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

The High Atlas Foundation (HAF), and particularly Project Manager Mustapha, assisted a pilot project with the Lkdirat community in the El Youssoufia province. The village of Lkdirat is just a couple of hours’ drive north-west of Marrakech. The first stages of this project included workshops and support by HAF for socioeconomic and environmental enhancement.

Following the early stages of the community’s well-digging and receiving the first trees, I got to visit them in early December of 2021. During this visit, the main objective was to get to know the individual residents and especially to familiarize us with the women of the local cooperative and their work, initiated by HAF as well. Simultaneously, the women participated in an Imagine empowerment workshop facilitated by HAF’s Program Manager Laaribi. 

In January, the pilot project completed a significant aspect of the process: the construction of the solar panels, which provide the necessary renewable energy source needed for water distribution to the village, school, and recently installed tree nursery. One month later, the community with Mr. Tarhbaloute oversaw the construction of another solar panel array for the nearby Al Joulane school, which now helps provide toilet services and clean drinking water, and allows the children to start planting trees on the school property.

Concluding this environmentally friendly project, HAF hosted a final multi-stakeholder workshop to celebrate the completion together with partner Germanwatch’s representatives, the local community, and invitees from various sectors of regional, national, and international levels. This event was a full-out, traditionally Moroccan-inspired one. Starting with a hearty welcome, the village’s women sang Darija chants, whilst traditionally clothed men on horses accompanied the warmly welcoming farming families and villagers, as they danced to the rhythmic melodies. 

HAF President Dr. Ben-Meir, multiple invitees, and a representative from the women’s cooperative all held brief but emotional and informative speeches, followed by a Moroccan-style lunch feast. The final activity in the village happened at the newly finished tree nursery part for everyone to see the significant accomplishments HAF and its partners have achieved.

Thenceforth, HAF provided transport to the previously mentioned neighboring school for all attendees. Next to the newly installed solar panel array, Dr. Ben-Meir, a representative student of the primary school, a regional administration delegate, and various local community members ceremoniously cut a ribbon to symbolize the successful completion of the project. Showing their gratitude, the primary school faculty organized a singing performance, which their students put on. This heartfelt recital marked the end of the workshop.

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Given the added value that decentralized renewable energies can bring to Morocco's contribution to the field of green energy, a pilot project in the Youssoufia province was undertaken with a participatory approach.

The selection of the small, 36-household El Kdirat village in the rural Jnane Bouih commune took into consideration its socio-economic and cultural situation.

With time and energy needed to fully engage community members, beginning with the IMAGINE program of self-discovery and vision-building, the women and men of the village prioritized clean drinking water, a nursery of endemic fruit-bearing trees, and medicinal plants as the path to fulfill the future they sought.

In response, the project has built three wells - two for irrigation and community use and another for Aljoulane School, where students and teachers now have drinking water and toilet access. Solar panels were installed both at the school and within the community, giving a source of clean energy to pump water. A water tower is also being built for the benefit of the entire village.

The new fruit tree nursery is offering an important means of skills- and experience-building for the women of the local cooperative, who have so far planted carob, Argan, pomegranate, almond, and fig saplings and participated in a variety of technical workshops.

As one of the project managers relates, “Building a project in a rural community is difficult, and making it sustainable is even more difficult. A tree nursery project is good for a rural, agriculturally-based community, but the solar pump is the key to success.”

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All HAF activities are conducted using the participatory approach as it is the key to knowing exactly what a community wants. In Douar Lakdirat, the community meeting demonstrated to the local residents the importance of participation to ensure meeting the goal of adequate water quantity and quality.

After two hours of water prospection, the technicians detected a potential point to dig the well: a place with sweet-tasting water, 31 meters in thickness and 172-203 meters in depth, with an 82 percent density. Upon return to Marrakech, the HAF team was delighted at the progress. Drilling for the week took place the following week.

Kastih and Tarhbaloute also joined the HAF team on that visit, testing the depth and quality of the water. They informed us that the pumping test the technician performed showed that the water for the project is currently insufficient, as it gives only 5,000 liters in forty minutes. We will have to bring in another company to dig another well and do the pump testing; if there is no water from that, then we will only pay the workers. HAF staff members are working on securing someone to do this.

Regardless of this setback, it is not about what we have or what we are missing, but about how we can manage and use what we have even if it is small, still knowing that we can use whatever resources we have to achieve our goals. The biggest dream will come with the smallest steps.

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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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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
$1,849 raised of $50,000 goal
 
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