Multicultural Cooperation for Fruit Tree Planting

by High Atlas Foundation
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Multicultural Cooperation for Fruit Tree Planting
Multicultural Cooperation for Fruit Tree Planting
Multicultural Cooperation for Fruit Tree Planting
Multicultural Cooperation for Fruit Tree Planting
Multicultural Cooperation for Fruit Tree Planting
Multicultural Cooperation for Fruit Tree Planting
Multicultural Cooperation for Fruit Tree Planting
Multicultural Cooperation for Fruit Tree Planting
Multicultural Cooperation for Fruit Tree Planting
Multicultural Cooperation for Fruit Tree Planting
Multicultural Cooperation for Fruit Tree Planting
Multicultural Cooperation for Fruit Tree Planting
Multicultural Cooperation for Fruit Tree Planting
Multicultural Cooperation for Fruit Tree Planting
Multicultural Cooperation for Fruit Tree Planting

I had the honor of attending; with Mr. Hassan Aladlouni –National Director at the High Atlas Foundation-; the ceremony of the signing of a partnership between the Jewish and Muslim communities in Morocco.This partnership aims to organize the first session of the Marrakech International Symposium of Sainthood and Behavior. The partnership agreement was signed by Jacqui Kaddouch - president of the Moroccan Jewish community in Marrakesh –Safi-and Mr Ahmed Balkati (Karmoudi) President of the Youssoufia Association for praise and hearing and singing evidence of good things and revival of heritage in Marrakech.

The first session of this forum will be held on 29/30/31 March 2020, under the slogan of the-  Moroccan joint in the state and behavior- to establish a unified identity and the value of belonging between the two communities.

In Riad El Hajj El Mehdi Menai next to the Bab Doukkala Mosque in Marrakech, the agreement was signed, followed by a festive concert with fragments of Moroccan and Andalusian trat music, attended by a hill of prominent figures from Marrakech.

It was a very nice feeling to renew the connection of the womb and coexist with our Moroccan Jewish brothers, Or as stated by Mr. Jacqui Kaddouch that this meeting is not to talk about the beliefs, behavior or worship of the Moroccan Jew or the Moroccan Muslim , but a family session in which we express to each other the respect and brotherhood that was and still between the two communities more than 500 years.

They meet with each other Moroccan Muslims and Moroccan Jews deal and trade with each other and do not touch each other in his belief, and what caught my attention different Moroccans in the religion and embrace each other and remember the company that was between them and still exist between them, and I will not forget that I shared the parties with Moroccan Jew and how proud of his Moroccan identity and was very enjoying the Andalusian Tarab and even repeat the words with them.

Therefore, the idea of organizing this forum came in order to strengthen the values of the common identity between the Moroccan Jews and Muslims, and to download the principles of community coexistence within the framework of the Moroccan bypass heritage of traditions, customs and gains, inherited from ancient times, which showed a spirit of solidarity, and synergy in patriotism, and attitudes to its solution. It is a defense of the unity of the country under the shadow of the Principality of the Believers that fosters this coexistence, and the consolidation of this Moroccan heritage built on the depth of the bond of continuous coexistence between Muslims and Jews as brothers in patriotism, identity and tradition.

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From October 2019 to April 2020, HAF will have the pleasure of hosting eight interns from the University of Michigan who will participate in the Global Scholars Program (GSP). They will support HAF in addressing one of its major challenges for the future: developing a green bond to attract global investment in Morocco.

HAF has prioritized the creation of investment opportunities for sustainable development projects in Morocco. One way to do this is through offering well elaborated and tailored green bonds and carbon credits to companies, government agencies, non-governmental organizations, and individuals. HAF simultaneously enables investors to find ecologically meaningful investments and raises funds for community projects throughout Morocco. Such projects entail planting fruit and forestry trees and building water systems for households, villages and schools.

The collaboration between HAF and GSP, U.S.-based initiative, will primarily be virtual. The first Skype conference took place on Thursday, October 10 to elaborate on the expectations, goals, and objectives for all participants of the project. During the call, HAF President Dr. Yossef Ben-Meir highlighted the need for a green bond and Morocco’s engagement in the carbon credit market.

He explained that rural communities which rely on traditional farming practices are most negatively affected by poverty and face common challenges: insufficient capacities to achieve their opportunities; a lack of water or sanitation infrastructure; high rates of attrition among school-aged girls, and environmental degradation. Many of these problems arise when farmers repeatedly plant the same crops, typically barley and corn, and profit very little. By diversifying their crop and planting high quality organic fruit trees, rural farmers could optimize their land and efforts, increasing their income many times over. “The farmers here are sitting on gold,” says Dr. Ben-Meir. Increasing revenue would also enable more girls to continue and finish school.

Since 2014, HAF has planted trees with communities all over Morocco in partnership with Ecosia, the High Commission of Waters and Forests, and the UNDP. The number can grow tremendously with additional investments through green bonds and carbon credits. However, the development process will not be without challenges to be overcome.

To effectively sell carbon credits the amount of carbon the trees sequester have to be monitored. Therefore, tools are needed that enable farmers, even those in remote areas, to monitor their own trees. To enter the green bond market, a general knowledge about green bonds is needed. How do they work and what do they look like? What paperwork is needed for investors and banks to invest in green bonds? And how can they be used to support HAF in developing sustainable projects which communities prioritize?

These are some of the questions HAF hopes to answer with the help of the highly motivated and talented students of the University of Michigan who represent a diversity of academic focus areas (e.g. economics, public policy, finance, statistics, gender studies, public health).

HAF looks forward to a mutually beneficial, transatlantic collaboration which will culminate in a final presentation on how we can begin to utilize green bonds for the benefit of sustainable development and prosperity in Morocco.

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Cherry cultivation in Morocco offers almost 15,000 tons of this fruit every year putting the country on the 25th spot in the global producers’ scoreboard.[1] The main production areas are in the High Atlas Mountains and in Sefrou zone.

Cherries, frozen or dried, are highly demanded nationally and internationally. In Morocco, for example, cherries are used in traditional recipes such as couscous or chicken tajine.

Aside from being used in culinary recipes, cherries are known for their health benefits. The following is not an exhaustive list of why cherries are a healthy snack:

  • Cherries are high in antioxidants.
  • Cherries are anti-Inflammatory and pain reliever.
  • Cherries are a sleep aid.
  • Cherries contain essential nutrients.
  • Cherries may lower cholesterol.
  • Cherries may lower blood sugar.
  • Cherries are immunity boosters.

Cherries in Morocco are known also for the Cherry Festival in Sefrou (an old city about 20km from Fès), a celebration that has entered on the UNESCO heritage. To celebrate the beauty of the cherries in this festival, a Cherry Queen is elected after 3 days of different activities. Many people come from around the world to participate at this almost 100-year old celebration crowding the city and allowing all the locals to promote their local productions.


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What a better way to connect with your roots and Moroccan-ity than celebrating Eid al-Adha with Moroccan Amazighs in the High Atlas Mountains? Eid al-Adha is one of the most important religious celebrations in Morocco and how it’s called here is a great indicator of that; “Eid Makourne” (Eid al-Kebir) meaning Greater Eid.

One cannot deny the unique touch that Morocco adds to everything and it is much more apparent in the rural areas. Spending the Eid in the High Atlas Mountains (Amsouzart) was exceptional and wonderful to say the least, from buying the sheep -the sacrifice- to enjoying the countless delicious Moroccan Eid dishes with the family and neighbours.

I had the privilege to share this experience with my dear parents. Everything about our Eid was different than any other we’ve spent in the past. We were caught in a unique, distinctive atmosphere, an energy that made us enjoy everything about Eid including the arduous work that it requires; prepare Eid breakfast, preparing the sheep, cleaning, cutting meat and finally cooking.

The celebration lasted four days, with families exchanging plates of cooked Eid meat in various ways. Wishing a blessed holiday and kissing everyone you meet, strangers coming together as if they were a big happy family. This is the Eid spirit in the mountains. I’ve witnessed “Bouilmaoune” or “Boujloud” for the first time ever after hearing about it since I was a little girl. It is a celebration that takes place after Eid day, where a bunch of men dress like clowns with sheep or goat skin and a head decorated with goat’s horns or a sheep’s face. This celebration disappeared in most of Morocco but still deeply rooted in Souss area, High Atlas and Anti-Atlas.

To compensate for all the meat we’ve eaten, my parents and I went on a seven hours’ hike to Lake Ifni, a place known for its unique, marvellous landscapes. On our way there, at one of our stops to take some time to rest and catch our breath, distracted by the rain and some strong feelings captured by the marvellous landscapes around us, we left behind a handbag on a bolder; a bag that contains all of our money and personal papers and belongings (ID’s, Visa cards, cash...).

Walking on a stony, hard track, focusing on each step we take on the slippery rocks, praying for the rain to stop. We were interrupted by the cries and whistles of two young men on their mules. “Is this your handbag?” They shouted. Surprised and completely oblivious to what is happening, we saw our bag in their hands. We couldn’t believe that we got it back without a single thing missing from it.

“Lost and Found”, it wasn’t our bag that was retrieved that afternoon but our faith in humanity. Our hope that honesty and honour still exists in today’s world. Thank you High Atlas Mountains.

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As part of my World challenge trip to Morocco I was expecting to work on a local initiative in the Tizian village but I never realised how rewarding the experience would be.  

On the 7th of July my World challenge team and I said ‘Salam’ to Morocco. We were welcomed to the country and its culture during our workshop with Eiesha, a world challenge leader, and Errachid the project manager from High Atlas Foundation (HAF). The Responsible Traveler workshop helped my team to appreciate the importance of volunteering and the impact voluntourism can have on small Moroccan communities. We discussed how social media can be a great platform for raising awareness and tackling the problems faced by communities in Morocco and other areas across the world. The most important lesson I took away from the workshop was that my work as a voluntourist in the Tizian village should not be motivated by what I could gain from the experience, but rather how the community could benefit. Voluntourism should not be about capturing the perfect Instagram shot but immersing yourself in the project, community and culture.

After a great breakfast we were ready with our shovels for an early start to work alongside locals to preserve an area of irrigated land near the village. During our project we helped heighten ridges to prevent surface run-off for close to 100 trees previously planted by the village and we planted 200 Cocoa trees that my world challenge team had donated through our fundraising. Although we weren’t used to the heat, the village children boosted our spirits by keeping us well fed on local plums.

I’m also proud that we contributed to the construction of a village wash room during our time spent in the community. I understood that this would be a great asset to the community as it would allow families to wash their clothes without having to trek to a local stream.

I was extremely impressed by the inclusive approach that HAF have in listening to the concerns and ideas of the communities they work with. My team got involved during the participatory meeting with locals to identifyissues of the highest priority in the village through a method of Community Mapping. I was pleased that the locals highlighted a need for a Women’s association center in their top 3 priorities: the future projects for the village will benefit different members of their community.

It was wonderful to be a part of the village’s development and to have the opportunity to live with a local family during our project. Sharing our delicious meals and joining in games we were made to feel extremely welcome by the whole village. A young man called Mohammed had taught us various Berber phrases to involve us in the community.

Our time working on the project in Tizian was over too quickly and we were sad to say our goodbyes to the friends we had made. I feel grateful for everything I learnt from Morocco and the people we met and recognize the good work being done by the High Atlas Foundation. Hopefully through the GPS coordinates of the locations that my team planted the trees, in years to come we will be able to follow their growth through regular updates from the village.

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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
New York City and Marrakech, Morocco
$15,940 raised of $28,000 goal
309 donations
$12,060 to go
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