Sep 22, 2020

A Common Vision: Multi-Actor Partnerships Worldwid

During the first week of September, representatives of the Multi-Actor Partnership (MAP) project from around the world gathered for their monthly virtual meeting. The participants were from Morocco, represented by the High Atlas Foundation, India, Ukraine, Kenya, Kosovo, Senegal, Sri Lanka, and Madagascar.

The meeting’s purpose was to monitor the progress of the MAP project while appreciating and recognizing the success made so far. That the same project is being implemented in different countries with different policies and governments makes the processes unique and customized. However, it also proves that renewable energies are a topic that concerns all the nations no matter what their policies are, as they all share the same environment.

As the MAP project is reaching the end of the second phase of its implementation in most countries, some challenges are starting to appear, especially as participants are getting close to the execution phase. These challenges can be summarized in two categories: governmental challenges and partnership challenges.

In some countries, having an agreement with the government or even getting them involved in environmental initiatives is a real challenge. The second challenge is attracting partners from different sectors and fields and keeping them involved and interested in renewable energies.

These challenges had an even bigger impact during the pandemic of COVID-19, as it temporarily disconnected the partners and the government from the environmental goals that they were seeking and shifted their focus toward the fight against the virus. As a result, some projects were put on hold until the pandemic ends, and this may cause a delay in the project’s process.

Feedback and suggestions were exchanged during the meeting to help each country create solutions that are self-customized in order to deal with the current challenges, such as sharing success stories to re-motivate the partners to be engaged in the common vision.

The High Atlas Foundation continues to lead the Morocco-based MAP project, which is starting to reach the implementation phase. This will enable concrete results, and soon.

Sep 11, 2020


Argania Spinosa is the only type of argan tree around the world; it’s a tree endemic to Morocco and characteristic of North Africa for its biological, nutritional, socioeconomic, and ecological value. 

Argania Spinosa wood is an excellent source of charcoal. The tree’s fruit contains a highly nutritious oil used cosmetically and for cooking, and the leaves are used for feeding animals. These distinctive characteristics led, in 1925, to the issuance of a special legislation for the conservation of this type of tree.

The argan tree grows in abundance in arid and semi-arid regions of southwest Morocco. This climate suits the species, as it is resistant to drought and heat. In the right conditions, the argan tree can grow as tall as eight or ten meters. This tree is distinguished by its evergreen leaves. However, an argan tree can fall into decay after a severe drought.

In Morocco, there are an estimated 830,000 hectares of argan groves, totaling around 21 million trees. Almost 90% of the rural economy in the argan region is dependent on the argan agroforestry system.

The rehabilitation and protection of this tree in Morocco necessitated the concerted efforts of many bodies, including scientific research centers in Morocco, the Moroccan water and forest management, and women's cooperatives who produce argan oil in addition to the intervention of civil society institutions and associations.

In this regard, the High Atlas Foundation intervenes, as it works hard to preserve the natural heritage of Morocco, by setting strategies and projects for the purpose of promoting tree planting, especially the argan tree, due to its aforementioned importance and its status among Moroccans.

In this article, I will discuss HAF’s relationship with the argan tree from the seed to fruit.

During the past twenty years, HAF has created 11 nurseries, distributed throughout 7 of Morocco’s provinces, in partnership with different national organizations, including the: Ministry of Water and Forest, Ministry of Education, Ministry of Youth and Sports, Jewish-Moroccan community, local associations, and Ecosia. HAF is proud to work with FRÉ to support women’s cooperatives in their empowerment journey and their cultivation, processing, and sales of argan product.

Each nursery has its own story and specific goals.

In 2014, HAF formed a partnership with the cooperative and the local association of Imagdal commune, in the Marrakech region. There, the collaborating parties established a nursery for planting both argan and carob seeds - both being classified as forestry trees in Morocco.

Imagdal nursery is the model for HAF's nurseries in regards to its infrastructure and production techniques. Hassan, is the caretaker of Imagdal nursery. Hassan has a background in fruit trees, as well as medicinal and aromatic herbs. He is very passionate about tree planting.

Over the years, Hassan carried out several experiments and followed the training he received from expert-technicians from the High Commission for Water and Forests and Combating Desertification. In his research, he found that argan seeds have a specific method in planting, involving:

  • Placing the argan seeds in the water for ten days until young roots begin to emerge. 
  • Filling the trays with compost and natural fertilizer (peat) and placing the seeds directly in the trays. 
  • Regularly watering the seedlings.

Under supervision and regular irrigation, the argan seedlings grow to reach a height of approximately 20 cm or more. They are then ready for distribution.

Since 2018, HAF’s partner FRÉ supported planting 33,000 argan seeds in the Imagdal nursery (50,000 total now fill the nursery), which have a 100% survival rate. After the allotted time to mature, these seedlings will be distributed to associations and women’s cooperatives in the Essaouira province that will grow the trees or extract their oil. With four cooperatives to date, the FRÉ-HAF partnership planted and monitored via GPS 806 healthy argan trees, and the monitoring and planting will continue in the late fall of 2020.   

FRÉ plays an important role in encouraging women's argan cooperatives to develop their capacities, increase their products, and use their lands by providing them with argan trees. Thanks to FRÉ’s contribution, HAF planted 4,600 argan trees in 2018-2019, which they distributed to four women's argan cooperatives in the Essaouira province.

The Argan Mejji cooperative in the Mejji commune was established in 2004 and currently includes 52 women. The Moroccan National Initiative for Human Development donated $55,000 to the cooperative, aimed at improving its economic and social situation, conditions of production, and marketing of argan oil. HAF also contributed to the rehabilitation and prosperity of the cooperative by distributing 1,070 argan seedlings to the women of the cooperative and the people of the region.

The Argan Mogador Cooperative in the Ounagha commune was established in 2007, and 30 women constitute its membership. FRÉ-HAF were fortunate to plant 1,070 argan with them.

The “Azoran ouirgane” cooperative is located in the Smimou commune. This Amazigh name means the roots of argan trees, indicating the extent to which the people of the area are attached to this precious tree. The cooperative includes 12 women. These women benefited from 2,000 argan trees in 2018. They planted the trees on the cooperative land, where they take care of them and irrigate them alternately.

The “Lakjout cooperative” is in the Birkawat commune. This cooperative includes 32 women. HAF contributed 460 argan trees which were planted by the women on their private lands.

The women of each cooperative are keen on caring for and irrigating the trees. They protect the groves from deterioration, wilting, and livestock.

The cooperatives benefit from the whole argan tree, not just the oil. Every part or product of the tree is usable and represents a source of income to them. The shell, before roasting, is used as fodder for livestock. The shell that remains after extracting the oil is used to make soaps and cosmetics products (body lotions, hair shampoo). These processes are all indications for the importance of preserving the argan tree.

Visits to these cooperatives have become difficult due to the Corona epidemic, but HAF has maintained contact with them throughout the pandemic. 

Amina, president of “Azoran ouirgane” cooperative, said that “despite these circumstances and despite the cessation of work in the cooperative because of Coronavirus, I love the cooperative very much, which makes me go to sit at the coop from time to time.” For her, the cooperative is a home, a place where she lives and feels safe.

Aziza, president of the “Argan Mejji” cooperative, said, “This cooperative is the source of livelihood for 52 women, so that means the cooperative contributes significantly to helping 52 rural families.” For her, establishing this cooperative is the biggest achievement. It is a message for every woman seeking to help her community financially and socially, as well as environmentally.

The argan tree is the tree of life for these communes. HAF’s seedling donations have helped almost 154 rural women in Essaouira to support their families. Each of these women has a fingerprint in promoting sustainable development, not only in the province of Essaouira but in Morocco as a whole. By taking care of this golden heritage, FRÉ-HAF in 2021 has set the goal to plant 33,000 more argan trees with these cooperatives as well as other cooperatives in their native regions of Morocco.

On behalf of HAF and all the woman who benefit from argan trees, thank you to FRE for contributing 33,000 argan trees to continue HAF’s support for women’s cooperatives that work in argan oil or other cooperatives that are interested in planting argan trees.

Sep 10, 2020


After building an organic tree nursery and a well, and after facilitating participatory meetings and trainings concerning environmental protections with the farmers and the men’s association in Tassa Ouirgane village (Al Haouz province, Marrakech-Safi region), a project financed by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and managed by the High Atlas Foundation (HAF), a new approach was decidedly developed and implemented to maximize the impact of the project on the people of Tassa Ouirgane. This gender approach was encouraged and supported by National Coordinator Microfinance Program FEM - UNDP Morocco and the High Atlas Foundation.

Fourteen women from the Tassa Ouirgane village attended a 4-day Imagine Empowerment workshop January 2019. The purpose of Imagine workshops is to enable women to create the life they most want. It is considered one of the foremost personal growth trainings available. The program focuses on seven areas of life: Emotions, Relationships, Body, Money, Work, Spirituality, and Sexuality. Below are the testimonials of a girl and a woman, both of whom attended the workshop:

"My name is M. I’m divorced, and I have a daughter. I live with my father and my mother. I want to work to help my daughter, and I’m afraid to get out of the house because of society's contempt toward me and their lack of trust. I thank God because my family has helped me a lot, but I wish I could be independent.”
After 4 days of the empowerment training, she confirmed “I will not pay attention to the opinion of others. I will be working toward my vision to be independent, build my own home, and live with my daughter.” This woman is now the leader of the Takhrkhourt agricultural Cooperative.

“My name is L. I dropped out of middle school during the last school break. I started training in artisanal craft, but I don’t feel comfortable with the decision that I made, and I don’t know how I can tell my father.” On the second day of the workshop, she told the other women participants: “I informed my father about how I felt, and he agrees with my decision to return to school.”

One of the results that came from the empowerment workshop and the participatory approach meetings that were conducted afterward with the same women was the vision to create an agricultural cooperative in order to capitalize upon the village’s great natural resources. To reach this vision, the women needed technical and managerial training. This is why the High Atlas Foundation (HAF) provided them with training on the creation and role of cooperative statutes, democratic voting for decision-making in the cooperative, organizational management, environmental protection, how to plant seeds and cuttings of trees, and how to irrigate trees.

Throughout each training and workshop that the women received in 2019-2020, HAF supported them to create Cooperative Takhrkhourt, an agricultural cooperative whose membership includes one woman and four girls. Two of the girls are studying in high school, and they want to continue their studies at university. In 2020 alone, Cooperative Takhrkhourt planted 40,000 olive and walnut trees in a nursery that they manage. The nursery is supported by the Ecosia-HAF partnership.

To achieve these results means that the women of Takhrkhourt Cooperative have:

  • Made decisions about their own lives, as demonstrated by starting the cooperative that they themselves chose and created;
  • Learned how to manage their time between studies, work at the nursery, and work at home;
  • Made initial visits to the bank, local authorities, ODCO (Office du Développement de Coopération), and met other people outside of the village to promote their initiative;
  • Opened a bank account, possibly for the first time in their lives, in order to receive income and manage cooperative finances;
  • Started to receive income;
  • Begun to experience and enjoy independence and autonomy;
  • Voted for administrative members; and
  • Created space for communication between them and other visitors to learn about the project.

The women’s cooperative now wants to expand the project. They are thinking about beekeeping and growing medicinal plants in the future.

This project has become a great example to other women and the girls in rural areas that women can change their situations for the better in the ways they want--if only they have the determination and the support to make it happen.

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