Looking back whilst moving forward

Welcome 2017!  Over the coming year, we hope to enrich the lives of more young people in the Atlas Mountains of Morocco through education and healthcare initiatives.

We invited David Bult from Green Sahara Furniture, who has been instrumental in establishing our new woodwork centre in Tansghart, to share his observations from the past 12 months, training and inspiring participants at the centre.

Tansghart & High Atlas Mountains

“What does a reclaimed-wood Christmas tree have in common with Mount Toubkal, the tallest peak in North Africa?

In early 2016, we helped launch the Eve Branson Foundation Tansghart Woodwork Centre.  Tansghart, across the valley from Kasbah Tamadot hotel, is a small Berber village that sits encompassed by the snowcapped High Atlas Mountains, including the intimidating Mount Toubkal.  The woodwork centre is just a stone’s throw away from the Eve Branson Foundation’s Tansghart Crafthouse where, after a decade now, young women of the village participate in tailoring and embroidery progammes.

One of the first things I did when we set up the new woodwork centre was to ask our young trainees to take me for a hike around their village and orchards, and into the river valley below.  I was amazed at the lushness of the area and the variety of fruit trees that each young man’s family helps cultivate.

bringing downed wood to woodwork centre

looking for driftwood near Asni river

The hills are beautifully terraced with plum, peach, apricot, apple, olive, walnut, and pomegranate trees.  Even the woodwork centre is surrounded by young fruit trees – mainly almond and fig – as well as a variety of herbs used in Kasbah Tamadot’s kitchen and in the Moroccan tea that guests enjoy when they visit the centres.

With giant snowcapped peaks as our backdrop, the lunchtime conversation at the woodwork centre often revolves around the weather – when the rains are coming, how much snow is on the mountains, if the river and irrigation canals are full of water, how the fruit is growing, when the olives will be ready for harvest and pressing.   These young men and their families recognise and discuss the powerful force of nature and how intertwined their livelihoods are with their environment.

The weekly Saturday souk in Asni showcases the bounty of this region – everything from honey, walnuts, chickens, and massive piles of vegetables – it’s a “not to miss” event for many Berber families, including our woodwork centre trainees.

Water is precious in this region – it’s drawn from our own well and used wisely in the woodwork centre garden.  The irrigation canals maze throughout Tansghart’s orchards to bring new life each spring, and a favourite of many young people in this region is the summer swimming hole created by the nearby river.

boys swimming at Tassa Ouirgane irrigation canal

After a storm rages, and especially when the mountain snows begin to thaw, the rivers swell and push fallen trees and branches to within walking distance of the woodwork centre.  We also work with local farmers to buy larger offcuts from them during the pruning season.  This sustainably-sourced wood can be used for a variety of products and gifts: wooden jewellery, keychains, coasters, domino sets, candleholders, furniture and ‘responsible’ carved Christmas trees to name a few!

Natural Christmas tree

Many of these items are for local sale at the woodwork centre or Kasbah Tamadot’s gift shop, and we also send some larger projects abroad: in April, we worked alongside the young women from our nearby crafthouse to produce 800 wood pendants and keychains for an event in Los Angeles and in June, we crafted an artistic wooden rocking-chair & ottoman that went to a fundraiser in London.

LA gala order - necklaces, keychains, and bags

Our natural, reclaimed-wood Christmas trees have been popular items this season, and we offer them in two sizes: table top and a taller floor model.  We even constructed a huge tree for the entrance at Kasbah Tamadot and just installed it this week to coincide with a very special visit from our founder, Eve Branson.  With Mount Toubkal, the High Atlas Mountains, and the powerful forces of nature around us, we’re quite fortunate to have a sustainable source of wood to use in our products for the foreseeable future.”

Eve & tree4 - hi res

With Eve & our hand-carved Christmas Tree.

This year, we aim to have more of our products available for sale online – so watch this space!  If you’re interested in supporting our product range or would like to order one of our unique gifts, please email ebf@kasbahtamadot.virgin.com

Here’s to our another great year ahead, unlocking the potential of future generations.

Ayoub & Mouad on moped