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
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
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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Anamer and Aghbalou may seem to be two typical villages in the mountainous Al Haouz province of Morocco, but they embody exceptional efforts of participatory development led by the High Atlas Foundation (HAF), local communities, and the High Commission of Waters and Forests. As HAF Interns, we were delighted to come across their path and unveil the dynamic and fruitful relationship these parties came together to create. We organized a focus group that spearheaded conversations on effectiveness and cooperation between all involved parties.

It is crucial to draw special attention to the pursuit of new development opportunities for communities. The two villages represent the results of joint efforts to achieve sustainable development by adopting alternative methods that consist of coordinating various modes of production to achieve a green economy. In their case, the two villages were fully aware of their ordeals rooted in poverty conditions and efficiently tackled their needs by identifying key elements enabling the betterment of their economic conditions.

It is critical to highlight the partnership with the High Commission of Waters and Forests because it acts as a catalyst for other villages to embrace similar approaches to sustainability.  With HAF’s facilitation, the Marrakech Regional Department of Waters and Forests granted them the right to plant thousands of organic and highly lucrative carob trees on public domain mountainsides surrounding their communities.  The consulting, planning, partnership-building, and implementing involved inspired the local people to redefine for themselves what is possible and opened a gateway for them to achieve new possibilities.

After surveying both men and women in Anamer and Aghbalou, the most striking aspect of our encounter was the villagers’ willingness to challenge traditional mindsets and progress forward. This commitment to development takes shape in the form of education and access to information, resulting in a community that is fully aware of its needs and its remedies.

In this case, the establishment of a textile cooperative in Anamer and a honey-production cooperation in Aghbalou would enable the creation of revenue; thus, animating a sense of economic diversity and growth. The formation of these efforts would also enhance and encourage capacity building, innovation enactment, and, finally, the implementation of a replicable sustainability model.

Give to tree planting through partnership.

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An embodiment of Morocco’s integrated development approach is its way to preserve its diverse cultures.  Morocco’s vision is that cultural activities should be advanced in integration with people’s development.  King Mohammed VI described in 2008: “That vision consists in making sure culture serves as a driving force for development as well as a bridge for dialogue.”  HAF’s cultural projects critically move forward human development, in education, livelihoods, the environment, and with people in remote places.

 HOUSE OF LIFE is an innovative agricultural initiative whose implications are broad and set in the specific context of Moroccan human development needs and cultural history. The model thus created could be replicated throughout North Africa, the Middle East, and beyond. The term HOUSE OF LIFE denotes a traditional name for a Jewish cemetery.  It was therefore particularly appropriate for the former Governor of the Al Haouz Province, to employ the phrase in respect of the project, led by HAF in Morocco and endorsed by the Clinton Global Initiative. The uniqueness of the scheme lies in its intercultural aspect.  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.

Pluralistic Moroccan Human and Agricultural Development: The goal of the project is to plant the two million seeds on land lent by the Moroccan Jewish Community and implement the agricultural value-chain, including the export of organic certified product to the United States and European Union.  HAF proposes to grow two million seeds in four nurseries in three provinces, transplant them to orchards and schools in the twelve regions of Morocco, certify organic in three municipalities, monitor carbon offsets, and provide training with the community and cooperative members.  

 In 2014, the HAF pilot nursery on Jewish communal land was established at Akrich, located on the northern side of the High Atlas in Al Haouz province, around 25 kilometers south of Marrakech, at the site of the 700-year-old tomb of a Jewish healer. Since that time, we planted 150,000 almond, fig, pomegranate, and lemon seeds which have reached maturity and now are maintained by about 1,000 farmers and 130 schools.  The project was funded by longtime friends and GlobalGiving supporters of HAF, and the Lodestar Foundation.

 In 2016, the first trees from the pilot were handed to local children and farmers by the Governor joined by the United States Ambassador to the Kingdom of Morocco.  Earlier, the Ambassador hosted a reception for House of Life at his residence in Rabat, at which Advisor to the King, and former Peace Corps Director in Morocco (and current HAF Board Member),  addressed the audience.

 Having started during the holy month of Ramadan 2017, HAF is hosting a series of community meetings in the Mellah neighborhood of Marrakech to prioritize local needs and establish a path for a sustainable future. In coordination with the Association Mimouna, Jewish Community of Marrakech, Region of Marrakech-Safi and the Marrakech Beladiya, HAF hosted a series of traditional Moroccan breaks of fast with the local community in order to foster participatory development action. Immediately following these interfaith meals at the Slat Lazama synagogue, local residents and organization leaders developed plans to achieve new projects - in clean drinking water, education, and building revitalization.

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Morocco is a place of infinite possibility.  That is so because of Morocco, its multicultural people, and its identity.  People’s participation in their development can occur in all its places, because it is encouraged - even obligatory - by multiple laws and programs of the land.


The High Atlas Foundation (HAF) creates project and partnership models that make national impact absolutely real.  We create the public, private, and multi-tiered relationships and project examples that engine national transformation.  Incredibly, Morocco’s full success of its participatory, decentralized development vision carries profound meaning for itself, the Continent, and the Middle East.  We are dedicated to Morocco fulfilling its global potential from its own national sustainable development.


HAF empowers women through their self-discovery, community-driven livelihoods, and knowledge of human rights.  HAF builds the power of youth through sharpening their abilities to create sustainable community and personal growth.  HAF brightens schools with new classrooms, gardens, and interactive environmental education.  HAF brings clean drinking waterto marginalized communities.  HAF vastly expands the organic agricultural economy, and helps direct the new revenue to advance the people’s development. 


HAF’s partnerships with cooperatives and associations, government, and religious communities is seeing millions of fruit trees being grown and hundreds of millions more possible.  The planting season is now and we plant trees such as walnut, carob, and others that live for centuries.  We also monitor tree growth for carbon credit offsets.  We would be honored and grateful to provide you these credits.


Giving to HAF is giving to personal and national transformation, and to the international consequences of Morocco a truly fulfilled participatory nation.


It is a New Year celebrated by much of our planet.  Here is to all our resolutions of the heart.  Here is to Morocco and to all who strive for its complete potential.


Yours faithfully,


Yossef Ben-Meir


High Atlas Foundation

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Through her internship in Morocco, the writer has been inspired to think differently about interfaith relationships. This article presents this experience and highlights the lack of global perspectives of those living in the midst of a conflict.


From the first day I landed in Morocco for my internship, I have learned more than I had expected from Moroccan society and the Moroccan people, primarily regarding the coexistence between the Muslim and the Jewish communities. In this experience, especially in Marrakech, I have been able to contrast the Moroccan experience with my own in Jerusalem.

As a Muslim, the Palestinian woman from Jerusalem, I am used to daily interaction with the Jewish Community whether in school, work or business, and I understand well how both communities feel about the other in our country. Emotions on both sides are very intense, and deeply connected to politics, which ruin the social, economic, and religious realities for everyone living in the city. Jewish and Palestinian kids are educated on different historical narratives and learn from their societies to react to the other community mostly with hate and fear. As the other side is so demonized and clearly seen as the enemy, violence and destruction are legitimized as an action to defend your people. Although there are still people who believe in peace and coexistence, it is very hard to act according to these ideals when confronting the political situation, which seems to get worse every day, as both sides continue to disrespect each other.

I have discovered that Jewish-Muslim community relations are not the same in Morocco. In the High Atlas Foundation, the local NGO in which I interned throughout my studies at Glocal, I encountered different moments that showed how beautiful it can be to forget the religion of those around you and just to see them as humans. I was also inspired by the CEO of the foundation, Dr. Yossef Ben-Meir, a Jew who moved to Morocco twenty years ago, especially in his work with human development projects, which target Moroccan communities across the country, focusing on those who live in rural areas.

One of the foundation projects is planting trees for carbon dioxide sequestering. Thus, I was offered a trip to one of the sites planted earlier in the year in order to visit the site. When I arrived, I noticed that the site happened to be a Jewish cemetery, located in Akrich, 25 kilometers from Marrakech. Immediately, I felt a range of emotions visiting the cemetery.  Firstly, it felt familiar, coming across Hebrew, a language I speak from home. Secondly, I was really happy to see a Muslim man taking care of a Jewish cemetery and knowing its history perfectly, while remembering that in other places, particularly in Palestine/Israel, religious sanctuaries are generally looked after exclusively by members of the same faith. I was also struck by the fact that the Jewish community donated this cemetery, among other cemeteries, for the benefit of local Moroccan farmers to use the land for growing trees, such as pomegranate, figs, and olives, which are symbolic for both Muslim and Jewish religions. Furthermore, I was surprised to learn that the Akrich cemetery contains a seven-hundred-year-old shrine of Rabbi Raphael Hacohen, venerated as a miracle worker in ancient Moroccan tradition, and is visited by both Muslims and Jews, who celebrate together at this place.

After the visit, I compared our reality in Palestine and the one in Morocco. The difference was significant as while in Morocco both faiths are collaborating for preserving the cemeteries, in our country both Israelis and Palestinians invest in destroying each other’s history, by harming historical monuments and religious places and by disrupting religious holiday celebrations.

Furthermore, specifically, in Palestine/Israel, religious cemeteries are not treated with the same respect as in Morocco. For example, the Muslim burial ground, Ma’man Allah (Mammilla) in Jerusalem, which is believed to be the oldest Muslim burial site in the city, dating back to the 7th century, has been under threat of destruction from the Israeli government for decades. Although it is believed that the companions of Prophet Muhammad were buried there, as well as soldiers and officials from the Saladin conquest or leading nobles from the Husseini and Dajani families, Israeli officials converted the cemetery into a public park,  named the “Independence Park”, after 1948, marking Israel’s victory in the war. In this process, the graveyard was disturbed, including the disrespectful actions of opening graves or moving remains of bodies.

Furthermore, in 1970, a school was built in a section of the cemetery, and in 1986, UNESCO dropped investigations after Israel promised that “no project exists for the deconsecration of the site,” and that “its tombs are to be safeguarded". However, in 2008, Jerusalem families, together with the Northern Islamic Movement, failed to persuade the Supreme Court to stop the construction of the “Museum of Tolerance”, which is expected to open in 2017 on the same land.

In a journalistic investigation by Haaretz,, workers on the site revealed that in preparation for the construction in 2011, excavated skulls and bones were stuffed into cardboard boxes. Moreover, over the years, the cemetery was disrupted for luxury developments such as hotels, restaurants, museums, shops and other Israeli building projects that can now be seen at the site. It is clear by Gideon Suleimani, an Israeli archaeologist who worked on the Museum of Tolerance excavations, that “The policy is to dismantle what is left of Islamic heritage in Jerusalem piece by piece, to clear the area and make it Jewish.”

This is not the only example. In August 2015, the Bab Al-Rahmeh cemetery, dating back to the 8th century, and located outside Jerusalem’s old city walls close to the Al-Aqsa Mosque, was fenced by the Israeli authority. Although it is still used by Muslims, it will be confiscated in the near future. The feeling contributes to the general fear of Palestinians that their history and religious sites are threatened by the Israeli government, which does not honor them.

I question why this cemetery was chosen for the park. Was it impossible to establish the park or the museum in a location other than the cemetery where Muslim soldiers and heroes were buried? It makes me sad to see that Palestine/Israel, which is considered to be the sacred place of the three major world religions, lack mutual respect that can be seen in Morocco. Instead, the Palestinians and Israelis let politics and conflict regarding land disputes be mixed with religion while destroying other aspects of life or opportunities for interfaith partnerships. Instead of raising the next generation on hate and fear, I only wish that the model I have seen through my internship in Morocco can be replicated in Palestine/Israel, in peace, and with greater respect.

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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
$16,604 raised of $28,000 goal
346 donations
$11,396 to go
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