Saturday, February 27, 2010

Moroccan poet, Mohammed Bennis, wins Maghreb Culture Prize

Here is an article from the Moroccan National News Service on an award given to the Moroccan poet Mohammed Bennis. Beneath that is a poem of his that posted on Poetry International Web. You can read the original Arabic poem at this link to the PIW site.

Moroccan poet wins Maghreb Culture Prize

Kairouan - Moroccan poet Mohammed Bennis was awarded, on Thursday in Tunisia, the Maghreb Culture Prize in recognition of his outstanding literary achievements and poetry works.

The award was handed over to the Moroccan poet by Tunisia's President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali during the closing ceremony of Kairouan Festival in presence of several Arab and Islamic personalities.

Born in 1948 in Fez, Mohammed Bennis is a founding member of the House of poetry in Morocco, which he chaired from 1996 to 2003.

He authored over twenty books of poetry, prose, essays and translations. He was awarded in 1993 Morocco's book prize, and received the Italian Prize of Calopezzati of Mediterranean Literature in 2006, in addition to the Atlas translation Prize in 2000.

Last modification 02/25/2010 07:54 PM.

from Hieroglyphs

by Mohammed Bennis


A ghost
You attend to the ruby time
No east will rise in you or west
A niche
Drowned in blue rustle shrouded by the Kingdom
A clay horizon
Dangling like a bunch of grapes
For a hand that drifts away
And dies

A stone
Forgets its master
Was he
Or was he there
A stone above a stone
Rises to watch you
The comer
No one
Is still awake but you

A silence attends to me
And for you my guest
There will be a night of papyri
And a night of
Arriving in hissing scents
The night’s end
And beginning
Are identical
Friezes are becoming one
Under the feet of the river’s dusk
Intoxication echoes resonate inside me
And fade away

© Translation:James Kirkup
From: Almakane alwathani

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Mosque Minaret Collapses in Meknes, Many Die

Here is an article from Reuters the minaret collapse at a Meknes mosque yesterday in Morocco.
The BBC did a photo essay on the relief attempts/reaction that can be seen here.

(( We are from God and unto Him we return ))

Moroccan mosque minaret collapses, kills 38
Fri Feb 19, 2010 6:31pm EST

RABAT (Reuters) - A four centuries-old mosque minaret collapsed in Morocco Friday, killing at least 38 people and injuring more than 70 worshippers, hospital officials and witnesses said.

"The number of dead reached at least 38. I have this death toll from rescuers and doctors and officials at the hospital," parliamentarian Abdallah Bouanou, who is also a doctor, told Reuters from the scene.

"I counted myself 13 dead. Their corpses were pulled out of the rubble by rescuers," he added.

Local civil defense commander Alaoui Ismaili said the rescue operation was slow because of the narrow streets in the old city medina district where the collapsed mosque minaret is located.

"We are using only manpower, not equipment as we cannot bring heavy equipment through these streets," he said.

"We are moving with great cautiousness also because the walls of houses and shops adjacent to the mosque are fragile especially after the heavy rains of the past days," said Ismaili.

The state news agency MAP, citing an official provisional toll, said 36 were killed and 71 more injured in the incident.

"About 300 worshippers gathered inside the mosque for the Friday afternoon mass prayers. When the imam (preacher) was about to start his sermon, the minaret went down," Khaled Rahmouni, whose home is near the mosque, told Reuters by telephone.

The Lalla Khenata mosque minaret collapsed in the old Bab el Bardiyine neighborhood of Meknes, which is about 140 km (80 miles) southwest of Rabat.

Neglected old buildings in the old quarters of Morocco's cities collapse fairly often, but the fall of a minaret is rare.

(Reporting by Lamine Ghanmi; Editing by Jon Hemming)

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Organic Farming Growing In Morocco

Here is an article from the Global Post on organic farming in al Maghreb.


Morocco's organic farming is growing

Community supported agriculture is sprouting in Morocco.

By Erik German - GlobalPost
Published: February 16, 2010 11:07 ET

SHOUL, Morocco — On a 50-acre farmstead outside the country’s capital, the scene did little to evoke agriculture on the cutting edge: Two lanky men in mud boots labored across a loamy field.

Slowly and by hand, they dropped seeds into rows of furrowed dirt. Behind them, a third man guided a horse-drawn harrow that looked as old as farming itself, covering each kernel with a layer of coffee-brown earth.

As this trio of laborers planted winter peas, they were practicing a form of agriculture that counts as innovative even in Europe or the United States. The operation is completely organic and its owner, Mustapha Belhacha, 31, has struck a deal with a group of urban families to buy his produce half a year before it comes out of the ground.

“We take the money in advance, with checks, in a way that’s truly new,” Belhacha said. “This system is more consistent, it gives us time to think about what we need to plant, what the customers want.”

Belhacha has joined what may be Morocco’s first association dedicated to Community-Supported Agriculture, or CSA. The group’s founders aim to change the way farming is done in this North African nation.

The surging popularity of organic food in the United States and Europe has been matched by a steady rise in organic farming in the developing world. The amount of land under organic cultivation worldwide has more than doubled since 2000, according to the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements, a non-profit trade group based in Bonn, Germany. According to the group’s latest survey, more than one third of the world’s 79 million acres or organic farmland are in Latin America, Asia or Africa.

Operations like Belhacha’s — in which small, organic farmers contract with local customers to deliver weekly baskets of in-season produce — make up a still-smaller subset of this number. But experts on this kind of localized, personalized farming say the model is well-suited to take off in countries where agriculture has not yet been completely overtaken by heavy industry.

“I think CSA has tremendous potential in the developing world,” said Steven McFadden, author of “Farms of Tomorrow,” and several other books on community-supported agriculture. “It doesn’t necessarily require the kinds of inputs that industrial agriculture relies on.”

The forerunners to the modern CSA model first appeared in Japan and Switzerland during the 1960s and 1970s. The movement then spread to America in the mid 1980s, starting with just two farms in rural New Hampshire and Massachusetts and growing to include more than 12,000 operations today, according to the U.S. Agriculture Department.

Now similar partnerships between consumers and growers are taking root on the temperate, cactus-lined farms of Morocco.

The founders of Belhacha’s CSA group, called Sala Almoustaqbal, began with little more than enthusiasm, a garden and a friend’s garage. Touriya Atarhouch was a biologist by profession but three years ago she decided to indulge and expand her passion for gardening. She and her husband, Najib Bendahman, with the support of several friends hungry for organic produce, started their own farm and convinced two other growers to retool their operations.

In exchange for doing so, the farmers were promised a steady salary of about $1,200 each month.

“Plenty of farmers came to us at first, saying this is super interesting, 10,000 dirhams a month is good. But what does that entail? It entails working every day, from morning to night, and all year long,” Atarhouch said. “It’s a continuous, diversified production. You’re always learning. There are always problems, so it’s not easy. That’s why we don’t have that many new farmers joining the project.”

They have graduated from handing out produce in a co-founder’s garage to doing so at an upscale school in Rabat, Morocco’s capital city.

She estimates the 100 customers in their network pay about 20 percent more for their vegetables than they would at neighborhood markets. As a result, the group’s clientele — about half of whom are foreigners, half Moroccan — tend to be educated and affluent. As the program grows, Atarhouch said she hopes to be able to offer weekly vegetable packages priced within reach of working-class Moroccans.

“Honestly we cannot help both growers and consumers at this point,” she said. “There’s less support converting to organic in Morocco than there is the U.S. and France. We have to take care of ourselves. So that means for the moment, we can only help the growers.”

Besides the steady pay, the project’s farmers cite other benefits of going organic. “Chemical fertilizers are expensive,” said Radouane Elkhallouki, who runs a farm a few miles south of Belhacha’s. “We cut costs by using plant and animal waste — which also help the land stay productive.”

The slightly higher cost hasn’t seemed to diminish enthusiasm for the project’s produce in Rabat. The waiting list to join the group is 100 families long, with friends of departing expats jostling for rare open spots.

“I have a little boy and it’s much better to give him organic than chemical vegetables,” said Saloua Mnissar, 37, who joined the group six months ago. But what does she think is the biggest advantage organic produce?

“The taste,” she said, “the taste.”

Saturday, February 13, 2010

The Green Tea Forecast - Morocco Leading Importer

Here is an article from World Tea News

Market Research Firm Releases Green Tea Forecast
Wednesday, 10 February 2010

by WTN Staff

Global Industry Analysts, a 20-year-old market research firm based in San Jose, Calif., has released a report on the global green tea market predicting that it will exceed 1.2 million tons by 2015.

Rising health consciousness coupled with consumers' increasing awareness of the health benefits of green tea will drive growth in demand for green tea, according to a news release by Global Industry Analysts. It claims that China is the largest producer of tea in the world, and that Morocco is the leading importer. Europe, meanwhile, is the fastest-growing market for green tea extracts.

The full 406-page report carries a price tag of $3,950 and includes 128 tables. According to GIA, researchers culled data from primary and secondary sources. Using data extracted from online research, the report profiles 154 companies including specialty tea makers Celestial Seasonings, Vultaggio & Sons, Honest Tea, Inc., ITO EN, Numi Organic Tea, Oregon Chai Inc., Suntory Holdings Limited and The Republic Of Tea, in addition to several multinational tea and beverage corporations.

This is GIA's first report on green tea specifically. It did one other, in March 2008, on coffee and tea.