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Morocco Week in Review 
February 22, 2020

Virtual Magazine of Morocco on the Web

David Fischer: I am Honored to Be US Ambassador to Morocco, America’s Oldest Ally

The strong ties between Morocco and the US are more than two centuries old.

By Yahia Hatim - Feb 15, 2020 Rabat

The new US Ambassador to Morocco, David Fischer, said that it is an honor to reside and work in Morocco, “America’s oldest ally.” Fischer, who began his new position officially on January 16, made the statement during his visit to the American pavilion at Casablanca’s 26th International Book Fair (SIEL). The ambassador said: “I am honored that Morocco is my place of residence” and “it is a privilege to represent the United States of America in Morocco.
The American pavilion at the book fair presents the history between the US and its oldest ally, Morocco, to visitors.

The English Street School: A Classroom With No Roof and No Limits

Every week nearly 200 children and adults gather in a small side street in Essaouira’s medina to learn to speak English. They have no chairs, no pens, and no books; the will to learn is enough.

By  Madeleine Handaji  - Feb 15, 2020

Moucine Camel became a teacher even before he finished primary school: “I used to put my friends in age groups on the house steps and teach them the alphabet.” Full of energy, and almost childlike joy, Camel explained how he, as a primary school teacher from the coastal city of Safi ended up running a school in one of Essaouira medina’s narrow, hidden streets. When I say in the street, I mean in the street. Camel’s school has no walls, no chairs, and no roof. He teaches anyone who wants to learn in a narrow alleyway protected only by the ancient walls of the medina (old city). “The street is the best school,” the young teacher said earnestly, before taking a sip of hot, frothy coffee. “Children need to learn more than languages or science. They need confidence and self-esteem, that’s what we teach here.”

It began with a failure. “Everything happens for a reason,” Camel said confidently. The first street lesson took place in 2017, “I remember it was just before the Gnaoua Festival, the streets and the hostels were packed,” he narrated. “I had organized a summer camp for kids and had four teachers from Spain coming to teach for free.” Everything was ready to go, the teachers had their flights booked, the kids were ready to learn, and Camel was excited to see his dream come to fruition. Then everything went wrong. The camp where the summer classes were set to take place cancelled, leaving Camel with no venue, no students, and four teachers already on their way to Morocco.“We had no contract, there was nothing I could do,” he said. “But I wasn’t going to give up.” The inimitable Camel stalked the streets of Essaouira looking for a new venue, only to have every door closed in his face. Outside one door, however, he had an idea. Camel had spent the summer of 2016 helping to redecorate the Harounia Association’s building, and outside the building was a small, partially covered alleyway. In the alleyway was an old blackboard used to put up notices. This, he thought, would make a perfect classroom. Staff at the Harounia Association were only too happy to help and encouraged the children they work with to attend the first lesson. So, a day later, the volunteer teachers and a group of excited children embarked on the first lesson of the English Street Class.“The children brought plastic chairs and sat in the street. They were waiting even before the teachers arrived,” he reminisced………………
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Where Tradition Meets Climate Change

February 11, 2020   By Nicolas Pantelick

Rural Moroccans, in reckoning with their environmental degradation, have turned to an unusual source to restore their prosperity: tradition. Two weeks ago, I set out with three of my colleagues from the High Atlas Foundation (HAF, Marrakech) to the village of Gourrama in the Moroccan Middle Atlas Mountains. Our journey, from sunrise to sunset, took us across rugged terrains and through communities of all sizes. I reveled in the beauty, both natural and created, that flashed by my window as we drove. Each of the passing images aroused in me the innocent excitement one feels at seeing a place for the first time, if even just for a moment.

Solitary concrete buildings partitioned the flowing green fields we slipped through. Washed in fading emeralds, reds, pinks, and oranges, in profile, they appeared as stooped faces, their heavy-set brows animated by the soulful eyes of lit windows. They, witnesses to the passing lives and journeys of all, were solemn and resolute in their observation. Other constructions lay further back from the road, their glossy tin roofs peeking out from the verdant seas beside which they stood. The space between these oases of life and color did not feel hollow or maligned. It existed alongside the same expansiveness with which the blue sky above stretched up, out, and around us, without limit.

Community Meeting and Women Power in Tassa Ouirgane

By Nora Martetschläger,  HAF intern

In my second field trip last Thursday, the 24th of October, I got a sense of the dynamics in a local community and got to know some outstanding powerful women, above all my HAF colleague Amina. Together with her and the external consultant Najwa we went to Tassa Ouirgane, a small village bordering the Toubkal National Park. There we visited an olive tree nursery and the local association, which represents the village and its agenda and daily affairs, including the evaluation of HAFs UNDP funded project which began in 2017.

Following a participatory approach, the first step at that time had been identifying and prioritizing the most important needs and challenges of the community together with local association members. The main issue was that the village suffered from flooding whenever the water in the river rose too high, which made several farmers lose their plants and therefore income for their families. So, building a gabion to prevent floods from entering the fields was the major priority of the project.

7,100 Trees Grown in Fez Nursery Improving Livelihoods in Midelt

by Nisreen Abo-Sido, HAF volunteer, Thomas J. Watson Fellow January 21, 2019

On Monday, project manager Said Bennani, volunteer Celina, and I began our weeklong excursion to Fez and Midelt for environmental workshops and tree-planting activities.  On Tuesday, we visited the Abdelaziz Ben Driss child protection center to conduct an environmental workshop with the boys, plant trees, and help load 7,100 saplings to be planted in Midelt this week.  Students from the Spring Arbor University in Michigan, USA, joined us for the tree-planting activities.  We had a lively day, inspired by the caretaker’s thoughtful tree nursery management and the boy’s enthusiastic involvement.

We started the day by visiting the tree nursery, which was spread across different plots within the center.  The local association, which organizes activities for the boys at the center, began the nursery in collaboration with HAF in May 2017.  On the way to the nursery, we admired a solar pump, supplying the energy required to extract water from a well.  Then, we met with the nursery’s caretaker, Khalid Naji, and he described the nursery conditions and progress in caring for the saplings, which were of the almond, olive, fig, carob, cherry, and pomegranate varieties.  Moreover, he showed us various aromatic and medicinal plants cultivated at the center and explained their beneficial properties.  All HAF partner nurseries are raised organically, and HAF encourages sapling recipients to continue to cultivate trees organically, for not only the environmental benefits but also for the increased value of accessing the organic market.

Can Carob save a Nation?

Benefits of Carob Now and Then and Its Potential for Sustainable Development in Morocco.

by Nora Martetschläger February 04, 2020

The carob tree has been appreciated for its various features throughout the ages. Nowadays, people are starting to rediscover this amazing plant. It is both a wild growing forest tree, and an easy to cultivate fruit tree. Because of this combination, the carob tree lends itself to a wide range of uses, thus making it the perfect tree to solve many of Morocco’s pressing economic and environmental issues. But what is it that makes this plant so unique? To answer this question, we ought to take a look at the usage of carob across time and space.

Carob is native and widely spread in the arid and semi-arid Mediterranean regions. The fruit is known as locust bean or St. John’s Bread. This term goes back to St. John the Baptist and the notion that the “locusts and wild honey,” described in the Bible, upon which he subsisted while preaching in the desert, were wild carobs. In ancient Rome, carob seeds were used as a form of measurement due to their stable weight, which led to a standardized method of determining the purity of metals such as gold. This is the reason why we still use the word “carat,” which evolved from the Greek word for carob, “kerátion.” Since one gold coin had the same weight as 24 carob seeds, 24 carats meant that an object was 100% pure gold.
Today, carob is utilized in a variety of food and technical products. It is available, for example, in the form of powder, chips, syrup, extract, or dietary pills. Another product is Locust Bean Gum (LBG), a binder or thickener in numerous food and non-food products. You can find carob in health stores or organic supermarkets as a dietary supplement or as a substitute for chocolate. By using carob instead of chocolate, calories and fat can be reduced significantly. Additionally, carob contains a large amount of calcium – about three times as much as milk. This makes it a great chocolate alternative for vegans, offering them the calcium intake needed for a healthy diet.

Yet another advantage is its high fiber content. Fiber helps us stay full longer after eating, deterring us from eating too much. It helps control blood sugar and has positive effects on cholesterol levels, making it particularly valuable for diabetics. For medicinal purposes, carob powder was used as a diarrhea remedy for generations. People who add it to their diet also report benefits such as weight loss and decreased stomach issues.
For centuries, carob held great importance as a natural and affordable source of sugar. Because of its high levels of calcium, fiber, and sugar as well as affordable price and availability, it was an important source of nutrition during times of war and famine. In countries like Cyprus, Malta, and Spain, countless people owed their lives to the nutritious carob pod during the Spanish Civil War, World War I, and World War II.

Cooperation on a Common Project in Demnate

February 07, 2020   By Leo Guesne HAF Volunteer

An HAF delegation went on February 4th to Demnate, small city in the Azilal province, to the east of Marrakech. The aim of this day trip was to create, in the near future, a tree nursery that could grow up to 100,000 saplings. Demnate, whose population used to be one-third comprised of Jewish people, means “fertile soil” in the Amazigh language. It is then logical for this region known for the quality of its soils to welcome a tree nursery. After several contacts with the Jewish community of the region, a parcel of the old Jewish cemetery – neglected since the 60s – was allocated for the tree nursery. Just a few meters above a river, the old cemetery, demarcated with a stone wall and cactus further down, is home to very few graves in unkept condition. During this visit, HAF members and HAF president Dr. Yossef Ben-Meir, met the Jewish delegation composed of descendants from the local Jewish community. Demnate’s Mayor, a representative from the Ministry of the Interior, and inhabitants also took part in the meeting. After some discussion about the condition of the parcel, a consensus was reached for the creation of the nursery, including two greenhouses.

HAF Tree Planting in Tizian

November 01, 2019 By Florence Jordan World Challenge Traveller

Coming from London, this project really showcased the differences between our homes, and the homes and lives of those living in Tizian in the High Atlas Mountains. During our stay, we were introduced to the differences in culture and language in Morocco compared to the United Kingdom. We were told that we would be planting carob trees with the Tizian coimmunity. We were helped to do this by the High Atlas Foundation (HAF), a non-profit organisation who helps villages in Morocco. The current priority of Tizian was income, and so we planted carob trees, which provide an important ingredient for dark chocolate (they can only be harvested after seven years). The reason carob trees were the ones chosen to plant was because there are strict environmental laws in Morocco and only forest trees can be planted above a certain altitude (this was something that we were taught about during our workshop with HAF).

An Argument for Responsible Use of Antibiotics in Morocco

Unlike in the US or the UK, in Morocco it is easy to buy antibiotics over the counter without a doctor’s prescription.

By Farid el Korchi - Feb 16, 2020 Rabat

Five years after the World Health Assembly (WHA) launched “the Global Action Plan on Antimicrobial Resistance,” Morocco must get behind its goals of raising public awareness of antibiotic resistance. The WHA, the decision making body of the WHO, boldly opted for a holistic and sustainable approach to promoting global action against antibiotic resistance. However, by 2017, fewer than 80 countries, all WHO member states, had developed a clear national strategic vision on antimicrobial resistance (AMR). AMR refers to bacteria and viruses that are able to fight antibiotics and other antimicrobials. “As a result, standard treatments become ineffective, infections persist and may spread to others,” the WHO says.

Morocco fortress village hopes to draw 'Game of Thrones' fans


Millions worldwide may have seen the desert fortress in the hit fantasy series "Game of Thrones", but fewer know they can visit the Moroccan village of Ait-Ben-Haddou. The fortified old settlement at the foot of the majestic Atlas mountains enchanted audiences in the HBO series and also served as a dusty backdrop in Ridley Scott's epic swords-and-sandals film "Gladiator". But unlike other famous locations from movie and television history, this UNESCO World Heritage Site has so far missed out on a mass influx of tourism -- something some of its inhabitants are eager to change.
"Several people have told me that they came here to see the filming location of 'Game of Thrones'," said Ahmed Baabouz, a local tour guide. "There is tourism linked to cinema here but frankly we have not developed it to the extent it could
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Morocco Launches New National Programs for Agriculture, Forests

The new 10-year strategies are in line with Morocco’s vision for sustainable development.

By Yahia Hatim - Feb 14, 2020 Rabat

King Mohammed VI has launched a new development strategy for the agricultural sector, called “Green Generation 2020-2030,” and a national strategy for water and forests, dubbed “Forests of Morocco.” The launch ceremony took place on Thursday, February 13, in the province of Chtouka Ait Baha, near Agadir, central Morocco. Crown Prince Moulay Hassan accompanied his father during the ceremony.

Green Generation 2020-2030
The first strategy aims to consolidate the achievements made in the agricultural sector and create new income-generating activities, mainly in favor of young people in rural areas. It also seeks to encourage the emergence of an agricultural middle class and to make the sector a lever of socio-economic development, said the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries, Rural Development, Waters, and Forests, Aziz Akhannouch. The Moroccan agricultural sector aims to reach a new development level based on two main foundations, revealed the minister. The first pillar is the enhancement of the human element and the promotion of a new generation of the agricultural middle class, between 350,000 and 400,000 households, and young entrepreneurs, through the mobilization of one million hectares of collective lands and the creation of 350,000 jobs, he said.

Struggling Morocco oasis risks becoming mirage

Friday, 14 Feb 2020 SKOURA (Morocco), Feb 14

Dead palm trees lie on dry, yellowish earth near an abandoned adobe house in Morocco’s arid southeast, as drought threatens ancient oases.
“I grew up in this oasis and I have seen it shrink,” says 53-year-old Mohamed El Houkari, who lives in Skoura, a rural oasis area of around 40 square kilometres. For centuries, Morocco’s oases have been home to human settlements, agriculture, and important architectural and cultural heritage, thanks also to trans-Saharan trade caravan routes. Long a buffer against desertification, they have gone through cycles of drought in recent decades and are now “threatened with extinction”, Greenpeace has warned, due to the impact of high temperatures.

Casablanca’s 2020 SIEL Book Fair Records Half Million Visitors

The fair boasted exhibits from 6 government ministries, 12 embassies, and 7 universities.

By Susanna Spurgeon - Susanna is an editor at Morocco World News. Feb 17, 2020 Rabat

Casablanca’s 10-day-long International Book and Print Fair, SIEL 2020, wrapped up on Sunday, having counted nearly half a million people in visitors.
At a press conference to report on the statistics of the 2020 SIEL, Minister of Culture El Hassan Abyaba noted that 15 foreign diplomatic delegations attended the fair, reports state-owned media Maghreb Arab Press. The 26th SIEL fair ran from February 6 to 16 and paid special tribute to Mauritania as the event’s guest of honor. Along with Mauritanian officials, representatives from across Africa, Europe, the Americas, and Asia came to the book fair with exhibits from their countries………………………..

SIEL 2020 Awards National Reading Prize to Nine Moroccan Students

Each winner received a set of books, vouchers for books, and certificates in recognition of their efforts and achievements.

By Morgan Hekking - Feb 16, 2020 Rabat

The 26th annual International Publishing and Book Fair (SIEL) in Casablanca awarded its National Reading Prize to nine Moroccan students on Saturday, February 15.  The Reading Network in Morocco, with the support of the Ministry of Culture, awarded the prizes in the primary school category to Fidaa Ouli of Khenifra, and Abir Hazim of Tahla.  Alaa Arno of Tantan and Charaf Din Fouhouhi of Sale received the college-level prizes. ………………..

My Hunt for Accessible Recycling in Morocco

As the Moroccan government and waste facilities buckle down on improving waste management in the country, recycling remains a major issue.

By Steven Goodwin - Feb 15, 2020 Rabat

Morocco is breathtaking with its beautiful coastlines, luscious greenery, and Saharan landscapes. Moroccan cities and towns come to life inside the traditional medinas, where generations of families have walked upon the same streets for centuries. These Moroccan charms are all at risk with the country’s current recycling waste management systems and plans. During my time in Morocco, I have had such a difficult time finding places to recycle my single use plastics and other recyclable materials. I thought, how is anything recycled if I don’t see recycling bins anywhere? I decided it was time to hunt the city of Rabat for places to recycle my waste.
Before the hunt for recycling bins began, I researched Morocco’s past and current waste management systems. Morocco’s history with waste management is positive, with the ban of plastic bags in 2016 through the Zero Mika initiative, and the World Bank’s plan to restore 80 waste dumps, improve trash collection, and increase recycling by 20% this year. …………

Al Qarawiyyin University in Fez, World’s 1st Institution to Issue Medicine Degree

The university was not only the first in the world, but also the first to issue a degree in medical studies.

By  Safaa Kasraoui  - Safaa Kasraoui is a journalist at Morocco World News. Feb 14, 2020 Rabat

Despite the prevailing challenges in the Moroccan education sector, Moroccans cannot help but be proud of the Al Qarawiyyin University in Fez. The historic university was the first-degree granting educational institution in the world,  according to UNESCO and the Guinness World Records.
The university opened in 859, issued a medical bachelor’s degree in 1207AD to a Moroccan doctor Abdellah Bensaleh El-Koutami, who practiced medicine, pharmacy, and veterinary science.  A committee of three members, including Diae-Eddine Ibn Albaytar, Ahmed Ennabti and Ahmed El-Ichbili, granted the qualification to the doctor.

LGBT Rights in Morocco

Morocco is often considered one of the most liberal Muslim countries."It is forbidden by our God , it is haram " explains Hasnae Krimi, 22, a student in linguistics at the University Mohammed V in Rabat. It also believes that the increase in natural disasters and disease are all warnings calling to reject homosexuality. Most people living in Muslim countries respond the same way: homosexuality is haram, forbidden by God. Under Moroccan law, "committing obscene acts against nature with an individual of the same sex is punishable by six months to three years in prison and a fine ranging from 200 to 1,000 dirhams (Article 489 Code penal Marocaine)

Award Winning Chef to Visit Morocco, Represent UK in Cultural Exchange

The chef said he is “thrilled” to have the opportunity to contribute to the exchange of culture and tradition between Morocco and the UK.

By MacKenzie Galloway - Feb 14, 2020 Rabat

This month, French award-winning chef and baker Richard Bertinet is due to arrive in  Morocco tomorrow, as part of an initiative to promote cultural exchange between the UK, his current country of residence, and Morocco. During his week-long visit to Morocco, the award-winning chef plans to explore the “rich culture and traditions of the Kingdom”.  Bertinet plans to pay visits to local villages around Marrakech, where he will learn about Morocco’s traditional wood-oven baking process. In addition to his culinary immersion in Morocco, Bertinet will teach bread making class at “Education for All” a school for rural Moroccan women. The chef also plans to visit the “Eve Branson Foundation,” a center for Amazigh crafts, to share culinary techniques.

Unemployment Rate in Morocco Highest Among University Graduates

The national unemployment rate was 9.2% in 2019, reaching 12.9% in cities and 3.7% in rural areas.

By Yahia Hatim - Feb 19, 2020 Rabat

The unemployment rate in Morocco increases with the skill level, rising from 3.1% among Moroccans who have no diploma to 15.7% for those with a formal qualification. The rate also climbs from 12.4% among people with a high school diploma to 21.6% for those with a higher education degree.
Morocco’s High Commission for Planning (HCP) revealed the recent numbers in a press release. Unemployment is most frequent among graduates from universities (23.6%) and technical and management schools (23.9%) than it is among people with certificates of vocational training (20.9%).
In terms of age, unemployment affects young people more, reaching 24.9% for Moroccans aged 15 to 24. The unemployment rate stands at only 7% among people aged 25 and over.

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