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

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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Stepping onto the campus of the American School in Marrakech was like being transported to a completely different world than what we had thus experienced as High Atlas Foundation interns the past three weeks. After visiting women’s cooperatives, speaking to young women who stop their education at primary school, and witnessing adult women write their name for the first time, the monetary donation received felt like so much more.

Receiving a check from these elementary students, Dr. Yossef Ben-Meir, the President of the High Atlas Foundation, said, “Because of you, there will no longer be parents who have to decide whether to send their daughters to school or to fetch water.” Because of a school walk-a-thon, a major barrier to development and education will be systematically overcome in some capacity. Hearing this, I was filled with a weight, knowing that Ben-Meir’s words speak to a developmental reality and dynamic partnership at work.

The High Atlas Foundation and the American Schools of Marrakech have important common objectives of expanding the environmental education, spreading the green fields in rural schools, providing clean drinking water for schools, and developing rural school infrastructure. These nobel goals and alignment of values were evident in the conversation led by the Head of School Jean Brugniau in the ceremony at the end of the year celebration. He spoke directly to his students and parents, encouraging community participation and engagement. The picture perfect setting and positive commitment to excellence stood out to me as unique to this country and the Moroccan priorities that we have come to understand as interns and students.

What felt like a Hollywood movie school set with smiling parents, dancing young children, and a field of happy and sweaty soccer players, quickly became the backdrop to real, tangible change. I cannot even remember what my own elementary school walk-a-thon raised money for. This schools donation is a true testament of hard work, community support, and the participatory approach beginning from integral fundraising and passion.

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On Monday, the 29th of April, the HAF was invited to the "Economy and Competitiveness of the Mediterranean" forum as part of the Summit of the Two Rivers. This forum was organised by the Economic, Social and Environmental Council (EESC). The challenges concerned economic development but also competitiveness in the countries of the western Mediterranean. Many representatives of civil society from the 5+5 dialogue were present, which allowed for debate and the implementation of concrete initiatives on both sides. The initiatives are also regional, as some of them will help to develop entrepreneurship, the social economy and innovation.

Errachid Montassir (HAF project manager) presented the High Atlas Foundation's project, which is an agricultural initiative with an environmental approach and will enable women in rural areas of the to market their products and learn how to do so. The benefit will go to these women who will be able to make a living from the sale of organic fruit trees, medicinal herbs, and processed product. However, this trade will have an impact on the other side as raw and processed products at attractive prices and high quality will be sold on the European market. In addition, a sale of carbon credits may be set up between the two shores.

The main point is also to obtain organic certifications so that these women can be considered as full-fledged organic companies. During this forum, we heard many projects that were all innovative and encouraging. However, not all projects can be implemented, and only projects that appear to be concrete can be implemented. That is why the day was divided into two stages. During the morning, all the projects were briefly presented, and a debate was initiated for each theme. As for the afternoon, all the projects were divided into thematic workshops, which made us meet in small groups with projects that could more or less join our own.

Knowing that the purpose of this forum is to ideally achieve that all projects are carried out, or at least that all participants benefit from it, we tried during these workshops to find common ground between all our projects and to find innovative ideas to link them together. At the end of this workshop, we had to vote for the projects that seemed to us to be the most easily achievable and concrete. The final projects will be selected at the Summit of the two shores, which will take place on June 24 in Marseille.

With regard to the project: "A Moroccan organic farming initiative for the whole Mediterranean", it was perfectly defended during the "social economy" workshop and we believe that several projects of this session will be able to be connected to each other, including ours, which will considerably advance our project. The HAF initiative was concrete, which puts us in a good position among the projects that will be presented on June 24 at the Summit of the two shores.

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Above, Amazigh women in a village with an association that cultivates an olive tree nursery. Photo credit: Peter J. Jacques


Life and death for whole communities hang in the balance of achieving the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that include eliminating poverty, conserving forests, and addressing climate change, passed by the United Nations unanimously in 2015. Take for example, the Indigenous Amazigh people who live in the mountains around Marrakech. They are representative of people who need to be served first by sustainable development.


The High Atlas Amazigh people experience hard lives in small villages. Most work as day laborers and agriculturalists with barely enough income to support their families and heat their homes. Education is a major concern, but is hard to attain for a number of reasons. Sometimes families cannot afford the subsequent costs of backpacks and books, even when the school is open and free. The challenge is especially difficult for girls, because, as one person explained, “How can fathers let their girls study if it is dark when they must travel?”  The effect of incomplete education is profound, and when we asked one 62-year-old man what he thought the greatest threats to the future were for his community, he did not have confidence in his own experiences, noting, “What can I say? I am not read [educated].”


Through a partnership of the University of Central Florida (Orlando), The Hollings Center for International Dialogue (Washington D.C. and Istanbul), and the High Atlas Foundation (Marrakech), we recently conducted field work in the High Atlas Mountains, speaking with the people there who poured their hearts out to us.


The most consistent message we heard from the people of the High Atlas was that the future hinges on water. One group told us that when things are good, it is because the rain is abundant and on time; things are very hard otherwise. They are worried that climate change will affect if the rains come, or that the rain will not “come in its time.” They have good reason to worry because climate change is expected to decrease precipitation significantly, reducing streams, lakes, and groundwater.


Drought is a constant worry. The World Bank estimates that 37 percent of the population works in agriculture, meanwhile production of cereal crops varies wildly due to annual variation of precipitation-- and 2018 was thankfully a bountiful year. Climate change will make the people of the High Atlas Mountains much more vulnerable while they are already living on the edge of survival. In one area, this change in precipitation timing and amount was already noticeable, resulting in a significant loss of fruit trees. In that same area, we were told that there is fear that there will be no water in twenty years, and that for these people who are deeply connected to the land, there will be “no alternatives.”


The High Atlas people are in an extremely vulnerable position. One group noted that they are so desperate for basic resources that they burn plastic trash to heat their water. Worse, they believe they have been left behind by society and that “the people of the mountains do not matter.” They feel that Moroccan society is deeply unfair—there is no help for the sick, little support for education, little defense against the cold, and that, for some, corruption is the greatest threat to a sustainable future.


Consequently, civil society has an important role in achieving the SDGs. The High Atlas Foundation has been working to help people in this region to organize themselves into collectives that decide both what the collective wants, and pathways to achieve those goals. Women have organized into co-ops that they own and they collect dividends from their products together. People in one coop lobbied the 2015 Conference of Parties climate meeting in Marrakech. Men’s associations have developed tree nurseries that not only produce income, but which protect whole watersheds – and therefore some water for the future. They are also participating in carbon sequestration markets. In this regard, the Marrakech Regional Department of Water and Forest provides them carob trees and the authorization to plant these trees on the mountains surrounding their villages.


However, perhaps the most important element of these collectives is that they give each person in them a voice. Leaders of these collectives have formal rights to approach the regional governments about their needs, and this voice would not be heard at all without the formal collective organization. These organizations cannot replace government services, but they do add capacity to the community.


Not only do these collectives lend people some influence over their current and their children’s lives, they love each other and they are not struggling alone. We witnessed profound solidarity. Repeatedly, the collectives told us “We love each other, we are one family,” “We are like one,” “We help each other,” and the conviction that “I will be with you.”The world is decidedly on an unsustainable path, so If we are going to meet SDGs, all the people like the people of the High Atlas Mountains must matter and their voice deserves to be heard.


Peter J. Jacques is a Professor of Political Science at the University of Central Florida in Orlando, USA.

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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
$49,281 raised of $100,000 goal
801 donations
$50,719 to go
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