Clean Drinking Water for 1250 Villagers in Morocco

by High Atlas Foundation
Clean Drinking Water for 1250 Villagers in Morocco
Clean Drinking Water for 1250 Villagers in Morocco
Clean Drinking Water for 1250 Villagers in Morocco
Clean Drinking Water for 1250 Villagers in Morocco
Clean Drinking Water for 1250 Villagers in Morocco
Clean Drinking Water for 1250 Villagers in Morocco
Clean Drinking Water for 1250 Villagers in Morocco
Clean Drinking Water for 1250 Villagers in Morocco
Clean Drinking Water for 1250 Villagers in Morocco
Clean Drinking Water for 1250 Villagers in Morocco
Clean Drinking Water for 1250 Villagers in Morocco
Clean Drinking Water for 1250 Villagers in Morocco
Clean Drinking Water for 1250 Villagers in Morocco
Clean Drinking Water for 1250 Villagers in Morocco
Clean Drinking Water for 1250 Villagers in Morocco
Clean Drinking Water for 1250 Villagers in Morocco
Clean Drinking Water for 1250 Villagers in Morocco
Clean Drinking Water for 1250 Villagers in Morocco
Clean Drinking Water for 1250 Villagers in Morocco
Clean Drinking Water for 1250 Villagers in Morocco

The webinar “Water Management in Action for Productive, Climate Resilient Food Systems'' took place on March 22, 2023, as a side event of the UN 2023 Water Conference. The event explored how irrigation systems in Asia, Africa, the Middle East and North Africa can be scaled sustainably to achieve sustainable water and food security while facing climate change.

The session was hosted by Water and Energy for Food (WE4F) together with the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), the European Union (EU), the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Government of the Netherlands, the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (Norad), Sweden through the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida), and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).

WE4F’s work, and this session, focus on bringing together three different communities to achieve sustainable water and food security in the context of climate change: For business and industry, this session shared how to integrate sustainable irrigation practices and water efficiency into their operations and the food value chain.

For the scientific and technological community, the session explored how research institutions and technology developers can contribute to better water management and security by researching basins and surface water to help farmers and businesses improve monitoring and management, while the technology community can help build better irrigation technologies that integrate different water management challenges. And finally, for farmers, this session highlights how the first two communities’ work must be to the benefit of the vulnerable smallholder farmers whose water usage and ability to grow food will be the most affected by climate change.

The first speaker was Etienne, who works at European Union - International Partnerships (EU-INTPA). She explained the EU's approach to the water, energy and food nexus. The main goals are establishing sustainable food systems by supporting farmers and providing them with the necessary funding to implement sustainable farming practices such as organic farming or green energy. Another objective is to protect and foster biodiversity. Right now most food systems are unsustainable as they are resource intensive and inefficient. Water use is especially ineffective, which leads to water scarcity issues, which will only continue to intensify in the future.

To address these problems the EU includes all participants of the food chain in its program - from supporting farmers with funding and training to raising awareness for these issues among citizens. A big role in achieving sustainable food systems is the democratization of the access to technologies, knowledge and resources to create opportunities and eradicate inequalities.

Next, Rölofs from WE4F talked about the connection between the climate and the water crisis and how it affects food security in many parts of the world. Nearly half of the world population experiences water scarcity for parts of the year. To successfully solve this issue, the new demands of the water, energy and food nexus must be acknowledged and addressed. These three areas have to be looked at as a connected network to improve efficiency instead of looking at them separately as it was done up until recently. On top of that, players of all three sectors must be made aware of the importance of safe water and how they can contribute to it.

Important steps to improving sustainability in this area are preventing water over extraction and raising awareness among farmers for green energies. Providing farmers and companies with the right information is crucial to eradicate inefficiencies and harmful practices for the environment. For instance, a better understanding of water basins in a region can help farmers and companies adjust their water use to prevent over extraction of the water reserves.

At the conference, Astrid Tveteraas from the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (Norad) announced their partnership with WE4F as well as a donation of $1.5 million to improve food security in Southern, Central and Eastern Africa. This goal shall be achieved by supporting small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) and improving overall productivity. An important step in increasing the output and the efficiency of food production is enabling access to innovative technologies and services for SMEs.

Sweden, through the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida), also committed $1.5 million to combat water scarcity in the MENA region, which has one of the most precarious water situations in the world. Pia Lindström from Sida emphasized the need for sustainable water use as well as the importance of focusing on women and people at the base of the pyramid (BOP) as they are the important food producers but often overlooked, receiving less training, funding and overall support. Because of this women´s agricultural production is on average 20-30% lower than men´s. Teaching them how to eliminate water inefficiencies and wastage can help to close this gap.

Other problems such as water scarcity and rising energy costs which create difficulties for irrigation will also be addressed in the partnership. Green energies are particularly expensive, making them unattainable for many people, especially women and BOP people, and forcing them to use fossil fuels, which in turn further accelerates climate change. Adjusting innovations to meet the needs of these groups of people and reducing financial barriers can help resolve this issue. But it is equally important to empower these people by giving them opportunities and supporting them as business leaders and employees.

McMahan from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) spoke about the importance of technologies and innovation to scale SMEs, particularly women-owned ones, to accelerate sustainable water use and achieve food security. Vulnerable communities need access to modern technologies to improve their productivity and combat food insecurity. They also need training to understand sustainable technologies and efficient water use, e.g. only irrigating plants at certain times to save water. The covid crisis has also shown the necessity of SMEs being flexible and able to adapt to supply issues or similar problems.

Naga Velpuri from the International Water Management Institute (IMWI) spoke about the possibilities that data offers to improve efficiency and achieve water and food security. This will become increasingly important as scientists predict that until 2050 a food gap of 70% will have to be closed to feed 10 billion people on Earth. Closing this gap will require a lot of water, which will be further exacerbated by climate change. Innovations will be needed to improve water security and resilient food systems.

An important part of advancing development is data. Data-driven solutions have the potential to meet the demands of the growing world population while addressing climate change. But right now, there is only very limited data in Africa which makes it difficult to make the right decisions when it comes to the water, energy and food nexus. To address this issue, IMWI has come up with Water Accounting Plus (WA+), a free platform that uses widely available data such as satellite images to predict the future availability of water and enable improved decision making and sustainable water management.

Julia from the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) on Water, Food and Climate presented the Climate Resilient Food System (CRFS) Alliance, which provides a platform for achieving climate resilient food systems by synergizing efforts across the different actors who are part of the alliance. The platform offers extensive knowledge on various topics related to the water, energy and food nexus, which can help improve efficiency and sustainability.

She then touched upon the importance of water and water efficiency in the food production in reversing climate change. Right now about 10% of the world population lives in countries with high or critical water stress. 70% of all water that is extracted from aquifers, streams and lakes is used for agriculture. At the moment, the use, storage, distribution and treatment of water and wastewater makes up about 10% of total greenhouse gas emissions. Through smart management of water and freshwater ecosystems the same amount of food could be produced while using significantly less water and reducing carbon emissions at the same time.

Many small farmers face challenges to secure water for food production such as having no or insufficient water withdrawal licenses, which prevents them from extracting the full potential of their food production. Other issues are low water availability and high seasonal variations and overlapping water demands of many farmers on a shared water source.

The research initiative Nexus Gains aims at resolving these issues by working at the intersection of food, energy, and water security while preserving affected ecosystems. The initiative collaborates with local partners to find adequate and customized solutions for the particular challenges of a region and it helps with the implementation.

The Solar Power Irrigation System (SPIS) Toolbox is another useful tool which helps farmers meet their water needs with water pumps powered by solar panels.

Johannes presented Sun4Water, a contribution of the German Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development to WE4F. The objective of Sun4Water is facilitating access to solar powered irrigation systems for farmers in East and West Africa. These SPIS have the potential to lift 140 million people in Africa out of poverty and hunger by increasing the production of high-quality food and preventing crop failure. On top of that SPIS improve the resilience against climate change while also being a very cost-friendly solution.

Sun4Water aims at providing adequate technical and financial support, training, capacity building and a knowledge network to farmers that will enable them to improve their livelihood. The initiative also aims at advancing women and gender equality, improving sustainable water management as well as implementing climate-friendly measures. Sun4Water wants to promote inclusive access to SPIS as a key enabler to ensure equitable, resilient, and productive rural livelihoods.

The webinar “Water Management in Action for Productive, Climate Resilient Food Systems”

highlighted the importance of sustainable water management in achieving sustainable food security while facing climate change. Members of business, scientific, and farming communities came together to share knowledge on irrigation practices, water efficiency, and new technologies that can help create sustainable food systems. 

On top of stressing the need for safe water, the session raised awareness for green energy, and the democratization of access to technologies, knowledge, and resources. Another important take-away was that a bigger emphasis must be put on empowering women and people at the base of the pyramid by giving them access to knowledge, technologies and funding. Also, the event resulted in partnerships and donations from organizations like Norad and Sida committed to combat water scarcity in different parts of the world.

The High Atlas Foundation (HAF) aims to address water access challenges for rural schools and communities throughout Morocco. Unhealthy drinking water causes alarmingly high infant mortality – and also results in shorter life spans and reduced energy for earning a livelihood. Further, time spent procuring non-potable water adds to the already substantial burden placed on women and girls, preventing their participation in education.

HAF utilizes a variety of drinking water systems to meet different communal needs. These include digging wells as well as gravity flow systems, which deliver safe drinking water directly from mountain springs and reservoirs to homes. HAF also builds water towers and installs solar pumps to bring water from valleys to villages situated in mountainous areas in a sustainable way. Our partners share important health-related information with communities in order to avoid water-borne illnesses while water-system maintenance and repair techniques are also taught at the grassroots level.

By bringing villages clean drinking water, HAF can reduce infant mortality rates, improve public health conditions, empower women and girls by improving their access to education and transfer skills at the grassroots level while using local materials and building techniques as well as green technologies. HAF is currently seeking partners to assist in restoring traditional water systems with nomadic communities in the Dakhla-Oued Ed-Dahab region.

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February the 16th marks the start of the training series provided by the High Atlas Foundation (HAF) with nomadic people in the Bir Anzarane municipality of the Dakhla-Oued Ed-Dahab region. We began the four-day Imagine women’s empowerment workshop.

The training is part of a Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI) program for participatory planning and the implementation of community initiatives. The goal is to train 150 individuals from three municipalities in essential skills such as entrepreneurship, digital marketing, advocacy, and finance three local initiatives that address current challenges.

Due to the harsh conditions of the desert, the participants and HAF team decided to organize the event in Bir Gandouz, where members of the nomadic community have relatives and purchase supplies and necessities. As is the case with every Imagine Workshop, Hana and Hajiba welcomed the 18 participants with open arms.

Hana and Hajiba, equipped with their great experience, spoke about the seven core areas of the workshop: emotions, relationships, body, sexuality, work, money and spirituality. Each area was given its own fair share of time to be discussed.

The topics were personal, sensitive and rarely brought up in the nomads' day-to-day lives. The harsh living conditions to which they are subjected leaves no room for thoughts of emotion or self expression. For the participants, this workshop was a window to exploring the view that encourages empowerment, self-confidence, and self-expression for women.

For our trainers, this was an unusual group. The nomads are people who live in the 21st century, yet are unswayed by its distractions and comfortable lifestyle. The nomads are people who choose to live following the ways of their ancestors. They choose to defend their cultural heritage and to keep passing it down to future generations.

Hana and Hajiba were grateful when they saw the extreme attachment of the nomad communities to their way of living. One of the participants said that she could not bear to part with the desert for a period longer than a month. Living in a city makes her feel suffocated, imprisoned within four concrete walls. Physically and mentally, living in a city makes her feel constrained, isolated, and under stress.

Meanwhile, living in the desert brings her freedom. She could stretch her sight thousands of meters away with no limitations blocking her gaze. As she walks through the desert —she narrates— she could feel the spirits of her ancestors who walked there before. She could feel the spirits of her descendants in the not so far future walking by as well.

For the nomadic women, the desert is not merely somewhere to live physically, it is also their spiritual center. Its vastness, silence, and majesty gives them comfort, calmness and mental fortitude.

City dwellers such as I might only see the surface of this lifestyle. We see the rough conditions, the hard work, and the harsh weather. We lament the lack of electricity and internet connection, but is the city environment humane?

The deep love the nomadic people have for the desert is not something that can be explained in a sentence or two. The trainers were astonished at the depth of that love and attachment. And as the workshop progressed, Hajiba and Hana began to facilitate the conversation around the current issues the nomadic community faces.

This initiative was met with great appreciation. Together, the trainers and the nomadic participants started brainstorming to identify and tackle these challenges.

The first challenge that our participants shed light on was the lack of water. This problem poses a very serious threat to the community. Many of the old wells have dried up. And due to various factors (including climate change) the region faced several years of drought which led to the death of many of the nomads’ camel and sheep herds.

We must remember that a nomadic person’s herd of camels is his lifeline. It is his capital. So when they start to die en masse, it is a horrific catastrophe—similar to when the stock market falls and people’s savings and investments are negatively affected.

The participants proposed to expand and rebuild some old wells, to make some technical modifications, to add in solar energy to make the process more energy efficient and environmentally-friendly.

The women explained that their need for water is not about luxury; they—the nomadic people—are the most self-conscious people about the usage of this vital resource. Their entire lifestyle is based on traveling through the desert to find new sources of water.

The nomadic women told us that they want to preserve their Hassani cultural heritage. But the environmental challenges they face with the expansion of big farms that drain the groundwater reserves endanger their way of life. This leaves them with no choice but to seek external help and thus comes the role of HAF as a civil organization that specializes in preserving culture in a manner that also integrates sustainable development efforts.

The second project the nomadic women identified was related to the medical herbs found within the desert. The Sahara is a wondrous place with its own lifeforms. There are many herbs that have medicinal properties that helped our Sahrawi ancestors to survive and heal from various injuries and illnesses.

The nomadic women proposed the creation of a cooperative that specializes in collecting, sorting, packaging, marketing, and selling these herbs as a source of income for these families. This would be a helpful contribution to the entire municipality, who are unable to collect these herbs by themselves.

Finally, the workshop came to closure after four days. The nomadic women’s faces shown with splendor as the candles were lit signifying their hopes for a better future. Their eyes gleamed with a new understanding of life. The women felt empowered and in control of their lives more than ever before.

Our trainers gave the promise of another meeting. A meeting where new discussions will arise, where project ideas will slowly solidify and take shape. The women expressed their readiness to participate in future events.

And thus the curtains were closed for this event. But while this workshop has come to an end, HAF continues to conduct training with women in the Dakhla-Oued Ed-Dahab Region on building skills such as digital marketing, advocacy, and participatory governance as part of the MEPI program.

If you feel that such programs need to be supported, I would like you to help us spread the word by sharing this article with your friends and family to bring the truth to light or maybe you could prove your generosity by donating to HAF, the foundation that planted more than 4 million trees in Morocco. We do this together to create a more habitable environment for us all.

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Carbon Offsets Brochure 2023
Carbon Offsets Brochure 2023

Dear friend,

I'm truly excited to be hosting a virtual presentation and Q&A session about HAF's Carbon Offsets program on Wednesday, March 22 at 2:00 PM Morocco / 10:00 AM New York.

Our model is uniquely social, involving the growing and monitoring of fruit trees that represent increased and long-term earning potential for the rural Moroccan farming families with whom we plant each year.

If you are exploring ways to improve the quality of life for our planet and its people, I sincerely encourage you to join me for this session and to share your questions in advance via the registration form.

All the best,

Yossef Ben-Meir, Ph.D.
President, High Atlas Foundation


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On January 2nd, 2023, the High Atlas Foundation (HAF) Dakhla team embarked on a 143-kilometer-long journey to visit the Bir Anzarane municipality. This is one of the three communes selected for the implementation of the Participatory Planning and Implementation of Community Initiatives in Oued Ed-Dahab Region, in collaboration with the U.S.-Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI).

This new program engages with 150 participants from civil society and government officials in the area to benefit from a series of training and workshops that will improve their ability to design social, economic, and environmental projects that respond to local community priorities.

Hajiba, a member of the HAF team who has settled in Dakhla, is no stranger to rural life and has been involved in many HAF tree planting and women’s empowerment initiatives in the north and middle of the country. Her collaboration with people living in the barren desert has been a new experience for her.

There are no paved roads, no water or electricity systems, and no internet connection. One could stretch their eyesight to the limit and still not see a single person. The vast desert plains were only occasionally broken up by the sight of camel herds walking by.

To find the tent of their hosts, the team required the assistance of an experienced local Sahrawi driver who was well-acquainted with the region. The team was welcomed warmly by their hosts, who gave them camel milk and tea, the highest welcoming protocol in nomadic culture. Four nomadic families were waiting for them in the tent, each family bringing their own representative. After exchanging pleasantries, the workshop began.

The representatives all agreed that the principal challenge facing their communities was the difficulty of accessing water. They shared their difficulties, mentioning that three wells that had been supporting the livelihoods of the nomads in the region had stopped pumping enough water in the last five years. Some had even been damaged by wind and other natural factors.

The first one, Tourife Well, pumps sweet water and has a depth of 32 meters. It is located between the Dakhla Oued Eddahab Region and Laayoune Sakia El Hamra Region, and 45 percent of the nomads in both regions drink from it. However, the amount of water it pumps has been reduced due to various factors. The nomads hoped that the HAF team and partners could help them by deepening the well, building water wheels to make the camel herds' drinking process easier, and installing solar pumps to make the water pumping a carbon-neutral operation.

The second well is located in Bir Anzarane Commune and pumps salty water with a depth of 38 meters. It is unsuitable for people's needs but 95 percent of camels drink from it. The nomads hope that the well can be deepened, restored, and its solar pumps repaired.

The third well, also located in Bir Anzarane Commune, has a depth of 64 meters. Thirty-three percent of the nomads in the area drink from it. They hope to restore the well, deepen it, and install solar pumps.

On their way, the team visited two more nomadic families who shared the same concerns. For the nomads, water creates a transcendent existence. Without it, their camel and sheep herds will not survive, and they would lose their only source of income and food.

The Bir Anzarane Commune's nomads are facing huge pressure. When the HAF team spoke to them about the nature of their participatory governance project, the nomads gave a statement: "If we find an organization that is willing to help the nomadic families in repairing a well, then we are committed enough to start the project and protect it, and we hope this project will be implemented before summer. The Tourife well is the essential one, but if the organization would find working on another well more convenient, it is good for us as well.”

In conclusion, this visit to the Bir Anzarane Commune provided a first-hand account of the living conditions and difficulties faced by these communities. We were deeply moved by the warm welcome we received and the resilience of the nomadic families, despite their challenges.

By collaborating with these communities and addressing their most urgent needs, we can ensure a brighter future for the nomadic families of the Bir Anzarane Commune. Together, we can help protect these vulnerable communities and improve their access to basic necessities such as water.

Please contact the High Atlas Foundation if you would like to partner and make this clean drinking water initiative a reality with Bir Anzarane and other nomadic communities.

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On February 6, at the coordination of Aziz, we were able to go to the University Sultan Moulay Slimane School of Science and Technology to meet with research students and hear about their climate change research and outreach/education efforts. These students are studying the effects of climate change on local watersheds in the Beni Mellal region. They gather data from the field measuring surface water levels, the velocity of rivers, and soil erosion through sediment analysis as it relates to flash floods.

Their work is particularly important as there is no data in this region to date. They have been collecting data for two years which they presented to us. They use GIS modeling to make predictions and then confirm their modeling through field data. Their methods are scientifically sound and their research and passion are very commendable. They lack funding and resources to continue and expand their research which is so vital to understanding and addressing localized climate change. Upon my return to the USA, I will work to establish connections between the University of Arizona's climate change research programs and the University of Si Slimane in hopes of providing resources.

After the visit to the University, we visited a primary school in the Afourar community that has been recognized for its efforts in ecological education. The school grounds have many trees and plants that are well-tended by the students and staff there. We met with a group of teachers and administrators about their mission to teach the children at the school about the environment and the importance of protecting it.

They described to us their water scarcity issues as their well is shallow and has run dry. Currently, they are watering with municipal water which is very expensive for them. They are hoping to secure funding and resources to extend their current well another 20-40 meters. We planted a Carob tree with the students and had a question and answer time where we tested their knowledge of environmental issues and the benefits of growing trees. The students greatly impressed us with their extensive knowledge about soil erosion, trees and their benefits, and drought.

On February 7 we were invited to participate in a discussion at the University school of human resource management as part of their Environmental Days program in February. I spoke with them about my Environmental Science degree, professional consulting experience, my time in the Peace Corps in Morocco, my farming and farming education experience, and my time spent volunteering with High Atlas Foundation and the Farmer to Farmer program in 2021 and in 2023. We discussed the many problems that Morocco faces with climate change, but made sure to also focus on the many solutions and opportunities there are to adapt and make a positive impact in their communities. The students asked important questions related to technological differences in farming between the USA and Morocco and what they could do as individuals to make a difference.


The Bio-Agri Atlas farmers cooperative of Oulad Mbark are willing and ready to try new methods of farming to improve water retention and reduce soil erosion. The many benefits of cover cropping and no-till direct seeding are methods they are willing to put in place (and many of them already are). Dry cover crops (residue) from previous seasons' growth appear to be the most attainable during this time of drought and limited water availability.

Barriers they face are a lack of reliable irrigation water, a lack of technology to predict weather events, measure soil moisture content, and tractor attachments to crimp instead of plow harvested crop residue. Farmers that do not have access to well water are left with no way to irrigate their crops until the catchment dam has been replenished. Each farmer has their own well seems to be a temporary solution only that may have lasting consequences of groundwater depletion without proper water management.

The Ph.D. students at the University Sultan Moulay Slimane School of Science and Technology are conducting scientifically sound and commendable research that is immensely important for the Beni Mellal region and Morocco. They lack proper funding and resources to effectively continue and expand their studies.

The students at the primary school of Ait Chaib show extensive knowledge of their local environment, issues they face, and solutions they have. The ecological focus of the school is so important that the next generation is equipped with the knowledge to be active participants in environmental solutions. The lack of water is also affecting their ability to sustainably maintain their school grounds.

The Environment club at the University School of Human Resource Management is highly motivated to make a positive impact in their communities, country, and world. The Environment Days program is a very effective way to educate the school population about the environmental issues we are facing.

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Organization Information

High Atlas Foundation

Location: New York, NY - USA
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @AtlasHigh
Project Leader:
Yossef Ben-Meir
President of the High Atlas Foundation
NYC, NY (US) and Marrakech, Al Haouz (Maroc) , Morocco
$50,772 raised of $100,000 goal
822 donations
$49,228 to go
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