This project was an extension of an experiential learning program focused on Morocco and intended to enable Masters in Public Policy students to visit villages in the High Atlas mountains, outside Marrakesh, during their one-week study tour. It was expected that the rural excursion would provide student participants an opportunity to interact with villagers and gather impressions of material life circumstances in relatively inaccessible Moroccan villages. All of the other scheduled activities during the weeklong policy study tour took place in urban settings. This field trip into rural Morocco, in one of the most impoverished provinces, was intended to allow participating students to make their own direct observations and stimulate questions to inform subsequent interactions with Moroccan policy stakeholders about Morocco’s engagement with the global Sustainable Development Goals.
Through arrangements made with the High Atlas Foundation, a Moroccan association dedicated to local initiatives that are decided on and managed by community beneficiaries, we visited the region of al Haouz (on the outskirts of Marrakesh) early during the trip. Highlights of the day included a two-hour hike up steep terrain to an Amazigh village, where we planted carob seedlings to reduce erosion near a steep, graded road. At another settlement, students were able to interact at length with the local founder of a women’s co-op that produces and processes argan oil and dried herbs. The events and experiences of the day were informative on several different dimensions, and they provided points of reference during the rest of the trip. In the most basic sense, the excursion provided students a chance to see and experience part of the Moroccan reality that was patently different from what they observed in cities, and it gave them a glimpse into the challenging realities of life with few amenities. It also gave students a perspective on their policy questions about water resource management, gender equity, youth employment, and the generation of national statistics that they otherwise could not have had.
Advice to your Colleagues:
In ways that are difficult to articulate, this day long excursion made a huge impact on students. Although we had watched a film shot in nearby mountainous terrain and we had spent quite a bit of time talking about cultural practices, there was something about visiting villages in the snow-peaked High Atlas mountains (just an hour away from hot and steamy Marrakesh) -- and appreciating all the effort that is required just to walk from one village to the next -- that provided an additional dimension to our policy inquiries. I was particularly glad that we had arranged this trip at the outset of our study tour, as it informed virtually everything we did thereafter.