises.

[Please disregard the camera-generated dates; they are wrong.]

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