Support Girls and Women's Co-Ops in Morocco

by High Atlas Foundation
Support Girls and Women's Co-Ops in Morocco
Support Girls and Women's Co-Ops in Morocco
Support Girls and Women's Co-Ops in Morocco
Support Girls and Women's Co-Ops in Morocco
Support Girls and Women's Co-Ops in Morocco
Support Girls and Women's Co-Ops in Morocco
Support Girls and Women's Co-Ops in Morocco
Support Girls and Women's Co-Ops in Morocco
Support Girls and Women's Co-Ops in Morocco
Support Girls and Women's Co-Ops in Morocco
Support Girls and Women's Co-Ops in Morocco
Support Girls and Women's Co-Ops in Morocco
Support Girls and Women's Co-Ops in Morocco
Support Girls and Women's Co-Ops in Morocco

2012 IS THE INTERNAITONAL YEAR OF THE CO-OP

So, what is a "Co-op", anyway?

A co-operative (= "work together") exists to serve its member-owners. .... Period.


Today, cooperatives (also referred to as co-ops) are businesses that are owned and democratically controlled by their members — the people who buy their goods or use their services. They are not owned by investors. Unlike investor-owned businesses, cooperatives are organized solely to meet the needs of the member-owners, and specifically NOT to accumulate capital for investors. As democratically controlled businesses, many cooperatives practice the principle of "one member, one vote," providing members with equal control over the cooperative.

This is not a modern-day notion. Cooperation dates back as far as human beings have been organizing for mutual benefit. Clans and tribes were organized as cooperative structures, allocating jobs and resources among each other and only trading with the external communities, and in Morocco's rural mountain areas, this practice continues today. Why? Because it's practical, and it works!

Today over 800 million people worldwide are members of cooperatives, and co-ops provide 100 million jobs, which is 20% more than multinational enterprises. Whether providing wine in Portugal, handicrafts in Thailand, banking in France, food and household goods in Switzerland, milk in Malta, cheese, hardware and butter in the US, fruit in Cyprus, farming in New Zealand or childcare in Sweden, co-ops are part and parcel of making societies and economies work, while empowering people and abiding by the values and principles originally outlined by the Rochdale Pioneers, who set up their co-op in Lancashire, England in 1844. (Could they have imagined that an idea they had developed to meet the needs of shoppers in their home town, would be adopted across the world?)

Cooperatives today abide by 7 internationally recognized Cooperative ("Rochdale") Principles:

  1. Voluntary and Open Membership
  2. Democratic Member Control
  3. Member Economic Participation
  4. Autonomy and Independence
  5. Education, Training and Information
  6. Cooperation Among Cooperatives
  7. Concern for Community

More and more Moroccan women and girls are interested in forming co-ops to empower themselves, as they see that this structure can enable them to create income together, which in turn will lead to greater opportunities for themselves and their children. I also see this as sowing more seeds for democracy. Once people experience positive actions leading to positive consequences, that speaking up and participating in decision-making can make a difference in the outcome, and that looking out for the greater good can only bring about mutual prosperity, they are far more likely to hold their representatives accountable because they have learned that power and authority can achieve far more good when executed with an equal amount of responsibility and accountability. 

Support your local co-op ... and help start a new one in Morocco!

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March 2012.

This Women's Cooperative initiative is currently in the "facilitated Participatory Planning meetings" stage. 

Participatory Planning involves the people in exercises that many have never before experienced — thinking through and mapping their daily routines, analyzing how their resources are used, discussion of causes and effects as applied to everyday situations in their own lives (and in their community's interactions with the local and regional authorities), and other similar activities. Some of the objectives of these meetings are: 

• to create an environment where everyone is encouraged to participate and contribute to the discussion, and 
• to facilitate:
1. a process (during many meetings) of identification and analysis of the problems at hand
2. discussions of possible solutions that could be achieved via a variety of proposed projects
3. coming to consensus as to which projects would best alleviate their most pressing problems
    (both for now and into the future)

4. prioritizing the community's needs in order to decide which projects need to be done and in which order

This process takes an enormous amount of time, but it is time well spent because when the moment arrives to implement the project, not only is everyone already in agreement and "on the same team", so to speak, but it is THEIR project, not HAF's or the Government's. They have decided to do their project, they know all of the ramifications of not doing it and the benefits from doing it, and they know how and why they will benefit from the project.

Why is this so important?

Empowerment begins with the individual.
Discovering that one is capable of making informed decisions is a huge step toward feeling empowered, finding one's voice, and having the courage to participate. Just as illiterate people often don't even try to understand many things because they are so sure that they cannot, someone who has never been asked to voice an opinion will often think that they should not have one or are not entitled to one. So, the poor and the illiterate often remain poor and illiterate. We find that participatory planning meetings, when properly facilitated, are the first step toward changing this dynamic.

A women's worker-owned cooperative is expected to increase each member’s income by at least 200 percent after 6 years. Creating new rural income sources and educational, health, and environmental opportunities is an important first step in addressing the complex needs of rural Moroccan women and girls. Addressing the root causes of poverty through multiple activities — including economic, social, and environmental — that meet local people’s self-described needs has the potential to transform village communities by generating increased income, strengthening democratic processes and mobilizing the co-op members into an effective team to achieve communal goals of better health, nutrition, education, income, and community infrastructure. 

 
 
 


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Community Planning of Cooperative
Community Planning of Cooperative

The Commune of Toukal of the Taroudant Province of Morocco formally transferred the rights to the land (contract attached) for the infrastructure and agricultural activities to support the establishment of their first Cooperative for women and girls. This project proposal seeks partnering support to implement the rural Cooperative whose Members include up to 610 women and girls from 304 households of 12 villages of the Tifnoute Valley with a combined population of 2,800 people.  The Cooperative’s economic and educational programs are in:

  1. Agriculture development (fruit tree nurseries, iris plant and vegetable growing, irrigation infrastructure, and agricultural terrace building) and value-added production (fruit drying) for wholesale domestic markets; and
  2. Training in maintaining fruit tree nurseries, irrigation (with drip system)/clean water basin upkeep, fruit drying and processing, business management, marketing and accounting, participatory development planning and implementation, and literacy.

The project cost of $30,000 (Moroccan dirhams) will create these programs of the Cooperative, which will:

  1. Increase each Members’ average household incomes by at least 200 percent after six years through walnut and cherry planting in the private household orchards of each Member, the sale of fruit trees, and value-added activities;
  2. Prevent dangerous levels of mountain erosion through constructing agricultural terraces and preserve the natural resources of the neighboring Toubkal National Park by decreasing local people’s dependence on them and preventing their depletion through creating new sources of income; and
  3. Develop professional, technical, and social skills of its Members, and create the long-term basis for women’s and girls’ participation in development and community decision-making, as well as empowerment and involvement in broader political processes.

This project applies participatory planning activities in its design process and in all project phases, which is a key feature in gender-based projects worldwide and in Morocco’s national framework to advance the socio-economic status and democratic participation of women and girls.  Since 2009, community meetings facilitated by the High Atlas Foundation among women and men (in separate gathering spaces) in the 12 villages have been taking place, during which constraints and opportunities for gender planning have been identified in a non-threatening way.  The broad-based support among women and men for the proposed Cooperative grew as a result of the participatory approach, which built social cohesion and local people’s skills to analyze their situation, reach consensus, make decisions, and take action to improve their circumstances.  The Cooperative will create more equitable and sustainable development by increasing control over newly generated resources by local women, whose social and economic marginalization has a negative impact on the immediate family and the wider community.


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Fall 2010 update.

The High Atlas Foundation is happy to let you know that we met with key officials in the Tifnoute Valley and conducted important planning and authorization steps for the construction of the women’s Cooperative. In addition, the Rural Commune of Toubkal provided land in-kind for the women’s Cooperative and its related activities.

The Foundation also facilitated the women’s community meetings, and through their analysis of their own needs and opportunities, the women decided to have the following activities in their cooperative:

  • Fruit tree agriculture and value-added production (making of dry fruit)
  • Weaving and knitting projects – dresses, carpets, and knitting projects
  • Planning and management training and literacy courses

We thank you all for your support and wish you a happy holiday season and a joyous new year. We look forward to posting more project reports and photos in 2011.


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Organization Information

High Atlas Foundation

Location: New York, NY - USA
Website:
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @AtlasHigh
Project Leader:
Alex Stein
NYC, NY (US) and Marrakech, Al Haouz (Maroc), Morocco

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Combined with other sources of funding, this project raised enough money to fund the outlined activities and is no longer accepting donations.
   

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