The High Atlas Foundation (HAF) and Sami's Project celebrated the planting of HAF's the one millionth tree on January 16, 2014. HAF was honored to have Dr. Rachid El Kouhen, the impetus of Sami's Project, present for this joyous occasion that celebrated the too-short life of Dr. El Kouhen's son, Sami, and a greener future for Moroccans. Sami's project honors Sami El Kouhen, who illustrated a love of the outdoors before succumming to cancer at the young age of three. Sami's memory is evoked by the planting of trees by elementary school-aged children to bring sustainable and transformational benefits to Morocco.
On January 16th, Dr. El Kouhen represented Sami's family to share in the celebration of the 1 Million Tree Campaign and Sami's Project. With HAF Program Director Malika Kassi, Dr. El Kouhen planted trees with students of five schools and explained to the students the importance of protecting their trees. School children at 43 locations around Morocco planted trees and took part in lessons about environmental preservation. Dr. El Kouhen also visited a local association women's association to learn from the women about the issues they are faced with and the goals of the association.
Looking to the future, Dr. El Kouhen imagines the young participants of Sami's Project growing up alongside the trees they planted, which was made possible by the kindness of donors all over the world. He hopes that they will be proud of their hard work and of the impact upon their community and Morocco as a whole. The gift of trees to the youth of rural Morocco provides an important development tool to encourage responsible stewardship for coming generations. The planting of HAF's one-millionth tree was an important and joyous day for HAF and the El Kouhen family, but Sami's father considers every tree planted as a pinnacle of the project.
HAF and the El Kouhen family are thankful to the support of so many contributions that have helped this project thrive and grow. Now that HAF has planted one million trees, we look to planting one billion trees so that thousands of young people may benefit from Sami's project and his legacy.
Dr. Rachid El Kouhen, Sami's father, recently reflected on the transformational work of Sami's project:
"Franklin Roosevelt said; “We may not be able to prepare the future for our children, but we can at least prepare our children for the future.” Sami's Project encourages children to be their own advocates for education through the participatory approach that gives them a stake in their education...a few years down the road, today’s kids will be looking around and be proud of the amazing work and impact they had on their schools, communities, regions, and country as whole. By the same token, Sami’s project is providing trees as a tool for growth and development of these kids into responsible and steward generation."
Sami's project is an important element of HAF's organic agirculture initiative, the One Million Tree Campaign. On 16th January 2014 we will celebrate the success of this campaign in various locations throughout Morocco. Over ten years, we estimate to have helped 50,000 people make the step out of poverty. The project is poised to continue indefinitely, at an accelerated pace, with 500,000 young trees expected to be planted in 2014 alone, many of which will be planted with schoolchildren.
The planting of HAF's One Millionth Fruit Tree will occur in eight provinces simultaneously where HAF currently has projects: Al Haouz, Azilal, Boujdour, Essaouira, Ifrane, Rhamna, Taroudant, and Taza. As a part of Sami’s project, this event will be celebrated with schoolchildren, and the millionth tree will be planted in school yards as symbol of commitment for this generation and the next to take care of our earth and find sustainable methods for our lives.
Thanks to you, schoolchildren and community members benefit from environmental knowledge and trainings, and are given the tools to break the cycle of poverty. Every donation received until the January 16th planting event will provide additional trees to be planted on this day, and will enable us to expand the scope of this transformative project.
21 August was Youth Day in Morocco. This article was written by Malika Kassi, HAF Project Manager, in tribute to Morocco's young people.
Community-driven and Participatory Development: Morocco’s Key to Sustainable and Equitable Growth
One of the things that I discovered and recognized during my experience with HAF is the concept of participatory contribution to sustainable development. Although in my life the action of participating in good works and deeds have always been present, the concept of participatory development was not clear until I worked for HAF. Now I experience the beauty of this concept every day in my life. Participation is the fastest way to change the world for sustainability, economy, agriculture, health and well-being purposes. Most of the rural young girls and boys do not have access to education and health services. These communities survive with little income, which creates a huge frustration and makes the youth feel unable to fulfill their potential.
When we lead community meetings with young people, they develop new and amazing ideas, yet the youth lack the opportunity to put these ideas motion. In this regard, the High Atlas Foundation plays a great role in developing human capital and other core assets of sustainable livelihood in nine provinces of Morocco. The best example HAF offers is scholarships for intelligent and disadvantaged students to pursue their academic studies. HAF helps not only the youth, but also it illustrates the way to fulfill their dreams.
I think my generation is very powerful and we shouldn’t be looked on as troublemakers but we need to be given opportunities as opportunities . HAF has helped to build the capacities of youth and made the channels of communication wide open. Typically; HAF’s trainers and facilitators sit with the young people and they state their needs and list the solutions to their problems and concerns using the participatory devlopement techniques.
I believe my generation is very powerful because they have the drive to improve conditions in Morocco. The youth have passion and they can start their own businesses. They need, however, the government and relevant organizations to ease the difficulties that interfere with success. By doing so, together the youth and government can contribute to Morocco’s development. The youth do not want Morocco to experience un-just blood-shed. Morocco’s Green Plan 2020 has many initiatives that include the youth within the development process. Further it engages them into multiple types of inclusive programs.
I call the young to change their negative mindset and start to think about the solutions to better the societal conditions and embrace the characteristics of positive ethics, faithfulness and responsibility. This will build a strong civil society for a compatible sustainability. Nevertheless the youth can best participate, when heard and provided with the opportunity to grow.
Malika KassiHAF Project Manager
We hope this call to action reaches you, from Malika's mouth to you energy to make a difference. We are so grateful for your continued support to help these youth reach their full potential.
We are committed to enabling more opportunities to kids this school year than ever before in Morocco, and your support is key to making this into reality. Thank you.
During the 2013 season, HAF planted in total 234,000 fruit seeds and saplings (inclduing also walnut and cactus) – the most HAF and its partners ever planted in one year. This brings the total amount planted since 2003 to 692,500 trees.
From the 16thof February to the 23rdof April, HAF, along with primary school directors, teachers, and students, organized planting events that integrated children and their families. Fruit trees were planted, including walnut, lemon, olive, almond, and pomegranate – all of which grow endemically.
The delegate of education in Al Haouz province participated in planting to show his support of Sami’s Project, which seeks to teach children about protecting and benefiting from the environment, improving quality of life, and building school infrastructure. Sami’s Project, in memory of lovely Sami, also partners with local parent and environmental associations.
Together, the students and staff school dug holes in their school plots and planted the trees, and HAF team members presented information about caring for trees. The students prepared thoughtful theatrical scenes about environmental degradation caused by human misuse. Some of the trees were planted in community gardens, while the majority of trees (varieties that local families identified) were given to the schoolchildren to plant in their family farm.
In March 2013, G4S North and West Africa, contributed 5,000 trees to Sami’s Project. Over 70 members of the G4S team visited schools in the Rhamna province over two Saturdays to plant these trees with school children and community members. G4S has voiced its commitment to continue to support Sami’s Project in the future. HAF is also grateful to the OCP Foundation for support of human development projects also in Rhamna. Of course, the combined support of hundreds of inviduals made a powerful difference. Finally, we’d like to thank U.S. Consul General Brian Shukan for his visit to Sami’s Projet Site in Ait Talib commune of Rhamna.
We've just put out a proposal asking to build 40 toilets in rural schools that don't have the facilities for students to relieves themselves sanitarily or modestly. This is our next goal for Sami's Project until the 2013 planting season. We hope you can give these children a chance to learn comfortable and cleanly.
Thanks for your support!
Thanks to you, HAF helped improve the lives of over 700 children and their families by delivering fruit trees for students to take home and planting fruit trees in the schoolyard, teaching students agricultural techniques for sustainable development. This planting and distribution with children is the pinnacle of Sami’s Project, a HAF program inspired by the loving memory of Samil El Kouhen to bring sustainable benefits to youth in Morocco.
Every weekend for the past month, HAF's team has joined local educational and community leaders to plant trees in schools throughout Rhamna and Al Haouz provinces in rural Morocco. Trees planted include pomegranate, lemon, fig, and olive. Others are given to the students to bring home to their families. HAF has been greeted by songs and presentations from eager, clever, and passionate youth.
Sami's Project encourages children to be their own advocates for education through the participatory approach that gives them a stake in their education, assuring that Sami's students aren't part of the 400,000 students in Morocco who drop out of school before their baccalaureate. This is because HAF teaches the benefits of small scale farming by showing the direct impact of innovative agricultural techniques on families' income. Students that learn how to properly care for a fruit tree understand the opportunity to scale up and agricultural and market entrepreneurialism. HAF and communities are working to improve this model and the economic benefit as it seeks to incorporate organic certification of fruit trees around Morocco, and train students and families in these methods.
The benefits of Sami’s Project resonate around Al Haouz and Rhamna, because the results are sustainable, and the next generation in Morocco will benefit the most. Sami’s Project teaches elementary school students the numerous benefits that trees can bring to a community, and then trains them in how to plant and maintain trees in their school yards. The eventual fruits of the trees will benefit each school. HAF coordinates this project with teachers, community members, local Ministry of Education delegates and members of communal councils. Labor to plant the trees is provided in-kind by the communities, and the students participate wholeheartedly in the planting.
Sami’s Project was conceived by the El Kouhen family, inspired by loving memories of their 3-year-old son Sami (in the photo) who, before losing his battle with cancer 5 years ago, had already shown his love for the outdoors even at such an early age. Sami’s father, Dr. Rachid El Kouhen, catalyzed this initiative with HAF Board Members, and together they organize the youth activities.
HAF is concerned with all aspects of community development. HAF recognizes that it is not only tree planting that encourages students to become entrepreneurs through education and good practices. It is also improving conditions in communities by bringing clean drinking water, which leads to a 16 percent increase in attendance rate (HAF Study in Tassa Ouirgane 2011). HAF both works with children to improve their technical education, and encourages participation in education through clean-water projects, school infrastructural and botanical garden initiatives, and participatory trainings.
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New York City and Marrakech,
NY (US) & AlHaouz (Maroc)