Solidarity tourism, environment protection, employment creation; in central Morocco, a network of associations mobilize to promote sustainable economic development. In Tetuan, a young woman contributes through multiple initiatives to the benefit of her neighbourhood and young people. Crossed portraits.

In the Errachidia valley, it all started with a touristic adventure. Rachid Ameurraoui, the manager of a hotel, wished to standardize the norms and accomodation in the different facilities of the region. An association was created in 2011. The objective was to engage the sector in an evolution towards solidarity tourism in the whole Ziz valley, in the south-eastern center of Morocco. All the facilities share since then the same standards. Today, Rachid explains that the very manner of doing tourism has changed: « the number of overnight stays is increasing, people no longer come just to take some pictures and a 4×4 trek in the desert, they come to share a moment with the locals ». To him, part of the challenge has already been met.

The project was then overtaken by broader issues of responsible economic development. Helped by two associations that promote solidarity-based rural tourism (Les Citoyens de la Terre and Sodev Morocco), a network of 13 associations was launched. Among the members are two women’s cooperatives that gather to collect dates, and an organization that develops water pumping in this arid region. Activities that provide all sources of employment. More than 800 people work around the pumping activity. At the origin of one of the date agricultural cooperatives there are 3 of them, where today more than 96 women are employed. And to maintain the continuity of know-how, training sessions have just been launched to encourage the apprenticeship of this craft with precise gestures.

600 kilometers away, in Tetouan, Kawter Manar Aknin, at first alone, became involved in environmental protection. For the 24-year-old business school student: « The Earth is our second home after our body. We must protect it ». From her adolescence, she is active in her neighborhood, in particular by organizing garbage collection. She then launched a campaign to collect garbage on the beach every month for one day. With no special training in volunteer work or community life, she brought together young people from her city and encouraged them to raise awareness among their families about waste sorting. She then looks for structures to gain experience. She discovered several associations, including the Council of Young Leaders. Kawter thus trains herself in citizen participation, puts her knowledge into practice and builds friendships.

In the Errachidia valley, environmental protection is also at the heart of the actions and concerns. Rachid Ameuraoui announces it: « Our challenge is zero plastic in the valley ». It is for this reason in particular that the network has become a partner of the AJCM (Workshop of Young Citizens of the Mediterranean) in 2019. Despite the hundreds of kilometers that separate the province from the Mediterranean, awareness-raising activities on waste collection took place around the river with young students and schoolchildren. « With the Covid 19 and the lockdown, all the activities of this year had to be postponed, but they will be carried out later », reinsures Rachid Ameuraoui. Also, an exchange will be set up with high school students from Marseille and a comprehensive cleaning program of date palms will be launched: « some are burned because of the fire starts due to the waste at their feet. We are going to clean and replant more than 6,000 date palms throughout the Ziz valley ».

Rachid goes on to describe current actions or upcoming projects and in parallel sends pictures to show the scale of the mobilization; a way to express all his pride at this project that over the years is growing and nourishing. The same pride is evident in Kawter Manar Aknin’s voice when she presents the projects she is involved in. « Each of my experiences marked me in a particular way. Each time, I try to share what I have acquired elsewhere ». Every year for the past five years, for instance, she has organized tutoring classes for high school and college students in her hometown. With the lockdown, many thought it would end. But these students can’t afford private lessons, so Kawter decided to maintain the tutoring online. « The students were truly happy, and so was I. I try to involve them in the other actions so that they themselves take over and believe in volunteering, social work and the impact they can have on their society ».