Localize Access to Renewable Energies in Morocco

by High Atlas Foundation
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Localize Access to Renewable Energies in Morocco
Localize Access to Renewable Energies in Morocco
Localize Access to Renewable Energies in Morocco
Localize Access to Renewable Energies in Morocco
Localize Access to Renewable Energies in Morocco
Localize Access to Renewable Energies in Morocco
Localize Access to Renewable Energies in Morocco
Localize Access to Renewable Energies in Morocco
Localize Access to Renewable Energies in Morocco
Localize Access to Renewable Energies in Morocco
Localize Access to Renewable Energies in Morocco
Localize Access to Renewable Energies in Morocco
Localize Access to Renewable Energies in Morocco
Localize Access to Renewable Energies in Morocco
Localize Access to Renewable Energies in Morocco
Localize Access to Renewable Energies in Morocco
Localize Access to Renewable Energies in Morocco
Localize Access to Renewable Energies in Morocco
Localize Access to Renewable Energies in Morocco
Localize Access to Renewable Energies in Morocco
Localize Access to Renewable Energies in Morocco
Localize Access to Renewable Energies in Morocco
Localize Access to Renewable Energies in Morocco

Twenty-three women from the village of El Kdirat in the Jnane Bouih commune of the Youssoufia province, participated in a four-day Imagine women's empowerment workshop that took place between June 21-24. There are approximately 36 households in El Kdirat, the average size being between 6 to12 people.

There was a diversity in age among the women who attended this workshop, ranging from 14 to 64 years old. The community has two schools - one elementary school and one middle school - the nearest of which is three kilometers away. As a result, many of the women who participated in the workshop were unable to attend formal schooling.

This Imagine workshop was organized by the High Atlas Foundation (HAF), in partnership with the USAID Farmer-to-Farmer program and Germanwatch. It is an opportunity for the participants to envision new possibilities first for themselves as well as for their families so that they may enact change in their own communities.

The HAF team was greeted by a very warm welcome from the women of the village, who started off with an exhibition of their own traditions. Their strong ululations expressed happiness, and milk and dates were served outdoors before entering the venue of the workshop. This lovely atmosphere broke the ice before the start of day one.

This is the first time that HAF has conducted a workshop with a community belonging to the Ahmar tribe (Red tribe). The Awlad Ahmar tribe is famous for the presence of the famous Sufi shrine on its territory, that of Sidi Shiker, which is located near the road linking Shemaya and the city of Chichoua. It is also famous for the Mawlawi school, where the princes of the Alawite state used to study the military arts of equestrianism, archery, and more. It is said that Sidi Shiker is one of the owners of Uqba ibn Nafi al-Fihri, the great conqueror of the Maghreb. He grew ill when a caravan passed from Souss, and he died and was buried on the bank of Wadi Tensift. His mausoleum is considered one of the oldest shrines in Morocco since the Islamic conquest.

There is another shrine for a saint called Sidi Ahmed Moul Chahba, or Zaouiet Moul Chahba. Each summer the community organizes an annual festival that lasts three days from the evening of Thursday to Sunday.

The Imagine empowerment workshop spans four days and calls on women to review seven critical areas of their lives: emotions, relationships, sexuality, body, money, work, and spirituality.

The four-day format has been carefully adapted to the local context so that each area is addressed with respect, compassion, and honesty. The facilitator tends to use vocabulary that is spoken in this area as well as some local proverbs and examples from their own culture to ensure they understand and identify with each area.

The women who participated reported that they were all experiencing some or many of these issues: no vision, no faith in themselves, stress, sexual harassment, speech problems, a sense of confusion or feeling overwhelmed, lack of confidence, powerlessness, and feelings of being stuck and disadvantaged.

First, women learned about the shift from pathology to vision. Essentially this concept says that where we place our mental attention is what grows. The simple metaphor of cultivating a garden is immediately grasped and deeply understood by all women in the workshops even though they are not formally educated. The idea of watering the seeds of your interior garden, not the weeds, means focusing on possibilities, not problems. Once introduced to this essential concept, the women became aware that they are responsible for their own thoughts. In the shift from pathology to vision, women also learned that without a compelling vision, naturally, their thoughts would focus on problems, fears, anger, and other negative things that are disempowering them.

The group then discussed the shift from static to organic. The idea of a growing edge was introduced to help them to understand that their life is not static or fixed in a specific state - but rather has organic movement. The main idea is that growth is still possible, and there is always hope for better change.

Next, the women focused on the integration of awareness and behavior change. In order to assist women in integrating awareness with desired outcomes, a simple four-step process is introduced that describes the process to behavior change.

Step One—Awareness: Where am I now?

Step Two—Vision: Where do I want to go?

Step Three—Transformation: What do I need to change to get there?

Step Four—Growth: What is my next growth step?

After understanding the empowerment framework, they went through the inner soil test, where they think about their core beliefs and values as they relate to self-responsibility, self-esteem, trust, positivity, and change. In this session, the facilitator gave them concrete examples from her own life as well as local examples.

In the area of emotions and relationships, the participants enjoyed the exercise of personal power, called the Rooms exercise, and several participants were invited to share their unique perspectives. Through this mediation exercise, participants discovered their strengths and developed a deeper understanding of their personal sources of power. Despite many of the participants being unable to read, they participated fully in this meditative exercise with great depth, drawing pictures showing what they discovered.

The women expressed happiness in particular with the guided meditation aspects of the program. Meditation is an integral part of Islam, believed to open the door to revelation and to be an essential aspect of spiritual development. Through the guided visualizations, they expressed their visions, innovations, and creativity. For most, this was the first opportunity to clearly visualize their capacity to change their own lives and to improve their community. They understood that they do not need formal education in order to create and implement their visions.

One participant, Nadia, is a thirty-seven-year-old woman who was born and raised in Marrakech and married in a very remote area. During the meditative exercise, Nadia expressed that she had fought a long internal and psychological battle in order to overcome and adapt to this major change in lifestyle - from urban to rural. On the second day of the workshop, she shared what she learned with her husband and called her sisters in the city to share with them what she learned as well.

For many of the women, this workshop was also the first opportunity for them to speak about their bodies. The Body Dialogue exercise consists of several questions that help them easily explore their limiting beliefs in the area of the body and turn it around to positive intention or affirmation.

In discussing work, the women expressed that they see themselves working with each other as well as on their own in managing a business. The most common vision expressed was to work outdoors with each other in a large green space with a well, where everyone can have sustainable access to clean drinking water, pumped by a clean energy source. They spoke a lot about money as the area of work is closely connected to money. This common vision led the group to speak about work that is formed by individuals who coordinate among themselves to achieve their goals. Establishing a cooperative is an example of this, and, therefore, HAF facilitators explained cooperatives and how they operate.

The women liked the idea of forming a cooperative, so the discussion turned to the legal regulations and procedures of establishing cooperatives and their various types. The women of El Kdirate village dreamed of establishing an agriculture cooperative that fit their skills.

On the following day, the women came in with four offers of land to concretize their work vision. They were able to put their thoughts into action, which is a big step forward. Furthermore, they shared that they will be attending the literacy program that was launched last February. Unfortunately, only five women were able to attend it.

In the area of spirituality, more than 90% of the participants dreamed of building a place where women can pray. Currently, there is only a prayer space for men available.

At the end of the workshop, most of the women affirmed that they will work on their personal growth and insist on their common vision. They will work together to build green space with a well, integrated with a renewable energy system, and a place where they can pray.

HAF and its partners will accompany these women and help them achieve their highest goals, which is still standing between the anvil of drinking water and the hammer of building a place where they can accomplish their spiritual practices.

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As a nursing mother some years ago, I would have given anything to have had a small business. Working in a highly structured law firm and handling several sensitive case files clashed significantly with that phase of my life. There were immunization appointments to keep and calls from daycare because the baby had developed a fever. There were also pressing meetings with clients and numerous pleadings to be drafted. A small business of my own would have afforded me the flexibility that is often difficult to get from a structured workplace. 

When my son was diagnosed with pneumonia, I promptly resigned. It broke my boss’ heart (as well as mine) so much so that he rejected my resignation letter and unilaterally converted it to a leave of absence in perpetuity. I was unimaginably broken while nursing my children and had to depend totally on my husband’s income.

It is common to listen to conversations about how women are not sufficiently represented in the corporate world due to systemic discrimination and exclusion. While this holds some truth, I consider it a one-sided view. The fact is that there is a phase in a woman’s life that is not well adapted to structured work. Every day of absence is costly for an employer of labour, and life in this system is not one where people are paid based on sentiment. This is the other side of the story that we need to tell.

The best business ideas are those that provide immediate solutions to the problems in a given community. According to a World Bank report, Poverty in Morocco: Challenges and Opportunities, Morocco has witnessed a significant decline in poverty. Despite this, it still faces high subjective poverty, especially in rural areas. The first indication of poverty is hunger, which derives from not having a reliable means of livelihood and mostly owing to a lack of different kinds of opportunities, such as in formal and informal education. 

If I could have my own small business that employs one or two people who may have limited literacy, I would be solving two problems with one solution. First of all, I would have the flexibility to pace my work in such a way that it accommodates my domestic circumstances, and secondly, someone who otherwise did not have the necessary qualifications to be employed in the corporate labour market could have a satisfying means of livelihood.

Imagine having a space where people who have been denied education can also engage in valuable work and earn a living. What comes to mind is a Sustainable Agricultural Village, such as the Songhai model in Benin, composed of small businesses that attend to different aspects of the value chain: from planting to harvesting to sorting to processing and finally sales. This approach enhances specialization and provides better products at each phase. 

Unlike the present situation with rural farmers wherein the same person plants, harvests, processes and sells, each small business owner can focus on a particular aspect of production. A small business owner may specialize in developing feed for animals. Most of what is needed to make up that feed can be procured within the Village i.e. plant waste. Another business owner may focus on preservation of fruits and vegetables sourced from the Village.

This sort of enterprise, though organized, is quite flexible because crops and animals do not require human presence all day — only intermittently. Also, the beauty of incorporating different aspects of the value chain is that they are all interdependent and therefore efficient in reducing costs. For example, droppings from the animals are useful as manure for plants and compost. Animal and plant waste can be made into biogas which can be used to power the equipment used for processing. 

The flexibility and array of choices that this sort of enterprise affords is beneficial to women; particularly nursing mothers, uneducated women as well as uneducated men. It is also beneficial to the communities in which they are placed because access to fresh and steady supply of farm produce is more readily available. In this Village, the only education required can be gained through practical training on the job.

When considering agriculture however, water is of paramount importance. Morocco being a country with ranging topography from sand dunes to mountains and oases, it is particularly susceptible to drought and irregular rain patterns. These climatic conditions affect the availability of water for irrigation and drinking. The solution to this is the provision of water wells and the use of sprinklers. In addition, water-producing technology like Atmospheric Water Generators is useful in most of Morocco. 

During the High Atlas Foundation’s (HAF) dedicated work implementing the USAID Farmer-to-Farmer Program in Morocco, the value of exchange among diverse agricultural practitioners has been made abundantly clear. Given Morocco’s accessible location, this Village could serve as a hub for experts and students from across the world to learn from one another and share vital experiences and information. The potential for this exchange of ideas, culture, and knowledge is notable — providing residents and visitors with a collective sense of purpose in working towards solutions, including gender empowerment through agriculture.  

HAF focuses on the participatory approach where communities determine their own development. This concept of a Sustainable Agricultural Village is a summation of HAF’s work and can become a model to be replicated in other countries. A Village in Morocco, to be pursued with local and global partners, will go a long way in providing jobs that accommodate a wide range of lifestyles, a steady means of livelihood, and poverty alleviation for families.

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Renewable Energy in a Community-Interfaith Nursery
Renewable Energy in a Community-Interfaith Nursery

On February 28, 2021, the High Atlas Foundation (HAF) inaugurated an eco-friendly, solar energy water system for irrigation at the Akrich Nursery. HAF inaugurated the pump alongside the National Federation of Electricity, Electronics, and Renewable Energies (FENELEC) near the town of Tameslouht in the Al Haouz Province. Akrich, one of HAF’s 12 organic fruit tree nurseries, was constructed on land that was provided by the local Moroccan Jewish community. 

This nursery grows 35,000 seeds every year since 2012 that will, upon maturation, be distributed to farming communities, schools, and women’s associations around Morocco as part of HAF’s initiative to plant millions of trees for increased environmental awareness, sustainable agriculture efforts, and economic empowerment.

The event started with a welcoming word from HAF president Dr. Yossef. He welcomed each guest, recognizing that though they may come from different cultures and communities, they share the same love for Morocco and the same interest in planting trees. The event attendees were then invited on a tour of the grounds, allowing them to have a clearer picture of how this community-led nursery has an impact on the surrounding community. 

After the tour, Moulay Hassan, HAF Country Director, introduced the partners who have made this project such a success. First and foremost was FENELEC’s President, Mr. Ali. We are grateful to our partner FENELEC for donating the system and for their commitment to promoting renewable energies in Morocco. He also extended HAF’s gratitude to USAID and the Farmer-to-Farmer program for sending US experts to Morocco to help farmers overcome problems that they face in agriculture around Morocco. Next, he recognized HAF’s partnerships with Moroccan institutions such as the Ministry of Water and Forests, The Ministry of Education that support the High Atlas foundation to be actively involved in achieving Morocco’s vision.

Hajiba, HAF Program Coordinator spoke next, emphasizing the importance of trees both as an action to fight climate change and as an opportunity that creates a source of income, independence, and job opportunities in marginalized communities. She also introduced HAF’s recent nursery opening in Ouarzazate. This nursery is HAF’s 12th community-managed nursery; it was also created in a partnership with the Moroccan Jewish Community. Hajiba finished her speech by noting that “projects like these nurseries are the ones that continue to exist and serve as an investment toward the next generation even after one’s death.”

Inaugurating the Solar Pump

Dr. Yossef, FENELEC’s President, Mr. Ali, and the representative of the Moroccan Jewish Communities in Akrich celebrated the inauguration of the solar water pumping system together, pushing the start button for the first time. All of the partners and the individuals that contributed to this project were invited to join in a group photo to mark the occasion. 

The picture was followed by a breakfast that was organized to serve as an opportunity to share food and discussions among the guests, HAF staff, FENELEC staff, the representatives of the Wilaya of Marrakech- Safi, and members of the Moroccan Jewish Community. 

During breakfast, Dr. Yossef  spoke again about the importance of community and partnership in interfaith initiatives. His speech consisted of words of gratitude and appreciation toward all the attendees. He recognized HAF’s partners for their commitment and engagement in all the processes of the project as well as their willingness to collaborate and engage in turning future projects into reality. The core of his speech highlighted the unity of Moroccans, regardless of their culture and beliefs, and their interest in a common goal which is a leading Morocco. The speech ended with an agreement between the speakers and attendees that “We are all siblings; we are all Moroccan.”

As the event came to a close, Dr. Yossef gifted all the partners with small carpets. These gifts served as a symbolic thank you while also celebrating the products of a Women Cooperative in Akrich that was created in partnership with HAF as part of our women’s empowerment initiatives. 

As a final gesture of gratitude for interfaith and multicultural projects, HAF distributed 6,000 trees to farmers who came from the local village as support and encouraged them to start planting fruit trees as a means of economic empowerment. The HAF team also planted a tree in the Name of Mr. Ali Fathers as a way of showing gratitude towards Mr. Ali and FENELEC’s support.

Renewable Energy in a Community-Interfaith Nursery
Renewable Energy in a Community-Interfaith Nursery
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The High Atlas Foundation, Germanwatch, and the Moroccan Platform of Renewable Energies Decentralisation (PMDER) organized December 12, 2020, a steering committee meeting to discuss the current status and prospects for renewable energy and decentralization in Morocco. This event was hosted on zoom due to the current health situation. More than 25 attendees from the ministries, the private sector, the research and academia, and the civil society participated in this meeting and discussed together what was done in Morocco on political and legislative levels in addition to the existing concrete small scale projects and what should be done in the near future to implement more projects. This steering committee meeting was an occasion for intelligence and experiences sharing of experts from different sectors.

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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
Marrakech, Marrakech-Safi Morocco
$580 raised of $50,000 goal
 
12 donations
$49,420 to go
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