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

Since its establishment in 2000, the High Atlas Foundation (HAF) has witnessed continuous growth and success in promoting sustainable development projects.  By  instilling the values of afforestation and passing it on across generations, engaging in the continuity of the initiatives carried out, and adopting a participatory approach that encourages the introduction of new models for sustainable development, HAF works in partnership with a number of institutions, companies, cooperatives, and associations in order to establish an environmentally-aware culture and encourage economic empowerment.

 

With this mission in mind, HAF’s Director of Projects, Amina, and HAF Program Coordinator, Safae, recently took part in a tree planting initiative with HAF partner Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy as a part of the season of planting trees in Morocco.  Siemens Gamesa team members Noureddin, Youssef, and Farid joined HAF. Representatives from Association Cape City Youth for the Environment also joined them for this initiative. 

 

On February 8, 2021, these three entities gathered to plant a total of 800 fruit trees in Oussen, a village located in the Sidi Kaouki commune of the Essaouira province. This grand event took place as part of Siemens Gamesa’s initiative known as "The Social Solidarity Project to Reduce the Negative Effects of the Covid-19 Virus," which has resulted in a number of development projects in a number of regions of the Kingdom.


The February tree planting activity began with a meeting with representatives of Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy and members of the local association at the association’s headquarters. During this meeting, they discussed potential development projects for the region, its natural wealth, and its tourist qualifications. After the meeting, the attendees moved to a field in order to plant seedlings, learn the correct method of planting, and identify the necessary tools for successfully planting fruit trees according to their type. Some key points they learned were how to measure out the safe distance between trees to ensure their survival and how to test the quality of the soil.

 

After each of the representatives of Siemens Gamesa and the High Atlas Foundation spoke about the importance of planting trees, both in terms of economy  and environment, the president of Association Cape City Youth Society for the Environment, Mr. Youssef, declared his admiration for the initiative. Mrs. Rashida, the president of the women's association in the area, added that this gesture showed them the importance of planting trees in the long run, as it has inspired thinking about establishing a cooperative for fruit trees, particularly olives and Argan, especially since the land is fertile and vital.

 

Also, Mr. Noureddine said that the tourist sites that abound in the region, whose inhabitants depend mostly on marine fishing, will help in its development if an agricultural cooperative is established, and the culture of agriculture is established among the local population and between future generations. Mrs. Amina talked about the correct way to plant trees, the distance between two trees, the natural and tourist paths of the area and their role in developing them.

 

This is not the first time the two organizations have collaborated to help marginalized communities during the pandemic. In fact, HAF and Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy have worked together on many other initiatives throughout the COVID-19 pandemic to distribute food and hygienic supplies to communities in need.

 

HAF is grateful for its partnership with organizations such as Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy. Their support helps maintain our 12 community-managed fruit tree nurseries and plant trees with farming families to increase financial independence in marginalized communities.

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The High Atlas Foundation together with GermanWatch and the steering committee of the Multi-Stakeholder Partnership Project (MSP) have been carrying out their work on the decentralization of renewable energies in order to ensure the promotion and the continuity of this purpose-driven approach which is fueling an important transformation in the energy sector.

The general assembly of the Moroccan Platform of the Decentralization of Renewable Energies (La Plateforme Marocaine de Décentralisation des Énergies Renouvelables – PMDER), held on March 26 and 27, 2021, provides ample evidence of the on-going efforts made by the HAF and other policymakers in this respect. The assembly’s vision is to influence decision-makers to promote effective decentralization policies of renewable energies in Morocco through the democratization of access to energy. It was an opportunity to shed light on the positive impact that alternative measures, as opposed to state-owned utilities and large energy providers, have on the environment as well as the local economy in the long run. 

HAF President Dr. Yossef began the event with an introduction to the nursery, its history, and its leading role as proof of cultural co-existence and partnership as well as a community-led project that provides support and opportunities for the locals. Imane, HAF Programs Director, introduced the participants to PMDER. Moulay Hassan, HAF Country Director showed gratitude toward the partners who contributed to the success of the nursery of Akrich. Hajiba, HAF’s Program Coordinator, provided a perspective of how the solar irrigation system benefited the nursery and also contributed to the initiatives of renewable energies as a way to fight climate change.

The participants in the general assembly had the opportunity to make a field visit to learn more about the eco-friendly solar-powered irrigation system in HAF’s nursery in Akrich. The system was donated by the National Federation of Electricity, Electronics and Renewable Energies (FENELEC) and was inaugurated at a ceremony that was held at the end of February. During the field visit, the general assembly participants were guided by Abderrahim, the nursery caretaker in Akrich, who discussed the positive impact that the solar energy system has on the nursery, particularly how it has already lowered the electricity bill by 75% in its first month of usage. The use of solar energy to pump water from the nursery well has also minimized the quantity of water that is wasted since only what is needed is drawn.

The members of the steering committee of MSP had also the chance to visit another HAF nursery located in Tassa Ouirgane. This nursery is 100% managed by young women from the same region who are part of the Takhrkhourt Cooperative. This nursery has provided the opportunity for the women of the cooperative to advocate and act on their needs and goals. It is also a source of income that has helped them to start living an independent life, aiming to create agents of change who are capable of taking action and making life-changing decisions that will later reduce obstacles for women and acknowledge that they are a firm pillar of society. 

The general assembly of PMDER was a fortuitous opportunity to bring together professionals and experts in the field. The first day, which concluded with a round table discussion, addressed potential challenges and areas for improvement. This meeting stressed the importance of decentralized renewable energies in meeting the needs of the local population of Tassa Ouirgane in particular and rural Moroccan communities at-large.

There were three main takeaways from this gathering. The first is that stakeholders must adopt an inclusive decision-making approach that actively involves all those who would be directly affected by the outcome of the decision. Second, the ideas related to decentralized renewable energies must be simplified so that they may be more easily understood by all the parties and communities. Finally, measures must be taken to prevent any potential technical problems that might arise, such as the overheating of solar panel batteries and the development of effective strategies to better maintain energy-related equipment in the long run.  

Help HAF make these goals a reality and bring renewable energy to communities across Morocco by making a gift on our website or GlobalGiving Page. 

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The need to protect and conserve written Jewish archival material in Morocco has been identified for decades and grows more acute as the Jewish community resident in the Kingdom dwindles. 

Material is in danger from continued storage in unsuitable conditions leading to severe damage.  Pillaging and other related activities continue to be carried out on behalf of smugglers and unscrupulous antiquities dealers. It is possible that in rural areas in particular, the location of Genizot is known only to a few, older locals who may not be able to articulate this knowledge in the future.

At the same time, the burgeoning interest of the Jewish community, including at the academic level, on this subject suggests a particularly appropriate moment to act. The Moroccan government is strongly dedicated to cultural preservation and the Alliance of Civilizations, especially as it leads to the promotion of human development. The dedication of this project to educating Moroccan youth about the cultural historical past and its direct relevance to the present provides the opportunity to both preserve cultural artifacts that are steadily being lost while raising transformative awareness to help secure a diverse and unified future.

The importance of preserving Moroccan Jewish archive material

In essence, the study of Moroccan Genizot constitutes world-class research.

The magnitude of Genizot located across Morocco reflects a continuous Jewish presence in North Africa for at least two millennia, often in significant numbers relative to the total population, which is practically unique in the Jewish diaspora. 

An unknown but certainly significant percentage (over half) of archival material in Morocco remains intact, with the possibility of its being researched.

In general, the contents of Genizot in major historical centres of Jewish life would be expected to yield intellectual treasures, pertaining to the local Jewish community, to its connection with other, sometimes far-flung Jewish centres and to interrelationships between Jews and neighbouring or host communities.  

Particularly in the Islamic world, with its relative openness and ease of interaction between differing faith communities comparative to Christian Europe, the study of Genizot is fruitful for scholars of Islamic society, commerce and linguistics.

Experts and observers consider the potential of the Genizah of Fes alone to be greater than that of the Cairo Genizah.

The Marrakesh Genizah, selected for this pilot project, might be expected to highlight the imperial city’s status as a major trading post, the cultural and intellectual magnet of the south, the one-time rival of Fes and a centre of a particular Judaism which included esoteric studies and was influenced by local, particularly Amazigh culture.

Project purpose and objectives

A Genizah (pl. Genizot) is a storage area set aside for irreparably damaged (or otherwise unusable) Hebrew sacred texts.  Over time the purpose of a Genizah extended to include preservation of a wide variety of documentation relating to the Jewish community (including its interrelation with neighbouring or host communities).

This pilot project at the Marrakesh Genizah, that will serve southern Morocco, aims to set out an approach towards the proper conservation of Genizah material, and dissemination of knowledge gained, that can be replicated at a national and international level, for the benefit of academic researchers and a broad public, including as a component for educating Moroccan youth in part of their cultural history and cultural tourism.

Marrakesh was selected for several reasons; the city’s geographic, cultural and historical importance, being the regional capital that can house archival documents located in 10 provinces; the significance of its Jewish community; the presence of a convenient infrastructure: and the existence of a modern-day Jewish community with an interest in developing the relationships necessary to facilitate this project.

The Marrakech Genizah (Jewish archive for discarded sacred texts) is located in the historic Miaara Jewish cemetery (dating from c.1580) in the old town of Marrakech. The archive room is fairly modern and sanitary. Material collected from here will then be moved to a secure, secondary location within the cemetery for evaluation and processing, up to and including cataloguing.

HAF’s initiative dually supports the US "Convention on Cultural Property Implementation Act" (CCPIA) and Morocco’s 2011 constitutional reforms to preserve the Jewish contributions to Moroccan national identity.  These archives meet the ethnological requirements “(I) the product of a tribal or nonindustrial society, and (II) important to the cultural heritage of a people because of its distinctive characteristics, comparative rarity, or its contribution to the knowledge of the origins, development, or history of that people.”The King’s rehabilitation and reformation of the Jewish identity serves as a global model for intercultural relations. The Genizah material reinforces the interconnections between all Moroccan ethnicities, strengthening Moroccan cultural unity.  HAF’s project will contribute to the safekeeping of these archives and preserve the rich history and culture of Moroccan Jewry.

NATURE

Genizah material remaining undocumented in Morocco is deemed a cultural resource of global importance, due to the scale and duration of a Jewish communal presence in North Africa, in both urban and rural areas. 

Given that the history of any minority – in this case the Jewish diaspora – mirrors and illuminates broader historical patterns – Moroccan Jewish archival material reflects the nature of the region, a geographical crossroads of many civilizations.

Different languages and scripts are represented –Hebrew, Arabic, Judaeo-Arabic, Judaeo-Spanish and Tamazight (in Hebrew script).  Of particular note is the use in Morocco of a regional form of cursive Sephardic script, known today to a mere handful of scholars.

The quality, quantity and importance of Genizot vary widely, depending on the region, importance of the urban area or rural commune and the size and duration of the Jewish communal presence.  Thus, in a village of twenty Jewish families, the Genizah material is likely to be small.  Nevertheless, surprising intellectual treasures may be discovered in the unlikeliest of locations

PROBLEM

Written Jewish archival material remaining in Morocco, while having been identified for decades as being of highly significant historical and cultural importance, has nevertheless the material lay dispersed and often sorely neglected, in dire need of proper conservation before its contents are analysed and findings disseminated for posterity and for the general good of Moroccan society.

INTENDED RESULT

Detailed analysis of Jewish archival material in Morocco would be expected to yield rich intellectual rewards, adding greatly to our understanding in two ultimately interrelated areas: (a) the inner dynamics of the Jewish community – its social history and patterns and (b) the interactions, relationships, and parallels between the Jewish community and other Moroccan cultures. 

This endeavour, when successfully carried out, would be expected to make a vital contribution to the understanding of the significance of the Moroccan Jewish tradition, both in and of itself and in the context of the rich intercultural dynamic that exists in the country.

Research findings could well be expected to contribute to the conversation currently taking place within and with regard to the Kingdom of Morocco, concerning the nature, importance, and cultivation of cultural diversity that is truly beneficial, fruitful, and quite possibly replicable in other regions of the world.

This pilot project, and in consequence the gaining of official permissions and of trust is expected to open the door to further, systemic collection and preservation of Genizah throughout Morocco.  A coherent approach will be synthesized with innovative techniques for the dissemination of knowledge gained, especially for the benefit of Moroccan youth.

Finally, it is hoped that this project will facilitate a process whereby Morocco once again becomes the centre for world research in Genizah research, uniting different academic communities and interests, and creating a public accessibility that promotes Moroccan diversity and unity.

Sustainable actions for preserving Moroccan Jewish archive material

After extraction and sorting, all documentation will be digitized.  This in turn will allow it to be examined and catalogued in Morocco.

It is anticipated that wider, participative research opportunities will be provided through collaboration with The Rabat Genizah Project, for established research scholars during the digitization process and / or subsequent to this, for the broadest possible spectrum of the public.

The Mimouna Association and the High Atlas Foundation will conduct workshops, activities and seminars on the subject from an intercultural perspective, on similar lines to those which took place in the context of its restoration of three historic cemeteries in Essaouira. This is highly appropriate, given the commitment of the Foundation to participatory methodology, to fostering intercultural understanding, and to catalyzing human development through cultural preservation.

The original documentation will be moved to a permanent archive space, either in the south of Morocco (Marrakesh region) or Casablanca, the administrative centre of the Jewish community of Morocco, where it is proposed that an archive is constructed to house material extracted from Genizot across the Kingdom.

Diffusion of information concerning the entire project will be carried out through various forms of media programming.

Within Morocco, it is hoped that the Marrakesh pilot scheme will pave the way for further schemes conducted under the supervision of the other presidents of regional Jewish communities.

In a more general sense, further projects could combine GIS work mapping Genizot across Morocco as well as major collections of Moroccan Genizah fragments and centres of research worldwide, with further collaborative research on actual documentation, thus providing a more coherent and complete picture of the extent, nature, and significance of this unique material.

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The falling structure that houses the burial site of the Jewish saint, Saied Aharon, and one of two agricultural terraces that constitute its location. Each terrace will have a greenhouse built upon it to enable year-round planting of seeds (2019).

The US-Moroccan NGO, High Atlas Foundation, collaborates with the people of Morocco as they perpetuate their heritage utilizing local and global partnerships. Association Mimouna, the Foundation of Memories for the Future, and others are at the foreground in Morocco to encourage the public’s rediscovery of Christian and Jewish dimensions of the nation. Further, people at the Embassy of the United States in Rabat are dedicated to assisting Morocco in its initiatives for cultural preservation and to enable the nation’s youth to explore and more deeply internalize their historic identity of religious and ethnic diversity and unity. Morocco’s relationship with Israel can be a gateway for Moroccan-Jewish people - along with other members of Morocco’s diaspora - to return to the land of their origins and join this national effort to restore long-held sacred locations that epitomize the country’s embracing of its intercultural self. Collaborations are crucial to sharing knowledge lest it be ever forgotten, to inspiring the world, and to making the lives and livelihoods of the Moroccan people better today.

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One ought not to doubt the Kingdom of Morocco’s abiding sincerity in its commitment to the principles of multiculturalism and to the diverse identities that constitute the whole of this Islamic nation. This embracing on the part of the government and the general public is a real, constant, and codified one, even synonymous with what it means today to be Moroccan. However, the lived pluralistic experiences of the people must take new forms with every generation, and its translation into advancing development is now the nation’s foresighted call.

In the past decade, Morocco’s constitution backed by the people’s referendum has made the composition of diverse identities immutable. The public and civil actions to preserve the cultural past for the whole of the country have seen commendable acceleration, with a common desire being the norm to participate in restoration and knowledge-sharing activities when opportunities arise.

However, while discussing and teaching about the multi-faceted national identity is important, the outcome of intercultural dialogue and partnership must surpass this. If we are to be honest, and we must be, considering the harsh conditions (and worsening due to the pandemic) of poverty that impact most people and especially those in rural places, then we must admit that Moroccan multiculturalism is not reaching Morocco’s own standard of translation into sustainable development for all the people.

The magnificence of Moroccan policy is that it does not find its fulfilment by preserving, celebrating, and advancing religious and ethnic identities alone. Policies find their ultimate expression only when they are implemented in partnership with and in meeting the human development needs of local communities.  And in this regard, the nation is falling too short. This is not because of lack of interest or potential, but more simply because the capacities of how interfaith dialogue can lead to, for example, improved public health, are not well built or understood. Let me provide a commendable rural example of how “intercultural dialogue becomes a bridge for human development” as King Mohammed VI encouraged the nation in 2008 and has repeatedly since.

Case in point: Farming communities of Morocco’s countryside combine to require some billions of fruit trees and medicinal plants as they transition away from the traditional practice of growing barley and corn. In order for communities to generate the trees they need, they require the gift of land to grow seeds in local nurseries because they cannot forego their own land and not harvest food every year to survive. The Moroccan Jewish community, next to their 600 cemeteries throughout the nation, has empty lands they are willing to lend without cost to local agricultural associations and cooperatives to help them meet their tree and plant needs.

Moved by the killings at houses of worship of different faiths in different parts of the world – having in common that their congregants unwittingly and warmly welcomed their murderers – I presented this interfaith agricultural opportunity in a letter to King Mohammed VI of Morocco. He instructed the government to fund (through the National Initiative for Human Development) the building of the proposed tree nursery on land lent in-kind by the Moroccan Jewish Community in Ouarzazate. On November 5, the nursery that will produce 200,000 fruit trees from native seeds opened on a new, one-hectare sized agricultural terrace built on a mountainside above the 1,000-year-old sacred burial site of Rabbi David-Ou-Moché.

Officials in Morocco’s cabinet of the Minister of Interior declined the opportunity to receive additional funds from abroad for this project, preferring instead that it be financed and implemented entirely based upon Moroccan partnerships. There is globally poignant meaning that the Kingdom of Morocco expended public resources in order to build a needed organic fruit tree nursery for and by its people on land provided without cost by the Moroccan Jewish community. If this interfaith collaboration were brought to national scale, tens of millions of trees can be generated annually, an essential contribution toward achieving the imperative of alleviating rural poverty. The showing of this form of social solidarity is timely for Morocco; agricultural development is now a cornerstone of the country’s economic recovery plan in the face of the pandemic. Morocco’s uniting of intercultural dialogue with human development is critical for its own sustainable future as is its self-determined message an example to the world.

As exceptional as this nursery project truly is, it is also as rare. Morocco’s faith leaders must find it uncomfortable and unacceptable that the preservation of houses of worship and cemeteries, and even the celebrations of their expansively rich cultures, along with their required financial investments, occur in the midst of dense and debilitating poverty. Morocco should, for example, mandate that all restored historical mosques, synagogues, and churches be not only for their own sake and for that of international visitors and worshipers, but also as ongoing meeting grounds for local communities to jointly plan their development future, to participate in workshops that strengthen their capacities to design and manage new projects and forge partnerships, and indeed to be working spaces for community development, mobilization, and action. Finally, public leaders should strongly encourage conferences, associations, and initiatives that promote appreciation of Morocco’s multiculturalism, to be fully dedicated as well to the fusion of human development as central to their cause.

These approaches should be reinforced, including by training Morocco’s diverse religious, ethnic, and cultural leaders in facilitating multi-stakeholder planning. Their dialogue and collaboration should necessarily result in poverty-alleviating initiatives and growth, especially with women and youth. In order for religious and ethnic group representatives to reach that cooperative position, though, will require them to first strengthen their relationships through their own honest sharing of stories of fears and doubts of the other, and offering expressions of regret stemming from past discriminations should they be felt and needed to be said and accepted. Only then will the broadened and enduring basis be formed for cohesive partnerships to achieve sustainable livelihoods and environments.

Even as Morocco has created a social and policy environment that sincerely encourages interfaith dialogue, partnership, and actions, it still requires the collective efforts of concerned people and organizations to manifest these opportunities that enhance local and national life. One of the barriers that keeps such projects from being implemented is the lack of third-party organizations that are simply dedicated to consensus building among the faith groups in order to forge the partnerships that result into jointly designed and managed cultural projects that are also educational and developmental. Civil society groups, with their flexibility to engage with people and agencies at all levels and sectors of society, can be exceptionally positioned and effective in this facilitative function.

It is for other nations to decide the lessons that can be informative from the Moroccan example. As an American, for example, now reflecting on the White House Faith Based office that coordinates community programs across nine federal agencies, I recommend - borrowing from the Moroccan case - requiring that funded activities incorporate interfaith collaboration to not only improve social sustainability and cohesion, but also to better secure protections of religious liberties for the people who receive social services from this government subsidy.

Working in what is actually the intended Moroccan way will not only be the truest safeguard of the multiplicity of the national identity, but enable its complete heralding of all the people of the nation because it indeed became the bridge to our highest selves.

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Organization Information

High Atlas Foundation

Location: New York, NY - USA
Website:
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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