Foot of Pride

Written by: Soufian A. – CorpsAfrica/Maroc Volunteer
Date: June 28, 2015

DSC_0136It is spring and everything is green, as they said. Well yes indeed, the valley looks lovely and charming and has won over my heart. The trees put forth new leaves and filled with coming apple, walnut, and cherry fruits. In the early morning I hear the birds twittering in trees next to my room. It is delightful to walk through the corn-fields. The green plants please the eyes. Spring transforms the Azzaden valley into a paradise and its sweet notes enchant me (don’t miss this video!). It is so peaceful and tranquil, I have found spending time in the valley to be a deeply healing experience. The air, whether it flows through the trees has a cleansing quality as it interacts with my mind and body. The mountain grounds my being and lifts my imagination to a higher place. I always leave the Azzaden Valley to go back to the civilization refreshed, grounded, and uplifted, living this moment made me realize again that I’m such a lucky man (I humbly thank God).

I lived my life for a lot of years failing to understand inner peace is a choice. I am not sure what I thought. Perhaps I didn’t believe anyone could feel a lasting peace inside. I did know that my own feelings of peace were always transitory. There were many ups and downs in my life, too many claims on my time and too many difficult situations to be dealt with. I think I actually believed inner peace could only be achieved by monks and saints, or anyone living a reclusive life that didn’t have to deal with everyday struggles. This required me some self-reflection and making a commitment to be engaged within myself in order to be engaged to my community. Because sincerely I believe that social engagement of any kind requires that people connect with something outside of themselves, true, and that’s what all of these approaches focus on – Cheers to the opportunity, cheers to CorpsAfrica.

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11425169_831626773589922_577386501208764371_oI’ve been busy reaching to engineers and for contribution, and you can easily guess my dear reader since it been a while since my last blog – in fact I’ve been out of my site for more than one month and missed a lot of thing happened in the village. The amazing thing that people missed me – that was impressive, I found. It happened also that I was invited as a speaker guest at two events organized by Students Ambassadors of Peace at the ENCG in Agadir, and by Pages: The other side of Morocco event in Casablanca. This was my first opportunity ever to share my experience of social initiatives and project management with Wake up Agadir Association with a public where I revealed also the experience and future projects with CorpsAfrica. I feel very blessed sharing my story and seeing the appreciation I received from people gave me more energy and inspired me to get back to the village and shine.

Well, this month was productive, since some of the people that I had reached out to confirmed their contribution and interest to the project. When I came back to the village I held a community meeting, with the objective of explaining the challenges I am facing with the hammam project, and tried to make them understand the difficulty of providing hot water for the hammam, as well as providing a heated floor, by using the solar water heater. I also explained to them the difficulty of creating a hammam that would have a low environmental impact and also respect the forestry regulation of Toubkal National Park, in which their village is located. The community seems to have understood that, but they were also disappointed, which motivated me to give them a chance to think of a more feasible project, instead of waiting for the hammam project. Of course means that I will still be working on the hammam project in the meantime.

Surprisingly, the community came back to a very feasible project idea proposed in the brainstorming phase: building access stairs in the village. In other words, building stairs that will not only help villagers walk through the village, but also they will help the villagers have a way to get rid of the melted snow easily from the street – because there will be cement instead of dirt as stairs – and solve the problem of the muddy streets in the winter. The building of these stairs will contribute to a decrease in the incidence of injures – by reducing falling because of slipping – of children and women of the village. The added benefit for the project is that the majority of the construction materials can be found in the riverbed.DSC_0137

Mr. Brahime, Mr. Lahcen (members of the local association), other villagers and I measured the distance from the main street (480 meters) to different parts of the village and households. I collected the data, local materials and measurements as well as community contribution and wrote the proposal and submitted it to CorpsAfrica/Maroc. However, I had to convince the project review committee that our focus by doing this project is strongly to assist and gain the trust of the community by providing them with the finances resources to implement stairs in the village as well as building strong internal community governance.

Thankfully, our project was approved and we started directly after we received the funds. The implementing process coincided with the visit of the Casablanca American School high school students and some teachers. This visit motivated the villagers to show that they care about their village, and it was an exchange experience as well for the student who achieved getting out of their Workcomfort zones and fancy lives in Casablanca by being in the village. I was expected them to complain about every single thing starting from paper toilet, as I told Chris, one of the teachers. But amazingly the students were just fine, integrating and enjoying the implementing process with the villagers. We helped with the beginning of the building process by collecting the necessary local materials for the construction, then cleaning the street and facilitating the shaping of the stairs by putting stones and even actually helping the main mason design the stairs.

This stair project does not require many resources to sustain. It depends on the work of the villagers and their commitment to that work. We gave the community a challenge of 80 by 80 meters as a performance test for the community to identify the capacity of individual members, but also a framework for understanding the village’s commitment to their projects.

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I’m really glad to say that my community exceeded my expectations and made me realize that we inspire them to work hard and care about the future of their community.

 

Good Women

Shared by: ElGhali – CorpsAfrica/Maroc Volunteer
Date: June 24, 2015

The Nissae al Khair (“Good Women ”) Cooperative from outside of Mejjat, Morocco was initiated by a group of enterprising Amazigh Berber women seeking to increase economic opportunities, help provide for their families, and preserve important aspects of Amazigh cultural heritage.

Today, 40 women work in the cooperative’s workshop, creating traditional Amazigh woven textiles. Women of all ages work together to produce strikingly colorful patterns inspired by nature, unique to their tradition.

The people of this village have lived in their village since migrating there over 300 years ago. They are an agricultural community highly dependant on farming and local weather conditions. Recent droughts have made farming difficult, forcing many villagers to move to nearby big cities to look for work. The enterprising women of Nissae al Khair, however, saw an opportunity to help provide for their families, provide work locally, and remain home while doing it. They turned to what they knew best, an intimate knowledge of Amazigh traditional weaving and embroidery. In this way, they could produce beautiful works of Amazigh art, share some of their cultural heritage, and carry on the skills passed down to them.

After some initial setbacks, the women connected with a local CorpsAfrica/Maroc volunteer in the village who helped advise them on organization and marketing. Now the women of Nissae al Khair are able to share their skills with audiences in major cities such as Marrakech. Their ambition is high and they are eager to share their love of Amazighculture even wider.

CorpsAfrica Fqih

 

Written by: Ibrahim – CorpsAfrica/Maroc Volunteer
Date: June 17, 2015

After one week of living in the mosque, people started to call me the Fqih. What a wonderful nickname to start my journey with! Wherever I went and whomever I came across called me the fqih: “Hello Mr fqih, how is your day?” and even more so, sometimes they asked me questions related to the Islamic doctrine. To which I usually tried to give a more or less colorless answer.

20150407_105044Another week went by, I got invited to a wedding in the neighboring village. The guy who told me that didn’t particularly say “you are invited to a wedding tonight”, it was more like “you are coming to the wedding along with the fqih right??”

After dinner prayer, the groom’s brother came to pick us up with his vehicle; I honestly wasn’t expecting a pick-up, inviting us to their wedding was kind enough. After a 20 minutes ride, we got to the wedding, a big Marquee next to their house. Technically, it was a pre-wedding ceremony where only the families of the newlyweds that were present and of course the fqihs.

“Why would they invite me? Me who is a complete stranger to the family” I thought to myself.

“Maybe it was because it is inappropriate to let me stay in mosque alone, especially that the fqih’s wife is next door”

20150407_105130Anyway, although it was a pre-wedding ceremony, they were a lot of people (men only). I didn’t know what to do or how to behave, so I stuck with the fqih and just followed him. We sat at a table next to some people, only to realize that all the people around my table were fqihs from neighboring villages. OK, now things started to get a little strange.

After we finished the feast, everyone brought their chairs and gathered around my table. “What’s going on?” I wondered.

The fqihs started reciting some verses of the Quran, which I happen to know, and with a haughty smile that I couldn’t hide, I kept up with them. Afterward it was time for douaa (prayers). Everyone raised their hands and then the oldest fqih started making douaa for the newlyweds and his family. By the time we finished, everyone thanked the fqihs and me for coming over.

After we got back to our village and the mosque, I laid down on my bed and funny thoughts started coming to mind. “Could it be that they seriously think I am a fqih? After piecing together all the events I have just mentioned, maybe they do”.

If you think about it, it kind of makes sense; I was wearing a djellaba (traditional Moroccan robe) the whole time, I stay in a mosque which made the people to presume I was the fqih’s classmate and I shouldn’t have assumed that people here were only kidding when they were calling me “the Fqih”. Anyway I didn’t have to think about it for very long, because in the morning, some people invited me for a cup of tea to ask me if it is possible for me to live in a mosque still under construction.

“OK. I think there is a quite big misunderstanding here. I am not a fqih and I never was. In fact, I am not even sure I am a good Muslim.” I said to them. To my startling answer, some were surprised, some disappointed and some found it very funny. At the end we all laughed about it and agreed that it is going to be quite a funny story to tell.

Apparently, people here would associate you with whomever they see you with. They see you with a fqih, they automatically assume you are a fqih. They see you with a thief or a murderer, and the same logic applies. OK, maybe I am exaggerating, but from now on, I should be careful with whom I spend time. But first thing first: I took off my djellaba and have never worn it ever since.

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Seasonal Calendar

Written by: Mourad – CorpsAfrica/Maroc Volunteer
Date: May 31, 2015

Hello everybody! I hope you all are doing great, it’s been awhile since my last post. This because I was extremely busy with CorpsAfrica In-service training as well as a visit to the national salon of agriculture in Méknes. I will be in touch with more lines about this! But for this post it is going to be different! I’m just going to display a set of bullet point about seasonal calendar’s activities in my village from wintertime to summertime. This calendar will give you a good understanding on how the villagers here spend their daily lives trying to cope with the hardship of weather and trying to survive in hard conditions.

Autum/Winter: (September, October, November, December)

  •  Women go every day to the Forest to bring wood
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  • (Takkat) is a traditional Moroccan oven made by mud it is used to prepare (Tannourt) special Bread in rural villages.
  • Villagers go to the forest (Adrar) 4km from the village to bring (Ikchodn) Wood, and (Tasaft) plants to feed animals.
  • Women milk the cow and make butter (Tamoudit) out of it by using (Takshult)
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  • Women bring water from other villages when the water is scarce or when pipes are blocked during winter.
  • Women work indoors: cows, baby goats, sheep, free-range chickens, rabbits
  • Women make carpets (Bouchrouit, Astta)
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  • 17 men and 6 Women are herd goats (daily activity)
  • The weather is very cold, it’s rainy stormy and sometimes snowy during the winter

This causes:

  • Blocks in water pipes because of the icy snow, mud, or limestone that stuck inside.
  • Flood of the river
  • The road stops
  • Villagers couldn’t go shopping in the local souk of Asni for weeks
  • Children find difficulty to go to the school (15 minute walk to next village)
  • Villagers cooperate to work on building a new road and bridge for truck and the van)Mourad4

Food:

  • Potato & Vegetable Tagine, Drinking Tea & askif (Soup) arkhsis (Creeps) Ibawn (Green Bean), Tilintit (Lentils), Loubia (White bean), Milk & Coffee and butter, (Tannour = Berber bread), rise, Goat meat, Barbecue.Mourad5

Weekly activity:

  • shopping in the souk of Asni every Saturday

Agricultural activity:

  • 70% of villagers (men) work on farming
  • Villagers started working on the lands
  • Planting (wheat and corn)

Harvesting:

  • Runner bean and peas (plenty)

Social activity:

  • Approximately 30% Men Immigrate to the city to work in building or farmlands.

 

January, February (Winter/Spring)

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Social:

  • Moussem festival village is crowded a lot of people who immigrated to the city come back during this period to celebrate the festival with their families.
  • Men from many villages working on the road every Sunday to connect the Azzaden Valley to the nearest town of Tassaouirgane

Weather:

  • Rainy, stormy, snowy, and very cold.

Agricultural activities:

  • Cutting the trees of: apple, plum, pear, Cherry,
  • Plant, sowing, the land using donkeys or machines
  • Planting vegetables: potato, onion
  • Farmers use chemical products for land and trees to combat pests (Tilicht instinct)
  • Trees lose their leaves (only twigs and branches)
  • Almond trees grows white leaves (rare)

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Food:

  • Potato & Vegetable Tagine, Drinking Tea & askif (Soup) arkhsis (Creeps) Ibawn, tilintit (Lentils), loubia (White beans)

Mars, April, May (Spring)

Agriculture:

  • The grass grows women and men start collecting the grass and conserve it for wintertime (cattle)
  • The start of fruit production (Cherries)
  • Planting vegetables (2): Tomato carrot, fava bean, courgette, aubergine
  • Coriander green pepper radish/turnip
  • Watering and planting out new trees of (Walnut, apple, plum, pear)
  • Big Red Apple begin to grow (Roum Apple)
  • Harvesting (wheat and corn) (pretty rare)

Food: Tagine of vegetables

June, July, August: (Summer)

Religion :

This year Ramadan coincided with the start of the summer. A lot of villagers come back to the village to fast during Ramadan with their families. They also come back because the weather is not too hot and they fasting is not that hard. During Ramadan villagers conduct their daily life in a normal way. They still go to the fields, watering, bringing forage for livestock and other activities I mentioned.

Agriculture:

  • Watering fields from 4 springs:

Harvesting:

  • Apples Walnut, plum, peach, cherry, Potato onion turnip (plenty)
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  • Carrot Courgette Tomato green pepper aubergine (scarce)

Planting

  • runner bean, peas

Social & Economic

  • Tourism
  • Economy thrives villagers sell their agricultural products in the market.
  • Families come to spend the summertime in the valley
  • The weather is hot
  • The period of Weddings
  • Ahwach ceremonies with other villages
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Food

  • Special dishes Couscous with Afounas
  • Villagers eat a lot of fruits and they make juice out of apples and cherries.
  • Tagine with different vegetables, Creeps, Tea, Tannourt, cake, milk, goat, barbecue, free range chicken,

Wedding in the Village

Written by: Rachida – CorpsAfrica/Maroc Volunteer
Date: May 31, 2015

Dear readers, I hope you all are doing well. First of all, I do apologize because it has been a while since I updated you all on my daily journey. But these times have been full of eventful and hectic. As usual I am going to share/try to tell you all things in this blog. Recently I attended a wedding in my village really many things attracting my attention that is why I want to share it with you. As we know every part of Morocco has its own wedding culture which mixed with traditions and ceremonies differ from region to region in Morocco.

Before the wedding, the family prepared a lot like they painted the room where bride will enter/live when she will come, made homemade cookies, invited neighbors, bought different clothes for bride and so on so forth. After a few days, I heard that because he is from an unknown family in the village, they are afraid of the magic.

It was the day of henna party of bride which is typically for close women of the family/relatives also friends. They made henna to bride by singing traditional music (T3rija) and dancing with great fun and jokes. At the night the sister and brother of the bridegroom went to bring the bride. They arrived at about 1h a.m when the taxi stopped the brother of bridegroom carry the bride till enter to her room then found that the bridegroom waiting her. She looks so cute wearing white caftan making make up. I shocked when I saw her because she still so young but even that looks so happy. After she spent three days with her husband then her weeding start by bringing gifts and going to her family celebrating with them. But you know the bride has no right to go with us. She stayed with her husband at home. Anyway, we went and we found a bunch of girls and women waiting for us and they welcomed us by milk and dates.

The women attendants wore colorful traditional clothing. I felt as I am with my family. You know most of them were asking my host mum if I am a teacher who is living with her. My host mum looked proud of being with her. Women were sung with very beautiful, thin voices, wished a happy life to the bride by the way I sung with them and when everyone started dancing I danced too so as to enjoy the wedding celebration with them. During few minutes, women stopped singing and we enjoyed mint tea with cookies. Then, women and girls started to present their gifts some of them gave an amount of money to her mum.

Women sung beautiful music and dancing started over again. During that time, some members of family prepared traditional delicious meals for the guests. It was an unforgettable, lovely occasion. I met a lot of girls and women. Take a good care! ☺

Stay tuned, Rachida

In a War against Insects

Written by: Abderrahim – CorpsAfrica/Maroc Volunteer
Date: May 25, 2015

Currently, I am having a serious war against insects. I am fighting alone with very basic and simple weapons supplied from the Souk (weekly market).  My whole attention is given to them either during the day or at night. I have to fight not only one army but countless. Some of them appear and others do not which made me going crazy with this war.soussi

The war started when the summer opens its arms. In a very risky place where I live extremist unforgiving group of insects has been attacking people every day. The summer starts, the insects start their job. The majority of people think of flies, scorpions, or potato bugs and mosquitos as most common insects during the summer, yet there many other kinds that are very dangerous.

All kind of insects gathered to fight. Crowds of armies are taking lands and sky to reach their goal. We have three ethics in CorpsAfrica/Maroc we always make joke of as a group of volunteers. First, don’t die. Second, don’t go alone. Third, be flexible. Thus, I continuously keep watching out myself not to be a victim of insects. I clean the house all the time, I clean dishes, I often make sure my clothes are clean and far from targeted places. Furthermore, I open the windows in the morning and close them at the afternoon. The sun is one of my weapons.soussi2

One of the most activities I am getting familiar with these days and especially at night is killing all the insects around, turning off the light of the room where I sleep and turn on the light of other room thus they can go to the other one. I also make sure my place is safe before going to bed. I take a look in every single corner of the room. soussi3

Many people are highly allergic to mosquito bites and I am one of them. My dear friends, I cannot fight alone anymore. I need your help. What should I do to protect myself from mosquito bites? What can you do if you were me?

Flexibility

Written by: Ibrahim – CorpsAfrica/Maroc Volunteer
Date: April 30, 2015

20150429_195401After a successful month of training, we finally got to go to our assigned sites. As much as I would miss the other volunteers, I was restlessly eager to move to my new home. But before that, I had to go through the authority structure protocol. First I had to go see the Caïd (the governor of the commune) who turned out to be a cool guy and offered me a ride to my site. After we arrived to the village, the muqaddem (He is the Ministry of Interior figure that is responsible for the village. His job, as he explained it to me, is mainly to inform the authorities about everything that is happening in the village) was waiting for us. The muqaddem looked quite nervous, almost like a reckless soldier in front of his army chief. After the Caïd introduced me to the muqaddem, he reluctantly suggested that I could stay with him. Great! So far everything was going as planned.

20150407_104814But alas, I wish things were that simple. One of the things I learnt with CorpsAfrica/Maroc is that nothing goes according to plan. Never take the term “flexibility” for granted. After I exchanged phone numbers with the muqaddem I went back to get my backpack. When I called the muqaddem to tell him that I was coming, he told me that he went to get his cows vaccinated and that he wouldn’t be home for a couple of days. Okay, no worries, I thought. I waited two days and called him again, this time he was needed in the municipality because the king is visiting, apparently the king needs to speak specifically with the muqaddem. I didn’t know muqaddem was a VIP!!

Enough is enough, I couldn’t wait any longer. I packed my stuff and headed to my site. Once there, I wandered around the muqaddem’s house, only to find him sitting in a chair and enjoying a sebssi (a tool used to smoke weed). “Hey, I thought you were in the municipality….” I said. “Euuh, the king canceled his visit at the last minute” he replied. I thought to myself “Did he call you and told you that in person!?” Anyway, without going into too many details, the bottom line is that the muqaddem could no longer host me.

OK! Now what? I took my backpack, which at that moment felt heavier than ever, and started to wander aimlessly around the fields trying to figure out a way out of this mess. I heard the call to prayer and headed to the mosque. To my surprise, the mosque was empty, only the fqih sitting in a corner and reciting the Quran in silence. The fqih was in turn surprised to see me, or maybe he was just surprised to see someone caring enough to come to prayers. After we finished praying, I explained to the fqih what I do and told him about my situation. The fqih turned out to be a really nice guy, who was kind enough to let me stay in the mosque as long as I want.

20150407_152748I knew I couldn’t stay in the mosque forever, and that I eventually would have to find a permanent place. But living in the mosque was and still is a good spiritual experience: waking up at dawn for Fajr prayer and witnessing the rising sun and all the awakening energy around us energizes us as well, listening to the Fqih reciting the Quran while his seven-month-old daughter Hafsa was crawling and playing around, and to his narration for historical Islamic tales after the dinner-time prayer, which is technically bedtime for the people over here, making his tales into bedtime stories. I am glad that my journey with CorpsAfrica/Maroc started as a spiritual one. However, I sometimes don’t feel the spirituality in waking up at 5:30 in the morning.

Our Differences are Our Similarities

Written by: Abderrahim – CorpsAfrica/Maroc Volunteer
Date: May 22, 2015

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We live in differences and similarities. Even though we live in the same country, we have huge differences and similarities. Comparing my community or small village where I belong – which is located in the regions of Souss-Massa-Draa, Ouarzazate province – to my site where I am volunteering as CoprsAfrica/Maroc volunteer – in the region of Doukkala-Abda, Eljadida province. I found that these two regions are extremely different regarding to several elements including language, culture and lifestyle, even though some stories showed that the origins of the Doukkali people might be from Amazigh tribes. My focus will be on small areas inside in the regions.soussi3

Starting with similarities, both people of Doukkala-Abda and people of Souss-Massa-Draa regions have the same religion, which is Islam, yet I see it as less practiced in Doukkala, knowing that people of Souss are more conservative. In addition, there are numerous stories that tell people of both regions came originally from Amazigh tribes in the past years before Islam came to Morocco. As all human being they equally have the same life concerns as well as needs. Concerning social classes both sides have low, middle and high class but the majority of them are between low and middle classes.soussi4

Generally speaking, the difference between the two parts besides to my experiences, Doukkala Abda region first situated in west-central Morocco plus it is made up into four provinces; El Jadida, Sidi Bennour, Lyousofia and Safi province. While, Souss-Massa region made up into seven provinces including Tiznit, Taroudant, Sidi Ifni and Ouarzazate which is the door to the desert.soussi5

There are many elements that represent variations between Dokkala and Souss-Massa regions and especially between both urban areas of Eljadida and Ouarzazate province. First, the weather, it is mainly changes depending on the four seasons. In Ouarzazate province, it is not stable. It is often changes even during one season but what is common is that the weather gets very cold in the winter and very hot in the summer. In Eljadida province, toward my experience it is kind of stable even though it gets hot, but not even close to Ouarzazate.

Second, the culture, when it comes to culture I will not deny that every single group has its own culture and celebrate it in different ways than the other but what I observed, as much as people live together as much as they engaged culturally. People of Ouarzazate province and specifically targeting small areas are very rich culturally comparing to Eljadida. They celebrate every single opportunity they have for that including weddings, holidays, and other cultural days.  I cannot be sure, but I have not yet observed celebrations in Doukala.soussi6

When it is about food, Dakala people are known to be consumers more than Soussies. People here where I volunteer consume a lot of food especially meat, bread and vegetables. Besides to language, it is very weird that these two regions have the same origins but definitely speak different languages. Ouarzazate people speak Tachelhit which is an Amazigh Moroccan dialect and Doukkala people speak another Moroccan dialect which is Darija.soussi7

Third, life style, it is obviously clear that Doukkala people live as individual families in contrast Ouarzazies live together and you can realize that through different angles for instance, Doukkalais build house far from each other. It is clear through my stay in three different douars or as it is known by Doukkali people live independently not inside families but in terms of the douar structure. You can obviously see that the villagers live separately. There is a huge space between houses or as they called them Lkhima. In the other side, people in the region of Ouarzazate live together and very close to each other. Regarding to various stories people live together for safety reasons. That was the only reason to protect themselves and their wealth. Not only that but also they used to have and some of them still have a big house called Eghrem, where they put all their wealth especially silver, weapons, dates, almonds and all kind of seed. These ethics made them support each other and share all what they have.soussi8

In addition to that, people in Eljadida farm separately moreover they use their own wells either for drinking or for agriculture. People in Ouarzazate regions often use only one well which gives all people water. For farming they mostly build a dam as it is in my town or share wells and use mountain streams. They usually separate into groups of families and everyone has a special day or days for irrigation.

People of Dokkala are known with farming as a result of living in plateaus. They generally farm seed including corn and barley, figs, pomegranates, melons, olives, papayas, watermelons, and grapes. The region of Souss-Massa is agriculturally diverse. If I am not wrong they farm major products Moroccan market known with. For example, you can find all kind of fruits, vegetables and oils including Argan which nowadays be the most looking cosmetic product for national and international visitors of Taroudant province. In addition, you can easily find saffron, almonds, dates, watermelon and rose in the provinces of Ouarzazate, Zagoura and Tinghir.soussi9

One big example that made me recognize the big difference is that people of Dokala go to the Souk (Week Market) individually. Everyone takes the Keruila (a traditional transport) and it can be a man or a woman. In the opposite, people of Ouarzazate regions and especially those who live in small douars go the souk every week together in a big car. They usually go in the early morning and come back in the afternoon while they get all their weekly need. Women do not go to the souk except their death of husbands.        .

Call for Change

nadia1Written by: Nadia – CorpsAfrica/Maroc
Date: May 10, 2015

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In rural areas, women and girls can often be excluded from social, educational and political roles that could help them make a lasting difference to their communities. Many are responsible for both the household chores and work to provide for the family, leaving them with little time or no incentive to attend school.

Now women in my village are fighting to change that pattern. They are seeking to change their reality, get recognition and most important to express themselves.

Frankly, I was so confused about how to convince almost of women in my village to participate in my program, which is based on empowering women and developing their skills, through learning how to read and write, Moreover, I hope they participate in awareness workshops. It took me so many days to get their approvals.

International Women’s Day was a very nice occasion to meet them and explain why and how they have to get involved in social-economic and political life. They were about 18 women and a few young girls. Once we started, we began talking about what is International Women’s Day? Everyone seemed surprised, even some educated girls. I have realized that someone isolated and far away from the outer world could not make the difference between days of the year. None of them would speak up nor try. Only one small lady in the back she whispered: it is the day when all women of the world celebrate? But what kind of celebration these women have to present? What I mean by celebration not typical party or crowds of people everywhere. But mainly recognize their rights and duties.

In addition, to appreciate in them and recognize that strong faith they have in their families and communities that can make a huge difference. Through challenging the tough life in mountains everyday to keep their children alive, when staying faithful to their husbands though they are working for a long time in another side of the world, when speaking up for the rights of their kids and forget about theirs. Furthermore, I can, still, see some families have just little food to eat and they would rather feed their kids instead of feeding themselves….

I honestly bow to these women. And how they see life make my vision toward life different as well.nadia3

The Train as an Agricultural Development Metaphor

Written by: Badr – CorpsAfrica/Maroc Volunteer
Date: May 15, 2015

2015-05-01 17.07.41I have noticed for years a big Moroccan agricultural program, it is called  “Green Morocco” in which farming is heavily subsidized, funded by 6 billion Euro for five years since 2000, according to the Ministry of Agriculture. The Moroccan government helps farmers. Since I’m serving in agricultural region, I thought it would be better to focus on agriculture and find a suitable link with the programs the Ministry of Agriculture already supports, even give financial benefits in all sorts of projects from farming to all kinds of meat and food production.

After our CorpsAfrica/Maroc In-Service Training which took place in Marrakesh, and after we delivered our sites presentations, the staff members of CorpsAfrica noticed our interests in agriculture. Hence, they decided to give us, the volunteers, the opportunity to visit the Moroccan 10th International Agricultural Exhibition-Fair, that is held in Meknes, the olive capital with Spanish-moorish style.

The exhibition was on 17,2  hectares, outside the outstanding monumental and voluminous ramparts.  A lot of people were at the place, and plenty of display galleries. Representatives of the Moroccan National Agricultural Institutes, have their own galleries and workshops.

DSCN1203Simply, a huge amount of themes and informations, that made me think, and asking what? and how? I could combine, the governmental support on agriculture and rural rehabilitation, with my agricultural site.

I was roaming the fair with my friend Mourad, wearing a round traditional rural hat, some people asked for my hat to take a picture with. They thought I’m wearing it as a style, even a manager of soil workshop, commented on my hat:

“Your hat is not enough to show me that you are working in agriculture” the man said, he explained that we need to carry with us our CorpsAfrica/Maroc brochures, including pictures of implementing previous projects, to show we have a relation with agriculture.

After hours approaching the galleries at the fair, and talking with people who ran them, I came out with a clear idea.

If I couldn’t conclude my visit with at least a simple idea that can help agriculture in a specific place, the fair was probably just a place to boast about achievements and  numbers, the biggest agricultural exhibition in Africa, based on the numbers of the countries that were participating.

I went to look for the manager of the gallery that was set to present the region I’m serving in. The representative was an agricultural engineer. He was cheerful, and eager to set different programs names and strategies; phrases that were so ambiguous and can’t shed a light on my road. He was talking about numbers that exceeded the ministry objectives with his big smiles on his face, one bigger than the first one.

DSCN1130He sum up his presentation: “Agriculture in Morocco is growing, and this agricultural development has been going on since years, because of the Majesty the King’s determination and hard work, and because of God’s will” and the man said. “Hallelujah!”

The man seemed to me from his talking he was training to be politician more than someone participating in agricultural rehabilitation.

The second man was responsible for explaining the soil component and how they check soil and well waters at their labs. I and my friend explained the issues of our communities’ water. For me the question was how we can use salty water that all my community wells have sufficiently to grow crops without letting the salt harm the fertility of the land. My friend Mourad wants a free possibility to check the components of water spring at his community to know if it’s drinkable or not.

By sudden, he man bent his head towards us and said:DSCN1239

“Honestly, let this stay between us, don’t knock official institutes doors. If you are looking for something, you can only depend on yourself.”

After a while, a two foreign visitors approached the man’s workshop, then he forgot that he talking to us, he didn’t even offer an excuse to finish our talking. He turned toward the foreign couple with a smile and he started repeating his presentation in French.

I left from the exhibition with two plastic bags, full of brochures, pamphlets, leaflets, business cards. I haven’t checked all the paper advertisements yet. The wheat harvesting season have started in my region three weeks ago. The balance of supply and demand.

2015-05-08 12.41.39

Is the governmental agricultural policy effective?

Does the law really protect the national product, as they say?

These are the elements I’m going to talk about in my next blog.

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