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

Crossing the High Atlas Mountains—from Marrakech to Ouarzazate—to get to the Ighrem N'Ougdal commune, the High Atlas Foundation (HAF) decided with the Jewish community in Morocco and all of the local authorities to start planning the first fruit tree nursery in the Draa Tafilalet region. This follows the successful experience of building a community fruit tree nursery near the Akrich Jewish Cemetery for the farmers and schools of Morocco.


Monday, December 24.

The HAF team traveled from Marrakech to Ouarzazate to meet with the local authorities and other government offices and local communities to plan for the fruit tree nursery near the 1,000 year-old burial site of ‘’Rabbi David Ou Moshe.”  Since long ago, Jewish and Muslim people have been living in this region with their families, in peace, tranquility, and friendship. This nursery will become like the one in Akrich: a point where the Muslim and Jewish communities will have the chance to communicate more and to build more trust between each other.


The total quarter of the cemetery is estimated at more than five hectares. The HAF will try to use almost the entire area of more than one and a half hectare to establish a fruit tree nursery to produce many local fruit trees, from which all the villages who belong to Ouarzazate province will receive trees. More than that, it will be the first fruit tree nursery in Draa Tafilalet region. However, this project is not without its challenges; the first one is that the land we will use for the nursery is located in a very steep hill. To make this project more sustainable, HAF and partners envision building terraces that could serve as a floor for the planting of the seeds to become future seedlings.


In Ouarzazate province this time, we will have a large amount of land for a nursery—about one hectare and half near the Jewish Cemetery to build as terraces. The terraces we will build in partnership with the Ouarzazate province, and will not only serve as land for the nursery, but also—because the hill is very steep—the terraces will be saving the hill from erosion.  At the burial location of Rabbi David Ou Moshe there is an existing well that we can use to water the nursery. However, we will need to install a solar pump, and build a storage at the top of the hill so that we can have enough pressure to water all of the nursery. In addition, a greenhouse will be built to produce more seedlings and make ensure we have all the conditions necessary for each type of seed.


The red lines in the picture above indicate that twelve terraces can be built, as each horizontal line is fractioned into two terraces.

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Today we had a great meeting with the director of the Cultural Delegation in Essaouira. We had the opportunity to discuss together the project to restore a Franciscan church, which will not only preserve the historic, diverse, and magnificent cultural heritage of Morocco, but also create human development opportunities for local civil society today. The commitment of the Ministry of Culture to both embrace and completely put forward Moroccan multiculturalism, while at the same time build the capacities and livelihoods of the people is truly commendable and it is a heartfelt honor for HAF to work together with partners in Essaouira to help fulfill heritage and meet people’s needs.

While HAF’s President, program assistant, and a volunteer met with the director, we had another dedicated volunteer, complete photographing the tombstones of the old Jewish cemetery of Essaouira. These photos will be among others that will constitute a beautiful, most-touching book of poems inscribed by the loved ones in dearest memory of those who have passed.
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Dr. Yossef Ben- Meir, president of High Atlas Foundation and he is one of my best friends, asked me if I would like to meet a group of American-Jewish ladies who would like to know about the Moroccan historical background as well as the coexistence and the tolerant life among the Moroccan Jewish and Muslim people. This meeting was supposed to be at Villa Mandarin in Rabat on the 6th November, 2018.


I was really excited to meet these ladies for two main reasons. The first was because I want to talk about the Moroccan history and culture, which is a mixture of many cultures; and which both the Islamic and Jewish cultures are the main influencing components of it. The second reason, I wanted on my part to learn from these Jewish ladies and become friends and go beyond the religious boundaries. The meeting was successful.


We sat together at a round table freely and we started our conversation. At first, I presented myself to them and informed then that I have recently been hired as university teacher of English at Ait Melloul Faculty of Languages, Arts and Human Sciences in Agadir, specializing in Moroccan cultural studies and postcolonial feminism. I informed them that I am interested in multiculturalism. All of them kindly congratulated me.


I felt happy and free among them to speak about whatever topic they were interested in. At the same time, I felt that the ladies may feel as if they were in a classroom, so I quickly changed the atmosphere into a friendly informal gathering among friends who are visiting Morocco. They would like to gain from their stay via learning about all components of Moroccan cultural, social, historical and religious perspectives. The ladies started trusting me.


I felt free to laugh and share personal stories referring to our Moroccan Jewish neighbours, how they used to share meals among Muslims neighbours, how our Jewish neighbours mourned my grandfather when he passed away, and how my father mourned one of his best friends.  They also attended weddings, and not only my grandparents’ neighbours. This coexistence and the culture of sharing existed among both Muslims and Jewish Moroccans in all cities.


Also, we talked about trade exchanges among us, Moroccans both Muslims and Jewish.  In addition, how they helped my grandmother to learn how to sew, and a lot of stories about this harmony from both historical and personal backgrounds.  We shifted to speak about other subjects such as Moroccan women’s status and their development due to the family code (Moudawana) and language diversity in Morocco. I informed them that as Moroccan Muslims there are both Arab and Amazigh Moroccan Jews. This surprised them. 


On their part, whatever we discussed they compared it with what they experience in the United States.  In that way, I have learned a lot from them as well. It was really a cultural exchange meeting. The ladies at the end wondered if coexistence as among Moroccans, Jewish and Muslims exists elsewhere, as it does over centuries and decades until now.  Because we were happy and excited by this meeting, I was supposed to stay for one hour but I stayed with these wonderful ladies for three hours. At the end of this friendly gathering, I suggested that we should take pictures all together as women with no differences and no boundaries.  And this was really my feeling.

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The High Atlas Foundation (HAF) is a United States-Moroccan nonprofit organization committed to facilitating community-identified initiatives that catalyze sustainable human development in Morocco. One initiative we are extremely proud of is Cemetery Preservation in Essaouira that rehabilitates Jewish cemeteries and makes them more welcoming for families and visitors, to encourage respect of passersby, and to educate the next generation in the spirit of this rich past. In 2013, then U.S. Consul-General Mr. Brian Shukan said about our efforts, "By making the cemeteries most welcoming, encouraging more visitors to discover these cemeteries for the first time and helping the current generation to remember its rich roots of their peaceful coexistence, this project will help preserve the illustrious past of Essaouira for future generations."

Another project in which HAF works to preserve Jewish Heritage is our interfaith initiative, HOUSE OF LIFE, which simultaneously alleviates poverty. We implemented the pilot for this project in Akrich. HOUSE OF LIFE facilitates the free loan of land adjoining Jewish burial sites in order to establish organic tree and medicinal nurseries for the benefit of farming communities. This initiative resulted in the cultivation of 120,000 almond, fig, pomegranate, and lemon trees. HOUSE OF LIFE not only addresses poverty but also establishes attractive cultural sites that increases Jewish tourism, as many Jewish people seek blessings from the Jewish saint Rabbi Ha Cohen, and make a pilgrimage to the cemetery to pray at his tomb. We have been granted six more sites near Jewish saints to grow nurseries, consequently advancing cultural preservation and people's development. Like WMF, we are committed to maintaining Jewish cultural sites, particularly in places with limited resources, and motivating others to do the same. We raise public awareness and interest in Jewish heritage and strengthen the local community's capacities to conserve the sites. 

In addition, HAF has worked towards preserving other cultural sites such as the Christian Franciscan Church in Essaouira. After restoration, the city government transferred the church to local civil society to serve as a location for public workshops, family education, and a meeting point for interfaith relations and development stakeholders. This project helps preserve Morocco's cultural past, and reflects the Moroccan model of social integration. For more information regarding HAF's cultural projects and other human development initiatives in Morocco, review our website:
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Khalid (left) tells HAF about the challenges of starting a new cooperative and the solutions he and fellow Alaymoune members identified as a result of attending HAF's training.

The High Atlas Foundation (HAF) staff has met many driven Moroccan people with big plans to make a difference in their lives and for their communities, enthusiastic to turn their fresh ideas into successful associations and cooperatives. HAF facilitates cooperative-building trainings to provide the necessary tools and resources to ensure their goals are tangible. In the workshops, made possible with funding by the Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI), participants learn about the core differences between associations and cooperatives, the required legal steps to take for cooperative establishment, accounting principles, marketing and communication strategies, vital administrative tasks, and effective management. On September 5th, HAF was able to reconnect with members of two relatively young Oujda-based cooperatives who previously attended training sessions.


First, we sat down with Khalid, a co-founder and member of the Alaymoune Cooperative in the Berkane Province. Alaymoune, created in 2017 by five men who drew inspiration from an association of carpentry and handcrafts, is a carpentry cooperative with the purpose, Khalid explained, to preserve Moroccan artisanal furniture-making. The furniture produced by members is so well-made that Morocco’s Ministry of Crafts, Social Solidarity and Economy awarded Alaymoune with a certificate for the quality of their products. Despite this recognition, however, Khalid relayed how he and the other members still found it difficult to sell items. They attended one of HAF’s trainings where, Khalid said, they learned a great deal about managing a successful cooperative, including the significance of marketing. As a result of the training, Alaymoune identified a goal: improve marketing by highlighting what is unique about their furniture in order to showcase the pieces in exhibitions as well as to attract customers. “Thanks to the training conducted by HAF, we received many tools to know how we can manage and organize this cooperative, and especially about marketing,” Khalid said.


Second, we met with Souad, a co-founder and member of Slimania. Slimania is a women’s ranching cooperative in the village of Zagzal that Souad created with four other women in December 2017. With a lack of projects in their village and the desire to start one for community benefit as well as to keep busy, the group decided the purpose of their cooperative would be to raise livestock for sale. Like Alaymoune, Slimania was faced with obstacles. Souad recalled how she spent three months navigating the legal process of establishing a cooperative and more time after that marketing Slimania as a worthwhile investment to potential members. Souad found it hard to engage women of Zagzal and encourage them to join as they felt they were not experienced enough nor had the proper training on how to manage a cooperative. Souad later attended a HAF training for which she expressed gratitude for not only learning more details about the legal components of running a cooperative but also how to market one—to both potential customers and, importantly, potential members. Currently Slimania still consists of the original five co-founders, however, Souad expressed her optimism in attracting more local women to join the cooperative after participating in the training.


Both Khalid’s and Souad’s stories highlight the challenges of establishing cooperatives as well as the significant impact HAF’s training has on cooperatives’ development not only due to participants acquiring technical skills and knowledge but also the confidence to implement what they learn. It is clear that such trainings are vital to open the opportunity for Moroccan people who might otherwise not have the required information or resources to establish successful cooperatives. The benefits of cooperatives are aplenty: they help people achieve personal fulfillment, economic advancement, and can unify communities. In addition, the skills as well as financial revenue gained can be applied to the implementation of other development projects that improve communities as a whole.


Join us in achieving successful cooperatives.

Souad discusses the different obstacles she came across when establishing her cooperative, her current frustrations, and how HAF helped her come up with a marketing strategy
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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
$15,930 raised of $28,000 goal
308 donations
$12,070 to go
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