At Holidays with Heart we are always looking at ways of helping local people in Southern Morocco to recognise their fantastic resources – both natural and cultural. We invite our guests to be involved.
Our approach is to empower people to support themselves and the planet. Below are some examples of the various projects that we have initiated or supported.
If any section interests you more click a heading below to jump to it or, if you prefer, read it all!
HELP RARE BEES & BEEKEEPERS
2010 Fundraising and supplying materials to save an endangered honey bee
We supported a remarkable project to save the endangered Saharan Yellow Bee was instigated by a French research organisation who collaborated with the Association Albisher at Skoura in southern Morocco.
2011 A residential long weekend for beekeepers at our guest house
We hosted 17 beekeepers from several areas of southern Morocco for Hence many ideas were exchanged. As a result training began to take place in other regions. From then on we focussed our efforts on a small, local, young cooperative which has no other support, Atlas Cooperative for Bees & the Environment.
2012 Creation of the “Busy Bee Centre”
Based at the home of the founder of the cooperative, Youssef Dounge where they educate beekeepers and the general public, provide a sales outlet for products and a place for the local beekeeping cooperative to process their harvest.
In addition we have assisted with marketing including labelling.
2013 Design & Planting of a Permaculture-based Bee Orchard
We created this orchard so that local people and bees will have a diverse and resilient supply of food throughout the year. Hence there’s no need to move hives to alternative sites.
To understand why you have to study the history of agricultural change in the Souss Valley. Briefly, since the 1930s there has been an increase in monoculture in the Souss Valley. Originally native Argan Forest, it gradually been cleared first by citrus fruit, then by bananas, then horticulture and now maize to feed dairy cattle, thus limiting nectar sources for bees at some seasons.
2017-2019 A Major Breakthrough
In spring 2017 Youssef managed to buy some Yellow Saharan Bees queens to the Souss valley. By May 2019, following years of hard careful work, with support from master beekeeper Lynne Ingram, Youssef had a major breakthrough. He has succeeded in breeding many colonies of the endangered Yellow Saharan Bee, not an easy task. The bees have been DNA tested and show the DNA is pure.
As a result, the Government Department that supports agricultural innovation in the Tata region (on the boundary between the Anti Atlas Mountains & the Sahara) have ordered 200 colonies. Huge thanks go to both Lynne (who has visited every year since 2013) and Youssef for their perseverance.
This really could make a huge difference to the survival of this valuable species, which is even more important during times of climatic change: this bee is more drought tolerant; it forages both over a wider area and (even better) it is docile and produces some wonderful wild honeys. Many of the desert species are very rich in nectar, amongst them the famous cactoid Euphorbias unique to this part of Morocco and asphodel species which are not eaten by livestock, so remain abundant.
2021 A Demonstration Hive
This will be sited at our new ecolodge because is a perfect position on a roof top that is easily seen by guests. Whatsmore rest assured it will be safe because we know the bees will fly south.
Moroccans adore children, but not all parents are in a position to care for them for various reasons.
A wonderful local charity “Group Maroc Horizons” supports vulnerable street-connected children in many ways. Their project is financed and supported by an excellent London-based charity, the Moroccan Childrens’ Trust whose research and expertise is highly regarded.
Together they support children locally. But their greatest impact has been at national level where they have been involved in changing legislation to protect children.
Equally important the MCT initiated a fostering project in 2017. This also will be instigated nationwide in order to place children with caring families and thus obviate the need for the children to be institutionalised.
How we helped so far
We have been involved in recruiting volunteers and have made many donations, including money for their sports hall, the fostering project and most recently to support families during the Covid-19 crisis.
A circle dance group and particularly their leader, Jeanette Whitford, were in October 2016 so impressed by their work that they have were successful in raising over £5000, enough to equip an activity room.
In 2020 Jane introduced one of our guests to the Moroccan Children’s Trust and the outcome is that she won £40K through the Global Challenge Research Fund to carry out a collaborative research project to improve children’s services for children in care. Huge thanks go to Professor Helen Snooks of Swansea University.
How you can help
You could help by making donations of clothes or money or becoming a foster care sponsor or even becoming a volunteer (usual minimum 3 months).
You can ask us to invite one of their staff to visit to enlighten our groups about their work or for you to visit their Centre Amane.
Long established and much admired locally, the orphanage offers a caring home for children. They are mostly under the age of 12 and include some disabled children.
How we helped so far
We have arranged for many volunteers including social studies students to assist for short or long periods. One devoted circle dancer returns each year to help and make donations. We and our guests have financed a wide variety of items including bedding, washing machine, cooker, water heater and playpen.
How you can help
Donations of clothes, nappies, infant milk and help with play and feeding are always welcome. Volunteers short or long term are always welcome.
CLOTHES AND SCHOOL MATERIALS
There is much need in the mountain villages especially in the poorer remoter areas and in the drier mountains of the Anti Atlas.
How we helped so far
We frequently donate direct to the families in greatest need or via school teachers or charities who know which children are in need. If we want to send clothes to remote villages only accessed by 4 x 4 we donate via the Rotary Club who have a suitable vehicle.
How you can help
We suggest that you might like to bring clothes and shoes you’d like to donate. As a result your suitcases will have space for carrying Moroccan goodies – crafts, spices, foods and more home.
Fill up every gap in your suitcase – if you travel with EasyJet there is no weight limit on hand luggage so you can pack tightly!
SCHOOL FOR THE BLIND
Serving much of Southern Morocco, this marvellous school is doing some wonderful work.
How we helped so far We have supplied a variety of materials including musical instruments, sunglasses, white sticks and braille notebooks.
Traditionally women’s rights were poor but the situation has improved considerably in recent years with new legislation, for example on inheritance.
The project’s goal is to enable women of the region to supplement their incomes and to ensure that ancient traditions and skills are not lost.
How we helped so far
We have arranged & paid for lessons in embroidery. In addition we have with product design and direct marketing to our guests.
How you can help
Buy or preferably order in advance (including commissions) the beautiful bags, serviettes and phone or passport holders.
ROOF REPAIRS, LITERACY & WOMEN’S EMPOWERMENT
Two of our regular circle dance guests, Angela Lockwood and Stephanie Rose, responded to an urgent need for funds to repair the roof of a family’s dwelling in a mountain village that our guests often visit.
Through the circle dance network, they were successful in raising not only the costs of the repairs but also a surplus of £300, which was donated to the embroidery project, which now has a new branch in the village.
This project is part of an ongoing scheme to improve literacy amongst the village women. One day a week, they meet to learn embroidery skills as a rest from their academic work.
More recently Angela Lockwood and Julie Rising have raised funds for a young woman to receive training in using a sewing machine and have bought her a suitable machine. As a result the young lady’s confidence has increased beyond measure and it has empowered her enormously.
Her sister has picked up the empowerment theme and has the ambitious to become a women’s rights lawyer!
HELP ANIMALS & WILDLIFE
When Jane, our founder, first came to Morocco in the early 1990s the focus of her research was tortoise conservation; the major threats being habitat degradation, collection for the pet trade and tourist souvenirs (both now illegal, but nonetheless still practised) so she got to know the local tortoise habitats well. Connected with that habitat was a young man named Said who lived in a village there. Then Said became a great friend and eventually our chief guide specialising in wildlife.
How We Helped
Jane’s research culminated in publication of a variety of educational materials, several articles in academic publications and presentations at conferences. As a result awareness was greatly increased, something that local biologists commented when presentations were given at an international conference on Conservation of the Argan Forest in nearby Agadir.
HELPING WORKING ANIMALS
Amongst Jane’s contacts in the early days were Jeremy & Diana Hulme, who headed the marvellous charity SPANA.
They do wonderful work at its veterinary centres in Morocco to improve the welfare of working animals including the horses which pull carriages in Marrakech.
Vets contribute time and resources both to caring for the animals and to encouraging compassion for animals through education.
What We Do & You Can Do
We raise awareness about the existence of SPANA and invite you to support their projects by sponsoring an animal or making a donation.
A PUBLIC WATER TROUGH FOR WORKING ANIMALS
Because SPANA are not able to work in Taroudant we have raised funds for our own project to produce a Water Trough for working animals in the centre of town in memory of Su Hirst, one our circle dancing guests who was passionate about helping the working animals.
At present there is only one trough on the edge of town.
How we helped
We managed to obtain permission, but we are still awaiting the decision of the local planners who are reorganising the square where it will be located.
How you can help
Donations may still be made for the water trough project.
ANIMAL WELFARE IN TAROUDANT
We are now raising funds for a new project for homing and neutering stray or unwanted domestic or working animals in our town & environs.
We are also supporting an award-winning charity based in Agadir called SARA.
At the Ecolodge we have adopted and neutered two stray cats. Marmalade, now very happy, can be seen here.
HELP THE LOCAL ECONOMY & ENVIRONMENT
SOAP-MAKING AND MORE
We initiated the soap-making project in a Berber village in the High Atlas Mountains. The training was done by one of Jane’s ex-students Steve Croke & his partner Liz of the Soap Shed (in Wales) to whom we are very grateful. As a result we received a Responsible Tourism award in 2009.
The high-quality soaps, made with superb local oils including argan & olive oil, are scented with local essential oils.
How you can help
Buy soaps direct from the family who makes them on your excursion to the Berber villages (or our shop if Mina has a surplus). In addition in these villages you will have a chance to support other artisans such as potters and a maker of place mats made of natural fibre.
OUR SUSTAINABLE BUILDING PROJECT
The largest project and investment so far is, of course, the construction of our pioneering ecolodge. Between November 2018 and January 2020, an amazing local team of from 12 to 30 men (including those making all manner of things from lampshades to furniture, carpentry and much more) worked tirelessly by hand to create this flagship development. In short it was the result of marrying of traditional wisdom and materials with innovative design as well as a very harmonious collaboration between Moroccans, us and our British experts.
Consequently we have buildings which both honour local traditions and illustrate exceptional design for conservation of energy and water.
How you can help
Please spread the word about us and what you learn during your visit – our aim is to educate by experience. We are sure you will love the feel and comfort of the earth buildings any time of year, as well as loving the sustainably design grounds and pool.
We have been involved with a variety of educational projects including recycling (a school project) and a guided cycle trail around the town walls, which we supported financially.
We regularly educate our staff (& their children too) about green issues.
We have found the local environmental charity in our town, APRE, inspiring.
OLIVE OIL QUALITY
Research shows there is usually a positive relationship between drought and antioxidants in olive oil, hence droughts could benefit farmers.
So we obtained test kits from Greece and began testing local olive oils to discover which had most antioxidants in autumn 2017. This allowed us to encourage small farmers on cultivate, process and market olives to ensure higher levels of antioxidants, enabling them to obtain higher prices for their artisan oils.
SUPPORT OUR SHOP
We sell a variety of lovely items in the shop in our reception area. 100% of the profits go direct to the good causes.
Greetings cards & posters
Renowned British landscape artist Alan Cotton kindly gave us permission to reproduce and sell both cards and posters showing Moroccan scenes.
Circle Dancer Mary Duckworth gave us cards produced by her late husband artist Dennis Duckworth. Jane, our founder, makes recycled cards.
Electronic Cookery Book
So popular are the dishes that our chefs create that many clients like to make a donation to charity to obtain the recipes so that they can bring back memories of their holiday.
Choose the cause
For both the cards & the cookery book guests choose which project they would like the profits to go to or tell us to use it for the one that needs it most.
Bee Products from the local Cooperative
Support the breeding of an Endangered Bee Species by buying high quality honeys (including potent thyme & “cactus” honeys), lip balm and beeswax candles.
Buy Freshly Ground or Unground Spice Mix
Some spice mixes bought in the souk may contain cheap ingredients like garlic powder. But our “Rhas Al Hanout” (shopkeeper’s choice) is genuine and profits go to good causes.
PLANT TREES - LOCAL & GLOBAL ACTION
Reforestation is acknowledged to be overwhelmingly more powerful than other solutions for capturing carbon dioxide, as well as having many other benefits for the environment.
Plant Trees at the Equator
We wanted to make an even greater impact by choosing the right project for carbon offsetting. So we found an effective, highly efficient, easy to support, community-orientated solution to support our planet and inhabitants.
You can read why we chose this project in Kenya and how you can support it through us:
- Tree planting near the equator has the maximum benefit as a carbon sink.
- Chosen species take up high levels of carbon dioxide and provide profitable crops for farmers e.g. neem, cashew nuts & mango.
- An award-winning charitable project with a proven track record run by Ru Hartwell a forester who we know and has strong long-term heartfelt links between Wales & the local community (much as we do in Morocco) – see here CarbonLink
- If you donate through us 100% of the funds will go directly to the project (rather than 50% if it passes through on online organisation).
- Also it is extremely good value for money. A larger tree nursery has resulted in economies of scale with the result that five trees can be raised and planted for £1
Plant Trees for Free by Using the Search Engine Ecosia
Ecosia gives 80% of its profits to non-profit organizations that focus on reforestation including projects in Morocco.
At Our Ecolodge
We have planted over 1000 trees and shrubs in our new Ecolodge gardens, all chosen for their ability to feed humans or wildlife with minimal water input.
New Bicycle Project
We are collaborating with a Dutch Organisation, Pikala Bikes, who are starting a project in Taroudant.
Pikala uses the bicycle to educate and employ the local youth. In Taroudant the main foci will be:
- a training program for young locals to become bicycle mechanics
- educational activities such as traffic safety lessons, cycling lessons for girls and a student bike project
In Marrakech a number of local girls and boys may become professional bicycle tour guides, but given the small number of tourists in our region, this will not be a big part of their work.