Friday, April 30, 2010

Morocco in the News: April 24th - 30th

On PC/Morocco RPCV Karen Smith:T.O. woman works as humanitarian aid in the world's most dangerous places.By Brett Johnson  April 24, 2010
As if Karen Smith needed any more reminders that she works in the world’s most dangerous places, two suicide-bomber blasts have rocked her new world near the U.S. Embassy in Kabul in the three short months she’s been in Afghanistan.
“They were both definitely close enough to shake the building,” Smith said
from the capital city during a recent interview.
Around this time a year ago, Smith was taken out of Sudan over fear for her safety after papers there named her as fanning anti-government flames. In Pakistan, she once stood at the rubble of a school where 175 children had died, crushed in an earthquake’s wreckage.
Life’s been full of gut-check twists for Smith. Growing up in Thousand Oaks, she rode horses and competed in jumping contests, winning enough ribbons to fill two plastic storage tubs in her parent’s garage. After getting a degree in equine science at Colorado State University, she was all set to breed racehorses as a career.
But a stint in the Peace Corps in Morocco a decade ago convinced her that the world’s people need help and its problems need fixing. Humanitarian aid work carries risks often highest precisely in the places that need help most and it doesn’t get much dicier than Darfur, Pakistan and Afghanistan. Smith’s been to all three in the past four years………...
More here: Jackson commends Morocco's environmental leadership.Washington - US Reverend Jesse Jackson commended, Sunday in Washington, Morocco's leadership in the field of environment and sustainable development.
Morocco has taken bold steps on the right path in terms of environment, Rev. Jackson told the press on the sideline of a meeting in Washington to celebrate 40th Earth Day Anniversary.
The US clergyman also underlined that Morocco's commitment to invest about $9 billion in the field of solar energy shows the Kingdom's "leadership role".
This project is a commitment to promote health and life quality, he said, urging Morocco's young generations to help make the planet "cleaner and greener."
Launched in November 2009, Morocco's ambitious solar energy project seeks to build 5 power stations by 2020 with a 2,000-megawatt capacity.
This project will reduce Morocco's energy output by 1 million tons of oil equivalent and avoid discharging 3.7 million tonnes of CO2 per year.
The project, which will cover 42% of the Kingdom’s electricity needs, aims at reducing energy dependency, preserving the environment, curbing greenhouse gas emissions and fighting climate changes.
Morocco, FAO sign agreement on technical support to national forest programme.Rabat - Morocco and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) signed, on Monday in Rabat, a $994,000 agreement on technical support for the kingdom’s forest programme.
The "UTF MOR 037 MOR" agreement, which was signed by Abdeladim Lhafi, high commissioner for water and forests, and André Hupin, FAO representative in Morocco, covers four years (2010-2014).

It follows a first agreement between the two sides to pursue technical assistance towards achieving the objectives relating to good governance and management with regard to information flow and forest protection tools.

The Moroccan side highlighted, on this occasion, the quality of bilateral co-operation, extending thanks to FAO for its support to all its projects.

Hupin said this agreement aims at consolidating achievements made at the first phase.

He also commended the high commission’s efforts to ensure success of the first phase, reiterating FAO’s commitment to achieve the goals set out by the agreement in terms of governance and sustainable management of forests.
The Essence of Leather in Marrakech, Morocco.By: Suzanne Geudeke “Special price for you, ladies!” the vendor shouts as a group of tourists pass his stall: a collection of lamps, teapots and carpets. He seems to have a sixth sense for guessing where people are from, although their looks help: the tall Dutch family that wears zip off pants, the unshaven Spanish tourist with dark hair and eyes, the sunburnt English girl that looks somewhat scared. They all willingly enter his obscure shop, debilitated by the charm of meaningless phrases in their own language. I hurry on, determined not to fall in that trap.
“The big square is that way,” a Moroccan boy shouts at every tourist that looks lost in the souk. He is talking to me now. “Actually I am looking for the tanneries,” I explain him. Being in the land of leather has made me curious as to how it is made. I want to find the origins of that rugged scent with hints of cedarwood, spicy cardamom and warm amber that makes me picture a cowboy riding off into the sunset. The boy shrugs his shoulders. “The big square is that way,” he insists, pointing his finger towards the bustling heart of Marrakech. The look on his face says it all: why visit the tanneries for gods-sake if nearby you can marvel at snakes?
One big smelly blanket I soon find out that to locate the tanneries you do not ask questions; you simply follow your senses. An undefined whiff enters my nostrils and sets me on the right track. As I leave the souk behind me, the streets become wider and the smell stronger, almost noxious. Even though I hold my nose, it filters through my skin and makes my stomach turn. This does not smell like cedarwood. Or cardamom. Or amber. Nor does it provoke images of cowboys at sunset, more so of dead animals. “Welcome to the tanneries!” a man exclaims in French while pushing some leafs in my hands: mint. I sniff at the refreshing herb and miraculously manage to oppress the need to shove a handful of this green relief up my nose while I follow the man that is apparently going to be my unofficial-official guide.
At first glance, the tannery looks like a big smelly blanket. Then I realise that below these covers there are dozens of big pits filled with pungent liquids, used to treat camel, cow and goat skins. The colours of the pits range from pure white, to dark brown, to deep red and their shapes vary from round to square. Young boys are working, their hands covered in gloves and their feet in Wellington boots, their faces rough and tanned. Some hold their balance on the edge of the pits like acrobats; others stand knee deep into foul fragrances.
While moving between these holes, praying not to fall in, I learn that these men soak the skins in lime, to remove the fat and the hair. I learn that pigeon poo and urine is used to make the leather supple. I learn that the skins are left to dry in the sun, like they did centuries ago. My mint leafs no longer smell like mint and so I let the stench of feces and decaying flesh wash over me. When I look through my eyelashes, the scarce modern features of this strange place blur into the reddish background. I can almost imagine being in a different era: a dark era without sunsets and cowboys. The guide impatiently pulls my hand. “Madame, are you listening?”
Men working at the tanneries The big square is that way,” a Moroccan boy indicates as I leave the tannery. I follow his finger. Bit by bit, I return to the wombs of Marrakech. Donkeys pull carts through the zigzagging streets, women dressed in long garments carry heavy baskets and ancient men sip their mint teas. Green leaves, next to deep red henna, next to white beans, next to yellow flowers. Voices mix with the smell of exotic herbs and the smoke of scooters that rush by.
As I stroll along something catches my eye. It is a small chestnut-coloured handbag, begging me to touch it. The material feels slightly rugged, but at the same time strangely soft. With the image of the tannery burnt my mind and the smell of poo and pee alive in my brain I hesitantly approach my nose to it. It has a mild leather smell, a pleasant relief for my abused nostrils. I tell myself I can even appreciate some cedarwood. And some amber. Maybe even some cardamom. I think I have found my cowboy at sunset. “How much?” I ask the vendor that emerges from the shop. “Special price for you lady,” he answers smiling while rubbing his hands together.
Going green in MoroccoAljazeera English
Winds of Sufism blow through Fes.2010-04-26 By Siham Ali
Workshops, music and poetry preserved local history at the 4th Fes Festival of Sufi Culture April 17th-24th.
Sufism's unique perspective on the modern world reverberated in music and poetry during the 4th Fes Festival of Sufi Culture, which concluded on Saturday (April 24th).
"The idea is to show how spirituality can recreate, or regenerate, contemporary thinking, which can help us see the world in a different way, and to come up with solutions," festival director Faouzi Skelli said.
Musicians from four continents performed and others read poetry during the eight-day festival, but the event also focused on direct social development efforts. The week's goals were primarily educational, according to the organisers, concentrating on fundamental Sufi values such as morality in modern life, tolerance and acceptance.
The festival aimed "to develop thought into concrete action," Skelli said. "This led, for example, to a workshop devoted to the environment, looking at the need for individuals to transform their relationships with themselves and the world, leading them to consider changes in their behaviour concerning nature."
Other workshops promoted a positive image of Islam. The sessions stressed "that Muslim civilisation brings love, knowledge and solidarity, and is open to dialogue between cultures and religions from all over the world", Islamic education teacher Moussa Badrani said.
"The idea is to promote the role which spirituality can play in the modern world," he said. "In this way, people can draw on Islam's civilising aims, its calling to come up with responses to present-day challenges, both globally and locally."
The sumptuous Batha Museum hosted evening shows by various groups of Sufi musicians, each well-known in their field. Mohamed Badaoui Ali Cheikh, who came from the Comoros Islands, said that through song and poetry it was possible to promote messages of peace and openness.
Poetry played a central role at this year's festival. Organisers staged readings "to broaden the field of our awareness and thinking, and to present a different view of a society where political aims, allied with the quest for beauty, may lead to a new type of poetry in civilisation," according to the Association of the Fes Festival of Sufi Culture.
"The festivities help Fes fulfil its calling as a spiritual city and allows residents to discover the culture and arts of other Sufis," said Othmane Berrada, a young student.
Vice-mayor Allal Amraoui said that the city's culture must be preserved even as Fes opens itself up to other civilisations.
Morocco looks for a better online future. Desmond Shephard 27 April 2010 RABAT: The cafe is packed with young kids frantically typing away at their individual computers. Here in Rabat, Morocco’s capital, the scene has become common, almost part of daily life for many Moroccans. But as the government continues to crackdown on users and bloggers, life has become tough.
When Ibrahim Mohamed, who asked that his real name remain anonymous, was caught posting anti-government material a few months ago, two plainclothes policemen showed up at his door.
“My parents were really scared and then they were angry at me for doing what I did,” he began. “But, in the end they just warned me and I keep doing the same thing over and over again, but I don’t use my real name anymore.”
On Monday, the country held a Parliamentary workshop for journalists and lawmakers in an effort to shape how the Internet is being used. The agenda consisted of ethics, funding and legal protection.
“We want professionals to work together to come up with solutions, particularly in terms of getting the authorities to encourage online publishing, providing financing like they do for the traditional media,” Rachid Jankari, the director of MIT Media and a workshop organiser, told Magharebia news agency ahead of the workshop.
It is all part of the government’s decision to launch a dialogue with bloggers and journalists, who remain skeptical, even after the workshop.
“What are we supposed to do, think that because we all sat in a room one day, we are going to best of friends?” asked journalist Samir. “We all know the government wants to get everyone who doesn’t write what they like.”
The National Media and Society Debate Authority, a coordinating body and parliamentary commission involving political parties, journalists, publishers and the ministry of communications launched the initiative in January to increase the relationship and openness between the government and media workers.
It is easy to argue that dialogue is a good idea, and most bloggers and journalists agree the move was smart, but their worries are the government will take dialogue to arrest and curtail freedom of speech.
Samir said he fully expects that “the people who participated in the meeting, including myself, will be the targets of government investigations.
“If it doesn’t happen, then great, we can start a new turning point in Morocco, but if it does, the government will be held responsible.”
In recent months, Moroccan bloggers have found themselves targeted by the government, and a handful have seen the inside of a prison cell. For many, including Mohamed, the time has come for change, both the government and the bloggers.
“We have to realize that we can’t continue to take blows from the government. We have to get our voices heard by the outside world to see the struggle going on and make these dialogues successful. It has to be two-sided,” he said.
Taste of Morocco on the grill. Milpitas Post Staff 04/29/2010 Grilling season has returned and the nation's grill masters are again looking to take their talents to the backyard barbecue. Those looking to add a little spice to their dinner table this summer should consider the following recipe for Moroccan barbecued lamb shanks from Andrew Schloss and David Joachim's "Mastering the Grill" (Chronicle Books).
Moroccan barbecued lamb shanks Serves four 4 lamb shanks, about 12 ounces each 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil 3 tablespoons Moroccan rub (see below) 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, or more to taste 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice 1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley 3 cloves garlic, chopped 1 tablespoon tomato paste Oil for coating grill grate 1. Heat the grill as directed. 2. Rub the lamb shanks with one tablespoon of the olive oil and the Moroccan rub, salt and pepper. 3. Mix the remaining olive oil, the lemon juice, parsley, garlic and tomato paste in a bowl; set aside. 4. Brush the grill grate and coat it with oil. Put the lamb shanks on the grill away from the heat, cover the grill and cook until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of a shank registers about 155 degrees, about one hour. Turn and baste with the parsley sauce three or four times. If your grill has a temperature gauge, it should stay at around 350 degrees.
5. Serve one shank per person. Moroccan rub Makes about1/2 cup 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon 2 tablespoons dried thyme 1 teaspoon ground dried lemon peel 2 teaspoons ground coriander 1 teaspoon ground turmeric 2 tablespoons sugar 2 teaspoons kosher salt 1 teaspoon ground black pepper 1. Combine all of the ingredients. 2. Use as directed in a recipe; can be stored in a tightly closed container in the refrigerator for up to one month.
Morocco to lease 30,000 hectares of farms per year. Fri Apr 30, 2010 By Tom PfeifferMEKNES, Morocco (Reuters) - Morocco plans to lease 30,000 hectares (74,000 acres) of farmland per year to improve yields, satisfy growing national demand and boost export sales, its agriculture minister said on Thursday.
But Aziz Akhennouch told Reuters the north African kingdom had no plans to join a continent-wide trend of selling farmland outright to foreign companies and governments that want to secure their future food supplies.
Morocco has leased 80,000 hectares (200,000 acres) in two batches in the last decade, drawing more than 13 billion dirhams. Some 24 percent of the investors in the 296 farms were foreigners.
"We are offering 21,000 hectares (in the next lease tender) but the goal is to offer 30,000 per year so we are offering 21,000 first and will probably offer another 10,000 before the end of the year," Akhennouch told Reuters in an interview at Morocco's annual agriculture show in the city of Meknes.
He said around 20 to 25 percent of the demand was coming from foreigners and the government "will try to satisfy all operators as agriculture needs its Moroccan farmers but we also need groups with expertise, know-how and the necessary means.
Akhennouch, who is Morocco's Minister for Agriculture, Rural Development and Fisheries, played down the prospect of selling farmland outright.
"We are in a logic of partnership, not of selling land but leasing it long enough, for 20 to 40 years, to give investors the visibility they need," he said. "And I think we are succeeding well."
"The comparative advantage of Morocco is that we have real farmers already there when the investor comes along. It's something ancestral and ... profoundly rooted."
WHEAT IMPORTSAkhennouch this week forecast a 2010 national cereals harvest of around 8 million tonnes, higher than a recent estimate by the country's main grains industry body.
Asked how much grain Morocco would need to import after the harvest to satisfy national demand, he said: "For soft wheat, it will be roughly 36 million quintals."
"I think we will assure supplies for a large part of the year but will have to import in certain months."The head of Morocco's grain import agency said in January the country would need to import between 1.3 million and 1.7 million tonnes of foreign soft wheat before this year's harvest.
Akhennouch said cereals would remain a vital element in Moroccan agriculture even as the country maximizes production of export crops such as tomatoes, olives and citrus fruit under its Green Morocco Plan.
The government was targeting a national grain harvest of 7.5 million tonnes per year between 2010 and 2020, he said."We're talking about an average," he said. "There will be highs and lows, but our goal is to improve yields.Farming accounts for up 17 percent of the country's gross domestic product (GDP) and employs 40 percent of the total workforce.
More than 70 percent of the farmers own just 5 hectares on average, and have scant financial resources to modernize agriculture without aid and new investment flows.
University deadlines add to worries of Moroccan bac students. By Sarah Touahri 2010-04-29
Registration at universities will have already begun by the start of end-of-term exams.
Moroccan students studying for the bac exams have another worry to add to their plate: major colleges are beginning their enrolment process before the start of exams.
"I must pass with good or very good merits to be admitted," Miriam said. "You have to pay 65,000 dirhams for five years. It's too much for my family, but besides my parents' savings, my father will get a loan."
Miriam hopes to gain admission into the new School of Economics and Governance founded in Rabat in 2008, she said. Financial concerns and application deadlines loom even as she studies for her final exams.
"She has always been brilliant," said her mother, Amina Berrada. "The big day is approaching. We have to meet the deadlines," she said with a tone of optimism and worry.
Berrada is rushing to contact public and private colleges for her daughter. "Even with our limited income, I have been saving for her higher education tuition for years," she said. "It's even better if she is accepted into a prestigious public school."
Not all high school students are lucky enough to have parents who saved money for years for their children's university education. Hajer, a baccalaureate candidate in Mathematical Science, said that she is trying hard to score high enough to secure a place in a public school.
"The selection frightens me," she said. "If my family had enough financial resources to pay for my education, I would have worried less, because there are a large number of private schools [from which to choose]. I have to excel [on the bac] to be among the elite who are trained in public schools."
Less academically gifted students are also concerned about their future, but are realistic about their chances. Hicham Bekkali, a baccalaureate candidate in literature, said that he does not intend to apply to a private college with his mediocre grades and his family's limited finances. His only real choice, he said, is to decide to which university department he will apply.
"My future looks unclear sometimes, and that is affecting how I prepare for the exams," Bekkali said. "But I was told that the prospects of the university are becoming increasingly promising."
Young baccalaureate candidates are becoming more strategic in the fields they choose to enter as they see the high unemployment rates faced by recent university graduates, sociologist Samira Kassimi said.
"The Moroccan society is on the rise. Middle class families, at least, are thinking in advance of their children's higher education to guarantee them a place in the labour market," she added.
Starting this year, Moroccan final-year students will receive an information packet explaining what choices are available to them and how to prepare for the bac, Higher Education Minister Ahmed Akhchichine said. The new procedure implements Morocco's emergency plan for education.

1 comment:

  1. Hey, nice blog! I'll be in Rabat for a month. Any insight?