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Morocco Week in Review 
December 3 2016

Amazigh Civilization: A Lesson in How to Treat Women

By El Houssaine Naaim - February 2, 2015 Marrakech

In contrast to many other cultures and societies in the world, Amazigh women hold a high status in traditional Amazigh society in Morocco. Historically, women have been accorded varying levels of respect in different historical periods and different cultures and religions. In the pre-Islamic world, for example, women were considered second class human beings, symbols of shame and stigma, and female babies were often buried alive.

In the western world, women were considered to be witches, as portrayed by popular sayings such as “Women are closer to the devil than to holy water.” In some Asian societies, women have been considered a symbol of bad luck in some Asian societies. As one Korean saying goes, “If you don’t beat your woman for three days, she becomes a fox.”

In contrast to these societies and cultures, in Amazigh society women have been considered one of the most important members in the North African countries. Women have played outstanding leadership roles including military leaders, spiritual mothers, and even more significantly as one of the Amazigh gods. Women in the parts of North Africa originally inhabited by Amazigh people (Berbers) were called “Tamghart” which is equivalent to the word “president” in English. The brother and sister concepts literally belong to the mother and not to the father. For example, Amazigh people say Ot-Mma (for Sister) or Og-Mma (for Brother) meaning she belongs to my mom or he belongs to my mom respectively.

Throughout history, women were always responsible for the management of economic, social, cultural, or even religious matters and were a source of life and prosperity. Women were never accorded a low status in Amazigh society. A woman’s status in Amazigh society can be noticeably seen in many roles that women have played. Three examples of Amazigh women are illustrative of the status of women in Amazigh history:  Tanit, Dihya, and Tin-Hinan. In contrast to many societies in the world, women were venerated not just as ordinary human beings, but also as goddesses.  Amazigh people in Carthage, now Tunisia, around 400 BC worshipped a woman, named Tanit. She was considered the goddess of prosperity, fertility, love, and the moon.

Historians note that the Amazigh military practiced certain rituals in honor of her. They believe that the name of present day Tunisia and the Greek historic city Athens were named after her.
Tanit is evident in Amazigh culture and legends through antiques, statues, amulets, monuments, mosaics, as well as Amazigh ornaments. The famous symbol that refers to Tanit is a triangle (sometimes trapezoid) topped with a circle separating the two forms with a horizontal line. The triangle depicted the goddess as a very simple woman.

Tin-Hinan or Tamnugalt as she is called by the native Amazigh in Azawad and surrounding regions (Mali, Nigeria, Libya and Algeria) means in Tamazight “she of the tents” and “president”  She was considered the spiritual mother of the Touareg tribes. Thus, the name Tin-Hinan is interpreted as “mother of the tribe” or “queen of the camp.” Tin-hinan played a great role in protecting her tribes as she was always considered the symbol of social, political, and spiritual stability of Touareg tribes.Additionally, according to some historians Tin-Hinan was believed to have come from the Tafilalt oasis in the Atlas Mountains in an area of modern Morocco accompanied by a maidservant named Takamat. The pair were searching for an adequate place to settle down where there was water and safety. The body of the queen Tin-Hinan is currently in the Bardo Museum in Algiers.

Besides the goddess Tanit and the spiritual mother Tin-hinan, Amazigh people were led by female military leaders in the 7th century in Numidia which is present day Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, and Libya. The military leader who marked the history of the Amazigh in North Africa was Dihiya, or Damya or Tihiya, different versions which literally mean “beautiful.”  She lived in 585 /712 AD.  She led several battles against the Romans and Arabs during the 7th century. The historian Al Morakochi Ibn Idhari said about her that “All those who lived in the Africa of Romans (at that time) were afraid of her, as all Amazigh people were obedient to her.” Dihya had defeated the invaders of North Africa on many occasions including the Romans, the Byzantines, and the Arabs. The last battle that she led occurred between her and the Arab leader Hassan ben Nouman who was first defeated and withdrew from the battle in 693 AD. She was called “Kahina” by Arabs as she was accused of sorcery.
Afterward, Tihya did not punish or kill the captives of Hassan ben Nouman’s soldiers who were about the age of 80. Instead, she released them and in one case even adopted a prisoner who he was kind with good manners which resembled the nature of the Amazigh people.

The historian Ibnu Al-hakam said, in his book “Kitab Futuh Misr wa Alamghreb” at page 228, that “Dihya treated her captives well, and released them, except for a man from Bani Abbas, named Khalid Benu Yazid, whom she adopted. Dihya defended her region by adopting the policy of “Burned Land,” that is to say, she burnt all seductive things that Arabs ran after and kept only agricultural fields and pastures. Dihya said that “The Arabs want our country for gold, silver, and metal, but for us, farms and pastures are enough. We have no solution but destroying the land of Africa (North Africa), so that Arabs would despair and lose hope and leave forever.” – Ibn Idhari P 35-36“[Dihya, the Amazigh knight who marked the history unlike any other woman, she rode horses and sought among the folk from the Aures to Tripoli, taking arms to defend her ancestral land.” – Ibn Khaldun book lessons Part VII, p. 11. Dihya was buried in Khenchela, a city in modern Algeria.

Tanit, Tin-hanan, and Dihya are only a few examples of Amazigh women who brought pride to Amazigh society and contributed to its civilization, a fact unfortunately neglected by official institutions in North African countries. Women have always been an important member in Amazigh families and societies at large. Thus, there are still tribes which pay tribute to Amazigh female saints who are called “lella,” a term used to venerate and honor people with a high reputation.
Edited by Elisabeth Myers
Kitab Futuh Messr W’ Alamghreb
Kitab al-bayan al-mughrib fi akhbar muluk al-andalus wa’l-maghrib ” Histoire de l’Afrique du Nord et de l’Espagne intitulée Kitab al bayan al mugrib”

New vistas for students: Sidi Mohamed Ben Abdellah University, Fez, Morocco

Dr. Yossef Ben-Meir, Marrakesh
Morocco, in the eyes of many people, is the place where anything is possible.  Through a range of policies and actual programs, the Kingdom seeks sustainable human development and decentralization, achieved through participatory democratic methods.  Civil organizations are capable of strengthening participatory democracy and creating federations for sustainable development owing to the existence of Moroccan frameworks that encourage this process.

To achieve scale, the model of the  High Atlas Foundation (HAF) - a profit / non-profit hybrid - is to invest strategically in training, seeds and infrastructure, thus enabling local cooperatives engaged in organic agriculture to generate further revenue from this and carbon offsets to finance their own human development projects.

Enabling students since 2008

While other vital factors include finance and effective facilitation of participatory meetings, university students constitute a particular group within society that can help catalyze community action and facilitate the planning of their own sustainable projects.  They are in a perfect position to gain capacities, perform a management functions within development projects, create jobs and empower themselves and others.

Since 2008, HAF has been managing experiential training programs at Moroccan universities to provide students with that life-changing opportunity.  Thanks to the National Endowment for Democracy and the Middle East Partnership Initiative, the HAF training Center in Mohammedia with the Faculty of Law, Economics, and Social Science helped create a successful basis for expansion.  Programs for students are currently scheduled to take place at locations across the Kingdom including SUP MTI in Beni Mellal and the Center for Human and Social Studies and Research in Oujda.

As part of this mission, in October I experienced a day I’ll always remember, visiting Sidi Mohamed Ben Abdellah University (USMBA), in Fez.  I greatly enjoyed speaking with the inspiring people who study and work there and am scheduled to return on November 22nd to talk with students about creating development initiatives in Morocco.

The university has 100,000 students, about three percent of whom are international. Its president, Professor Omar Assobhei, and his team are at the helm of a community determined to advance sustainable human development activity. Mostafa Mouslih is president of Volunteer Experts for Development, a non-profit organization that helps build the University’s programs promoting sustainability.  USMBA incubates start-ups and, allied to this, possesses a state-of-the-art, well-utilized research medical lab for genetic analysis. 

A year ago this month HAF and the university entered into partnership to create the Center for Sustainable Development and Innovation.  Its purpose is to promote student and community engagement, acting as a Moroccan and international hub for participatory action and analysis, community consensus, implementation and evaluation. 

The circumstances in which the partnership agreement was signed with presidents Assobhei and Mouslih were as memorable as my visit that just took place. We set aside a moment during a reception held at the residence of the United States Ambassador to the Kingdom of Morocco, Dwight Bush Sr., in the presence of Mr. André Azoulay, advisor to the King of Morocco.  The event itself celebrated House of Life - an interfaith tree nursery and integrated agricultural project of HAF (as well as a commitment-to-action of the Clinton Global Initiative).  Launching an endeavor - on this occasion with USMBA - amidst a of moment unity and hope in another context hopefully set things on the best possible footing and serve as a point to consider when planning future significant organizational events
An ongoing success story

During our first year partnering with USMBA, HAF’s Mouhssine Tadlaoui-Cherki led a very well-received training program with 66 students (28 women and 38 men) in identifying and organizing for community priority projects.  We assisted workshops for critical analysis of the challenges the students faced in their lives, leading to the creation of a fully-sketched proposed program of community development, including service learning and mentorship for vulnerable youth. 

This November HAF’s Fatima Zahra Laaribi is scheduled to facilitate a four-day empowerment workshop for women of the university utilizing the Imagine approach developed by the Empowerment Institute.  The methodology teaches individuals and groups how to transform their limiting beliefs and behavior patterns that are holding them back from their potential in a range of areas - physical, material and spiritual.  It helps them direct their creative energies toward achieving what they really want in their own life, working on the premise that it takes courage to dream and knowledge to bring those dreams to fruition.

HAF and its community nursery partners have more than 500,000 young trees available for planting this season! 

At COP 22 on November 17th, HAF is holding a Carbon Auction that will expand the support for trees we can plant and monitor with school communities. 

At noon on January 16th, 2017, HAF and partners throughout the country are holding public tree-planting events to which all are invited.  On this day we plan to share 5,000 trees and interactive environmental activities with schoolchildren partnering with the Education Delegation in Ifrane province, where I visited just before coming to Fez.   In Ifrane, HAF is also fully dedicated to the success of a community tree nursery planted on land contributed by Al Akhawayn University.  With USMBA, our goal is to plant 10,000 trees, many of them with children on January 16th. 

Morocco’s human development model, driven by participation, needs to succeed for itself, and in addition inspire the MENA region and world community.  It stands to reason, then, that it is vital to create and fund university programs which build the needed capabilities of students and the public for local planning and management of development.  Such programs harness empowerment as profoundly for the students as they do for the communities with whom they learn, research and act to create change.  I am reminded from my visits that there is nothing like being present with partners, focusing with them to plan steps to realize their dreams of sustainable development, which are fully achievable. HAF offers fantastic volunteer opportunities in Fez, Oujda, Mohammedia, and Beni Mellal.  Could you teach matters of sustainable development in classes at the universities of English as a second language, and at the same time coordinate HAF programs? Professional fulfillment awaits!
Please feel free to contact me: 
Dr. Yossef Ben-Meir, a sociologist, is president of the High Atlas Foundation, a Moroccan-U.S. nonprofit organization dedicated to participatory development in Morocco

Morocco to Expand English Language in Moroccan Schools.

By Morocco World News - November 24, 2016 By Soumaya El Filali Rabat

Minister of Education and Vocational Training in Morocco, Rachid Belmokhtar, declared in a speech on Monday during the tenth session of the Assembly for “Azziman Council,” that the Ministry has taken serious procedures to expand and improve the use of the English language among students in the Moroccan Kingdom. During the speech, Belmokhtar revealed that, in response and accordance with the reform project called for by King Mohammed VI, the Ministry of Education has adopted new approaches and methods to expand the teaching of the English language in Morocco.
The aim of this initiative is to improve the level of pupils in the country’s newly adopted second foreign language of English.

Belmokhtar continued saying, “We’ve tried to encourage the creation of English clubs in all high-schools to encourage students to be able to speak it,” adding that this step has achieved great success, as reflected in the students’ performance in the language. The Minister also proudly pointed out the “good” level of English exhibited by students who participated during COP22 in Marrakech.
The critical success of the expansion and improvement of the use of the English language in the country is indisputable as Morocco has recently ranked first in the MENA region for English proficiency, even managing to outrank countries that list English as their official second language.

The growth of the English language cannot be attributed to the Ministry’s initiatives alone, as Moroccans themselves have shown great interest in learning what is now considered most influential language in the world, knowing that it can open doors to new experiences and better job opportunities

Proposition to Introduce Tuition Fees in Public Schools Opposed in Supreme Council of Education.

By Zainab Calcuttawala - November 25, 2016 Rabat

A proposition to have Moroccan families contribute to the finance of public education costs stirred opposition in the Supreme Council of Education, Training and Scientific Research. The council, headed by Omar Azziman, met on Monday and Tuesday at its new headquarters in Rabat to discuss the framework laws of the national education system, as requested by Head of Government Abdelilah Benkirane.

According to sources from inside the meetings, members proposed an additional source of systematic financing for public schools through the imposition of tuition fees for Moroccan families. The suggestion caused tense debate within the council, though this has not been the case when similar measures have been proposed in the past. The most prominent opposition voices came from the educational unions represented in the council, including Allal Belarbi, from the National Association for the Education of the Democratic Confederation of Labor and the Ma al-Einein, a representative from the National Association for Educational Employees, which is affiliated with the National Union of Moroccan Workers.

The ruling Justice and Development Party’s (PJD) educational reform agenda for 2015-2030 said it sought to reform the council, which oversees the kingdom’s multilevel education systems, in abidance to directives from King Mohammed VI and the 2011 constitution. The new strategy aims to create workers that match the skills currently in demand in the kingdom’s economy as it develops rapidly.
Young Moroccans – especially young women – have been facing unrelentingly high unemployment rates, causing widespread economic distress in urban areas. In 2016, an unproductive agricultural season caused by virtually absent rainfall affected employment and profits in rural areas. Farming provides 40 percent of jobs in Morocco’s workforce.

Trump Election: Why Morocco Should Be Optimistic But Cautious

By Samir Bennis - November 14, 2016 , 2:18 pm New York

The election of American billionaire Donald Trump came as surprise for American and foreign observers. As in other countries, Moroccans have followed the election with great interest because any change in White House leadership may bring a change to US foreign policy toward Morocco. After Trump’s election, Moroccans wonder to what extent his presidency will have a negative or a positive impact on the relations between Washington and Rabat. Considering Trump’s rhetoric during the electoral campaign, in which he mentioned Morocco twice in a negative way, many fear that this rhetoric heralds an unfriendly policy of the President-elect towards Morocco.

However, one can argue that the foreign policy he will adopt will not reflect the rhetoric he used during the electoral campaign. There is a big difference between the rhetoric a candidate uses during an electoral campaign and the decision he makes once he reaches power. The experience in most countries has shown that, once elected, political leaders tend to accommodate their personal convictions and positions with the deep-seated interests of their countries.

Cards that play in favor of Morocco
Trump will arguably be part of a complex political system in which foreign-policy decisions are not made on a whim, but based on their compatibility with the general orientations of US foreign policy. Despite different American presidents, they usually adopt a foreign policy that is, for the most part, the continuation of the foreign policy adopted by their predecessors. In the case of relations between Morocco and the United States, there are two factors that may play in favor of Rabat:

The first is that Morocco is a strategic ally of the United States in the Middle East and North Africa region. In addition to the fact that Morocco is one of America’s oldest political partners in the Arab world, its position on many international issues does not conflict with the general orientations of US foreign policy, especially regarding security and the fight against terrorism and extremism. Considering the importance of combatting terrorism in the agenda of the upcoming US administration, Morocco may play a pivotal role in the US policy to fight terrorism.

Perhaps what will play in favor of Morocco is the experience and effectiveness of its security and intelligence services in the fight against terrorism. Morocco will likely play a role in information sharing with US intelligence agencies. Perhaps more importantly, Morocco plays a leading role it plays in the fight against terrorism by spreading the tolerant values of Islam through the formation of imams in several African and European countries. These factors add to the fact that Morocco is among the few countries that have a free trade agreement with the US, in addition to being considered among its non-NATO major allies.

Morocco’s close ties with the Republican Party
The second factor that will play in favor of Morocco is that Trump belongs to the Republican Party, though he is not a conventional Republican. Whenever there has been a Republican President, it has a positive impact on the relations between Morocco and the United States. Morocco has managed to build bridges of communication and trust with the GOP since the Cold War. This has often led the United States to take positions that support Morocco’s stance on the Western Sahara.

This has been the case since the 1970s. Morocco succeeded in organizing the Green March in November 1975 thanks to the support of then US President Gerald Ford. One must recall the role played by the then Secretary of State Henry Kissinger to prevent the Security Council from adopting any resolution against Morocco. This friendly policy continued during the two terms of former President Ronald Reagan between 1981 and 1989.

While President Carter decided to tone down American support for the Moroccan position and link the sale of arms to Morocco to its willingness to find a solution to the conflict President Reagan decided to adopt the same policy adopted by President Gerald Ford. Moreover, as stated by the American writer Stephen Zunes in his book Western Sahara: War, Nationalism and Conflict Resolution, during the war between Morocco and the Polisario, the US Department of Defense provided logistical and intelligence support to enable Morocco to monitor the movements of the Polisario in addition to training the Moroccan air force. The same level of relations between Morocco and the Republican Party has continued through the terms of Presidents George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush.
For example, during George W. Bush’s administration former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice lobbied for the adoption of resolution 1754 in April 2007, which is the basis for the UN-led process to reach a political solution to the conflict. Moreover, during the discussion of the Security Council in October 2007, Rice put pressure on the Polisario and attempted to submit a draft resolution that considered the Moroccan proposal as the sole basis for negotiations.

However, this project did not come into existence because of opposition from Russia, Spain, and the United Kingdom. In March 2007, Rice adopted a three-step plan to support the Moroccan position. The first step was to urge Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to mention in its annual report that the Moroccan plan was the only basis for negotiations. The second step consisted in urging Member States to issue statements in support of the Moroccan proposal. The third step was to invite Morocco and the Polisario to Washington to start direct negotiations.

However, Rice’s attempts failed, as the Secretary General’s report did not include such a reference for fear of being accused by the Non-Aligned Movement of favoring Morocco. In addition, France abstained from providing clear support for the Moroccan plan as the sole basis for negotiations. According to the former US ambassador in Paris, Craig Staepleton, then French president Nicolas Sarkozy was subjected to the pressure from the Algerian lobby within the French administration, at a time when he needed Algeria to support his initiative for launching the Union for the Mediterranean.

Despite the rhetoric adopted by Trump during the electoral campaign, the reality of power will push him to address internal and external issues with pragmatism. While he lacks experience in terms of foreign policy, he will rely on experts who have great experience in designing US foreign policy. Based on the traditional relationship between Morocco and Republican Party, it is likely that the latter will follow the same approach adopted by former Republican presidents over the past forty years towards Morocco.

The need not to proceed with caution
However, Moroccans should not rush to express excessive optimism. They should rather wait until the president-elect takes office and chooses the team that is going to work with him and makes his first decisions regarding foreign policy to know where he stands with regard to Morocco.

Even though experience shows that Morocco has had stronger ties with the Republican Party than with the Democratic Party, there are some influential names in the GOP that do not necessarily hold positions in favor of Morocco. John Bolton, former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, and Newt Gingrich, former Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives are among the names Trump is considering for Secretary of State.  While we do not know anything about Gingrich’s positions on Morocco, Bolton, who knows the Western Sahara conflict since he worked in the team of James Baker, the former Personal Envoy of the Secretary-General, or when he was U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, has taken positions that are not in favor of Morocco.

Mr. Bolton is known for his lack of faith in the usefulness of the United Nations to bring solutions to the conflicts on its agenda, as well as his support for organizing the referendum in Western Sahara as a means to put an end to the “burden posed by MINURSO on the United Nations’ budget and its Member States.”

When Bolton was ambassador to the United Nations between 2005 and 2006, he was among the few officials in the US administration who called on Morocco to abide by the 1991 settlement plan and organize the referendum. He also insisted on more than one occasion that MINURSO has failed in its mission to organize a referendum and that the United Nations should end its mission. In the event Mr. Bolton is appointed as Secretary of State or National Security Adviser, there will be two scenarios: either he would continue to stress the need to organize the referendum and push Morocco to comply with its obligations, or he would call for an end to the MINURSO mission after its failure to organize the referendum.

The second scenario would be in favor of Morocco, which, after submitting the autonomy plan in 2007, believes that a referendum is no longer an option, and that the main task of MINURSO should be to monitor the ceasefire. In order to see the second scenario materialize, Moroccan officials should work on reviving the same momentum that former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice tried to give to the Moroccan autonomy plan.

That being said, Moroccans should not forget the great importance that the Republican Party, especially those in Texas, give to the need of enabling the United States to obtain new sources of oil and gas. This may play in favor of Algeria, whose President was quick to congratulate the President Trump on his win.

Therefore, Moroccan officials should be prepared for all scenarios and intensify their efforts to inform and educate Trump’s close aids and advisers about the Moroccan position and the efforts Morocco has made over the past nine years to reach a political solution to the conflict, as well as Morocco’s  pivotal role  in the US strategy to fight terrorism and extremism.
Samir Bennis is the co-founder of and editor-in-chief of Morocco World News. You can follow him on Twitter @SamirBennis

Olive business roots young farmers in drying rural Morocco

By Megan Rowling Lifestyle | Thu Nov 24, 2016 SIDI BADHAJ, Morocco (Thomson Reuters Foundation)

Standing amid rows of healthy fava bean plants, El Badaoui Abdelatif explains how his team of young technicians has helped farmers in rural Sidi Badhaj, at the foot of the Atlas Mountains, grow more olives - and earn more money - despite a drying climate. Pruning, the use of electronic equipment and more precise irrigation have increased yields from 20 kg (44 lb) per tree to 100 kg or more. And the quality of the oil from the olives has improved because farmers take them for pressing within 24 hours of harvest rather than storing them for a month or two, as in the past.

But a boost to the income of local farmers - 90 percent of whom have adopted the new techniques - isn't the only benefit. The work performed by Abdelatif's team of seven men and three women, replicated in other municipalities of Al Haouz province, south of the city of Marrakesh, means fewer young people are migrating to urban areas in search of work. "I thought about leaving for the city too," said the 30-year-old. "But with all the training and equipment we have received, the situation is more stable for young people here, our quality of life is better, and I don't think about going anymore."

The services of his team - which advises on tree health, helps with the harvest, and lends out modern equipment such as battery-powered pruning shears and vibrating tree rakes to pick olives - are in high demand among local farmers, he added. Khalid Batrah, 42, is one of the farmers participating in the project to develop agricultural value chains, backed by the Moroccan government and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), a U.N. agency that supports rural people.

Thanks to a drip irrigation system, which delivers water directly to the plants' roots, Batrah has branched out into melon, pea and bean production on his 10-hectare (24.7-acre) olive farm, roughly tripling his revenues. Putting in drip irrigation - with the support of a government subsidy - improved his harvests in only a year, he said. He now employs three permanent workers and as many as 100 people during the olive harvest. He has recently applied to a commercial bank for credit to install solar panels to power a water pump. All these efforts, taking place across some 9,600 farms in the province, are aimed at helping farmers in Morocco's arid regions improve their olive, apple and mutton production, and cope better with climate change.

Models forecast a decrease in annual rainfall of between 15 and 52 percent in the North African country as temperatures rise this century, according to IFAD. But Batrah believes his farm in Sidi Badhaj is suffering less than others from the decline in rainfall already being felt in the area. "We now have a micro-climate here," he said. "It is more gentle, thanks to the greenery we have created."
Chakib Nemmaoui, IFAD's Morocco program officer, said the five-year value-chain project, which began in 2013, has enabled farmers to increase yields, commercialize their crops and access markets, while adapting to climate change. "They have their own approach to adaptation, but we try to develop and improve the way they are doing it," he said.

Higher up in the Atlas Mountains, another aim of the project is to protect the steep slopes from erosion, which deposits sediment in rivers, silting up the North African country's reservoirs and shrinking water availability. In the rural community of Amghras, nearly 1,000 meters (3,281 ft) above sea level, the gullies and ravines carved into the mountainside show how easily the red earth can be washed away.

But here some 435 hectares of previously bare slopes have been planted with olive trees to try and curb the problem. The trees stabilize the soil, suck planet-warming carbon dioxide from the air and provide a cash crop for local people, according to IFAD technical expert Jacopo Monzini. "Climate problems come from bad management of natural resources," he said, noting that deforestation of mountain slopes worsens erosion. "So we are investing to re-establish key ecosystems."

Ait Bella Omar, president of the Amghras civic forum, said local people used to survive only from rearing sheep and cattle before the mountain terraces were planted with olive trees. Now they have an extra source of income, he said - though profits took a hit last year when it was drier than usual. "Thirty years ago, we had enough rain and it was more evenly distributed," he said. "The soil had more vegetation cover and we didn't have these ravines."

Today, the olive trees help prevent rainwater running straight off the land into the river below, a key both to preventing erosion and preserving water in an area with no form of irrigation. Tahra Ait Ben Azzou, a 60-year-old livestock keeper and local women's co-operative member, said replanting the slopes and modernizing olive-oil production had helped stem the exodus of young people looking for jobs in cities. "Now they can stay behind and work on the land," she said, as her three sons have done.

A little further along the mountain road, olives from the slopes of Amghras are crushed into a prize-winning oil, which has a fiery kick. At the pristine processing plant of the Aguersouak co-operative, uniting 70 olive growers, a modern pressing machine, funded by IFAD, produces between 140 and 200 litres of oil per day. The growers keep some for themselves, and sell the rest in Marrakesh, 70 kilometers to the north, and beyond.

The press, which they received in 2012 along with a laboratory and training, has helped the co-operative produce good-quality oil that has received certification and sells for a higher price, said its president. The by-products of the process are used for animal feed, fertiliser and fuel. Local women also have their own olive pressing equipment, as well as a honey business and livestock.
"Our situation has improved a lot compared with a few years ago," said Najia Ghouat of the 26-strong Zawia women's co-operative. "We can be independent of our husbands, and we also contribute to household expenses."

When Fatima Idhousseine's 11-year-old daughter needs a school book, she can now ask her mother to buy it, said the co-operative member proudly. "This co-operative has opened our eyes to a new world of possibilities for us and for our children," Idhousseine said. She now hopes her daughter will go to university.
(Reporting by Megan Rowling @meganrowling; editing by Laurie Goering. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights and climate change. Visit

Princess Lalla Salma of Morocco launches campaign for breast cancer awareness

Brittani Barger Europe Editor lbouy via Wikimedia Commons International royals 24th November 2016

Princess Lalla Salma of Morocco has launched a breast cancer awareness campaign on Tuesday which will focus on breast cancer screening. The campaign this year aims to encourage women over 40-years-old to get tested for cancer. It runs from 22 November through 11 December. The goal is to reach one million women whose ages range from 40 to 69. Princess Lalla Salma, the wife of Moroccan King Mohammed VI, is the chairwoman of the Lalla Salma Foundation for Cancer Prevention and Treatment.

According to The Moroccan World News, the Lalla Salma Foundation “aims to generalise the screening and reassure women by showing that there are concrete solutions for patients.” Also, on Tuesday, Her Royal Highness inaugurated a centre for the early detection of breast and cervical cancer. This was done on the occasion of the national day against cancer. There was a partnership between the Lalla Salma Foundation, the Ministry of Health, and a local philanthropist to help build this new centre and equipment. This new centre will serve as an extension of the early detection programme for breast and cervical cancer in the Fez-Meknes region of Morocco. The Moroccan World News also reported that this new programme has a required budget of 3.5 million dirhams (roughly £278,120). The new building constructed will provide 6,000 consultations for the early detection of the cancers.

The Princess Consort of Morocco has attended presentations of data on the campaign for early detection of cancer in the Fes-Meknès region in Morocco, the national action plan of the awareness and early detection campaign, and listened to officials in the health field give presentations on the regional plan of oncology care.

Princess Lalla Salma married King Mohammed in 2001, and they have two children: 13-year-old Moulay Hassan, Crown Prince of Morocco and nine-year-old Princess Lalla Khadija. Princess Lalla Salma is the first wife of a Moroccan monarch to be given a title and publicly acknowledged.

Making the most of Precious Water in Morocco.

Rain, or a lack of it can plague farmers for decades when weather patterns shift, but new rural development initiatives are seeking to provide farmers with knowledge to resist the advancing effects of climate change. Farms in the province of Al Haouz, near Marrakech, have benefited from Moroccan government grants to develop subterranean drip irrigation systems that reduce the amount of water required for plants. The International Fund for Agricultural Development, (IFAD), provides technical support and helps to teach farmers how to increase and diversify their products in a sustainable way.

Abdeslam Batrah has been working these lands since 1987. “We have gone through hard times. During those hard times we used water from the Saquia river and it was a difficult process because it was time consuming, it didn’t yield much water and it was expensive. Now, since the well was drilled, we have started benefiting more. Because of the olives, we’ve been able to have a source of income. And because of the fava beans and green peas, we’ve been able to live off of them as well. But in 2000 and before, times were very difficult and the droughts had a negative impact on things,” he says.

In areas like these the government has teamed up with international organizations to strengthen communities’ resilience to climate change by also protecting soils from erosion. Where torrential rainfall has torn deep ravines into the landscape, destroying vegetation and sending sediment down into the valley, mountain terracing has been planted with thousands of trees.

Abdeslem El Fouzi is an agricultural engineer from the government who worked on the project. “It’s important because there is lots of rainfall, there is torrential rain, and there is a loss of soil. So to keep and stabilize the soil we used fruit trees. The restoration you see here is a joint action between agricultural development and soil conservation activities, through these terraced fields and fruit trees,” he says.

With more than 60% of the Moroccan population now living in urban areas, another challenge has been to provide incentives to stem the flow of people towards urban centres. The IFAD has been working to teach farmers how to create cooperatives to better market their products. In this olive oil cooperative, farmers manufacture their own olive oil and other by-products such as soap. The cooperative also produces honey and meat.

New jobs have been created. For rural women, the benefits are huge. “When new agriculture was introduced into the region with the introduction of new technological tools, it has made things easier in terms of the production of olive oil. It has improved the way we extract the oil and it sells well in the market. And rural women have benefited, she now has her own source of income. She doesn’t wait for her husband to give her anything, and thankfully for these efforts – olive oil, honey, meat, soap – now women don’t have to rely on their husbands to buy medicine for their children for example or to pay for their schooling. She has money in her pocket,” says the President of the Female Agricultural Co-Operative Najia El-Ghouet.

Almost 200 nations at two weeks of talks on climate change in Marrakesh, (COP22- ) agreed a statement last Thursday that the fight against climate change was an “urgent duty“ and “irreversible”.
The Paris Agreement has been ratified by 111 nations so far.

Morocco: green for the rich, grey for the poor

Nadir Bouhmouch 21 November 2016

With COP22 taking place in Morocco, is the kingdom greenwashing its image? And can there be climate justice without social justice? The Moroccan propaganda machine has recently adopted an environmental narrative to polish its image, both domestically and internationally. But how does this narrative look like from the perspective of a fish vendor murdered in the compactor of a garbage truck in Al-Hoceima? Or from the eyes of an ecological prisoner sitting in a prison in Errachidia? Or from underneath the mud and bamboo ceiling of a peasant’s house, crumbling underneath the claws of a bulldozer in Imenchimen where a hydroelectric dam is being built?

With the UN Climate Change Conference (COP22) currently coming to a close in Marrakech and the January 2016 opening of Noor (Morocco’s magnanimous solar energy project) the presses are shooting out one article after the other - touting Morocco as a role model for its environmental and renewable energy approach. They are right in a way, it is a role model, but only for capitalists who want to disguise their greed with an environmentally-friendly mask. Let me explain further: the Moroccan state’s move towards renewable energy is not driven by environmental benevolence, it is purely driven by corporate interests. Over the last decade, the Societé Nationale d’Investissement (SNI), a royal holding, has increasingly invested in renewable energy through its subsidiary Nareva.

Not coincidentally, the last decade has also seen rampant privatisation of the energy sector. An austerity move which saw an unsuccessful pushback by the public energy union workers of the Office Nationale de l’Electricité et de l’Eau Potable (ONEE) last year. So yes, Morocco is moving towards more renewable energy, but that renewable energy is both private and increasingly expensive for a population that is seeing its food sovereignty and almost all of its social services being pulled from underneath its feet. In other words, Morocco is undergoing a process called “green-grabbing” or, as one writer put it, “triumphal green capitalism.”

At this point, some may retort: “well, at least Morocco is becoming more environmentally-friendly!” To this the reply is: no, it is neither environmentally nor socially-friendly and I will begin with Noor, the crown jewel of Morocco’s greenwashing propaganda to illustrate why. Using concentrated solar power (CSP) panels which require large quantities of water to produce energy, Noor is located in a desert region already suffering from water depletion and the desertification of oases. The land on which Noor was built, formerly a collective tribe land, was practically expropriated.

Two hours east of Noor and 300km South of COP22, near the small village of Imider, the biggest silver mine in Africa also sits on collective tribe lands. The mine is owned by Managem - the mining subsidiary of the SNI and one of the corporate sponsors of COP22. Managem rapaciously devours and pollutes the groundwater Imider’s peasants depend on for their subsistence agriculture and their livelihoods. No wonder the peasants in Imider formed a resistance they call “Movement on Road 96,” which shut down a water pipeline to the mine and established a protest camp, now going on its sixth year. Like their Native American counterparts in Standing Rock, they also have a motto: “aman iman,” which means: water is life/soul. Prioritising the sanctity of corporations instead of the sanctity of life, the Moroccan state sent the military to intervene against this peasant movement in 1996 and then again the military gendarmerie and the auxiliary forces in the last five years. The ecological prisoners of this movement continue to sit in prisons.

Further north, for the sake of building a hydroelectric dam, the state forcibly evicted the peasants of the Imenchimen tribe near Midelt. The state offered 6 to 10 dirhams for land which the peasants estimate to cost 700 dirhams per square meter. Refusing to leave their land, the state sent its Auxiliary forces and bulldozers to destroy their snow-covered homes in the middle of the freezing Middle Atlas winter of 2014. The state claims the dam was necessary to provide water to the fruit, especially apple farms, downstream. Most of those farms belong to big landowners who shamelessly pollute the soil with fertilisers.

The phosphates used to produce those fertilizers used by agro-businesses throughout the globe are extracted primarily from Khouribga by another sponsor of the COP22: the Office Cherifienne des Phosphates (OCP). The phosphates are then processed in Safi, a coastal town which has seen its residents fall to the ground, asphyxiated by the gases released by the OCP processing plant only 2km away from low-income residential areas. Tuberculosis, cancer and lung diseases are common in Safi. The town’s hospitals are unequipped to treat the types of diseases caused by the OCP and medical impact studies have been forbidden by the state. Formerly a thriving fishing port, Safi’s fisheries have practically died out due to the boiling toxic waste that plunges directly off a cliff into the ocean below, in addition to overfishing - a result of a trade deal that gave the European Union’s fishing industry the right to exploit Morocco’s fisheries.

There can never be climate justice without social justice
This brings us back to Mohsin Fikri, the small fish vendor whose swordfish were confiscated by port authorities because Moroccan environmental law does not permit the fishing of swordfish at this time of year. Consequently, the confiscated fish was thrown into a garbage truck by a state official, Mohsin desperately climbed into the garbage truck to retrieve it when the official reportedly told the garbage truck drivers to “crush the hell out of him.” It was in this horrific fashion that Mohsin was killed. Environmental law applied to him, a small fish vendor whose autopsy read: “empty stomach” but not to the glutinous corporations that continue to ravage Morocco’s natural resources.

No matter how much the Moroccan regime invests in greenwashing, for Mohsin, Imider and Safi, Morocco cannot possibly look green. What the elite sitting at the lavish tables of the COP22 fail to understand is that there can never be climate justice without social justice.

Morocco Plans to Generate Electricity from Waste

November 21, 2016

As part of efforts to promote clean energy and reduce climate change, Morocco plans to use solid waste to generate electricity. In this regards, a memorandum of understanding was signed between engineering company Siemens and PEPS, a branch of the Imperium Holding industrial group, specialized in turning solid waste into electricity, in partnership with NST, a French company based in Guadeloupe. The deal, which was signed on the side lines of the recently concluded UN Climate Summit in Marrakech, COP22, is in tune with Morocco’s household waste plan that sets a target of 20 percent recycled and upgraded waste by 2022.

“For Siemens Morocco, this agreement with PEPS and NST is also a way of strengthening our commitment to Moroccan initiatives that can make things happen,” said Siemens Morocco CEO Dirk De Bilde. PEPS is already operating a plant converting waste into energy in the commune of Ras El Aïn, which was officially inaugurated as part of COP22 events on November 8. As part of its nationally determined contributions under the Paris Agreement, Morocco plans to produce 52 percent of its energy needs from renewables.

Protest Suicides and Theatralization of Power in Morocco

By Mohammed Maarouf - November 13, 2016 El Jadida

It is a critical chapter in the history of resistance on the North African political scene when the awakening of the subalterns and their search for social justice breed self-inflicted and sado-masochistic violence. Most of the martyrizing operations and self-sacrifices including the recent suicides that ignited the revolt in Tunisia and Egypt were protest suicides. Andriolo conceptualizes protest suicides as “dying with a message, for a message, and of a message”, as ways to “draw the attention of others to something that, in the suicider’s perception, constitutes a wrong of moral, political, or economic dimension, a wrong that affects the lives of many. If a protest suicide were to reach its ideal goal, attention would initiate action that, ultimately, would right the wrong” (2006, p. 102).

Protest suicides are historically considered as non-verbal dissent. They involve motivation and emotional expression. Often, this type of dissent is chosen by contestants when denied legitimacy of expression or their social demands are ignored. However, when protest suicides occur in a society where avenues of expression are open, we are faced with the enigmatic question why still some protestors choose a so extreme and irrevocable act of suicide to claim their dissent?

Emile Durkheim described protest suicide as “altruistic” because the suicider takes his life to save the community or defend its honour. The Japanese kamikaze or the Palestinian martyr incarnates self-sacrifice because the soldier defends his nation through his death. The act of suicide itself accomplishes the actor’s ultimate intent. These are over-integrated individuals who sacrifice their egoism on the altar of the collective will.

However, protest suicides do not always fulfil political or social reforms. They just remain as fatal extremist protest strategies intended to draw public attention to a cause, to convince the rest of the community of the importance of correcting a wrongdoing; it is a symbolic means to “induce to attitude or action” those who are still alive.

MacSwiney, for instance, used himself as a symbol for Irish resistance when he embarked on a hunger strike for 74 days and died in prison in 1920. Bouazizi was not an activist like this Irish militant or the self-immolated Buddhists in Tibet, or the South Korean farmer Lee Kyung Hae who stabbed himself to death with a Swiss Army knife after conducting farm protests for 30 years.

Akin to the Moroccan protest suicider Muhsin Fikri, Bouazizi is a common man who chooses to end his life to serve as “symbolic inducement” to the Tunisians to erupt against humiliation of the populace and for the cause against political oppression under the slogan of “No to the hog anymore.” Their act is ritually expressive. They convert their dead bodies into words. They invite the population to respond with similar feelings and understand similar meanings; they invite them to share the horror and frustration that may ignite social action.

Suicide protests also intend to reveal the silenced truth about the abuse of power in an existing social order. They act opposite to the dominant means of social control. They take private feelings of suffering individuals and provide them with instrumental power by making them manifest in a legitimate social public act. The hunger striker MacSwiney may be regarded as an icon of the slow wasting death of a society deprived of freedom.

Mouhsine Fikri may stand for an epitome of the humiliated commoner whose body crushed under the compactor of a garbage truck symbolizes the trampled life of Moroccan commoners enduring all kinds of pressure under the merciless economic compactor of capitalism that hardly provides the bottom-of-social-space strata with social security. Being crushed inside a garbage truck is perceived by the social movement of protestors as an annihilation of being. Fikri’s death is an acknowledgment of this fact. The moral tragedy his death conveys is that the commoners do not count. They are the leftovers of the capitalistic system serving as a proletarian labour force to preserve the interests of the Bourgeoisie.

In fact, Fikri’s gesture is not act of despair. It is a fight against humiliation and hogra. It invites Moroccans to purify their world from corruption. It is also a challenge to the socio-political order, drawing attention to guilt and the need for purification.

Purification may be performed by victimizing oneself and the others or by self-mortification. In both cases, the act uses guilt as an inducement for change. The martyr arouses feelings of indignation and anger within social movements as well as the feeling of guilt in his opponents. But to be successful in his role of martyr, the self-sacrificer has to evoke public sympathy and collective alliance for his cause. There must be an opposing social force that casts the government or the regime in power into the role of the villain (see Jorgensen-Earp (1987)).

If there is public ambivalence on such roles, the act of self-sacrifice will end in a misreckoning labelled at best a “foolish act”, especially if there is a cultural mistrust of revolutions as it is now the case after the tragic fall of the popular Arab Spring uprisings. In Bouazizi’s case, for instance, the Tunisian authorities cast themselves in the role of the villain through their wrongful confiscation of his wares and his ill-treatment by agents of the police, representatives of state macro-institutions.

If there is a public sense of strong opposition against the existing political order, self -sacrifice may rally the voice of followers and may give power to the weak to revolt against domination. Suffering thus becomes the power of the helpless. The martyr of hogra is revered. And as Ellman ( 1993) puts it: “It is not those who can inflict the most, but those who can suffer the most who will conquer.”
Let me hasten and explain at this point that the protests that have recently swept Morocco after the death of the fish seller in Houceima are important indicators that the larger structures, if not the whole political regime, is cast in the role of the villain, and that there is a public sense of strong opposition against the Makhzen establishment.

Well, this is not new, especially if we take into consideration the winning political party’s election campaign that launched a propaganda offensive against authoritarianism, with PJD leaders blaming the failure of economic choices on the shadow government that has a firm grip on the keys to executive power in Morocco. How can a political party that contributes in public affairs management insist on inspiring the public with a sense of mistrust in state institutions and attempts like a protest suicider to illicit sympathy and support against its alleged victimization by authoritarianism?

Furthermore, it seems that under the rising capitalistic pressures of living, popular self-flagellation in Moroccan culture is taking a post-maraboutic turn; it is no longer vent out through socially acceptable canalized ritual channels such as trance dances and jinn evictions but is erupting through violent transgressive mediums, sometimes shaking the stability of social structures that maintain political and economic domination—needless to refer here to the revolution in communication technology and social media that has been crucial in shaping the political awareness of the schooled Riff-raff.

Still and all, the question why Fkiri, Mmi Fatiha and El-Kanouni committed protest suicides looms up in mind without answer. Is it begotten from a sheer contaminating craze in the Arab World? Will other protest suicides occur in the future? When do social movements resort to such extreme and questionable means of expression? Does it result from the ongoing restrictions imposed by the Moroccan state apparatuses on institutional avenues of expression, “restricting the work of assemblies and associations, arresting critics, dispersing protests, and allegedly torturing dissidents,” as reports convey? Does the public display of power contribute in suicidal explosions?

In a changing world of communication, how do the Makhzanian liturgies imbued with the symbols and intentions of excessive force deepen the bottom of social space feeling of humiliation and self-annihilation? Has Morocco trespassed into surveillance, panopticism and disciplinarity or is it still enslaved by the dictum: “if you cross the law, you are personally crossing the sovereign, the monarch, and you will be terrorized.”?
To be followed

Marrakech: A vibrant city surrounded by natural beauty

By: Gashegu Muramira November 20, 2016

Morocco is a beautiful country marked by well designed architectural structures. When one mentions Morocco, many remember the Moroccan King Mohammed VI’s historic visit to Rwanda that was significant in many ways. Not only did he become the first monarch of Morocco to visit Rwanda, but his visit saw the signing of a ‘whopping’ 23 bilateral agreements between the two countries covering a wide-range of critical areas.

Others, especially football lovers will tell you about the national team nicknamed the Lions of the Atlas. It’s named after a Mountain Atlas, a snowcapped mountain range in the Maghreb that overlooks a beautiful city of Marrakech. The mountain stretches around 2,500 km (1,600 mi) through Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia.

I had an opportunity to visit this beautiful country. Aboard Royal Air Maroc to cover the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP22), my trip to Morocco began with an 8 hour journey from Jomo Kenyatta International airport in Nairobi to Casablanca Mohammed V International Airport. It is the busiest airport in Morocco with approximately 8 million passengers passing through it each year. It was named after the late Sultan Mohammed V of Morocco. Casablanca Airport has a network of approximately 100 destinations served by more than 30 airlines, Africa being the continent with more connections. Royal Air Maroc, is the national carrier, as well as the country’s largest airline.

With COP22 stickers pasted on the Royal Air Maroc plane in Nairobi, the mood for attending the international climate change summit had been set for all the Marrakech bound passengers. For the first two days before the conference, the city was the destination for high level delegations from all over the world.

After the air travel, we finally arrive at their airport. Our hosts knew very well the class of people they had invited and what they love doing. Capturing moments and writing about them on their return home.

As many other delegates boarded planes to connect to Marrakech, a huge number of journalists were led into comfortable state of the art buses, and with a police escort, drove to Marrakech on a journey of three hours - the same as Kigali – Kagitumba.  The roads are well lit and smooth with no major traffic.  

With a population of over 33.8 million people and an area of 446,550 km2, Morocco’s capital is Rabat, and the largest city is Casablanca. Other than Marrakesh, other cities include Tangier, Tetouan, Salé, Fes, Agadir, Meknes, Oujda, Kenitra, and Nador.

Far from the football rhetoric, Morocco is a beautiful country with a hospitable people. The country is characterized by a rugged mountainous interior and large portions of desert with Atlantic and Mediterranean coastlines.   “We are happy when we receive visitors. You are our African brothers and we love you so much,” said Abdulla Mohammed, a taxi driver in Marrakech. 
In Marrakech, just like other parts of Morocco, French and the Arabic languages are mostly spoken. Also used, are the berber language or Amazigh languages which are a family of similar and closely related languages and dialects indigenous to North Africa in Algeria, and Libya.

At Bab Ighil, the place hosting COP22, huge tents had for weeks been erected to accommodate hundreds of thousands of delegates from all over the world. Perfectly built temporary structures with marching designer colours played host to the climate change conference.

The host country put in place all facilities that truly told of a country that is committed to the fight against climate change. From transport to a clean and green environment, Marrakech showed it had prepared well for the conference. There was no better proof to this than the use of electric cars and buses with zero emissions. And everybody in Marrakech knew about COP22. Used by environment protection associations, two double-decker buses painted with COP22 colours could be seen touring Marrakech to raise awareness about climate change. The buses featured audio-visual equipment and photos on climate change issues. On board, locals and visitors of the city could also attend briefings on environmental themes presented by volunteers. The double-deckers are also meant to highlight the efforts undertaken by Morocco to protect the environment and curb greenhouse gas emissions.
Jemma el Fna square
An evening walk to Jemma el Fna square, creates a totally different atmosphere from the one at Bab Ighil. It’s a ground characterized by people of all sorts. Stalls of lots of fruits could be seen on display while many people, mostly the youth, walk through crowds pulling small monkeys. As part of celebrating COP22, folk groups performed at the square to let visitors discover Moroccan musical traditions. Excited visitors dance to the beat of tambourines, and to the sound of traditional, ancient rhythms, standing out in their brightly coloured outfits, at the same time making echoing sounds with their metal bells.

The Evolution of Cyber Crime in Morocco

By Morocco World News - November 18, 2016 Adam Brown  Rabat

The rise of cyber-crime has become one of the emerging difficulties of a more technologically integrated world. As it becomes easier to access the internet, chances increase for cyber-crime to take place. Morocco World News has recently had the pleasure of interviewing Harish Chib, Vice President of IT for security company Sophos. In our brief discussion, Mr. Chib brought clarity to many of the challenges facing the cyber community and how Sophos is working to combat that threat.

Cyber-crime is a form of malicious activity that utilizes internet and IT infrastructure for purpose of theft and other nefarious activities. Often this is accomplished through the introduction of malware packages, or software with malicious intent, into a system.  Mr. Chib indicates that cyber-crime is not necessarily motivated by financial gain, but can be a, “… More insidious objective, which may include stealing sensitive information, causing disruption in IT infrastructure for the intended victim, inflicting reputational damage to victim etc.”

More recently, cyber-crime has become a tool for political objectives, what Chib calls, “Nation-state cyber-crime campaigns.” This often involves one country using a variety of cyber-crime strategies to directly affect a rival country. Cyber-crime is also becoming much more coordinated and sophisticated, reaching past the traditional methods of phishing and malware-laden files. “For example, when we hear about a cyber-attack on a bank in Africa, then what it means is that the people behind did a thorough research and managed to dig out all important information about possible vulnerabilities and security gaps in the bank’s network and IT infrastructure.” Cyber-criminals are ahead of the curve when it comes to IT security and companies such as Sophos are working to develop synchronized security tools to match the rate of progress found in cyber-crime.

Cyber-crime represents a clear and present threat for all of the African continent, including Morocco. According to Chib, Morocco currently experiences the, “… fastest registration of Internet users, social media participants and email usage for MENA region.” By increasing the number of internet users, cyber-criminals have an, “Expanding attack surface,” through which they can achieve more. Chib is eager to point out that growing reliance on the internet is pushing cyber-crime to alarming levels. In fact, cyber-crime is becoming, “Interlocked with terrorist networks too and providing these adversaries with more sophisticated means of financial crime, data theft, and unauthorized access to sensitive information assets like secret government and business documents, credit cards, banking documents and other mission-critical assets.” The unfortunate fact is that there is no surefire way to ensure complete protection from cyber-attacks. Cyber criminals no longer just attack traditional protections such as firewalls, but are taking advantage of open internet connections to utilize a variety of different tricks.

This increased organization of cyber-criminals has highlighted overly complex and poorly designed IT networks currently employed at most organizations. These systems are simply not designed to combat the rising number of attacks as well as their increased complexity.

“Every day, hundreds of thousands of new malware variants are launched to fuel coordinated, automated and multi-stage cyber-attacks that cleverly make progress without being detected, mostly because security systems fail to work in coordination. Attackers have a massive attacks surface available at their advantage. They can find a weak spot in a network, or they can find an endpoint or a computer with a weak password or unpatched software or they can also drill a hole in a server that lacks layered protection. Today’s cybercrime thrives on a team of uniquely skilled cybercriminals.”
Because of this team based strategy being adopted by cyber-criminals, it has become necessary for systems to adapt and adopt coordinated protection methods. Mr. Chib believes that Sophos has developed a solution to combat this more complex and coordinated wave of threats. Their system provides higher levels of security automation and simplicity.

“We at Sophos have addressed this in a truly revolutionary manner, making it an industry-first. Sophos being a pioneer in automated cybercrime protection believes that complexity is the enemy of effective security. Therefore, we devised a new wave of security innovation that we call synchronized security, which for the first time allows endpoint and network security products to actively and continuously share threat intelligence with each other to more effectively protect against today’s sophisticated threats, in a manageable way.”

Sophos believes that this automated system allows for faster recognition of threats and the automatic isolation of infected devices. Utilizing this system, or others like it, will mean that Moroccan companies and government entities will be better protected with fewer resources and at less expense.

The IT security industry is working rapidly to ensure this protection is available. Sophos, in particular, has multiple projects and divisions offering products for all corporate needs. “At the heart of our solutions is SophosLabs, a 24-hour threat research and intelligence center that we believe is one of the leading institutions of its kind in the world, providing real-time cloud enabled security intelligence that updates our products multiple times each day. Every day SophosLabs analyzes over 1 million suspicious URLs, over 350,000 previously unseen suspicious files and more than 3 million spam messages. Many vendors focus exclusively on the “Global 2000” or the largest enterprises while Sophos focuses on the other 60 million underserved businesses and organizations requiring enterprise-grade security that is simple enough to be deployed by any size organization. With Security Heartbeat, Sophos is enabling organizations of every size to advance their defenses against increasingly coordinated and stealthy attacks and drive a dramatic reduction in the time and resources required to investigate and address security incidents.” Sophos has also recently launched Intercept X, which is another product which works to combat malware and stealth attacks with high efficiency based products. While there will always be more cyber-threats and attacks, companies such as Sophos are hard at work to ensure protection of valuable data both in Morocco and across the globe.

For more information on how to improve your online security habits visit the following websites:

WHO acknowledges eradication of trachoma in Morocco

Published on November 18, 2016

Today, the World Health Organization (WHO) acknowledged the elimination of trachoma as a public health problem in Morocco.  Trachoma is the leading infectious cause of blindness worldwide. Transmitted through contact with eye and nose discharge of infected people, particularly young children, it affects populations in 42 countries, and is responsible for blindness or visual impairment in around 1.9 million people. “This is an impressive public health achievement for Morocco,” said Dr Margaret Chan, WHO Director-General. “It demonstrates how strong political will, education, awareness, surveillance and most importantly community engagement, can work to defeat a debilitating disease.”

In the 1990s, Morocco began to implement the WHO-endorsed SAFE strategy, which contains a comprehensive package of interventions, including surgery for trichiasis – the blinding stage of trachoma, antibiotics to treat infection, facial cleanliness and environmental improvement to limit transmission. Thousands of seriously affected people in the provinces of Errachidia, Figuig, Ouarzazate, Tata and Zagora underwent surgery and the vast majority were treated by health workers with the antibiotic azithromycin, donated through the International Trachoma Initiative.
“Availability of azithromycin spurred control activities and with the involvement of local communities and the mobilization of health professionals we managed to reach almost every individual be it in villages or schools,” said HE Dr El Houssaine Louardi, Minister of Health, Morocco.

To date, 8 countries have reported achieving elimination targets and most countries endemic for trachoma are now accelerating the implementation of the SAFE strategy to achieve their elimination targets supported by the WHO Alliance for the Global Elimination of Trachoma by 2020 (GET2020). In 2015, more than 185 000 people with trichiasis received corrective surgery worldwide, and 56 million were treated with azithromycin.

It is estimated that funding of up to US$ 1 billion is required globally to expand and sustain activities to 2020 in order to eliminate the disease as a public health problem. “Morocco has made a significant contribution to our goal to achieve global elimination of trachoma.” said Dr Ala Alwan, WHO Regional Director for the Eastern Mediterranean. “This success in Morocco gives us hope that similar achievements are possible in our Region to eliminate other neglected tropical diseases.”

Validation of the elimination of trachoma as a public health problem

In 2015, the WHO Strategic and Technical Advisory Group on Neglected Tropical Diseases endorsed standardized processes for confirming and acknowledging success for all neglected tropical diseases targeted for eradication, elimination of transmission, or elimination as a public health problem. The process for diseases targeted for elimination as a public health problem has been defined as “validation”.

What global warming means for Morocco’s nomads

The World Climate Summit 2016 has ended with 45 countries agreeing to switch to renewable energy by 2020. But it remains unclear if this decision comes in time to preserve an endangered lifestyle.
"A sandstorm is one of the most dangerous things that can happen to you" says Mustafa, as he wraps his scarf around his face to protect himself from the sand. "Sometimes they last for hours and you can easily get lost in it".  Mustafa has to cross the desert each week on a motorbike on his way to the small desert town of Merzouga to look for work. A Berber by origin, Mustafa lives with his family who are pastoral nomads in the Sahara Desert in southeast Morocco, close to the Algerian Border. Their livelihood comes through moving with their herd from one place to another. However, in recent years, droughts and rainfall fluctuations have threatened their traditional lifestyle.

Worldwide consequences of climate change
In total, 40 per cent of earth's surface consists of arid and semi-arid regions where livestock farming is the main source of income. These areas support over a billion people worldwide. Over centuries, pastoral nomads have developed a well-balanced system in harmony with the natural environment. They move their herds to wherever the vegetation offers the best grazing at that time. A positive side effect of this mobility has been that parts of the grazing land had time to recover.

It is in this delicate eco-system that the effects of climate change are visible. Rainfall fluctuations and increased droughts have reduced the availability of vegetation for livestock herding. As a result, pastoral nomads worldwide are loosing their livelihood, leading to poverty and famine. These conditions also raise the possibility of violent conflicts between different nomadic groups over access to scare resources, such as grazing land, cattle and drinking water. The WMO has stated that at least half of the extreme weather events in recent years are due to human induced global warming. Those events have damaged food and farming security, affecting more than 60 million people worldwide, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization.

Nomadic lifestyle on a decline in Morocco
What is also happening in Morocco is that nomadic families are increasingly resettling in cities, or else they have at least one family member looking for other sources of income. In Merzourga, many former nomads have resettled in the hope of finding a better life. "It is becoming more and more difficult to live as a nomad in the desert" says Basilm, a Berber and former nomad who, after living for more than 50 years in the desert, now lives in Merzourga. Back at the nomad's tents, Mustafa's family is not yet ready to give up on their lifestyle. As night falls in the Sahara, the children wait for their parents' return. While the mother brings their herd back, Mustafa stays in town for work. If global warming continues at its current rate, it is unclear whether his family will be able to survive for much longer out there.

‘Fog Catchers' in Moroccan Desert Make Water Out of Thin Air.

By Matthew Hunt Nov 19, 2016

For a country that suffers severely from the side effects of climate change and severe drought, locals are sure to be continuously active in finding ways to provide drinking water for villages on the edge of Sahara desert in South West Morocco. Giant nets have been set up in the dry, mountainous areas of South West Morocco to catch moisture from the air in hopes to produce drinking water. Led by a Moroccan NGO, this project has been known to be the largest functioning fog collection in the world. So successful it has been that it was able to provide clean potable water to 500 people in different drought-struck villages in the region. The science behind fog collection revolves around the ability for the fine meshing of the net to condense fog into water, mimicking the process through which needles of pine trees and redwoods function in the event of little rainfall.

According to a report from CNN, fog collection has been developed in the 1980s and has been prevalent in Southern American countries such as Peru and Chile. The idea has been brought to Morocco in mid-2000s and took a total of four years to test its feasibility.

As the project of fog collection may be too risky, enough research must be done to ensure that the project will be able to yield enough capacity to create a significant impact on the lives of the locals. Fortunately, after setting up large nets at about an altitude of 4,000 feet, they were able to collect 6,000 liters of water in a day. The condensed water is then cleared of all impurities before being sent to water lines in villages around Southern Morocco. The area in consideration has been suffering from a rapid decrease in population as people migrate due to the lack of potable water. This new project is giving hopes to lessen the migration of people from the area.

Desert 'fog catchers' make water out of thin air

By Jacopo Prisco, CNNNovember 18, 2016

The technique involves a fine mesh on which tiny fog droplets -- typically 1 to 40 millionths of a meter -- gather and merge until they have enough weight to travel down into a reservoir.
Set in a dry, mountainous area, it's the world's largest functioning fog collection project, spanning 600 square meters, according to Dar Si Hmad, the women-led Moroccan NGO that runs it.
The pilot project now provides clean drinking water to 500 people in five villages, in a region that has been severely hit by climate change-induced droughts.

Four years of tests
Fog harvesting was devised in South America in the 1980s and there are active projects in various countries including Chile, Peru, Ghana, Eritrea, South Africa and California. Efforts to bring it to Morocco started 10 years ago and the project launched in 2015, on World Water Day, after four years of testing. "This period of observation was extremely important, because water projects can't be rushed into a social contract without a long term study, as the risks are too high," Jamila Bargach, director of Dar Si Hmad, told CNN. The German and Moroccan team behind the fog-catching project.

The nets, which are set at an altitude of 1,225 meters (4,000 feet), collect an average of 6,000 liters of water a day, which is first filtered for impurities before traveling through eight kilometers of piping to reach homes in the villages. "The fog is pushed by the winds from the ocean and is trapped by the mountains -- it's stuck here -- so it's easy to empty it of its water," Bargach said of the mountains that are draped in fog for about 140 days a year.

In recognition of its unique contribution to facing the challenges of climate change, the project was awarded the 2016 United Nations "Momentum for Change" award and showcased at the UN's climate change conference, COP22, in Marrakech, Morocco.

Reversing migration
The region, known as Anti Atlas -- from the name of the nearby mountain range -- has become increasingly depopulated in the last decades as inhabitants were forced to migrate due to lack of water. "Those who have stayed are among the poorest, and are mostly women, children and the elderly," said Bargach. "Before we installed the nets, they had to walk three hours a day to go to distant, depleted wells, which is what people still do every day in the region where we don't operate."

If the wells are dry, the only way to get water is to have it delivered by trucks, at the price of 30 to 50 dirhams per ton (about $3 to $5). Within the scheme, each ton of water now costs just 4 dirhams, or about 40 cents, and is available from the tap, at home. "Even though these are poor communities, with people living on less than $2 a day, they pay for their water because they know the money goes into maintenance," said Bargach. Battered by winds that can reach speeds of more than 70 miles per hour, the nets are in need of constant care.

To address the problem, starting next year the current technology -- from a Canadian NGO called FogQuest -- will be upgraded to a newer version called "CloudFisher," developed in Germany, which requires no maintenance and will double the water yield. So far, the nets have had life-changing effects on the local population. Fog nets harvest 6,000 liters of water each day "They told me, 'We were like slaves, and now we're free.' It's been an amazing transformation, and they feel proud as recipients of such a maverick way of getting water," said Bargach.
Over the next two years, the project will expand to eight new villages, adding over 500 new beneficiaries. Dar Si Hmad is also bringing the fog catchers to other regions of southwestern Morocco, at the request of local organizations, providing clean water to a wider network of rural Berber villages that suffer from water stress.

5 things Morocco is doing about Climate Change

November 17, 2016

Morocco knows it will be affected by climate change, it’s just a question of how badly. It is already feeling the effects:  The rate of economic growth fell to 1.5% this year because of a severe drought in 2015. If just one season of poor rain can depress Morocco’s economy by causing bad harvests, what sort of havoc will the greater extremes of climate change wreak as the planet gets hotter?

“Morocco launched the Plan Vert, or green strategy, to cope with the threat of climate change,” said Marie Francoise Marie-Nelly, World Bank Group Country Director for the Maghreb. “It represents a triple win, as it involves both adapting the country to the reality of climate change and taking steps to reduce its impact on its people and environment, all while creating opportunities such as helping farmers adopt climate-smart techniques and increase their productivity, and provide better links to markets for their goods.”

Conserving the water stored naturally in underground aquifers is a case in point. New policies protect this precious natural resource, while making sure there is enough water to go around to meet the needs of agriculture; an industry that is a critical source of employment. According to World Bank Program Leader, Andrea Liverani, Moroccans have long recognized the importance of regulating the amount of water people pump from underground.

But better technology has made this worse. “Now that a pump can go 200 meters down and not just 40, it’s more serious, as this depletes the aquifers,” said Liverani. Stricter regulations are needed to stop it. At the same time, the irrigation network has been improved to make more efficient use of water, with the introduction of modern techniques such as drip irrigation, and to provide farmers with more reliable access to water. The Plan Vert also includes proactive measures to encourage farmers to grow tree crops instead of cereals. The roots of trees help conserve soil by holding it together. The strategy also encourages “direct seeding,” an environmentally friendly method of planting seed directly into the ground without tilling it first, which risks losing the nutrients contained in topsoil.

Liverani said that green policies like this can mean good business, attracting the private sector.
Here are five things Morocco is doing to reap the triple benefits of adapting to climate change, lessening its impact and creating new opportunities:

  1. Morocco aims to generate 52% of its electricity needs from renewable energy by 2030, and is stimulating local manufacturing with a target of sourcing 35% of the second phase of the NOOR concentrated solar plant from local producers.
  2. Morocco has lifted all subsidies on diesel, gasoline and heavy fuel oil to encourage more efficient use of energy and to free up resources to invest in the transition to a green economy.
  3. The Plan Maroc Vert aims to protect the environment as well as the livelihoods of Moroccans. Agriculture accounts for only 15% of its Gross Domestic Product, but farming still employs 40% of its workforce.
  4. Morocco has begun treating its ocean as a natural resource with the same importance as the land, with improved coastal zone management and the development of sustainable aquaculture. Fishing makes up 56% of the country’s agricultural exports.
  5. Morocco is making an effort to conserve its underground aquifers, a natural source of fresh water that, if left clean and undisturbed, replenishes itself. It’s a win for the environment and for current and future generations of Moroccans.

Why Morocco is leading the charge against climate change

By Jacopo Prisco, CNN

One part of that fight is the ability to store water, particularly for agriculture, which uses up as much as 85% of Morocco's supply. The country has about 140 dams with a total storage of 635 billion cubic feet of water.

Morocco's Noor 1 solar plant outside Ouarzazate is among the nation's cutting edge renewable energy projects. When it is completed in 2018 it will produce enough clean energy to power one million homes. In the desert 12.5 miles outside of town, the plant's first stage has been completed. Its parabolic mirrors will play a significant role in contributing towards the nation's target of generating 40 percent of its energy from renewables by 2020.

Morocco is oil scarce, and is utilizing a variety of energy solutions to put the country at the forefront of sustainability -- not just in Africa, but globally. Morocco ranks seventh in the world in the 2016 Climate Change Performance Index, and is the only non-European country in the top 20.

In 2010 a $300 million wind farm was inaugurated near Tangier (pictured). With 165 turbines and a production capacity of 140 megawatts, it has since been superseded by the Tarfaya wind farm -- also in Morocco and the largest in Africa -- which produces 850 megawatt hours. The renewable wind energy sector is bolstering the manufacturing sector. Seventy percent of the spare parts for the turbines at Tarfaya (pictured) are constructed locally.

Making electricity is only a part of a larger strategy," says Said Mouline, director of the National Agency for the Development of Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency. With the country made up of 78 percent desert or dry zones, according to one estimate, water conservation is key. "Making electricity is only a part of a larger strategy," says Said Mouline, director of the National Agency for the Development of Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency. With the country made up of 78 percent desert or dry zones, according to one estimate, water conservation is key.
One part of that fight is the ability to store water, particularly for agriculture, which uses up as much as 85% of Morocco's supply. The country has about 140 dams with a total storage of 635 billion cubic feet of water.

In 2010 a $300 million wind farm was inaugurated near Tangier (pictured). With 165 turbines and a production capacity of 140 megawatts, it has since been superseded by the Tarfaya wind farm -- also in Morocco and the largest in Africa -- which produces 850 megawatt hours.

Marrakech, Morocco (CNN)Renewable energy is taking off in Morocco.
In 2014 the country opened the largest wind farm in Africa, valued at $1.4 billion, in the southwest near the city of Tarfaya. Then, in early 2016, it switched on the first facility of the world's largest concentrated solar plant, Noor-1, on the fringe of the Sahara desert. When completed in 2018, it will power one million homes and make Morocco a solar superpower.
And while the country is still heavily reliant on energy imports (90 percent in 2013, according to the World Bank), it plans to generate 40 percent of its energy from renewables by 2020.
Following this road has lead to Morocco hosting the UN's annual summit on climate change, COP22, in Marrakech. So what lies ahead?

Cutting the energy bill

Read More
Morocco ranks seventh in the world in the 2016 Climate Change Performance Index, and is the only non-European country in the top 20.

It's also one of only five countries to have achieved a "sufficient" rating for its efforts to keep warming below 2°C in the Climate Action Tracker (no country has achieved the "role model" rating as of yet, so "sufficient" is currently the best grade).

How did it get there? "We started with a question: How can we decrease our energy bill?" Said Mouline, director of the National Agency for the Development of Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency, told CNN.

"Morocco is a very energy dependent country. In 2009, that bill amounted to $10 billion." So, in 2011, Morocco altered its constitution to include sustainable development, stopped subsidizing fossil fuels to make renewables more competitive, and started welcoming private investments in the clean energy sector.

Efficiency is key

"This transition has two paths, and renewables are just one. The other is energy efficiency. Both need to be developed at the same time," Mouline said. One key action is reducing waste: the electricity state utility, ONEE, has started a program to replace old incandescent light bulbs in Moroccan households with 10 million compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs), which are far more efficient.
To offset the initial cost -- CFLs are six time more expensive -- the utility allows users to pay for them in installments through the bill, which itself is lowered by the better efficiency.

The United Nations Environment Program estimates that by switching just 40 percent of households, power consumption would drop by 20 percent, cutting 2.74 million tons of CO2 emission by the end of 2021 -- as much as would be created by consuming 308 million gallons of gasoline, according to the EPA Greenhouse Gas Calculator. As part of its efforts for a greener future, Morocco has also started to transition its 15,000 mosques to renewable energy, and in July it banned the production, sale and use of plastic bags, of which it used three billion each year.

A $3.5 billion economy boost

Mouline, who's also a member of the Steering Committee of COP22, says energy efficiency is the cheapest way for countries to meet their targets under the Paris agreement. "The government set some ambitious goals. Fifty two percent of our energy capacity must come from renewables by 2030, and by the same date we must achieve 20 percent better energy efficiency in all sectors: transport, housing, agriculture.

The wind farm in Melloussa, 21 miles from Tangiers in northern Morocco, has 165 turbines, with a production capacity of 140 megawatts. "That means that if our energy consumption doubles by 2030, we want to actually consume 20 percent less than that. We want to stop wasting energy," he said. And the country could run entirely on green energy by 2050, according to a study by Stanford University on the energy roadmap of 139 countries. This would contribute about $3.5 billion to the economy and add over 88,000 permanent jobs, the study predicts.

An example for Africa

At an event held at COP22 promoting solar energy in Africa, Morocco's efforts were used as an example of how Sub-Saharan Africa can capitalize on the highest irradiation rates in the world, even though solar power only makes up approximately 0.5% of energy production in the area. The event highlighted the World Bank and International Finance Corporation's efforts to raise $16 billion for solar, hydro, and geothermal energy projects throughout the continent.

According to Mouline, this transition will be inevitable: "We are switching, all over the world. Last year more money was invested in clean energy than fossil fuels for the first time. Look at how many new jobs renewables, energy storage and electric mobility have created." Morocco's wind farm in Tarfaya, which produces 850MW, has created an new industry in the country, as 70 percent of the spare parts for the turbines are manufactured locally.
"Making electricity is only a part of a larger strategy."

Water security

As a country made up of 78 percent desert or dry zones, according to FAO estimates, Morocco faces special challenges in the fight against climate change. "At the Earth Summit in Rio in 1992, Morocco was one of the first countries to ratify the agreement on biodiversity, desertification and climate change," said Abdelâdim Lhafi, High Commissioner for Water, Forests and the Fight Against Desertification of Morocco.

"Before 1992 and starting in the 1960s there were strong policies about water, and Morocco now has about 140 dams with a total storage of 18 billion cubic meters (635 billion cubic feet), which is crucial for a country that is severely hit by droughts."

Due to increased demand, demographic changes and tourism, some areas of the country now experience water scarcity: "But we've made a lot of progress in the use of water, especially in agriculture which absorbs 85 percent of our supply. That's why we're looking at new technologies for our 1.2 million hectares of irrigated areas, to preserve our food security," Lhafi said. "We've done a lot, but we still have a lot to do in the coming years."

Musings on a month in Morocco

Obviously I’m biased, but I think the University of Glasgow offers the best selective rotation options of the vet schools in the UK. Numerous opportunities exist to go abroad, with a variety of options based on species or type of practice. Jordan spent a month working with American Fondouk.

The traveller in me was never going to pass up an opportunity to take to the skies, so halfway through my final year (eek) I found myself with five classmates on a plane to Morocco.

Language barrier
American Fondouk is a charity clinic for the working equids of Fes. Every morning the gates open at 8am and a stream of mules, donkeys and horses wander in with various ailments.

My French is minimal and Arabic non-existent, so history taking usually involved the owner pointing at the affected body part and translation with the help of a multilingual staff member. Even so, the histories were usually little more than “he fell over” or “it’s been like this for a week”.

Clinical exams were also not without challenges. For a start, it’s important to note donkey “normals” are different to those of horses (at first, we thought everything was hypothermic), and mules kick – in every direction. Normal’s not normal  “It’s been like this for a week…”

Treatment of outpatients could vary from ivermectin and a dental to admission and intensive care for critical cases. It was just a case of dealing with whatever walked through that door. Certain normal parameters for horses are different in Morocco than in the UK and for a while I couldn’t understand why so much fuss existed about PCVs of 40% – it turns out the Moroccan normal range for PCV is much lower than I was used to.

A full hospital with multiple high-maintenance inpatients certainly kept us on our toes for the month. However, after a couple of weeks, we’d gotten used to a lack of sleep, the protocols for treating certain conditions and the general craziness our daily lives had become.

I felt competent with a number of practical skills I’d never tried before I came to the clinic and could diagnose a tetanus case before it was even off the box. Wound care and bandaging were daily requirements – it was astonishing to see how well some seemingly horrific wounds would heal and the animals recover.

Ethical dilemmas: Acting in the interests of the animal without its owner’s permission is not allowed in Morocco. The hardest thing I found about working at the clinic were the ethics surrounding euthanasia. To the owners, these animals are often their only source of income – their livelihood – and the economics of replacing a mule are heartbreaking. Emotions run high when a seriously sick mule with a heart rate through the roof, suspected of a surgical colic, desperately in need of the pink juice would leave the owner with nothing.

The other logistical obstacle is the legal status of these animals. In Morocco, these animals are considered property of the owner and as such, permission must be gained before euthanising an animal.
Acting in the interests of the animal without permission is not allowed, so if an owner is not contactable, some unavoidable suffering may occur. This is limited as much as possible through pain relief, despite knowing what ultimately needs to happen in the interests of the animal.

Outside the box: On the whole, we were able to do our best for our patients and provide the optimum care. I had a great, albeit exhausting, month. Working in a busy environment with somewhat limited resources pushes you to think outside the box and embrace different approaches to problems. I learned a lot, gained confidence and even managed to discharge a patient in stilted Arabic by the end.

In Morocco's Fez, world's oldest library holds gems

Nestled in a labyrinth of streets in the heart of Morocco's ancient city of Fez, stands the world's oldest working library.
By Herve Bar Fez (AFP) 2016-12-03

Nestled in a labyrinth of streets in the heart of Morocco's ancient city of Fez, stands the world's oldest working library. Its sculpted dark wooden door stands almost hidden on the edge of a square where artisans hammer away at copper in a deafening din, delighting passing tourists. But for the few lucky enough to be allowed behind the door, a staircase tiled with green and blue hints at the written wonders beyond. As early writings from the Arabic-speaking world have come under increasing threat from extremists, the Qarawiyyin library is home to priceless treatises in Islamic studies, astronomy and medicine. Last year the Islamic State group burned thousands of rare manuscripts at the Mosul library in Iraq, and in 2013 Islamists torched countless early writings from the Islamic world and Greece in Mali's Timbuktu.

The Qarawiyyin library has just emerged from years of restoration, although no date has yet been fixed for a public opening. "All that's left to be done are a few finishing touches and the electricity," says Boubker Jouane, the library's deputy director. "A house of science and wisdom", according to its founder Fatima Al-Fihri, the Qarawiyyin library was one of the Arab world's largest centres of learning. Fihri, the daughter of a wealthy merchant from Al-Qayrawan in Tunisia, established the library, the university that originally housed it and a mosque in 859. Manuscript room Today the university has moved to a new location, but the mosque -- which shares an emerald-green tile roof with the library -- still stands. The library as it appears today was built in the 14th century under sultan Abu Inan, and completely restructured under king Mohammed V, the grandfather of Morocco's current monarch.

Over the centuries, sultans, noblemen, princesses and wise men have contributed works to its shelves. Under an imposing ceiling of wooden arabesques and a huge copper chandelier, the main reading room sits next an area that contains some 20,000 books. A short walk -- through a corridor of mosaics, past panels of sculpted cedar wood under finely chiselled ceilings -- leads to the library's centrepiece. The manuscript room is hidden behind two heavy metal doors and protected by an alarm system and surveillance cameras. Its wooden window shutters are closed to prevent sunlight from entering. The precious manuscripts are each bundled in a grey-coloured cardboard file and displayed on standard metal shelves. Works can be consulted sitting at one of two chairs next to a simple table -- on which sits a green felt cushion embroidered with gold thread.

Around 3,800 titles are kept here, some of them priceless. One example is a treatise on medicine by philosopher and physician Ibn Tufayl from the 12th century. 'Ailments in verse' "From baldness to corn on the foot, all ailments of the body are listed -- in verse to make them easier to learn," Jouane says. The word "diabetes", which is of Greek origin, already features written in Arabic script. Another gem is a handwritten copy of historian and philosopher Ibn Khaldun's "Book of Lessons". The treatise in history has been signed by the 14th-century thinker himself. "Praise be to God, what is written belongs to me," a line he wrote reads in breathtakingly elegant handwriting. Another 12th-century manuscript -- a treatise in astronomy by philosopher Al-Farabi -- shows the course of the planet Jupiter, complete with drawings of astonishing precision. And then there is a treatise on the Malikite doctrine in Islam written by the grandfather of the Arab philosopher Averroes. Its 200 pages of gazelle leather are inscribed with tiny immaculate calligraphy dotted with embellishments in gold ink.

Perhaps surprisingly, one of the "works most in demand" according to Jouane is Christian: a 12th century copy of the Gospel of Mark in Arabic. It was translated "in all likelihood by a Christian man of letters from Andalusia who had come to Qarawiyyin to learn Arabic", says Jouane, expressing pride at the "incredible degree of tolerance at the time". The library counted 30,000 manuscripts when it was founded under Abu Inan. But many were destroyed, stolen or plundered over the years, says Jouane. "There's only very little left of what once was, but today we carefully watch over these priceless treasures."
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New Book: Aspects of Violence against Women in North Africa

By Morocco World News - November 30, 2016 Rabat

“Aspects of Violence against Women in North Africa” is the title of a new edited book led by the Morocco university researchers Moha Ennaji and Fatima Sadiqi. Published by the Isis Center for Women and Development in Fez with the support of the German Institute for Cultural Relations (IFA), this book, of 160 pages, deals with the causes and consequences of violence against women in the Maghreb. It includes ten chapters motivated by the growing interest in gender studies, and explores the various aspects of violence against women in Maghreb societies from a sociological and comparative perspective.

The book focuses on the problem of violence with the aim to deconstruct its historical, cultural, religious, social, and political foundations. It shows that violence against women is a multi-faceted phenomenon in North Africa, where tradition, social norm, religion and politics blend in a highly patriarchal society. Participants in this publication reveal that gender-based violence varies from verbal threats, coercion, economic abuse, arbitrary deprivation of freedom, to physical violence. It can be caused by a husband, partner, family member or other persons. It may also include sexual harassment and abuse by persons such as employers, public authorities, teachers, etc.

The book shows that violence against women and girls in the Maghreb, as in the rest of the world, has dramatic ramifications for families and communities, as it not only hinders women but it hampers productivity, reduces human capital, and undermines economic growth as well. The book also shows that the region has recently become a hotbed of violence against women, especially after the so-called “Arab Spring,” and that the victims of civil wars today are 70-80% civilians, mostly women.

To combat violence against women, the authors recommend girls’ education, women’s economic independence and emancipation, and the continuing struggle against this scourge in collaboration with civil society and the media. They also recommend that states implement laws and policies capable of combating violence against women. Moroccan and international experts partook in the writing of this book, namely: Colette Apelian, Rachid Elouardi, Mohamed Yachoulti, Souad Belhorma, Aziza Ouguir, Driss Rhomari, Sanja Kelly, Oiafae Tribak, Moha Ennaji and Fatima Sadiqi.

Daily Persuasion: Morocco

6 weeks in Morocco, 6 reasons to go.  Rebecca Christmas / November 30, 2016

I travelled around Morocco for 6 weeks this summer with other students from around the world, here’s some of my advice about visiting and why you should go:

Read it here:


Five unmissable cultural experiences in Morocco.

Anna Hart Wednesday 30 November 2016

From the Majorelle Gardens in Marrakech to Morocco’s answer to Glastonbury, here’s what to see in this culturally rich bucket-list destination

Read it here:

Morocco meeting the changing desires of tourists

November 30, 2016 in Travel Related (

The Tourism Minister of Morocco, Lahcen Haddad, is rising up to meet the changing desires of tourists and their expectations in the areas of technology, social media, and cultural/eco-tourism offerings. To meet these challenges, Vision 2020 sets out a map to achieve innovative and competitive tourism for the country. The ministry is hard at work creating a strong foundation for its industry. From accommodations to travel agencies, from tour guides to regulations, every link is being forged into a strong tourism value chain.

Support and guidance

The Tourism Ministry is providing support and guidance so as to benefit from financial support mechanisms, technically-designed and tailor-made to meet the development needs of tourist facilities. By setting a reference standard, this provides a marker to follow and improve the quality of services. Tourism stakeholders are able to enjoy a personalized agenda, and pick labels and certifications that are adapted to enhance the attractiveness and strengthen their particular market position. They benefit from a coaching ground for any renovation, expansion, or upgrading of a tourist establishment.

Synergy and cohesion

Tourism representatives can also take advantage of the synergy and cohesion of membership benefits to the National Federation of Hotel Industry and Industry Regional Associations Hoteliere and exchange experiences with industry professionals. Through networking opportunities, they receive coaching and mentoring, and have a good representation of themselves to present before public bodies.

The year 2020 may sound far off into the future, but in reality, it is just a little over three years away from now. As the Morocco Ministry of Tourism continues to roll out Vision 2020, it is moving forward and taking Morocco tourism to the next level.

MEDIA CONTACT: Morocco Ministry of Tourism, Khadija Oukssi, PRESS RELEASE

Morocco's winds of change

By Celeste Hicks in Casablanca and Nicholas Norbrook
A remarkable political balancing act has allowed Morocco to keep competing structural forces in play rather than in conflict. In business too, the government is keen to ensure its interests and those of the business community are in harmony. “The people want a second term!” chanted a partisan crowd. Overcome with emotion, Morocco’s prime minister, Abdelilah Benkirane, wiped his eyes during a political rally for his Parti de la Justice et du Développement (PJD) in Taroudant, ahead of the 7 October legislative polls.

Times change, even in North Africa, which was for many decades the home of stay-put authoritarian regimes. The PJD, an Islamist party, won power comfortably and uncontroversially for a second term in office, beating out the palace-backed Parti Authenticité et Modernité by 125 seats to 102. Even a few years ago, this would have been unthinkable. It is not just in squaring political Islam with a democracy that the country is setting the pace in the region. Of its peers on the continent’s northern rim, only Morocco has managed to conjugate a state-driven command economy with a vibrant private sector.

Even while underwriting new industrial sectors like renewable energy, the government has pushed through prudential reforms to help balance the budget. Morocco’s democracy is a managed one, with the prerogatives of the monarchy, represented by King Mohammed VI, influencing the political scene. The PJD-led government brought the deficit down from 7.2% of gross domestic product (GDP) in 2011 to around 3% today. This was done while the economy averaged growth of around 4% – several points higher than its neighbours.

One measure that helped cut government spending was the removal of fuel subsidies. Long considered an important part of promoting social stability, in 2011 they were costing the state Dh41.4bn ($4.2bn) annually, equivalent to around 5% of GDP. In 2014, Benkirane’s government finally took the plunge. But far from creating riots on the streets as many had feared, the removal of subsidies passed with barely a flicker of recognition. Once prices were fully liberalised at the end of November 2015, fuel prices at the pump actually fell.

Economic analyst Zouhair Ait Benhamou explains the government’s choice: “The government had the most incredible good luck in the timing of this move, with the world oil price crashing to lows of $40 a barrel in 2014 […]. The PJD has suggested that it was a brave move to remove subsidies, but in fact they had no choice. They couldn’t afford to keep doing it.” There was also some luck in inheriting a fully fledged industrial policy that had already lured Renault to build cars in Tangiers.

Morocco’s minister of trade and industry, Moulay Hafid Elalamy, says that local content provisions have not stifled investment: “We have made them produce 60% of the car locally, rising to 80%, which means that the engine block will be made in Morocco – no mean feat.” The country's combination of good infrastructure, free-trade zones, tax holidays and an increasingly dense ecosystem of secondary and tertiary parts manufacturers in northern Morocco, has prompted Peugeot to start work on a $630m factory in Kenitra that will produce 200,000 cars a year for export to Africa and the Middle East.

Morocco’s predictable policy framework, as boring as it might sound to politicians hungry for plaudits, is in part responsible for such deals. That framework has worked in aeronautical engineering, too. ­Boeing is the latest to join the crowd, announcing on 27 September it would be sourcing $1bn in parts from companies based in Morocco.

At a stroke, that would double the country’s current aeronautical exports. And Boeing is not alone in looking to Morocco. In 2013, Bombardier Aerospace broke ground on a $200m investment in the Casablanca Aeronautics Park. Morocco’s export capacity has been greatly helped by the expanding Tanger-Med port on the Mediterranean coast. Currently handling some 3m twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) per year, the port is undergoing an expansion to have the capacity to deal with some 8m TEUs per year. And beyond the manufacturing sector, Morocco’s service sector is expanding, particularly in the high-tech sector. One example of this is Casablanca Technopark, another state and private-sector collaboration, where many innovative companies are hatched with the help of a startup incubator.

Omar Balafrej, who heads the Technopark until he takes up his new job as a member of parliament in the next legislature, points to the successes he has seen emerge from the institution over the past few years. They include M2t, a mobile-money processing platform that has spread its wings into Tunisia and sub-Saharan Africa, and ValuePass, now the country’s leading SAP software integrator.“And the difference between us and the free zones in the north is that 85% of our companies here are focused on the local market,” says Balafrej. Nevertheless, other traditionally important sectors have fared less well. As the wider North African region suffers from negative publicity following terrorist attacks at Tunisian tourist hotspots, Morocco has seen a drop in the number of tourist arrivals – at least 5% down for the first half of 2016 compared with the previous year.

Some hotels in tourist spots such as Ouar­zazate have reported they are regularly only filling about 20% of available beds. At the same time, sluggish growth in Europe following the 2008 financial crash has had a heavy impact on spending by Moroccans living abroad, particularly on property, which has historically been seen as a safe investment.

Several of the country’s biggest real estate developers, including Addoha and Alliances, have been brought to their knees by debt crises in recent years. This points to a serious flaw in Morocco’s plans. For all the will to build up national champions, like Japan and South Korea did to drive their economies, the government has not always had the discipline to force companies into productive modes. “It’s the danger of the ‘cement economy’,” says Balafrej, who points to the fact that Moroccan banks prefer to lend to fast-money sectors like real estate rather than value-­creating sectors like manufacturing.

Other sectors have their own problems. Morocco’s sole oil refinery, SAMIR in Mohammedia, has been closed since August 2015 due to a debt crisis. This has left Morocco, which has no hydrocarbon production of its own, reliant on imports from the world market. But energy may yet be harvested from the skies, not pumped up from the ground. As the Morocco hosts the COP22 this month, the country has begun a renewed offensive to secure special climate funds to help develop renewable energy and climate-change mitigation and adaptation programmes.

Over several years, many international financial institutions (IFIs) have built up a solid relationship with the Moroccan government. Through a number of high-profile projects such as the Noor solar complex at ­Ouarzazate, it has set its sights on emerging as a leader in developing green technologies.

Mafalda Duarte, head of the $8.3bn World Bank-based ­Climate Investment Funds (CIF), says the country is moving in a good direction: “Morocco is serious and has laid out its vision.”
Morocco’s King Mohammed VI recently announced a target of providing 52% of the country’s ­energy needs from renewable sources by 2030. “Our role is not just to provide concessionary finance but also to de-risk the establishment of these new technologies in developing countries,” the king explained.

In the case of solar, funding from development banks has been crucial because the Noor project involves concentrated solar power (CSP) technology, which is less popular than other technologies. Rather than the more widely used photovoltaic (PV) panels, the Noor I plant in Morocco’s desert is an enormous park of mirrors, which reflect the sun’s rays to heat liquid running through pipes; this in turn powers turbines. 

In 2012, there was just 1.9GW of CSP capacity installed globally, mostly in South Africa, the United States and Spain. Noor I has added 160MW to that capacity. In comparison, there is now an estimated 227GW of PV generating capacity globally. Funding for phases one, two and three of Noor came from a variety of sources, including the Moroccan government, the European Investment Bank and the African Development Bank. The CIF also supported it to the tune of $435m. “This money is designed to help scale up the technology so that costs will fall,” says Duarte. “This might not necessarily happen if left to the market.” And to a certain extent, it has worked.

The cost per KWh in the long-term power purchase agreement for Noor I fell almost 25% from an expected $0.24 to almost $0.17/KWh. For the subsequent phases, the price was locked in at $0.16.
However, CSP is yet to prove that it can catch up with the success of PV, which has seen prices fall to an impressive $0.03/KWh in a recent project announced in Dubai. Even wind power has seen dramatic falls, the Nareva/Enel Green Power 850MW wind park across three sites in Morocco will deliver electricity at $0.03/KWh.

An industry insider explains the risks of the government’s strategy: “The costs of CSP are coming down but just not fast enough compared to other technologies […]. It may be cheaper than expected, but those costs will ultimately be passed on to the Moroccan consumers.”

With Morocco hosting COP22, the country is trying to get more out of its partnerships with IFIs. There has been a bias towards high-profile infrastructure development, with less interest in less ‘sexy’ areas such as financing adaptation projects to guard against the impact of climate change. “Perhaps a better challenge for IFIs is to find ways to invest in the projects that no one else wants to do,” says the Morocco country director of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, Laurent Chabrier. “We can save so many emissions through better treatment of waste. But who wants to invest in that?”

And perhaps nowhere is this need to focus on the smaller scale more vividly illustrated than in agriculture. In the 2016-2017 growing season, Morocco has received around 42% less rain than average, with this drop attributed to El Niño and climate change. With around 85% of Morocco’s agricultural land primarily rain-fed, farmers faced a catastrophic planting season. The harvest is expected to show a 70% fall on the previous year. Against this vulnerability, agriculture minister Aziz Akhannouch has launched a new initiative known as Adaptation of African Agriculture. He hopes to get it adopted as a key component of any agreement signed at COP22.

The project is aimed at improving soil and water management in order to increase output and absorb carbon dioxide. While the involvement of IFIs is clearly welcomed in Morocco, the country’s banks are also keen to play the middleman role in delivering these small-scale solutions.“With COP22 on the horizon, there’s a lot of money floating around for these ideas at the moment” says Tariq Sijilmassi, the head of Crédit Agricole Maroc, a bank that has a large number of rural farmers as customers. “The challenge is to transform these pledges into workable solutions for farmers. They know what they need, and policies written in offices in Washington are not always the answer,” Sijilmassi explains.

If Rabat can continue to play its role brokering deals between state and market – and between Islam and democracy – perhaps encouraging global finance to take a farmer’s-eye view will be the next conjuring trick driving change in North Africa. 
From the November 2016 print edition

Read the original article on : Morocco's winds of change | North Africa

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