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

Last week, I had the chance to experience part of developing our new HAF tree nursery. Together with my colleagues Amina and Said, I traveled around 200 kilometers from Marrakech to Ourzazarte, to meet relevant stakeholders of the new project at the governor’s office. The new HAF nursery will be the 11th of its kind and the second built on Jewish community land. Like in Akrich the nursery will beside a sacred burial ground of a Moroccan Jewish saint and therefor stands as an example of interfaith collaboration.

Our meeting took place in order to identify the necessary steps that still need to be taken for starting the work on site. Besides the technical director of the governor, it was attended by representatives of the province’s administration, the planning and the building company, the National Initiative for Human Development (the Moroccan program) and the High Commission of Waters and Forests. I was excited to participate and I felt really honored when they spoke French from time to time just for me to be able to follow the conversation. Also, Amina and Said did their best to keep me updated and towards the end I could even bring in some of my own questions.

It turned out to be a very long session though. They discussed all the necessary steps and technical details which I could sometimes hardly follow. I also had a quick look at the building plans - I didn’t know that building a nursery is so complicated! Finally, we finished our meeting three hours later with everything being prepared for starting to build the nursery in early January.

Most important is the extension of the current well because it is too small for using a big pump which can lead to problems in the future. Also, building the greenhouse has priority in order to start planting end of January and not lose a planting season. The land needs to be ready and plans need to be validated by the Moroccan Jewish community. It is this collaboration with the Jewish community I’m most interested in and so I took the chance to ask the officials about how this partnership exactly looks. I wanted to find out how it effects the perception of the Jewish religion in the daily life of the Muslim community.

In discussions with my colleagues I found out that there aren’t any Jews living in the area anymore and also the cemetery is been taken care of by a Muslim family. But every year lots of Jewish people go on a pilgrimage to the burial site and celebrate a big festival. The governor and his representatives had also participated before and highlighted that it’s not the first time that there is a collaboration between the Muslim and the Jewish community in Ouarzazarte. The province’s administration ensured us their full support and said that they will do everything possible to assist HAF in realizing the project. They are sure that this form of sustainable development helps to bring people closer together.

After we finished our meeting, we headed towards the nursery site. When we arrived there, it was almost dark so I could just get a glimpse of the area. My first impression was moving. Surrounded by mountains the nursery land is located on a steep hill. There’s a lot of work to do in order to build terraces and all the necessary infrastructure to get the nursery working.

Even more impressive however was the cemetery itself. White gravestones nestled like a small town on the hill and the beginning darkness was illuminated by candles at the entrance of the cemetery. The place exuded an almost mystical atmosphere. What a great place for a nursery, I though. Life and death are only two points on a straight line and are inseparably connected. So, it is a great metaphor to grow trees next to a cemetery. The name “House of Life” - which was given to the project by the former Governor of the Al Haouz province, Younes El Bathaoui, and is also the English translation of cemetery from Hebrew - gets a whole new dimension when you add this philosophical component.

I was glad to go on this trip and experience the magic of this place myself. May it be a fruitful collaboration and bring life to a great many of trees.

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Can faith but the size of a mustard seed move mountains?

Can necessity garner supply? 

Can awareness prompt action?

Can sharing forge success?

Before the formation of HAF and upon my first arrival in Morocco, such questions rarely drew concern. There was a summer assignment to fulfil; I but one participant in a group of volunteers to teach English. Our students had proven their academic promise but with few outlets to pursue.

Coming from colder climes, I remember being wrapped in warmth as I crossed the tarmac to the terminal. An indescribable moment of combining the curiosity of unknowns with the assurance that all was well. Smiling in anticipation of meeting my hosts, I found no one awaiting my flight. Expecting to see my luggage deposited for pick-up, it was instead recorded as lost. After an awkward introduction a driver took me to a village, only to discover my host family had changed its mind. With temporary accommodation arranged elsewhere, I was given a bed and fell asleep, albeit in the same travelling clothes I wore.

Sleep-deprived, I had little recourse but to wonder. Was the acclaimed civil organization sponsoring me (not HAF) so lax in its logistical planning? Did the local organizers really understand English when mint tea was served as reply to my queries? The seeds of faith were sprouting weeds, and the mountains of doubt loomed.

As the week progressed, my luggage was recovered, I met the other teachers, and was moved to a three-story home. Amidst its incessant activity, the traffic of summer guests, the blaring TV, and the drama at mealtime, I was welcomed as one of the family. But another aspect was missing---my need for quiet solitude. Finding a rug, I took it to the roof and passed the summer nights under the stars. And finally...all was well. The unknowns, the previous focus and intent of it all unfolded in unexpected form. New feelings cancelled fixed foresight; my well-tuned rationale retreated as intuition offered appropriate response rather than useless reaction. I began to belong.

Clichés found a fast forward in opportunity. Magical moments of collective sharing replaced my individual dictates in shaping them. Not only in the sparse classrooms, but at the market, in the café, and in meeting locals timid to know what new vocabulary their children were learning. It all came together as each of the volunteers contributed uniquely while becoming enriched beyond expectation. My experience extended to fifteen years in different locations. The blending of change with the balance of tradition; this is Morocco. This is humanity in its most vibrant colors.

The founders of HAF experienced first-hand the many needs in defining and implementing development. Development which the hindrance of geography, dialects, and regional mores imposed. Its ongoing challenges were met, dormant seeds of growth were unearthed, and the mountains took on new profiles. 

The paradigms of aid are often no more than platitudes devised to enhance influence, to promote personal accolade, and to meet agendas of coffers. Ask yourself; is this the way to move mountains? Let the unschooled farmers, the stereotyped women, the youth facing disenfranchisement answer. Their reply is a resounding "No". HAF began and continues to mobilize progressive reform. Is it founded in strict hierarchy? Is it bound by religious or political constraints? No and no. Let the continuum of its activity demonstrate a momentum fueled by dedicated mentors, by ever-new talent, by flexible adaptation, and by its international network of sponsors and support. 

Are you curious how my story ends? Actually it has no ending. Opportunity is ongoing like gift packages of potential. And you? No matter your location or interests, HAF can direct a target best representative of your enthusiasm. It can mark your footprint on the landscape of contribution. Make contact; seeds will sprout higher and the mountains will bow down.

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This Newsletter presents the sustainable development work of the High Atlas Foundation and our fulfilling the Special Consultative Status at the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations that we have enjoyed since 2011.
We are facilitators of development that local communities of Morocco seek, and advocates of the people in order for society to achieve sustainable and shared prosperity. HAF's abiding connection with the human development purpose of the U.N. derives from these core elements of who we are.

The articles by HAF in this Newsletter celebrate this longstanding commitment.

Giving to HAF gives to the people’s projects and to fostering a country and world that enables communities to achieve inclusive growth.

Finally, the planting season begins next month. Let’s make this season for the ages by planting trees with families and schools that bare fruit for generations.
Happy winter, and rains, and best wishes for all good possibilities.
Yours faithfully,

Climate Protection and Sustainability at the UN Climate Action Summit

International Day of Childhood 

Participatory Development: An Alternative to Migration

Framing the humanitarian action: HAF in Qatar

Accelerating Sustainable Development Toward 2030

Ethics in Action an Event with Ban Ki Moon

Global Bottom-Up by 2030?

HAF Statement; 4th World Conference on Women

Yaounde: Government & CSOs Discuss Water & Development

Youth at the UN Plan Sustainable Development

International Day of Democracy: Engaging Youth

Build World Peace, Locally

The Hidden Gems of Morocco

Civil Society Matters to the Sustainable Development Goals

The next step for cooperatives is certification

Morocco provides 'Safe Spaces' for youth

HAF Action Efforts at the COP22 In Marrakech

Statement by HAF; ECOSOC High Level Segment

Implementing the UNs sustainable development goals

Meet a 2015er: Yossef Ben-Meir

Happy Tears: Human Connection Leading to Human Development

Mountain Life on Mountain Day

World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought

World Environment Day

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My last days were all about Pomegranates. I visited Pomegranate farms, ate them fresh from the tree, had some delicious pomegranate juice and learned a lot about the pomegranate business.

The reason for all this were two trips to Lalla Takerkoust on 29th and 30th of October together with my colleagues Hassan and Anne Marie, an agriculture-economist from the US. There we visited some local farmers in order to discuss further support. Hassan is coordinating the USAID farmer-to-farmer project for HAF and Anne Marie is one of the volunteer experts who participate in the program. The idea is to find out what local farmers need to improve their business and then help them to achieve the goals they desire with the recommendations of Anne Marie.

In Lalla Takerkoust at the moment the first priority for most of the farmers is to form a cooperative to achieve better prices for their pomegranates on the market. Now they sell only raw fruits for 5 DH (~ 0.50€) per kilo or 50 DH per 12kg-case (18-20 pomegranates). Selling also processed products as well as being able to negotiate better prices with the buyers would enable them to generate much better revenue. Forming a cooperative would help them to be in a much better position in the marketplace as they could work together to sell their fruit.

The farmers told us that they had been discussing the subject for some years already but somehow weren’t able to come to an agreement and get started. In 2016 they had an important meeting with the agriculture ministry about developing and preserving pomegranate farming in the region. The ministry already started to plant a lot of trees and agreed on a project for a large cooling unit, so the farmers could store more pomegranates which helps them to negotiate a better price. But the cooling unit still is not built.

This seems to be a divisive issue, as some of them want to wait until they get the cooling unit to form a cooperative. Others believe that they could already start now, a view Ann-Marie shares. She is certain that the farmers will have more power to assert their demands if they act as a unit. So, the easiest way of getting the ball rolling is simply to start. After a while a date for an initial meeting of the associations has been set. It will take place on 17th of November in order to discuss the next steps and get the process of forming a cooperative started. In the future they will need legal and financial advice as well as mechanisms to control financing and ensure quality. Anne Marie’s next steps will be to identify the support the farmers might need in the future and propose possible solutions.

The associations’ members are confident that the collaboration with HAF will help them to gain more motivation and work together.

For me personally it was a great field visit as I came home with a bag full of pomegranates and a lot of learning.

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Coming from London, this project really showcased the differences between our homes, and the homes and lives of those living in Tizian in the High Atlas Mountains. During our stay, we were introduced to the differences in culture and language in Morocco compared to the United Kingdom. We were told that we would be planting carob trees with the Tizian coimmunity. We were helped to do this by the High Atlas Foundation (HAF), a non-profit organisation who helps villages in Morocco. The current priority of Tizian was income, and so we planted carob trees, which provide an important ingredient for dark chocolate (they can only be harvested after seven years). The reason carob trees were the ones chosen to plant was because there are strict environmental laws in Morocco and only forest trees can be planted above a certain altitude (this was something that we were taught about during our workshop with HAF).

We were only one of the many volunteer groups working with HAF, and not only the fact that we raised the money for the trees, but also that we managed to plant fifty-nine of the four hundred within one day, made this an extremely interesting and captivating experience. Everyone in Tizian are so kind and welcoming, it was really nice to know that what we were doing is going to help them.

In our workshop with HAF, we were taught a lot about Moroccan culture, and a few words of Arabic, however we couldn’t use this small amount of Arabic in Tizian (though some of us tried to) because they speak Amazigh, the second primary language of Morocco. Despite the language barrier, we still managed to play games with the village children, such as volleyball, the hokey kokey, heads shoulders knees and toes, and countless other songs and dances (as well as them singing us their national anthem). We did manage to communicate with the children on a very basic level, finding out about their names, ages and siblings, and we gave them friendship bracelets that we had made on the plane.

Even though all this was difficult because we didn’t speak the same language, it taught us an important lesson- that it doesn’t matter who you are, or where you’re from, because kindness and playing are universal. Overall, this trip was so fulfilling, and staying in the village and spending time with the people made it such and enriching and exciting experience. I’m certain that I speak on behalf of everyone who came on the trip when I say that we are so grateful to the strangers who took us into their homes, and the High Atlas Foundation who gave us the opportunity of a lifetime. Thank you all so much.

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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
$15,940 raised of $28,000 goal
309 donations
$12,060 to go
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