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

Marrakech is a city entrenched in diversity, this diversity manifests itself in many ways: economically, culturally, and perhaps most notably, religiously.

On 21st of May, Mr. Jacky, the President of the Jewish Community in Marrakech-Safi region, organized an Iftar ceremony that brought both Muslim and Jewish communities together to the same table. This assembly was honored by the presence of an official delegation presided by Mr. Karim, prefect of the region Marrakech-Safi. High Atlas Foundation was also invited to this fraternity reunion and with great pleasure, Dr. Yossef, HAF President, accepted the request and assisted with a part of his team. The Iftar ceremony was held in Beth El Synagogue, which means the House of God in Hebrew.

When I entered the synagogue, many things grabbed my attention, most especially the harmony of both Red Tarbouch, Moroccan Muslim hat, and the Kippa, the Jewish hat. In one table, you find a Moroccan man with his Djellaba and Tarbouch, and by his side sits his Jewish peer with a Kippa. Such a marvelous harmony!

Before sunset, the Imam, or Muslim priest, gave a sermon about this religious fraternity and the shared call for unity instead of fragmentation among all religions. This unity and coexistence among Jews and Muslims is not a new idea, it is seen in the past by the way the prophet Mohamed (PBUH) used to treat his Jewish neighbor and servant. Furthermore, the Prophet married the daughter of a chief of one of the Jewish tribes back then. It is also reported that a funeral of a Jew passed before the Prophet (peace be upon him), and as a sign of respect, the Prophet stood up. The Prophet was then asked “Why did you stand up for a Jewish funeral?” and he replied, “Is it not a human soul?” From this example it is clear that it is a must to keep humanity first thanreligion, not the other way around. Upon the conclusion of the Imam’s speech, pigeons were set free into the sky as a sign of peace and happiness between the two religions. 

A few minutes afterward, the Adhan (Islamic call to prayer) was raised in Henri Kadoch Synagogue, calling people not only to break their fast but also to celebrate this fraternal union. Since the Iftar was in the courtyard, the president of the Jewish Community, Jacky suggested praying inside the synagogue in front of the Holy Ark of Beth El, where the scrolls of the Torah are kept.

This may be an especially unique image that can’t be found in any other Muslim country. Morocco stays an exception and is open to the solidarity of Jews and Muslims living side by side in harmony. The Moroccan king, Mohammed VI, gives great attention and care to the Jewish Community through restoring the Jewish Quartiers, synagogues, and cemeteries. Additionally, Moroccan architecture plays an important role in confirming this coexistence between religions. The Jewish Quartier, El-Mellah, with the Jewish design, is taking place in the center of the Medina and is adding cultural value to the city’s diversity.

The beautiful multiculturalism and harmony of the Moroccan mindset and identity can perhaps be best summed up in the extract of an interview with King Hassan II in “ Le Génie de la Modération”: I have always been convinced that there is no problem without a solution. If the Arabs on one side and the Jews on the other put their genius and all their intellectual faculties in common - as I said once - we are convinced that Abraham's descendants will find, each on their own side, what would guarantee them dignity, freedom, and sovereignty.

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My name is Martine Roberts and I am the newest member of the Board of the High Atlas Foundation (HAF). I am writing to you from Marrakech, Morocco, where I have spent the last month immersing myself in HAF’s mission and current initiatives. As a Moroccan-American woman, I am honored and grateful to be a part of this wonderful organization and I would love to take this opportunity to share my experiences from the last month with you and to invite you to participate to expand our reach and impact.

HAF is involved in a diverse constellation of projects throughout Morocco to initiate and support societal and environmental changes through the education of the members of rural communities. HAF works to teach the value of sustainability and participation in society to empower community members to improve their own living conditions
I had the privilege to visit a few rural primary schools where a team from HAF taught the children the environmental impact of trees in the biosphere. These sessions culminated with the planting of dozens of endemic trees in the schools’ courtyards, provided for free by HAF’s nurseries. The excitement of the children was palpable as they know the trees will not only beautify their playgrounds but also provide shade, oxygen, and delicious food including almonds, pomegranates, and olives.
In addition to improving the natural environment, HAF is taking an active role to challenge existing societal preconceptions about the role of women in the social hierarchy. The rate of literacy of the women in the rural areas served by the foundation is the lowest among the population. To combat this reality, HAF has adapted a program for local women and girls called “Imagine” that utilizes workshops to instill practical and vocational skills to build self-confidence, to foster self-worth, and promote self-discovery among women and girls in the community.
I am pleased to report that the dozens of workshops have taken place and are making a positive impact in the community. It will take time, but these workshops serve a dual purpose. First, they inculcate the belief among rural women and girls that they are individuals with unique talents, desires, rights, and agency. Second, they educate men about the importance of female rights.
HAF is laying the groundwork to help improve the economic capacities and standing of women, to grow their confidence as active participants in their families and society, and to reduce societal ills such as early and/or forced marriage.
HAF is a cross-border foundation between the USA and Morocco. The foundation’s goals have been constant since 2000, when it was created by former Peace Corps Volunteers aiming to make sustainable prosperity a reality by training communities to integrate a participatory, agency-based empowerment approach into human development initiatives in Morocco.
HAF relies exclusively on grants from international organizations, companies, and individuals. It is only with this support that HAF is able to continue its project of empowerment for the underprivileged youth, men, and women of rural Morocco.
For this reason, I would love to invite you to make a donation to HAF via our website, where you have the option to choose, should you wish, which causes you would like your donation to go to.
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Poster presentation of the Multi-Stakeholder Partnership project for a Moroccan energy transition towards 100% renewables during the conference in Bonn, Germany. Picture: Konrad Brambach (Germanwatch)


We are living in a time, where the humankind faces an unprecedented challenge - it is the warmest it has ever been on earth since human presence. The dangers of climate change are known since the 1980s but a lack of political will and societal awareness has inhibited the necessary vigorous change. Further, the people, who are the most affected by climate change are also the most vulnerable and the ones with the least decision making power. We are now at the pivotal point, where with every degree a cascade of tipping point and a “hothouse earth” will become more probable. To prevent this we need political will, a new kind of cooperation, innovative technologies, business models and engaged civil society. It is therefore crucial to learn and offer advice to decision-makers informed by the experience from stakeholders on the ground.


In the beginning of January, the High Atlas Foundation (HAF) in partnership with Germanwatch, a German NGO dedicated North-South equity and the preservation of livelihoods, started a Multi-Stakeholder-Partnership (MSP) project for a Moroccan energy transition towards 100% renewables. This project is part of a bigger, African-wide programme called African Renewable Energy Initiative (AREI) that aims to “accelerate and scale up the harnessing of the continent’s huge renewable energy potential” and advocates for an implementation of the AREI that benefits local communities, improves energy access and is ambitious enough to realize the vision of powering Africa with 100% renewable energies.


While Morocco is a leader in the expansion of renewable energies on the African continent, renewable projects in the Kingdom so far tend to be large-scale. These large-scale projects have to be complemented by decentralized small-scale installations to benefit local communities and to create development opportunities. The Moroccan component aims to support a decentralized approach to energy transition through creating MSP’s at the regional, national and international level. The experiences that will be gathered on the ground from the implementation of such approaches will then inform recommendations for how national and international energy policy frameworks in Africa and Europe could be improved to enable and promote more decentralized management of renewables.


As part of this project, Mr Chemsedine Sidi-Baba, Chair of the Board of HAF-Morocco and Kerstin Opfer, HAF’s Operations Manager, travelled to Germany and participated in the Germanwatch organized conference “Partnership for Transformation - MSP Conference”. MSPs are long-term initiatives voluntarily undertaken by governments, the private sector, research, civil society and other major stakeholders, which efforts are contributing to the implementation of a common goal. They are a key implementation principle of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. MSPs, however, are also highly complicated and often characterized by conflict, power games and individuals. Learning from the challenges and success stories of other MSPs therefore is crucial.


Together with the project staff of four other MSP projects in India, Kenya, Kosovo and Ukraine, we identified through group discussions and workshops that a lack of ownership, trust, and commitment of key stakeholders is one of the main pitfalls associated with MSP failure. Often this is caused by the lack of an initiative’s MSP design that fosters ownership and commitment and by ignoring power relations between the stakeholders. Neglecting important stakeholders, a focus on technical issues instead of building collaboration and dialogue, and a lack of taking into account existing rules, regulations, and procedures were other key issues associated with MSPs.


Creating collective impactful narratives that foster actions, developing a common frame of reference and mindset and fostering dialogue, respect, and mutual learning through networks of change, were identified as key success strategies. Furthermore, by sharing knowledge between stakeholders and empowering the civil society, who is often in a week position due to a lack of power and resources, transparency, and equity is fostered, which increases MSP success. Through establishing institutional processes for engagement, all stakeholders are equally enabled to act as catalysts for change. Finally, through realizing that global change is not one historic moment and one big change but rather an everyday effort of a million small steps the MSP can grow--step-by-step--into a strong, long-term and joined effort towards a common mission.


Transformative changes are realized neither through a top-down nor a bottom-up process alone, but through a combination of both. Cooperative approaches of different actors such as political decision-makers, the private sector, researchers, and civil society are necessary. Transformative multi-stakeholder partnerships can coordinate the expectations of these actors and therefore enable changes that could not be achieved by individual actors. The conference in Germany has provided important lessons learned and thought-provoking impulses, which will guide the shaping of the MSP for a Moroccan energy transition towards 100% renewables.


Project partners from Kenya, India, Kosovo, Ukraine, Morocco and Germany during the “Partnership for Transformation - MSP Conference” in Bonn, Germany. Picture: Konrad Brambach (Germanwatch)

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It was a beautiful day today, the 21st of January 2019, meeting farmers and members of associations, meeting high school students, kindergarteners, and municipal representatives. We loved today, learning from elderly people who planted fig trees 80 years ago, and from volunteers who planted pomegranate trees at a newly constructed school.  We were in villages, cities, in the Sahara and mountains.  We are all home now. 


The beauty and the everlasting memories from today--a day of national tree planting for the High Atlas Foundation and its partners in Morocco--are due to its great variation and amazing diversity, the heartfelt expressions, the hard work, the commitments to the future, and the thoughts about the past, all coming together in moments that bring life’s fulfillment.


You may not have joined us today.  We hope you plant where you are, when you can.  If you like to plant with us in Morocco before the end of March, please reach out and we will provide the support we are able. 


The recurring theme that emerged today is that the life cycle, the growth and unknowable experiences that trees endure, also resonate with people, as we live not knowing what tomorrow will bring.  And so we live in faith that our future will deliver ever-better and everlasting good for all ourselves and beautiful nature.

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Greetings Friends,


Here we have a final moment in 2018 where we can give to uplift the course of families, communities, schools, cooperatives, women's groups, and youth.


Morocco is creating opportunities for its people by encouraging through its policies and programs public participation in all aspects of development. For local communities of the nation to fulfill this enormous opening for transformative change, also means that Morocco can become a hugely important model for other countries of Africa and the Middle East.


Here is one action we can take now together to fulfill this hope:


It is amazing the varied and profound benefits of organic fruit tree planting.  It promotes livelihoods, the environment, food security, nutrition, trade, culture, and self-reliance. It promotes women's liberationyouth’s advancement, and - when we organic certify their cultivation - tree planting brings growth and justice to communities that are marginalized.


Plant with us now before the season ends in March. Together we can achieve these truly good outcomes for people and nature, and to realize Moroccan dreams.


Most of all, we at the High Atlas Foundation wish you health, success, joy, fulfillment, and all that your heart seeks for yourselves and communities.


With warm regards and gratitude,


Yossef Ben-Meir
High Atlas Foundation



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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
$15,930 raised of $28,000 goal
308 donations
$12,070 to go
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