HACL Triathlon: High Atlas Cooperatives gathered for 10 days of events and activities in the Marrakech region
BY YOUSSEF ROCHDANE, TRANSLATOR AND CONTENT WRITER
26 April 2023
Photos by ABDERRAZAK BASSIR, MERYEM AAKAIRI AND YOUSSEF ROCHDANE
In collaboration with our local partner, the Moroccan Biodiversity and Livelihoods Association (MBLA), we organised three events and activities celebrating the work and efforts of High Atlas rural cooperatives before the holy month of Ramadan.
With the month of Ramadan approaching and the preparations that come with it, organising a High Atlas food market showcasing the products of rural cooperatives was not a chance we were going to miss. Many of the cooperatives we collaborate with produce and sell the specialty ingredients used in Ramadan dishes, making this market a highly anticipated event! Under the theme “Shop local, support rural communities, and prepare for Ramadan”, the fifth edition of the High Atlas Food Market (HAFM) was held on March 11 and 12 in collaboration with the Moroccan Biodiversity and Livelihoods Association (MBLA) at Les Étoiles de Jamaa El Fna Cultural Center in the medina of Marrakech. This edition was the most successful one to date, with 16 cooperatives from around the Marrakech region displaying their organic and local products, making it memorable for everyone who joined.
What made this market so special were the activities and workshops organised by two of our newest HAFM partners, Um Mami by the Melting Pot Foundation and Pikala Bike. Um Mami organised a cooking workshop using the products displayed by the cooperative to make healthy and delicious food during Ramadan. The NGO Pikala Bike spoke about their objective of encouraging Marrakech residents and visitors to use bicycles for their numerous health and environmental benefits.
Since this was a celebration in Marrakech, we had to bring a Dakka Marrakchia band (or as they are called in Moroccan Darija “Dkaykia”). The two-day market was as joyous as it was successful.
The following day, participants from 10 High Atlas rural cooperatives gathered to start a five-day boot camp from March 13 to 17 on topics that will help them to further ameliorate their work and reach their goals. This boot camp marks the completion of previous workshop sessions and the start of the “Sustainable Livelihoods Programme: Capacity Building for High Atlas Cooperatives”, a programme that aims to support rural entrepreneurs on various topics that they show interest in. This first boot camp will be the foundation of many upcoming workshops that will include many new hubs in the High Atlas as GDF and MBLA plan to support cooperatives in more areas in Morocco. The topics tackled during this boot camp are advocacy, communications, governance, leadership, human resources management and conflict management, all of which were recommended from the last evaluation of Rural Entrepreneurship workshops.
Hassan Achraouaou, an expert in advocacy training, facilitated two workshops on “Advocacy” and “Communication”. The first workshop aimed to explain the importance of advocacy and the steps of planning an advocacy campaign. The second workshop focused on the strategies for efficient internal and external communication for cooperatives. The facilitator put emphasis on the importance of communication, its standards and how cooperatives can create their communication strategy to help them promote their work and advertise their products. The participants enjoyed the interactive sessions and the practical examples that helped them put the knowledge they acquired during the workshops into practice.
Dr. Afafe El Amrani El Hassani, a university professor with a human resources and strategic management background, took a different approach in facilitating the workshops on the remaining topics. Since governance, leadership, human resources management and conflict management are all topics that intertwine, Dr El Amrani created a three-day workshop program centred on assisting participating cooperatives to grasp many concepts. Some of these concepts are internal cooperative management, cooperative accounting, human resources management, strategic management, in addition to the leadership skills that the participants should improve to manage their cooperatives more efficiently, market components and their role in the local cooperative system.
“It is truly remarkable how the participants are preserving traditional Amazigh fare and passing them down from one generation to the next. Such practices are one of the ways cultural aspects of the High Atlas region are conserved”.
With the conclusion of the last day of workshops, congratulations were in order. After an eight-month-long series of workshops, this group of High Atlas rural cooperatives have finally concluded their training. We organised a graduation party to celebrate the effort and hard work of the participating cooperatives during this period. Their dedication and perseverance is inspiring; witnessing them commit to achieving their long-term goals and nurturing themselves in the process is rewarding, to say the least.
Our collaboration with the present cohort will continue as we develop a rural entrepreneurship manual that we look forward to sharing with them. To ensure the continuity of learning and improvement, we would like them to take the lead in hosting trainings in the future for fellow cooperatives in their regions.
After five days of learning and sharing, the participants and the organising team went on a field trip as part of an on-site application of all the knowledge acquired during the boot camp. The president of Tamo Feminine Cooperative, a cooperative based in Ait Ourir, Al Haouz Province, specialising in oils and cosmetic products, led a tour of her cooperative’s workplace and answered questions participants had on the ONSSA (The National Office of Food Safety) certification procedure, day-to-day tasks and the administrative and accounting side of handling a cooperative.
Hearing the story behind the creation of Tamo Feminine Cooperative and the challenges they faced was not only moving but also motivational. Stay tuned for our next blog to learn more about this cooperative and a few others who are helping their communities and promoting their local products.
A huge thank you to our funder, the Darwin Initiative, and MBLA for their support in organising the High Atlas Food Market, the capacity-building boot camp and field visit. A special thank you to the workshop facilitators, Hassan Achraouaou and Dr Afafe El Amrani El Hassani, our new HAFM partners, Um mami and Pikala Bike, for holding workshops during the food market and Les Étoiles de Jamaa El Fna. Finally, we thank the implementation team for their continuous effort behind the scenes and during events. We look forward to more joyful and impactful activities benefiting rural cooperatives in the future.