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

When I first started the internship for the High Atlas Foundation (HAF), I also had to take a UVA class to complement the internship experience. Our first assignment, Envisioning Your Learning Chart, stated, “it is almost guaranteed that your internship will not be what you expect it to be.” There was no way I would have ever predicted my summer turning out the way it has, which is not necessarily a bad thing. Although I was and still am slightly sad that I was not able to physically go to Morocco, I am still so grateful to be able to learn as much as I can through a global, virtual internship. Even though I was hesitant about what a virtual internship would look like, I have been pleasantly surprised by how consistent we have been able to meet and talk, and I have enjoyed being able to get to know and work with my fellow interns. Working with the other interns and the HAF staff has made the virtual work feel more connected and meaningful.

When we were talking about the benefits and challenges of virtual work, I have somewhat struggled with keeping a consistent schedule. I tend to do my internship work at a variety of times throughout the day, and I would like to have a more regular schedule during the  day. Maybe I’ll try planning out my week more. With the move to virtual work, Morgan, a fellow intern, brought up an interesting point about work-life balance in view of the fact that many people are now available on a 24/7 basis. I have also wondered how much technology will continue to be implemented in our daily lives, because it seems as if the pandemic has only cemented the integral role technology plays in people’s lives. It scares me how much society, including myself, relies on our phones, laptops, tablets etc., because I cannot imagine a world without these gadgets now. Especially with all the crazy events in the world recently, people rely on getting their news and social interactions through technology, which has its benefits. I hope the world will better learn how to use technology as a tool without it becoming a crutch we cannot live without. But, honestly, I think we have already passed that point.

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Bill served as a volunteer consultant to the High Atlas Foundation (HAF) through the Farmer-to-Farmer Program (F2F) for two weeks in January 2020. Originally from New Mexico, now residing in Boston, Bill collaborated as an F2F volunteer with four of HAF’s tree nursery cooperatives in southern Morocco. He was tasked with improving their productivity. One immediate benefit of his visits with Moroccan farmers at these sites is that he was able to share not only his technical and business skills but also to find ways for the four individual cooperatives within the same province to share their own specialized skills with one another. 

Farmer-to-Farmer responds to the local needs of host-country farmers and organizations like HAF in developing and transitional countries. It leverages the expertise of volunteers from U.S. farms, universities, cooperatives, agribusinesses, and nonprofits. As an example, during Bill’s visits, he offered guidance to sustainably maximize the quality and quantity of organic fruit trees. This directly coincided with the goals of HAF, the current F2F-implementer in Morocco, to develop project plans with donor partners that local communities determine and manage.

Bill’s assignment was fortuitously timely, as it was during Morocco’s planting season, when partners are driven to plant as much and as well as possible. Early in the season, cooperative members consider the number of seedlings to plant along with the expected returns from their plantings. In response to this need, Bill supported them in their cost-benefit analysis that, along with a reevaluation of tree pricing, informed the nurseries’ operational budgets.

Bill’s work on pricing trees was immediately utilized by the cooperatives in order for them to meet the rigorous project criteria of their donor organization, Ecosia (a German search engine that finances reforestation around the world). As a result, Ecosia now supports planting 150,000 seeds of almond, carob, olive, and walnut trees at the nurseries of the four cooperatives where Bill provided assessments: Tassa Ouirgane, Imdoukal Znaga, Akrich Village, and the Adrar Cooperative. At the latter, he also instigated a soil analysis for the nursery caretaker, who complained of substandard planting soil. 

The groups he worked with acted upon Bill’s observation and coordinated capacity-building workshops. For example, the members of the Women’s Cooperative of Tassa Ouirgane, since Bill’s work with HAF, have participated in monthly technical trainings facilitated by Hassan, a father of two in his thirties who is the caretaker of a nearby nursery cooperative. Bill had met Hassan when they identified a more efficient water delivery system for Imdoukal Znaga Nursery. That collaboration led to the identification of system material needs and related costs. The local F2F-HAF team communicated this information to FENELEC, a federation of Moroccan companies, who then funded the solar pumping components and training needed for the improved the water system.

These lasting outcomes are deeply relevant to worldwide F2F programming today. The current global pandemic makes it extremely difficult, even impossible, to field volunteers on F2F assignments. Until the pandemic lifts, needy host-country organizations will not receive assistance from foreign volunteers. It is profoundly helpful for the emerging agricultural cooperatives that in all thirty-five of the United States Agency for International Development’s F2F-country programs we are currently able to, for example, enable local experts like Hassan to complete new F2F assignments. Bill’s connection-making has benefited several cooperatives in this way, illuminating its necessity in our new global reality.

That F2F Volunteers excel in Morocco and around the world speaks to their being exceptional people. A testament to this is not only Bill’s diverse and vast knowledge-base (technical, financial, and managerial), but also his wholehearted generosity. However, it must be said that volunteers also require a conducive context that enables the potential of their work to be achieved. Through essential participatory dialogue, cooperative members are able to attain consensus on their goals and are ready to act on the agricultural project plans that they have themselves created well before F2F volunteers arrive in country. By laying groundwork in advance, HAF can ensure that the volunteers’ recommendations are directed toward what is most needed and wanted. In truth, cooperatives more often consider recommendations and accomplish their objectives with new partnerships that are contributive – in both directions – as was the case with Bill’s successful assignment, assisting Moroccan people to advance transformative initiatives.

Since it began in 1985, the John Ogonowski and Doug Bereuter Farmer-to-Farmer Program of USAID has supported volunteers from all 50 states in their completion of over 15,000 assignments in more than 115 countries. It is an honor for the High Atlas Foundation to implement this program in Morocco, and this program is made even more meaningful as HAF was founded by former Peace Corps Volunteers. Bill’s good effects are rippling onward. Upon their reflection we can see that the global positives of F2F – and of Peace Corps fielding more than 235,000 volunteers since 1962 – are incalculable.

Dr. Yossef Ben-Meir is president of the High Atlas Foundation and a sociologist.

The High Atlas Foundation is a Moroccan association and a U.S. 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization founded in 2000 and committed to furthering sustainable development. HAF supports Moroccan communities to take action in implementing human development initiatives. HAF promotes organic agriculture, women’s empowerment, youth development, education, and health. Since 2011, HAF has Consultancy Status at the United Nations Economic and Social Council.

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On February 14th, I went with three members of the High Atlas Foundation to a primary school near the town of El Gara in the Berrechid Province. During this day, two workshops were organized in order to raise awareness about climate change among the young generation. The first activity was aimed at having the students participate and gain knowledge about the environment, polluting practices, and the direct effects these have on their environment. The second activity consisted of planting a symbolic tree with the children in the school’s playground before the other trees were to be planted the following day. Despite our unexpected arrival due to logistical reorganization, the teachers welcomed awareness activities dealing with climate change and the opportunity to get to know our association.

I wasn’t expecting the pupils at this school to know a lot about climate change, but it appeared that they are familiar with many terms relating to global warming even though they were no more than 11 years old living and living in rural Morocco. The school has already been involved in sustainable projects such as the installation of a solar-powered well pump. That may explain how much the children are already aware of the variety of renewable energy sources.

Those rural pupils will be the first to be impacted by global warming. Indeed, due to the high temperatures that will cause drier summers and warmer winters, that rural population who relies on locally grown food, weakened water infrastructures, and food-deprived animals, will suffer far more difficulties than more affluent city-dwellers. The fact that they are the most endangered should be the reason for them to be the first informed. In practice, the best way to involve them is to have them participate in direct planning. Through these ongoing discussions, HAF aims to develop the pupils’ sense of connection that will ultimately encourage them to protect their environment.

During the different activities, the students’ eagerness was noteworthy: such a simple action as planting a tree becomes a day’s event at the school. While this disrupts their daily routine, it allows them to discuss a subject that will become their reality during the next decades. As important as Math or English classes, this awareness must be part of the tools given to such rural populations. In addition to the issue of girls’ education, the issue of global warming awareness is becoming nowadays an essential topic in Morocco’s rural schools. Wherever they are from and whatever the gender, the children must be informed about these global realities and guided in discovering how they will address the problems as they grow. In turn, they will raise awareness among their parents and eventually their own offspring.

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In recent years in Morocco, the succession of droughts, floods, unusual temperatures, negative changes of ecosystems and productive sectors, and fragile economic conditions are unlike previous decades. This necessitates redoubling development efforts involving economic, political, and civil society actors to counter these adverse effects of climate.

This is why the Moroccan government has launched projects aimed at respecting human and natural resources and taking preventive green measures to combat the effects of climate change, including renewable energy, sustainable recycling of solid and liquid waste, and the National Initiative for Human Development.

Civil society contributes significantly to overcoming environmental obstacles to achieve sustainable development especially for villagers because they are in constant contact with the natural environment and are aware of their own needs. The High Atlas Foundation builds proactive initiatives to serve the inhabitants of remote areas.

Since July 2017, the village of Tassa Ouirgane in the Marrakech region’s Azzadene Valley is taking action against flooding and soil erosion through restoring agricultural terraces and fruit tree orchards. This project is funded by the United Nations Development Program.

The Tassa Ouirgane community experiences a serious short fall of water during the summer. Heavy rain in the winter in the High Atlas’ Azzadene Valley causes severe flooding, destroying many productive terraces and threatening livelihoods, and has even led to the tragic loss of human life. The impact is destabilizing for the local families, and this HAF-UNDP project includes several activities for village men, women, and youth.

The olive, almond, and walnut nursery of 24,100 trees comprises a 107.5m2 green house, the necessary equipment, and high-quality seeds adapted to the region. The project also includes conceptual and practical training for farmers on how to grow the trees and seed selection.

A basin is 3 x 5 meters with a capacity to carry 38 tons of water has been constructed, a water well 35 meters deep was built, and a solar-power pump was installed - for the benefit of the farmers of Tassa Ouirgane. Further, 960 meters of gabions have also been built to protect agricultural lands against floods caused by the river.

Ninety famers from as many households (including 600 people – 380 women and 220 men) in the region are now benefiting from the project, including capacity-building workshops about irrigation methods and how to improve the productivity of the nursery.

On October 9th and 10th, Amina Hajami, HAF’s director of projects, visited Tassa Ouirgane to assess the development of the project.

Most of the members of the Tassa Ouirgane cooperative are very ambitious 15 girls between the ages of 14 and 20 years. The women of the village have received a series of seven capacity-building workshops. The first was Imagine empowerment activities that constituted 32 hours over four days to channel creative energies towards achieving specific goals and establish better familial and community relationships.

Malika is a divorced woman who has little daughter. She is now working at the cooperative and faces the people's traditional perspectives of divorced women. She totally changed her thinking with new income and confidence. Before, she was not comfortable leaving her parents' house to avoid the hurtful words of people, but now she goes out everyday for work and self-growth.

 Zahra is able to manage the cooperative by delivering the tasks to members and monitoring their work hours by using a daily attendance list. She described her earlier desire to start a new cooperative that benefit community and women, based on cultivating and marketing medicinal and aromatic herbs and working on apple cider vinegar.The region is very rich in these kinds of plants. The spirit of cooperation and achievement did not leave them despite study and work in the cooperative on Saturdays and Sundays and often during leisure time.

I affirm that the village of Tassa Ouirgane is a typical model of a village in Morocco that has benefited from a comprehensive project by the civic organization, the High Atlas Foundation, which contributes to providing better living conditions for our communities.

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As a part of a multi-stakeholder partnerships (MSP) project on renewable energy in Morocco, the High Atlas Foundation (HAF) facilitated a conference of Climate Action Network - Arab World in Rabat on September 1st, under the topic: Current State of Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) Review in the Arab Region Towards Enhancement of the NDC through a Shared Scheme: MSP as a Facilitating Tool for the Process.  

The conference was opened with an overview of NDCs review During this first session four representatives from Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, and Jordan gave a short overview about the NDCs of their countries.

Then, the president of HAF, Dr. Yossef Ben-Meir facilitated the group’s brainstorming about sustainable development in order to introduce the MSP approach. The participants interacted sharing different ideas based on their experience in the civil society engagement, notably:

  • Sustainable development should be economic, social, political, cultural, historic, geographic and financial, no longer just emphasizing the environment.
  •  Sustainable development should protect the patrimony of the future generations.
  • One of the most important things in sustainable development is education and every part of the society should be looked upon a sustainable way.
  • Sustainable development has four pillars: social equity, citizen economy, protection of the environment and democracy.

What’s your goal, mission and what partners do you need to have achieve your objectives?

Dr. Yossef continued generating interaction by asking the audience about their global purpose, their mission and their role in order to have peace currently and in the future?

Each one of the participants answered this question based on her or his background. Some participants have as a main goal the development of their community and the enhancement of the quality life of their regions, while the principal goal of the others is to put the climate policy in the corps of the public policy, to make sure the authorities can make something viable economically, environmentally, and socially speaking in the region. Their role as a network is to make sure that the global reflection will take into consideration the needs of community at regional level and try to see how to get the governments involved making these things happen.

Dr. Yossef asked the following questions: How do we affect policy in order to achieve quality of life and improve the environment for communities in regions? Is your purpose as an organization is to affect policy or to affect projects?

The majority of the participants target both policies and projects. They influence policies and build capacities of the other associations so they can implement projects.     

 ‘‘So we have two tracks, we move upon them both at the same time: we implement projects to enhance life and the environment and at the same time we promote policy reform and change.’’ Dr. Yossef, said. He also clarified that, it’s often the project and the subsequent articles about them in the media that allow us to affect policies.

One of the audiences pointed out that we need to affect policies by bearing in mind that we are fighting for survival.

Then the facilitator concluded that we have to remind ourselves there is urgency, and he asked the participants if it’s only urgent in regards climate change or for another reason? Is sustainable development urgent in Morocco even if there is no climate change?

Moroccan participants stressed that sustainable development became urgent in Morocco even if there no climate change. In fact, Dr. Yossef explained that decision makers know that we cannot take stability as a guarantee anymore. They know that there is a social urgency.

During this session, different experiences were discussed; the first one was the Egyptian case. A participant from Egypt spoke about his experience with a group youth who worked on creating an intergovernmental platform in which to deliver their voice to the decision makers. Dr. Yossef suggested that platform is a Multi-Stakeholders Partnership, because this group of youth have engaged external partners to transmit their messages to the concerned stakeholder.

Afterward Dr. Yossef explained the case of Morocco. HAF has this twin objective of affecting policy to a practical initiative, and right now our steering committee is trying to find out where to do that clean energy project to affect national policy. Then he asked the audience if each of their organizations has this mission to both create a project also affecting policy?

A minority of participants has as a mission affecting projects and not policies. Thus, Dr. Yossef advised them to start thinking about policy, informed by their project experience.  

In this sense a CANAW member intervened, giving the example of his experience in Palestine, he said: “If you want to guarantee sustainability you need to go to policy level, every project has a start date and end date while a policy continues.” In Palestine, a group of youth worked on a project of nonviolence in school and they were sending proposals. The last time they got funding the donor asked them for a strong strategy that guaranteed sustainability and the only way to do it, was with the ministry which was difficult, but the outcome was that they were able to make a new policy built by the ministry for nonviolence in school. The negotiations with the ministry took four months.

Here, the facilitator asked the participants, what partners they need in order to affect both policy and project, what stakeholders do they have to invite and to talk with. He added that the organizations need to think about targeting specific stakeholders: agencies, ministries, municipalities ….etc. The next step is to target a person, for example in the municipality you can contact the mayor. The third step is to determine the channel, in other words, the way you contact your potential partner, should it be a letter, an e-mail or face to face. The last thing Dr. Yossef referred to is the steering committee that decides who the organization should contact.

At the end of the first day of the CANAW General Assembly, three groups were formed to discuss the three main pillars of climate change namely: water, agriculture and energy. Each group had to come up with a multi-stakeholder partnerships design using a participatory approach to achieve one or more goals in each area.

The three groups pointed out in their presentations the important role of governments in achieving the objectives set in each area. Moreover, they stressed that the responsibility for funding generally rests with the northern governments, hence the need to put pressure on States to implement projects.  

Therefore, the facilitator reacted by putting forward two main ideas or thoughts as he called them.

First, there is not one REDD+ project in Morocco and in the Arabic countries.

REDD+ project is monitoring the ground cover of a region, monitoring its growth, and the social benefits by replanting. Monitoring vegetation, forests and the benefits that they generate is required. Trees growing can become transferable into credits and then significant revenue can be generated that returns directly to the concerned region. Provinces in the Tetouane-Tangier region in Morocco can generate the most revenue relative to other regions.  And we can do the same thing in the other regions of the kingdom.  He closed this idea with the following question: Is Jordan selling carbon credits based on REDD+? ‘‘There is not’’, the participants answered. 

Dr. Yossef added: ‘‘There is so much revenue potential here. It’s fine to think about securing finance though development assistance programs from northern countries. But do you know how much new funding can be created and secured within our own countries? The problem is that the regions do not yet have the monitor systems in place to the level of detail necessary – while incorporating local communities into this process – for forests and natural ground cover. Please detach from thoughts of dependency and obtaining your revenue requirements from governments and other countries. Identify and achieve your own self-generating revenue sources, which is essential for transformative change.”  

Then, he went straight to the second thought which consists of taking our own responsibility. If government is not complying with our wish, we must also ask ourselves what is it about our presentation and strategy, in our behavior, that is creating that response. We cannot always look to government and blame it.

It’s very hard to generate carbon credits, to create a REDD+ project, to generate your funds but we can’t act in a dependent way. We have to think and act independently and in partnership.

In sum, the facilitation of HAF and the presentation of its president Dr. Yossef Ben-Meir about the MSP helped the participants to understand that each organization needs to know first the purpose of its existence, its goal and mission, and then it should start looking for partners who share the same vision and interest to achieve the assigned goals and objectives.

HAF would like to thank sincerely Germanwatch which supported its participation in CANAW conference.

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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
$32,211 raised of $37,500 goal
504 donations
$5,289 to go
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