Improve Rural Moroccan Schools: Sami's Project

by High Atlas Foundation
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Improve Rural Moroccan Schools: Sami's Project
Improve Rural Moroccan Schools: Sami's Project
Improve Rural Moroccan Schools: Sami's Project

Before I begin, I have a simple request to ask of you: take a moment to step outside into the natural environment and look around. What is one issue that you notice and how would you go about fixing said issue? Keep that in mind as I continue forward.

On February 23, 2021, remarkable individuals based in Morocco were called upon to share their inspirational stories of positivity and social empowerment via an online event hosted by the Generation Share Changemakers World Digital Tour. Benita and Sophie, co-authors of the incredible book Generation Share, have spear-headed the digital tour series to introduce the world to these inspiring tales. In these stories, viewers were able to not only visualize a Morocco that is teeming with power and immense potential, but we were also provided insight into what shaped the paths of each Changemaker, and how we, too, can facilitate positive change in our respective communities. Change in Morocco has focused primarily on building sustainable infrastructure and improving agroforestry, as well as improving education and literacy rates to the degree in which Morocco can be a self-reliant nation one day. Self-reliance from an economic standpoint is the goal, but these Changemakers have proven that this idea extends to social interaction and community empowerment.

Meet the Changemakers

Larbi is high school English teacher and a longstanding member of the Morocco Library Project, an organization founded by Barb that constructs English libraries in under-privileged Moroccan communities to facilitate social equity and educational development. Arbaoui is credited with developing the Short Story Writing Competition. This competition allows high school students to produce original stories that are rich in culture and meaning. The 2021 competition is currently underway with a theme titled “Life in Morocco” and can capture any aspects of Moroccan life.

Mouhcine is a teacher of languages and the founder of English Street Class, a project that provides free teachings of many different languages, such as English, French, and Spanish. His initiative is unique in the fact that it actually takes place on the streets of Essaouira in an effort to change the narrative about “street life” to be one that focuses on growth, knowledge, and community.

Amina is the Director of Projects at the High Atlas Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to facilitating sustainable development in Morocco. She oversees projects in the following areas of HAF’s mission: sustainable agriculture, education, health, women’s and youth empowerment, and capacity-building. Amina has been a key figure in the immense progress in women's empowerment projects for Moroccan communities.

Leila is a musician and the founder of Crescendo, a musical workshop that allows children of young ages to discover the world of music. Children are accompanied by family and learn the basics of music and instruments. By using the art of music, Lebbar hopes to solidify the Moroccan identity and love for the nation of Morocco.

Lucas is a travel writer, photographer, and the Managing Director of Journey Beyond Travel, a tour operator that provides private tours of destinations all across the incredible Moroccan landscape. In this role, he seeks to provide a cultural immersion that changes how people imagine Morocco.

Yossef is the President and co-founder of the High Atlas Foundation. He developed HAF in an attempt to facilitate sustainable development in Moroccan communities. Yossef oversees a dedicated team as well as volunteers and interns who use participatory methods to understand how to best serve Morocco. His organization hopes to inspire positive change in the African continent, the Middle Eastern region, and the greater global society.

Global Change Starts in Morocco

As Dr. Yossef mentioned during the event, Morocco is positioned at the forefront of sustainable development. At the moment, many organizations, community groups, and individuals nationwide are dynamically changing the scope of Moroccan society. Though significant progress has been made, Morocco has a lot more room for improvement. Education has been prioritized as the starting point from which the economy and other facets of life will follow. The process of implementing participatory methods in development has major implications to how other countries view their development. Also, with the steady emergence of Changemakers, Morocco stands to see dramatic changes in the coming years. The vision is to become a nation that is self-sufficient, but also able to influence the global market. Morocco already exists as an immense cultural hub teeming with potential. If everything continues trending upward, the sky's the limit in terms of Morocco’s future.

Am I a Changemaker?

Now, please recall the answer you determined from my question. I dare you to act upon it, there is nothing to lose...only something to gain. This is part of being a Changemaker. Changemaking is simple in theory but may be challenging in practice. Simply put, being a changemaker means envisioning change and then acting on that vision. You can make a difference no matter where you are or what you do. Changemakers have a capacity for love and positivity. They are brave enough to follow a road less traveled. They are willing to share knowledge and resources. They can adapt to ever-changing situations. They are always thinking of what the future holds. This is the message each of the panelists made clear during the digital tour. This is what Benita imagined when she began her journey and created Generation Share. Be the change you want to see. Morocco depends on it. Africa depends on it. The whole world depends on it. 

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It was with great enthusiasm that we - Karam and Mohamed - travelled to Ouezzane on March 12th, in order to distribute trees to schools in the area. 

As soon as we arrived, we were received by the Provincial Director of the Ministry of National Education. Our exchange focused on the opportunities for the Provincial Directorate and HAF can work together, while explaining the purpose of the tree planting project to schools. Indeed, the objective is none other than to make young students aware of the impact of climate change and how to deal with it by involving them in the planting of trees through workshops.

The activity started with a workshop session about the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals with the Environmental Club at Maruf al Rusafi School. Then, we gave a demonstration on how to plant trees by planting two carobs and two olives trees.  Then we visited two other schools, Aboul-Qacem Echebbi School and Jaafar Ibn Attia School, to plant the same kind and variety of trees.

One of the things that positively surprised me was that despite their young age, the students already knew some information about the effects of climate change and tree planting. This is thanks  to the tremendous effort of teachers and schools’ directors in discussing these aspects with students. 

In total, 540 fruit trees (mainly almond and pomegranate trees) were distributed to more than 20 schools in the province of Ouezzane. All the distributed trees grew in the HAF nursery of the Children Protection Center in Fez.

A special thanks to Mr. Ahmed , a social activist, who coordinated with the  Parents Association and with the schools’ directors to make this event a wonderful success.

Stay tuned for more information as this project, and others, move into future stages. Follow us on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter for updates.

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On November 27, 2020 the Legal Clinic housed at University Sidi Mohamed Ben Abdellah’s Faculty of Economic and Social Legal Sciences in Fes (FSJES-USMBA) held a training on sustainable and circular business models. This is one of several trainings designed to strengthen the capacity of students who are preparing to become student clinicians. 

In tandem with their university curriculum, these training sessions give students practical information that will be directly applied to their service delivery and other advocacy activities conducted within the legal clinic’s framework. Not only will underserved populations in the Fes-Meknes region be able to receive legal assistance at no charge, the students will be participating in a service learning experience that will be invaluable to them as they proceed toward their own career aspirations.

This training was conducted by Moustafa, an expert in entrepreneurship, and a specialist at Anapec. This training built off of a previous training conducted by Mr. Ghalib, in which he discussed the concept of entrepreneurship and how it is applicable to not only the aspirations of the students, but also those who the clinicians will be serving. In this session, Mr. Ghalib focused on business models of a company, specifying the importance of sustainability, in particular “eco-innovation”, which consists of providing new solutions that allow a company to reduce its environmental impact. 

Striving for sustainability

Mr. Ghalib explained the concept of “eco-design”, in which the life cycle of a product is continuous -- when the life cycle of a product is endangered, the entrepreneur must incorporate sustainability in order to contribute to environmental preservation. Sustainable consumption is about improving the efficient use of resources throughout the life cycle of a product by emphasizing the role of businesses, supply chains, and individual consumers as actors in the development of a durable circular economy. 

According to Mr. Ghalib, a circular economy aims to go beyond a linear economic model consisting of extracting, manufacturing, consuming, and discarding. It calls for a responsible consumption of natural resources and primary raw materials as well as the prevention of waste production. Mr. Ghalib then explained the concept of a lean startup, which refers to the idea that a business or activity is only likely to be successful if it gives itself the time to research the market before launching. A business model can be synthesized and described through a business model and its elements. One must understand the context -- like everything else, a business is part of a system that does not operate independently; it is affected by political, economic, social, technological, environment and legal factors. An entrepreneur must anticipate opportunities and avoid potential threats caused by changes. 

Analysis of objectives

Two other factors that must be considered in a successful business plan are objectives and indicators. These must be identified in a “green business” so that stakeholders can make choices that ultimately work towards achieving their objectives. Objectives must follow a SMART analysis: 

S: Specific and simple

M: Measurable

A: Attainable

R: Relevant

T: Time-bound

This training session was one of several organized by the High Atlas Foundation that is designed to prepare students to become practitioners of pro bono legal aid to people in vulnerable situations in the Fes-Meknes region. Depending on the needs of the community, the clinicians may provide pro bono legal advice to those who are interested in starting their own business. Mr. Ghalib’s session on sustainable business models provides the students with valuable technical information that will enable them to better serve their clients. Students have also received training on topics including but not limited to migration, asylum, and participatory communication.

Learn more about how you can support the efforts of the Legal Aid Clinic here

The High Atlas Foundation is working in partnership with the Faculty of Economic and Social Legal Sciences at the University Sidi Mohamed Ben Abdellah (USMBA) in Fes to operate and grow a Law Clinic and Legal Aid program which actively engages students in experiential and service learning for the benefit of marginalized communities in the Fes-Meknes region. The project is funded by the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) and the U.S.-Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI).

 

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On Saturday, November 21, 2020 an expert in the field of migration and asylum conducted a training on Migration and Asylum for students participating in the program to become student clinicians at the Legal Clinic housed at University Sidi Mohamed Ben Abdellah’s Faculty of Economic and Social Legal Sciences in Fes (FSJES-USMBA). These sessions expanded upon his presentation on the same topics during a training the previous week. The student clinicians were divided into two groups in accordance with public health guidelines.

The facilitator presented on the national strategy for migration and asylum and its results. This topic is particularly pertinent on both a national and international level. Morocco is considered a primary launching point for migrants into Europe, particularly to Spain, who has seen a ten-fold increase in migrants from the western coast of Morocco since 2019. A recent decision has stated that those who are not deemed eligible for international protections will be returned to Morocco. The training reviewed the different categorizations of asylum seekers, focusing particularly on the process of establishing administrative status for migrants and asylum seekers, the resolution of migrants in an irregular situation, and the inherent right to education for refugee children. The migrant situation in particular is pertinent as it has been shown that migrants are disproportionately affected by COVID-19 pandemic.

Trainings like these are an essential part of the Legal Clinic program. In tandem with their university curriculum, these technical sessions give students practical information that will be directly applied to their service delivery and other advocacy activities conducted within the clinic’s framework. They will be working with the same populations whose situations they are learning about in order to serve them best. Not only will marginalized populations in and around the Fes area be able to receive legal assistance at no charge, the students will be participating in a service learning experience that will be invaluable to them as they proceed toward their own career aspirations.

Service learning has been found to increase student learning as well as employability. These experiences have been shown to positively impact cultural awareness and social responsibility in university students as well. These benefits, when leveraged properly, have the potential to position Morocco as a destination for those seeking to escape dangerous circumstances in their home countries, or even more economic opportunities. Experiences such as this can create a generation of Moroccans prepared to cultivate an environment of acceptance and enhanced livelihoods.

Learn more about how you can support the efforts of the Legal Clinic here.

The High Atlas Foundation is working in partnership with the Faculty of Economic and Social Legal Sciences at the University Sidi Mohamed Ben Abdellah (USMBA) in Fes to operate and grow a Law Clinic and Legal Aid program which actively engages students in experiential and service learning for the benefit of marginalized communities in the Fes-Meknes region. The project is funded by the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) and the U.S.-Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI).

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Within the framework of a Small Grants' project that the High Atlas Foundation administers in collaboration with the Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs (OES), the U.S Department of State  (DOS),  to promote public participation in environmental decision-making, resulting in increased environmental protection and enforcement of  environmental laws, 4 sub-grantees from Morocco and Jordan were selected through a call for applications from different associations

The goal of this project is to increase civil society engagement in environmental protection and promote public participation in environmental decision-making, resulting in increased environmental protection and enforcement of environmental laws.

The program promotes public awareness of Free Trade Agreement (FTA) Environment Chapters and national environmental laws. The United States-Jordan FTA and the United States-Morocco both stand as commitments by all three countries to promote environmental protection. The small grants program and the Environment Chapter both emphasize public participation—affording people the opportunity to learn about as well as contribute to environmental protection initiatives and policies. The Small Grants Program supports these efforts by engaging civil society to improve environmental protection and strengthen environmental laws.

The small grants were awarded for proposals focusing on educational and awareness-raising activities that engage a broad range of stakeholders and promote interactions between local authorities and civil society.

Public Participation in Environmental Protection in Morocco

Among the 4 selected sub-grantees was Alfath Association for Development, a Moroccan CSO practicing in Bouchane and Ait Taleb, two rural villages in the Rhamna Province north of Marrakech. These villages are aware of the waste problems and air pollution they are facing, Together and with the participation of local authorities, schools, and parents of students they decided to develop programs to educate the citizens on how to solve these, and other, environmental issues.

Alfath association and its partners are working together to achieve the project’s objectives including the creation of a fruit tree nursery with a solar irrigation pump in Bouchane. Their goals is to grow over 100,000 olive and other trees, providing the Ait Taleb community solar pumps for two wells to be used for livestock water, and to also enable the reduction of air pollution and the elimination of the need for fuel, in addition to training students and their parents with the hopes of helping to establish a culture of environmental protection.

In cooperation with local authorities, Alfath was able to remove the traditional places locals were throwing waste, and instead take the waste to farmers to use as a fertilizer, improving the cleanliness of the area and helping the farms at the same time. One of the main deliverables of this project is a manual for each village to serve as a reference for measuring the development and the preservation of the environment.

As part of the OES program, HAF directly engaged 1,987 primary school children, 1,878 older youth, and 1,160 farmers in environmental action workshops that build knowledge around effective tree planting, water management, and participatory planning. These events - as part of HAF's Sami's Project - were also an opportunity to plant 15,144 trees as well as 445 medicinal plants with members of schools, cooperatives, and associations in 18 Moroccan provinces.

Despite the current COVID-19 crises in Morocco, Alfath is doing a very important job and will close the project in the next few months, hoping to have new project opportunities for the sustainability of its work and its impact.

Public Participation in Environmental Protection in Jordan

From Jordan, Methods for Irrigation and Agriculture (MIRRA), a Jordanian Non for profit organization was selected for a project entitled ''Realizing Sustainable Agriculture In Azraq.''

Azraq is a small town in the eastern desert of Jordan. It is characterized by depleting groundwater aquifers, limited rainfall, salinization of soil and groundwater, failing agriculture and ecosystems, and communities that struggle to survive and achieve. However, MIRRA, together with their local partner Rural Family Society (RFS), was able to see through these challenges and develop a path into sustainable development that will result in improved environmental conditions, sustainable agricultural practices, and enhanced livelihood of communities.

Thus, MIRRA identified the challenges and designed the solutions to implement through the project for a duration of 18 months.Members of the organization used an ultra-low pressure drip irrigation system in conjunction with magnetic water devices to irrigate fodder crops with saline water. They used this method as a mechanism for improving water management and mitigating the impact of soil and groundwater salinity.

The team utilized saline-tolerant crop species in conjunction with organic fertilizers, which are available locally and at a very low cost. This combination helps to transform ill-agricultural practices in the study area into sustainable agriculture that will result in greater feed production and improved soil conditions in the long run.

To ensure sustainability, equity, and gender balance, the team created two small demonstration farms -- one for a female owner and one for a male owner. They also developed a curriculum which they used throughout the project. Additionally, a team of young professionals was trained and certified to continue and expand the work.

On the 17th of November MIRRA held the closing ceremony of the MIRRA-HAF-RFS project "Realizing Sustainable Agriculture In Azraq" to celebrate the successes of the project. The event showcased the successful outcomes of the project and discussed what will be done in the next phases.

There were more than 30 participants included but not limited to: The MIRRA Team (implementing NGO), HAF team (doner), the RFS team (implementing partner), Ms. Yara (U.S Department of State-Jordan), Dr. Mohammad (Al-Balqa University), MIRRA’s interns from the Water Innovation Technology (WIT) project, MIRRA’s interns from the Hussain Technical University (HTU) Sahara program, the Azraq youth team, as well as direct and indirect beneficiary farmers.

The ceremony's final remarks were delivered by Dr. Yossef, President of the High Atlas Foundation: “Not giving up, know each other, share success stories and keep trying.”

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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, NY United States
$47,689 raised of $100,000 goal
 
705 donations
$52,311 to go
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