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Field Train Students, CSOs & Officials in Morocco

by High Atlas Foundation
Field Train Students, CSOs & Officials in Morocco
Field Train Students, CSOs & Officials in Morocco
Field Train Students, CSOs & Officials in Morocco
Field Train Students, CSOs & Officials in Morocco
Field Train Students, CSOs & Officials in Morocco
Field Train Students, CSOs & Officials in Morocco
Field Train Students, CSOs & Officials in Morocco
Field Train Students, CSOs & Officials in Morocco
Field Train Students, CSOs & Officials in Morocco
Field Train Students, CSOs & Officials in Morocco
Field Train Students, CSOs & Officials in Morocco
Field Train Students, CSOs & Officials in Morocco
Field Train Students, CSOs & Officials in Morocco
Field Train Students, CSOs & Officials in Morocco
Field Train Students, CSOs & Officials in Morocco
Field Train Students, CSOs & Officials in Morocco
Field Train Students, CSOs & Officials in Morocco
Field Train Students, CSOs & Officials in Morocco
Field Train Students, CSOs & Officials in Morocco
Field Train Students, CSOs & Officials in Morocco
Field Train Students, CSOs & Officials in Morocco
Field Train Students, CSOs & Officials in Morocco

Last week I got the chance to take part in some of the program of the Alumni Seminar. From the 6th to the 10th of the November, 55 youth from all over Morocco who participated in the different U.S. Embassy exchange programs met at the Hotel Dar Atlas in Marrakech to share their experiences and discuss how they can use it to contribute to social development in their home country. The Seminar was facilitated by HAF and included perspectives on sustainable community development.

I went there on Thursday, November 7 together with my colleagues Ibtissam and Fatima Zahra to hear their presentation on empowerment. The objective of the session was to give the participants a short overview about the HAF empowerment workshops as well as to show them some of the exercises in practice. In only one hour Ibtissam and Fatima Zahra showed us the different components and pillars of empowerment and shared with us some of their experiences and success stories. One of them which remained in my mind was when Ibtissam met one of the women who participated in a workshop some years later and she told her: “Hello, you know what? We started an agricultural cooperative.”

My second day of the Seminar was on Friday, November 8th, where I could participate in one of the field visits organized for the Alumni. The visit to the inter-religious organic fruit tree nursery was conducted by my colleague Said as well as HAF president Yossef. It was exciting to hear the story of this special nursery and plant some pomegranate cuttings and walnut seeds with all these motivated young people. Yossef gave some interesting insights about the challenges of creating a sustainable future for Morocco and it was obvious that it inspired many of the participants to think about their own role in it. Some of them now want to organize tree planting projects for their own community.

A very interesting aspect of the nursery is its intercultural approach, as it brings together people from different religions. Located at the 700-year-old burial site of a Jewish saint the land was donated by the Jewish community and now is maintained by Muslims living in the area. Every year many pilgrims visit the place – not only Jews but believers of different faiths. The trees which grow in the nursery are mainly distributed to schools for free as, according to the Jewish belief, the products which come from that cemetery are not supposed to generate any profit.

Back in Marrakech the Alumni shared their experiences of the field visits – two more trips had been conducted at the same time: one visiting a women´s cooperative and one for planting trees with students of a primary school. It was truly moving to see the Alumni talk about their different experiences and how it helped them to rethink their role in society and see them selves as agents of change. One of the participants said that she never got the chance before to talk with rural women at all and another mentioned that her encounter with the rural school children made her realize her own pre-assumptions, which made her completely underestimate rural communities.

The day ended with an inspirational speech of Yossef who talked about the importance of community participation for all projects to achieve sustainability. The Alumni gained a lot of experience and inspiration at the conference and so did I.

Thank you to the U.S. Embassy in Rabat for its dedication to its Alumni long after they return to Morocco, and to Legacy International for its longstanding commitment to international dialogue and inspiring people to achieving sustainable change.

PRESS RELEASE


CONTACT INFORMATION
Loubna Arrach                       Kamal Akaya
Alumni Coordinator                HAF Seminar Manager
arrachl@state.gov                  kamal@highatlasfoundation.org
+212 6 73 05 70 33                +212 6 63 66 27 68

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

U.S. Embassy, High Atlas Foundation host Alumni Leadership Seminar

MARRAKECH - The U.S Embassy in Rabat, in partnership with the High Atlas Foundation, will host an Alumni Leadership Seminar to take place on November 7-9, 2019 at Club Dar Atlas in Marrakech.
The seminar will bring together 70 young Moroccans who participated in exchange programs funded by the U.S. Department of State during the 2017-2018 academic year.
During the Three day Seminar, participants will engage with and learn from the expertise of various civil society leaders and experts in entrepreneurship. They will have the opportunity to share their exchange experience in the U.S. and network with American diplomats and embassy officials. Alumni participants will also give back by taking part in a Marrakech-based community service project. Legacy International, a nonprofit organization with decades of experience implementing exchange programs and follow up activities with alumni in MENA and around the world, will facilitate six monthly webinars for additional professional development.
Each year, the U.S. Department of State sponsors more than 250 young Moroccans to partake in exchange programs to the United States. Participants discover American culture, develop critical leadership skills, and act as cultural ambassadors of Morocco to the American people. U.S. Department of State Exchange Programs cover all expenses, including travel, study and accommodation. Moroccan students and young professionals are highly encouraged to learn more and apply on the Embassy website.

United with a common purpose and with the best interest of the Moroccan community at heart, board members of the High Atlas Foundation, its founding President, Dr. Yossef Ben-Meir, and guests had the opportunity to meet during a fundraising ceremony at Villa Sbihi in Salé, on Saturday October 19, 2019.

Representatives from a variety of organizations and sectors attended the event. Some had traveled from far away to share in these moments with the High Atlas Foundation. Among them were several veteran foundation partners and friends who have been closely involved in the implementation of HAF projects and the achievement of its goals.

Attendees had the unique opportunity to interact with HAF board members to glean a clearer idea of the foundation’s mission, projects, and ideas for Morocco’s best future. 

HAF President Dr. Yossef Ben-Meir discussed HAF’s achievements, most notably how several projects have tangibly improved the lives and futures of several families and enhanced livelihoods in the regions where they were implemented.

At the end of his presentation, Dr. Ben-Meir encouraged guests to ask questions. Prompted to talk about his own experience with HAF, he explained how the foundation was founded 19 years ago, and that how, regardless of the challenges the Foundation has faced, it has experienced tremendous growth and success. It has been a journey that can only be described as impressive and inspiring.

The message conveyed was that a contribution of any kind, pecuniary or otherwise, can have a positive impact not only on the foundation, but on Moroccan families, women, youth, and children.

The Foundation offers its sincere thanks to Mrs. Radia Sbihi for donating the space for the event as well as for her ongoing support and encouragement to the Foundation. Villa Sbihi is a symbol of Moroccan heritage. Built by Governor Sbihi of Salé in 1936, it was the first home constructed outside of the city walls.

Close your eyes, and picture this. A bustling city. Heat permeating everything you do. Heat from the sun warming your skin as you step outside. Heat from the crowds swarming around you, seemingly with purpose and little time to pause. Heat from the steam rising from a cup of green tea, just ordered at a curbside café. Heat from car exhausts, paired with the occasional sound of a vehicle backfiring. Heat from the stares and musings of those around you, the hundreds of people you lock eyes with on a daily basis, who are quick to judge yet who you’ll never know anything about. This is the dream, right? Making it to the city to create your livelihood. Isn’t this what we’re supposed to strive to be a part of?

For the President of Hawaa Ben Othmane Cooperative, the dream is quite the opposite, and she wouldn’t have it any other way. She was born and raised in Burkane amidst the hustle, chaos, and drive of the city. Somewhere along the way, she’d heard about cooperatives; stories of mutual economic betterment, of women working together to achieve something larger than themselves, of creating a foundation to grow and thrive as a community. In spite of a physical disability, she took that inspiration and moved to her father’s village - Rislane, a far stretch from the perceived ‘dream’ of making it in the big city, and founded Hawaa Ben Othmane cooperative in December 2018. She had a vision and dream of empowering and educating women to build their capacity for income generation, and transformed that dream into her reality, overcoming the heat of defying the norm to do something greater.

Think her story is inspiring? So did the O.N.C.A., and so, upon the founding of the cooperative, they gifted her an incubator, which she shared with the women of the village to get things started. Since then, after beginning with 300 eggs, they’ve raised five generations of chickens, and are also awaiting 100 goats from an approved project proposal with the O.N.C.A.; in only nine months, the Hawaa Ben Othmane Cooperative has nurtured an atmosphere of dedication, warmth, and solidarity that has yielded visible results.

Of course, these women still have so much room for potential growth. Many of them struggled to remember their ages and the year they were born while asked to fill out a form, most cannot write, and they’re still in the process of formulating a unified mission and plan for the future of their cooperative in order to achieve the level of operational capacity the President envisions for them. But, from the looks of things, and with the proper training and encouragement, it won’t take too long for them to get there. These are the objectives that the Farmer-to-Farmer Program was designed to meet and foster, and that we hope to help these women accomplish over the coming months and years.

Now, close your eyes and picture this. The heat of the morning sun streaming through your window and over the tops of nearby mountains. The warmth of a community coming together for green tea, coffee, and freshly made breakfast. The amicable clucking of chickens running around nearby, and a few kittens clambering down from a rooftop to greet you. Doesn’t this sound like the real dream?

Quote of the day: mother nature is most definitely in charge here. Approximately 270 kilometers, or 3.5 hours drive from Oujda lies Bouarfa, the destination of my first experience with cooperatives as a volunteer with the High Atlas Foundation. More specifically, the Farmer-to-Farmer USAID Project, which aims to harness the potential of these cooperatives and, through capacity-building and participatory methods, empower their members and strengthen their economic prospects. But, before I get to that, I’m going to begin a little bit atypically - with the story of how the day ended.

Oujda and Bouarfa are connected by a single roadway, slicing through seemingly endless stretches of desert landscape for a majority of the drive. On a typical day, the existence of a lone road doesn’t pose a problem. Bouarfa isn’t a city brimming with tourists or outsiders, and probably doesn’t appear on most top Google search hits for sentences synonymous with “destinations one must visit while in Morocco;” the road is quiet, quick, and functional for a city primarily made up of local farmers. So, at the end of our day, I hopped back in the car with no inklings of anything about to go amiss.

Fast forward 30 minutes and the desert highway is no longer a desert highway. Instead, it’s almost as if mother nature decided to take revenge on the road for slicing the desert in two, and in retaliation sent a rainwater river to render the route impassable. Needless to say, we were entirely stuck, and now part of a small group of fellow travelers with little else to do than laugh at the futility of the situation, take a few pictures, and enjoy the rainbow forming across the skyline to our right (mother nature signing her work?). But, standing there, awaiting a decision on whether or not we would be able to continue without the car suddenly transforming into an amphibious vehicle, the reasoning behind Bouarfa as a destination and focal point for HAF’s work that day became all the more clear to me.

Earlier in the afternoon, we’d arrived in Bouarfa for a participatory meeting of local cooperatives, with representatives from 20 different cooperatives in attendance. The meeting presented a unique opportunity: a single forum for members of a vast array of local groups to voice the challenges they face when it comes to output maximization and sustainable agricultural practices. Broadly speaking, conversation centered around three common problems in the region: 1) a lack of proper technical expertise in the realm of irrigation, 2) insects interfering with the quality of produce, and 3) the impacts of unpredictable weather patterns on agricultural cycles. Like I said, mother nature is most definitely in charge here. But remember, just because she’s in charge doesn’t mean that, if we build the proper foundations and relationships, we can’t find a way to work together and with her to achieve greater economic security.

Today, I saw one of these relationships in action, when women from Moughle Cooperative instantly recognized a member of the HAF team who had led an IMAGINE workshop with participation from their cooperative nearly a year ago. One year later, she and other members of the cooperative precisely and fondly recalled even the smallest details of the workshop, including the music choices, and over tea and dates later in the day, reflected on the positive impact the experience has had. For these women, the long-term benefits of are only at their beginning stages, and yet already include stronger self-awareness, a greater sense of commitment to their cooperative, and an impressive variety of marketably packaged products to show for it.

For cities like Bouarfa, unfrequented by outsiders, and accessible by a single road subject to the whims of nature, the path forward lies in such needs-based assessments and the work of organizations like HAF to build positive relationships with cooperatives and with the surrounding environment. While today only gave me a broad introduction to the region and the work that can be done, I’m excited to see what lies ahead (road rivers and all).

 

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Organization Information

High Atlas Foundation

Location: New York, NY - USA
Website:
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @haffdtn
Project Leader:
Mouhssine Tadlaoui-Cherki
Director, Centre pour le Consensus Communautaire et le Developpement, Mohammedia, MAROC Durable
NYC, NY (US) and Marrakech, Al Haouz (Maroc), Morocco
$1,893 raised of $25,000 goal
 
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