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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

Promoting the use of solar energy is an effective way which not only provides more access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all, but is also a feasible method to address climate change. However, immature photovoltaic technology, low conversion rate in practice and high installation and maintenance cost frequently block the technology from being widely used, especially in Africa. Surprisingly, supported by the Ministry of Energy, Mining, Water and Environment of Morocco, the Institut de Recherche en Energie Solaire et Energies Nouvelles (IRESEN), in Ben Guerir, Morocco, has made good progress in innovation and social application of the solar energy use. Through promoting global partnership and increasing multi-stakeholder engagement, IRESEN has made a solid step towards the hub of solar energy use in Africa.

Aiming at build the bridge between scientific, technological and research communities in solar energy use, IRESEN attaches great importance in the engagement of national universities and institutions. Relying on the platforms of numerous universities and institutions in Morocco, IRESEN is able to build research and test platforms nationwide, as well as collect relevant research from different institutions and academies. For instance, constructing next to the Mohammed VI Polytechnic University, the Green Energy Park is responsible for massive of IRESEN’s photovoltaic technology and solar panel development programs. Every year, the Green Energy Park receives more than 100 of interns from universities and institutions all over the world, and jointly promote cooperative research projects with universities and research teams in Morocco. Today, using the facilities of different universities, including the University of Hassan II in Casablanca, Mohammed V University in Rabat, and the Cadi Ayyad University in Marrakech, solar data of major cities and regions across the country are gathered and analyzed in the Green Energy Park, to help with the development of solar panels. The involvement of universities and academies significantly break the boundary between academic and technological communities, thus offered global talent and a broader experimental platform to the solar energy research.

 In order to support its research and promote the practice of solar energy in industrial productions, IRESEN established global partnership to gather global resources and try to contribute universal solutions to global issues. Working closely with the EU, IRESEN receives both financial and political support for their projects and proposals. Despite this, IRESEN also established partnership with other governmental sectors. For instance, Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA) contributed a technologically advanced experiment chamber to the Green Energy Park. A joint call for energy technological cooperation was also initialed by IRESEN from Morocco and Center for Development of Industrial Technology (CDIT) from Spain in 2018. In 2013, IRESEN worked with Bureau of Architecture and Energy of Germany and initialed a project aiming at Promote the innovative use of solar energy in electrical appliances. Global partnership significantly strengthens IRESEN’s ability both in academic research and practical application. In fact, IRESEN’s solar energy project is also a hub and a typical example of North-South cooperation, where not only European, but developed countries globally engaged in the sustainable development process of Africa.

Serving as the hub of solar energy use in Africa, even for the world is the long-term vision of IRESEN. Although IRESEN has made significant achievements in solar power using in Morocco, there still much work to do to actually generate a driving effect and lead the clean energy business of Africa. To address this issue, IRESEN is now working with 15 African countries including Mali, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Nigeria, Niger, Ethiopia, Guinea, and Chad. Not only to encourage and promote both governmental and private sectors’ engagement in solar energy use, but importantly, to test the solar energy products under different climate and environment conditions, thus to improve the solar panels and help to better integrate photovoltaic technology with local industry development. This vision also co-responded to the United Nations call of ‘Sustainable Energy for All’, and could effectively address the Sustainable Development Goal 7: Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all. Therefore, it could be predicted that the solar energy development of IRESEN will provide a strong impetus for sustainable development in Africa, and could truly become the hub of solar energy use in Africa.

Generally speaking, engaging global and regional partnership truly put the solar energy project onto a new stage. In the deepening trend of globalization, the human race is facing numerous of global issues, among which climate change and resource exhaustion are the main problems of human destiny. Therefore, this age needs the revitalization of global partnership and the sense of shared responsibility of mankind more than any other ages do. Not to mention that by engaging global partnership and involving multi-stakeholders, projects aiming at addressing global issues could be better supported with finance, academic resources and political attention. With international and regional cooperation in multiple levels and fields, the solar energy project of IRESEN can benefit local development to a great extent. People should not be surprised when Morocco truly becomes the hub of solar energy use in Africa one day in the future.

On the 15th of June 2019, a group of volunteers and I left the High Atlas Foundation office in Marrakech at 09:00 am to Setti Fatma commune direction in order to participate in some of the activities that the foundation does. Along for the ride was a group of American high school students as part of Envoys, an international educational program focused on strengthening the cross cultural experience of American youth. Utilizing a portfolio of online courses, workshops, and travel opportunities, Envoys operates its cross cultural exchanges in seventeen countries (four continents) and, resembling HAF’s participatory approach to community development, the organization cites one of its core beliefs as “listening and asking questions.” With our new American visitors joining us, we set off to hold a meeting with a group of twenty women—ranging from 13 to 55 years old—who planned to establish their own cooperative of rugs and food items, such as pastries, dried herbs, and cous cous.

In only our first meeting, we met two organizational objectives: The first, a discussion with the women to discover exactly which products they can produce; the second, a conversation about their experience in and knowledge of cooperative-building. Finally, the women were asked to share their expectations for a future project.

The women showed an enthusiasm and excitement about their project. They believe it will both help them cover their financial needs and help their children pursue an education. Despite having sufficient competencies, abilities, and goals, the women don’t know how to start. They are ready to make their products, but the real challenge lies in how to sell them as the women lack the means of moving their products to the market place. They don’t know much about the market and its rules. So they are in need of guidance and help.

This is exactly what High Atlas Foundation tries to do in this meeting and upcoming ones: Offer workshops and trainings on how to establish a cooperative, as well as provide necessary information about the legal process. After the meeting, we planted ten trees in the area as a small contribution to promote environmental development, one of the main objectives of HAF.

This day was such a wonderful and unforgettable day for me. I discovered Setti Fatma—the burgeoning commune on its way towards market integration—for the first time. I got to know new people from the States. I also enjoyed talking to amazing, wonderful, and innocent children who were full of energy and who accompanied us throughout the whole day. This place is worth many visits for its incredibly hospitable and kind habitants and amazing nature.

The rendezvous point was the HAF office. I came early and got to meet the whole team. There were two groups: UVA Students who are in Morocco on a research program and with whom I shared a bus, and the Envoys, high schoolers who were on a school trip. As a Moroccan volunteer, I was surprised to see that all my teammates were foreign students. Yet, they were lively and friendly. We departed at 9 O’clock, it took us about two hours full of excitement to get to our destination “Tassa Ouirgane”, with a 20-minute stop in the village “Asni”.

Upon arriving, we passed by a little abandoned house that happened to be Mr. Yossef’s old residence for three months in his first days in Morocco. The place where everything began. I couldn’t even bring myself to express the 25 years of nostalgia I felt from back then!

We were greeted by a member of the Tassa Ouirgane association who served as our guide. The first stop was a tree nursery where we circled hundreds of little trees waiting for their buyers. Normally one wouldn’t see olive trees in this kind of region, it was shocking to see the cool climate peaches and the heat loving olives trees on the same plantation! It obviously took a lot of effort to maintain, especially in dry weather. We students had the freedom to ask the guide about his work. The 29-year-old was unmarried; Abderrahman told us that diversifying the village’s projects was the main reason for starting an olive nursery. It takes about two years for these trees to mature and be ready for market. It’s even faster inside green houses. According to Abderrahman, the village’s business is 80% Agriculture.  Progress is being made, particularly after founding the association where he works. He dreams to see all his fellow villagers sharing his view of divergence and trying new ideas. This project is financed by the United Nations Development Program and managed by HAF and the Tassa Ouirgane association.

 After visiting the Nursery, we marched about 3 km up hill to reach the main village. The other students and I spent some time planting some of the olive saplings from the nursery. Then we were introduced to some girls from the community, most were in their twenties. Their co-op was very in-sync despite an official Leader. Their work varies from cooking and baking sweets to harvesting trees. In “Tassa Ouirgane”, only about 20% of girls went beyond middle school, and only ONE has attended college!  The reason was parental worries.  Because the closest high school was in “Asni” village, 30 minutes away without any school provided transportation!

The villagers hosted the HAF team for Lunch. We were served many different sweets and pastries that were prepared in the village. The main dish was Couscous. We sat in small, mixed groups between students, teachers and villagers. We proved that despite the cultural and lingual differences, we are able to understand one another. I still can remember how uncomfortable the villager girl was when eating Couscous with the spoon. Everyone quickly agreed to try eating with hands as this is the traditional way of eating Couscous. This turned out to be far more enjoyable and made the meal even more delicious!

Before our departure, both hosts and guests exchanged some words of impressions and gratitude about this wonderful experience. Then we set off tired, yet very fulfilled.

This past Sunday June 9, 2019, HAF’s President, Dr Yossef Ben-Meir, with fellow HAF staff and interns from the University of Virginia, gave a talk with a group of students of Moroccan Jewish origins who are on a visit to Marrakech within a program of Open University. The students are on this visit to learn about Moroccan multiculturalism and about the role that youth plays in the sustainable development. At the beginning of Dr. Ben-Meir’s presentation, he focused on the interest of the intercultural and interfaith dialogue and how they can help come up with concerted projects that can lead to sustainable development and how they can enhance livelihoods of people within communities.

During his talk, Dr. Ben-Meir gave an overall idea about activities and projects the Foundation carries out to the benefit of women, farmers, youth, school kids and little girls in a multitude of communities in Morocco.

Building on a long meaningful analysis of the economic situation of the marginal communities in the area of Marrakech especially in respect to agricultural speculations it became obvious to HAF that there is a great deal that can be done for change. It was then quite clear that if we could add all the layers of values such as providing fruit tree saplings, practicing efficient irrigation, securing organic certification, processing agricultural products, commercializing and getting into rewarding markets the economic situation and revenues will be highly improved.

Before going into this process, HAF was convinced and had a strong trust that Moroccans are hard workers and all they needed is a little something to be launched; for instance a material to start, a workshop to begin, training, facilitations, seeds/seedlings, agricultural terraces…

The beauty of where we are – Morocco – is that all the fundamentals we need are in place, it is just about actualizing it and implementing… Where is the button to push?

The door is always open at the High Atlas Foundation. Often, it is literally open in an attempt to generate some airflow in the office. It is also open in the sense that people are constantly going in and out. My friend Shermeen says it’s like a talk show and you never know which guest will next walk through the door. During my week’s time at HAF, I’ve met staff members and volunteers from Morocco, France, Germany, and more. I’ve met journalists from Germany and anthropologists from Spain. I’ve also met Moroccan farmers who tend to tree nurseries high in the Atlas Mountains.

Today, I had the pleasure of meeting 14 high school students from Richmond, Virginia, travelling to Morocco as a part of Envoys travel programs. Their exploration so far has consisted of stops in Rabat, Fes, traditional Amazigh villages, and now Marrakech. When Dr. Ben-Meir asked what they felt was the purpose of their trip, students had answers such as increasing cultural awareness and sharing awareness upon their return. They also spoke about personal goals like challenging their own comfort zones. The goal of their visit with HAF was to have discussion about integrating education and development.

Spurred on by thoughtful questions, Dr. Ben-Meir explained what development means to a foundation like High Atlas in a country like Morocco. A connection was made between the “experiential learning” the group has had in Morocco and the “participatory development” of HAF. The purpose of participatory development was defined as “helping people solve their own problems.”

This is what has stood out to me the most about the mission of HAF: empowering people to make their own decisions and truly see themselves in the outcomes. Much like how the office door is always open, the High Atlas Foundation has opened many doors for development across Morocco.


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Organization Information

High Atlas Foundation

Location: New York, NY - USA
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
$1,853 raised of $25,000 goal
25 donations
$23,147 to go
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