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 opportunity, for which I am grateful, to visit together with Mr. David, the U.S. Chargé d’Affaires, the Jewish and Christian cemeteries in the incredible city of Essaouira. The day prior, we had launched with the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) its new program, which HAF is implementing in Morocco,dedicated to cultural heritage preservation and education.

H.E. Mr. Azoulay; H.E. Ms. Lamia; the mayor of Essaouira, Mr. Tarik; and other leaders of national cultural endeavors, including Mr. El Mehdi and members of Miftah Essaad Foundation, among many others, shared this special moment. This is the beginning of our collaborative effort to gather memories of solidarity and multiculturalism in communities in different parts of the country.

Mr. Greene’s visit with me to centuries-old cemeteries was a reflective moment after such positive events from the day before. We read together heartbreaking epitaphs and reflected on the privileged work of collecting stories of the past and disseminating them today in order to build bonds, especially among young people, toward a sustainable future.

A lasting impression of Essaouira’s Christian cemetery is that it is, in real ways, inseparable from the events of Jewish life in the city, and vice versa, and that the people laid to rest there lived every dimension of what the region experienced through all the different trials and exuberations across time. From there, I so much enjoyed walking and talking with Mr. Greene through the mellah to old Jewish houses of learning and prayer.

On behalf of the High Atlas Foundation, we would like to thank USAID for their trust and partnership; partnering civil organizationsAssociation Mimouna, Foundation Memories for the Future, Essaouira Mogador Association, Miftah Essaad Foundation, and the Sefrou Association for Multidisciplinary Artsfor their activities of cultural learning and keeping of history; and Maghreb itself for creating and encouraging the public space for all strands of Moroccan diversity to progress forward and be part of the Moroccan experience.

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Essaouira – U.S. Embassy Chargé d’Affaires David joined H.E. André Azoulay, Senior Advisor to H.M. King Mohamed VI, at Bayt Dakira in the Mellah of Essaouira to launch a three-year USAID program aimed at recording and sharing hundreds of stories that capture the Kingdom’s rich multicultural history.

This $3 million program, called the Religious and Ethnic Minorities Activity (REMA), will involve multiple communities in five cities, namely Fes, Azrou, Marrakech, Essaouira, and Tangier.

“Religious tolerance is a hallmark of Morocco’s history -- from its welcoming of refugees fleeing the Iberian Peninsula at the end of the 15th century to late King Mohammed V’s efforts to protect Jews during World War II.  It is also a critical part of the U.S.-Morocco partnership, built and nurtured over two hundred years,” Chargé Greene said. “We learn from each other, including best practices on how to celebrate and preserve the heritage of peaceful coexistence.”

Also participating in the launch were Dr. Yossef, President of the High Atlas Foundation, which is implementing the REMA program; Mr. Tarik, the newly elected Mayor of Essaouira and President of Association Essaouira Mogador; H.E. Lamia, Ambassador of Morocco to Norway and Iceland and President of the Foundation Memories for the Future; Mr. El Mehdi, President of Association Mimouna; and Ms. Cherifa, President of Association Miftah Essaâd pour la Préservation du Patrimoine Marocain. 

"Morocco's stories of its multicultural history are rich and unique,” expressed Dr. Ben-Meir. “The REMA program's dedication to recording, preserving, and sharing those stories with the world are invaluable for both our generation and those to come.”

The High Atlas Foundation will work closely with 70 civil society organizations in select communities, helping them record their oral histories and ensuring that those stories can be shared with future generations through unique educational programs. The program will allow these communities to build broader relationships across the Kingdom and connect to the tourism industry, creating new economic opportunities. The program engages local communities to capture, preserve, and transmit their collective experience and narratives, allowing them to preserve their collective memories.

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It is human nature to wish to be remembered. We have an innate desire to leave behind a legacy or some tangible proof of our existence that outlasts our fleeting time on Earth. Groups comprised of individuals who share an identity also long for this recognition. Collective experiences, achievements, and histories of people have been lost, sometimes systematically through institutionalized inequity, and others through tragic, but often unavoidable, cycles.

An addition to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) in the form of a new article asserting groups’ right to be remembered must be codified and incorporated in order to prevent groups from passing into obscurity. The Declaration’s thirty articles proclaim the right of every individual to certain personal and associational freedoms that must be protected and respected. However, the right for people and cultures to be acknowledged before and after their passing and to shape and direct their own narratives as individuals and as groups, is absent.

In a sense, this is the apex of all rights as a selfless gesture recognizing each person’s existence and rewarding those who come after with the knowledge that enhances our collective navigation forward. It should therefore be added to the UDHR, stated as the following:

All individuals and people who share a common identity have a right to be remembered, to protect and preserve their cultural heritage, and to have autonomy over the safeguarding of their collective experience, cultural artifacts, and oral and written histories.

The International Human Rights Law Clinic at Berkeley proposes a right to identity that “protects an individual’s significant and knowable personal attributes and social relationships.” As asserted in a paper exploring the development of this right, “a human right that is ‘merely repetitive’ of existing rights is not ripe for codification.” The article we seek to codify will bolster existing rights and prevent the extinction of peoples and their cultures.

Museums are one source of this preservation of culture and spreading awareness of various peoples and societies. Western museums, though, have a history of usurping the cultures of minoritized people from around the world. While it is true that museums play a crucial role in promoting appreciation for different peoples, many museums have acquired cultural artifacts through exploitation, colonialism, and imperialism.

In his book, The Brutish Museums, Dan Hicks reminds us that injustice is not a solitary past event but an ongoing reality, only rectified by rewriting the histories from the framework of loss and the “urgent task of African cultural which the museum will variously dismantle, repurpose, disperse, return, re-imagine, and rebuild itself” (xiv). We can appreciate the value of museums and their unique ability to house these objects without accepting the appropriation of objects and histories sacred to groups. Published in 2004, the Declaration on the Importance and Value of Universal Museumsstipulates that “museums are agents in the development of culture, whose mission is to foster knowledge by a continuous process of reinterpretation.”

Groups also have a tendency to mark specific sites that symbolize ideologies and memorialize experiences. Cultural landscapes act as fundamental tools for understanding a people’s collective history. These sites are places associated with great shared trauma and emotion, like battlefields or monuments to revelatory moments of a peoplehood’s formation. They reinforce identity by creating a sense of belonging, unity, and resilience. Yet, cultural landscapes are often funded by governments or institutions that decide how we remember certain people and events.

Memory is an essential part of the human experience because it creates and retains heritage and culture. The creation of memory and history are clearly deliberate, complex processes. They are inextricably political because of their socioeconomic implications, with groups in power having the resources to control the narratives.

The codification of the Right to Be Remembered will give marginalized groups agency to tell their authentic histories rather than ones crafted to maintain hierarchy. This will work to dismantle global systems of domination that silence people by deconstructing prevalent ideologies grounded in racism and patriarchy. We must uplift the voices of those unheard, forgotten, and even gone. For the sake of equity, people deserve to have their joys celebrated, their collective tragedies mourned, and their cultural legacies remembered.

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When community meetings are held to determine priority development projects in villages, in neighborhoods, in schools, in agricultural fields—wherever they may take place—we want to speak the language that is spoken there, spoken every day. The idea of a person or a community of people exploring what they most want in their lives should be as real and as connected to their notion of “self” as possible.

One’s mother language is a language of the heart, and we can express ourselves in that language unlike any other because it is how our deepest contemplation takes place. It is the language of prayer, of mercy and of forgiveness. It is the language of friendship and love. It arises from the concept of the mother, the one who nurtures us as infants, being the one from whom we first hear language and try to articulate what we hear.

Expression in our mother tongue is associated with sustainable development. When we work with community groups through participatory dialogue, we focus on identifying what is most sought and what people want to dedicate themselves to. That kind of introspection should be completely honest, reflecting on our deepest selves in the language in which we are most comfortable. So, language is an essential part of achieving sustainability.

Participatory community planning is a hallmark of civil society organizations dedicated to sustainable development, but it can be challenging when there is the presence of multiple languages of expression. Civil society workers are often in situations where there is no choice but to use their many and varied languages—in Morocco, for example, this will include Arabic as well as Tamazight—to communicate effectively and try to make expression the most personal and closest to what is really felt. This requires movement in and out of languages, creating a climate of multilingualism.

The ideas of multilingualism are actually ancient. In the Hebrew tradition, for example, the highest court had 70 judges to reflect what were considered the world’s 70 root languages. The idea was that if you have each of these essential languages represented, those matters that came before the court would be approached from all different perspectives and points of view in order to come to a more truthful understanding of the subjects being examined.

We should learn as many languages as we can, not just as a skill but as a perception-creating opportunity. Through experiences such as travel, international work, immigration, and personal experience, we develop a multilingual, and thus a pluralistic, perspective. While this contradicts the philosophy that an engaged, connected citizenry benefits from a shared root language, the ability to “code switch” demonstrates a capacity to negotiate the personal as well as the public spheres of higher education, the workplace, commerce, and society. It also allows us to share our cultural and linguistic knowledge with our peers.

As language is alive and ever-evolving, and as thousands of languages are now endangered, there is also something in the nature of language that must be preserved. We understand that human beings have been on this planet for many tens of thousands of years. Imagine, then, the number of languages that have appeared and disappeared during that time? Today’s languages can be traced to some of them, but some have passed into oblivion. Even the thousands that exist today cannot be compared to the totality of all languages that ever were. Like plant and animal species, biodiversity of languages is becoming rarer and will continue in that trend as speakers of endangered languages pass on or assimilate into larger groups.

We are obliged, then, to make the effort to preserve languages through multilingualism. We need to document and archive them, as through the Endangered Languages Project, but we also must learn and utilize them in real situations through practice and experience. While there is a value to studying in a classroom, most of us learn best by immersing ourselves in the acquisition of new languages. People learn best how to nurture trees or how to deliver legal aid as clinicians and community servants in real situations, and we know that we integrate those skills and abilities and perceptions and absorb them better by actually applying them in the everyday world.

Heartfelt language expression allows for adapted and tailored design of initiatives to meet our human needs, creating the basis for their sustainability. Multilingualism gives us the range of views we need for more complete understanding, followed by decisions that are considerate of the range of factors that are behind (and surround) our lives’ conditions. Diving as well as we can into our home languages and those spoken around us preserves them on earth and avails us of the richness of symbols and knowledge that they carry.

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HAF Project Manager Said, Driver Abdelghani, and volunteer Youssef, all visited the Tadmamt and Akrich nurseries on June 3, 2021, to start off an insightful visit and viewing of the communities. The first stop was in Tadmamt, where they met assistant nursery caretaker Abdeltif, who walked them around the nursery and checked on the saplings and the seeds. They observed that since the last visit to the nursery, progress has been made, but there is still more to be done in choosing the best seeds and installing the irrigation system.

The challenge they examined at the nursery then is that the weeds grow very quickly since the saplings are frequently watered. The caretaking team, including nursery caretaker Si Omar, increased their work time in order to keep up with weeding while simultaneously preparing the almond and cherry saplings for grafting. In utilizing a teamwork approach, weeding should only take one week of dedicated work. Another two or more days are needed to prepare the grafting of the almond and cherry saplings. Hopefully, if the almond saplings grow efficiently enough, they will only take four weeks, and the cherry only two.

Additionally, the water storage system was full. Alhamdulillah, this year there is enough water for the nursery. Two more people will be hired to remove the dirt and plants that grow in the storage container so that the irrigation system will be filled with clean water and its space for water storage optimized. For the irrigation, more valves must be added at the main pipelines to control and distribute the pressure for each part of the nursery equally since work is being done on the terraces.

That same afternoon, the team also met with Akrich nursery caretaker Abderrahim to monitor the nursery together. Abderrahim is giving great attention to the carob saplings every day, and next year, 30,000 carob saplings may be distributed from this nursery. Abderrahim is very happy with the solar water pumping system at the nursery that was donated by FENELEC, and he informed us that the local communities of and around Akrich are learning the importance and the advantages of the solar system when they visit the Akrich nursery. Abderrahim enjoys explaining its function at the nursery. What is encouraging is that the local people are eager to learn more about how solar energy can help to pump their drinking water.

The Akrich nursery was the first of HAF’s “House of Life” interfaith nurseries, beginning as a pilot project in 2012 and built adjacent to the seven-hundred-year-old tomb of Rabbi Raphael Hacohen. Its success influenced the establishment of a second such nursery in Imerdal, near Ouarzazate, which overlooks the 1,000-year-old burial place of the Moroccan Jewish saint Rabbi David and was built at the direction of His Majesty King Mohammed VI of Morocco with funding from the National Initiative for Human Development (INDH).

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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
$15,910 raised of $28,000 goal
306 donations
$12,090 to go
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