Friday, April 30, 2010

April Showers.....

Woke up to sunny, blue skies and beautiful fresh air. The haze was lifted, and with it my mood and energy. Soooo, since I buggered out of going for a walk w/Fouzia yesterday, we were on for today. No mind the brief shower at 2pm, we're not going 'til 4:30. Convincing ourselves that the next storm bank was moving away from us (not right toward us, as was the case), we set off across the fields-no mere paved road for us-we trek on. No building or cover in the clouds open up, the lightening dances and the thunder drums around us. Within the 1st 5 minutes, whether we turn back or forge ahead, it's clear that we're soaked to the bone. Now it's just a matter of staying on my feet and not ending up in the mud on my ass. Back home, laughing all the way at ourselves, I'm showerd and dry and cozy in my fluffy robe. Early evening. Clear skies once again.

Now for a few updates from around the bled…..

Finally caught up with Meriem to weigh the gouda cheese from the cheese workshop. It has to sit almost a month before it can be eaten, so had to wait to weigh it. We finally have the yields from all the cheeses made. Next step is a meeting on Saturday w/the Women’s Assn women to talk about what they need to do, ie; assess their costs (incl. labor), to determine potential profits.

Alice and Siobhan also told me that the cheese man in the Central Market in Fes Ville Nouvelle is always looking for new sources of artisanal cheeses-he has a lot of cheese-eating expats who buy from him-so I need to see him to check prices and assess his interest and requirements for purchasing cheeses. Nice to know that cheese can be more profitable, but that’s only theoretical until they find buyers.

I also walked with Amina down to the Women’s Assn space they’re renovating to sell their hlwa-it’s in a great location right down by the marche and nuql (transit) stand. They’re gonna start w/just hlwa and harsha, hopefully later expanding to more food. They’re pretty tight on money, so moving slowly. I reminded Meriem of the women from Center for Women in Democracy that she met in November. Several of them expressed interest in helping out the women of REK, so I told Meriem if she put together a budget, I’d help her put together a grant request. She’s got a lot of the budget items already identified, so won’t be hard if they want to do it.

Meanwhile the Adwal women have finished the hasir order for friends in Fes and have gone back to work on the one that I told them I’d buy. It is SOOO cool-will be great on my rooftop in Huntington Beach. I found out that they're using the grant from the king that they received last fall to do the building for the natural dye area behind the workroom. Note-NATURAL dye-on wool and cotton. Nice. So it's not just a tad ironic that they’ve also started a huge new coverlet with horrible colors-bright green and fluorescent pink ACRYLIC yarn! What are they thinking? They asked if I like the colors and I said “no”-people don’t want bright colors like those. They laugh and shrug their shoulders. What happened to the progress we were making in product development, incl. color selection? Talk about job security-my job is not done here. Tfoo.

Also, I’ve sent Alice a bunch of photos of Adwal’s work. She has a client coming to visit Morocco who is also on the hunt for artisanal weavings to be used in a hotel decorating job he has. We’ll see where that goes-can only try, yak?

Commentary on the Ministry of Artisana….so Adwal didn’t sell much at the Fes Craft Fair that the Ministry set up. Note that they scheduled it originally during Marche Maroc Marrakech, so the Adwal women chose to go to Fes (much cheaper transport). Then the Craft Fair was postponed a week (so they could have gone to Marrakech as well). You can imagine how effective their (non-existent) marketing could be w/constantly changing dates and venues,ie; no foot traffic to buy. Meanwhile the Ministry set up another Craft Fair in Marrakech, off their premises, which ran during the Marche Maroc Marrakech Craft Fair. Huh? Oh, then Zahra and Fatima got a call on Sunday-last day of the Fes Craft Fair-to see if they could go to the Craft Fair in Meknes the next day. Huh? See, this is why we’re trying to get the Marche Maroc Craft Fair model up and running and into the hand of the artisans so they control their destiny, stop being jerked around by the Ministry, but also stop waiting for someone else to create these selling opportunities. Inshallah.

I’ve communicated a number of times via email with a writer from Orange County who was sent to me by the Peace Corps office in Los Angeles. The interview, for the website, was just posted. Didn’t realize she was going to reveal my dirty little Reality TV secret. Oh well, my bad for telling her! Check it out at

On another note, Earth Day was a very big deal for Morocco, with it being the first African and Muslim country to embrace this event to increase awareness and action to improve this small part of North Africa. Last week, during the ceremony celebrating the 40th Earth Day anniversary, 5 initiatives were announced, including:

‘The first agreement, concerning the generalization of a program called "Eco-Schools", was signed by the Education Minister and the deputy chairman of the Mohammed VI Foundation for the Protection of the Environment. The program, which covers a period of three years with a total budget of MAD 4 million, aims to make education the bedrock of any sustainable development policy and encourage tomorrow's citizens to adopt eco-friendly behaviour.

The second agreement, which provides for progressively eradicating the use of plastic bags and promoting other alternatives, has been signed by the Health Minister, the Minister of Industry, and the official in charge of the environment within the department of Water and Environment. This convention, which covers a period of two years, envisages the launching of awareness-raising campaigns, the eradication of non-degradable bags and the encouragement of ecological behaviour change.

For their part, the third and fourth agreements also concern the elimination and management of the use of plastic bags, while the fifth partnership agreement concerns a project to produce clean energy the El Oulja region.

During the signing ceremony which was presided over by Prince Moulay Rachid and Princess Lalla Hasna, Chairwoman of the Mohammed VI Foundation for the Protection of the Environment, a number of environmental projects were also presented.

Capital Rabat is one of the 5 cities chosen by Earth Day Network to hold the 40th Earth Day anniversary celebrations on April 22. ‘

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