The Rif Mountains Region
The Rif Community Foundation (RifCom), as its name suggests, works in the Rif Mountains of Northern Morocco and primarily around the province of Chefchaouen (which is centered on the town of Chefchaouen, marked in blue above, often called the jewel of the Rif) and including the whole of the breathtaking Talassemtane National Park.
Where Africa and Europe Meets Each Other
The Rif Mountains are not part of the, perhaps more famous, Atlas Mountains but belong to a geological formation known as the Gibraltar Arc which joins the North of Morocco to the South of Europe.
The name comes from the Berber word “arif” meaning “wise” and the region is well known for its cultural as well as geographic diversity. Stunning mountains plummet down to the Mediterranean Sea, rivers gush down narrow ravines and rare Barbary macaque monkeys can sometimes be spotted or the rare Pinsappo Pine.
Mixed cultures can be found, including Arabic, French and Spanish, but the area’s indigenous people are the Rif Berbers, the Riffians, who also call themselves “Amazigh”, meaning The Free People. They are considered tough and hardened people because they live in an extremely harsh environment, but are also proud, hospitable and well-spirited.
The Characteristics of the Region
In rural areas access to municipal services are limited with connection to electricity being intermittent and water being collected from shared wells. Lack of roads and public transport to remote mountain villages makes access to health care difficult and unattainable for some communities.
Primary education has become well established across much of the Rif, but secondary schools are still relatively few and average literacy rates can still be very low. A recent report shows in one mountain region literacy rates as low as 11% for the male population and 3% for the female.
While schools teach Moroccan Arabic and French mainly, the language of the Riffians is called Tarifit and is different to that of other Berber peoples in North Africa.
To Keep the Community Strong and Alive
Subsistence farming is typical in the mountains and unemployment is a major problem, perhaps up to 60% in some areas, and this has forced many to migrate to other places for work, either within Morocco or further away in Europe or North Africa.
The Amazigh live a very simple life compared to other more developed countries, but it is their belief to keep traditions that they follow alive, for years to come. They have strong family values, which keep them bound together despite their rough living conditions.