Dar Si Hmad for Development, Education and Culture is an independent nonprofit organization founded in 2010 promoting local culture and sustainable initiatives through education and the integration of scientific ingenuity in Southwest Morocco. We operate North Africa's largest fog harvesting project, providing villages with access to potable water. Our Water School and Girls' E-Learning Programs build capacity in the Anti-Atlas Mountains. Through our Ethnographic Field School, researchers and students engage with local communities in Agadir, Sidi Ifni, and the rural Aït Baamrane region for meaningful cross-cultural exchange.

Friday, April 21, 2017

RISE Field Day

By Sophie Nachman

This weekend we decided to shake things up at RISE by hosting a Field Day at the beach. Students started the morning as usual, with English Conversation Hours and an interesting presentation about photography and media. After some time to work, we walked together to a pizza lunch and then headed off to the beach for team building and communication games.

First, we played a game that encouraged people to learn each other’s names by requiring them to remember the names as quickly as possible. In the next game students identified their commonalities in a game similar to musical chairs. To encourage the students to break out of their project groups and work with new people, they were required to find a new group, blindfolded, by making only animal sounds. Next, we moved on to a fun relay race where the students had to race to fill a bucket with water by passing a wet sponge over their heads. We made sure to dedicate time for the students to just hang out. People listened to music, danced, sang, played tennis, volleyball, and swam. Over all we enjoyed our time together.



After enjoying free time, we dove right in to some more communication exercises. In one challenge, the students were blindfolded and required to communicate verbally with each other to arrange themselves along a rope in the shape of a square. The students found this challenging but it reminded them of the importance of communication in group work and made them aware of their tendencies as leaders or followers. The last couple activities aimed to build trust and appreciation between the students. The students made a bridge with their arms, and one by one a student would run through, trusting that their peers would move their arms out of the way in time. Then they took turns walking through the tunnel of their peers greeting and thanking each one.

The students seemed to enjoy this chance to hang out in an informal setting, and they had some wonderful feedback to share.


"This day made us get to know every one else outside our groups. It gave us the opportunity to see the true aspect of everyone. We also had a day off from the project and all the stress we struggle with daily . There were lots of amazing games that made the day super fun, and brought us closer to each other."

  

"It was a very good initiative, organized for RISE participants to bond and get to know each other better. Personally, I learned lots of things that day especially in terms of strengthening my relationships with the other participants."


"At first we didn't know each other, we were depending on our groups and not paying attention to other groups. The blind animal sounds and the blind shape forming activities were the best because it doesn't matter who is in your team, what matters is what you have in common and what  you are trying to achieve. I learned that day that leadership is not just in one team member, but leadership is when other members consider each other's opinions! In short, Field Day was awesome."


Check out this video of Field Day below:


Tuesday, March 28, 2017

EYA Mahdi Lafram reflects for World Water Day

In recognition of last Wednesday's worldwide celebration, Environmental Youth Ambassador and Project Manager Mahdi Lafram recently shared his experiences with water, fog, and environmental action in Aït Baamrane. From all of us at Dar Si Hmad, Happy World Water Day!

Since childhood, I have always felt a special connection to water. My family owns a small farm in a remote village in Southwest Morocco and has always been concerned with water issues -- and so have I. The problem is real and has a deep impact on our daily life. Water issues are endangering my family’s - and my village’s - traditional ways of life. Agricultural production is threatened by the soil degradation, erosion, crop damage, and reduced harvests that result from extreme weather events such as drought, heat waves, and floods.



Inspired by their innovative fog water collection project, I got involved with local NGO Dar Si Hmad (DSH) which runs the world’s largest operational fog-harvesting project -- fog harvesting is an innovative technology based on the fact that water can be collected from fog under favorable climatic conditions. Last fall, I was so excited to join the organization to help prepare for the United Nations Climate Change conference (COP22). I was offered a unique opportunity to work directly with Executive Director Dr. Jamila Bargach and DSH stellar team to make sure that the organization looks its best at the international meeting in Marrakech, Morocco.

As my first real professional experience (while being enrolled in a full-time Grande École Master’s program), the organization set high expectations for my position and I had the opportunity to make a strong impact from day #1, which allowed me to learn so many things in a short amount of time. In fewer words, I've been drinking from a firehose.

Among the contributions that I am proud of are announcing our win of UNFCCC Momentum for Change award on the organization's blog/social media, presenting our projects to hundreds of visitors and journalists at COP22, and publishing various external communications materials (including the organization's 2016 Annual Report). It was both a culturally-immersive and intellectually-challenging experience since I had to do my job in three different languages with people from all around the world.

Happy International Water Day!

P.S.: Next July, I will be giving a talk about my experience (and especially my contribution to an environmental education and advocacy program in Morocco) at the American Middle Eastern Network for Dialogue at Stanford (AMENDS) conference that will take place at the University of Oxford.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Launching the 2017 Water School

Hello and welcome back for the launch of Water School 2017!


Following an exciting and fruitful 2016, Dar Si Hmad's Water School is back in full swing for our second year. This year, the Water School will provide environmental education lessons for schoolchildren in a new part of the Ait Baamrane region. We have moved from Tinin Amlou to Tangarfa, and our beneficiaries are now totaled at 86; with 59 from one school and 27 from another. Working bimonthly, our Water School will span seven sessions, from February 16th until May 4th. Themes will cover the water cycle, animal and plant biology, community garden, health, recycling, conservation, ecosystems, and more!

While we are keeping to last year's innovative and detailed curriculum, new changes and updates have been made to ensure that Water School 2017 is the most beneficial it can be. This year our fantastic Water School teacher, Fatiha, has the goal to "give kids tools on how to be friends with their environment and to understand it very well, and to make them aware of climate change".

In order to accomplish our goals for 2017, staff, volunteers, and of course, Fatiha, have been busy working to set up new games, activities and materials for the students. Fatiha is hoping for an even better year than last! While she holds many moments and memories dear,"the most emotional one was when they named a tree with my name - 'Fatiha'."


And the School doesn't just help the students: it's a launch for many community projects and provides training for urban youth passionate about education. Last year, our Environmental Youth Ambassadors enjoyed their time immensely. Abdelhaq Ait Boulhous, former EYA and now part of our staff, suggests "all the new EYAs to go to Water School. Concerning Fatiha, she is like their sister; she interacts with the students deeply and with feeling. She is so incredible with her interactions with small children. Children want to know everything, and she is sharing all her knowledge with them. She is a great point of contact between Dar Si Hmad and these kids." Salma Edrif and Mahdi Lafram found themselves likewise inspired by Water School and its curriculum. Salma remarked upon the fact that while many Water School beneficiaries have never seen Agadir, or even the sea, they were able to tell "stories about the water cycle, molecule movement and deep understanding of what causes the water scarcity their villages suffer from. They showed me with pride around their small garden in the school yard, competing with each other to give me maximum accurate information about a tree’s life cycle and span, and their dreams to turn their community into a major national supplier of vegetables and fruits they will plant in their shared farm, once they are a bit older." Mahdi, who created short films about our sessions, believes that "the program was enriching and I loved every part of it - Water School was the best: from pedagogy and curricula to the energy of the children and the passion of the staff members."


Water School lessons are centered around the idea that water is the connector for all forms of life on the planet. The Water School is organized by three themes: basic ecology, uses and sources of water, and environmental stewardship. Each lesson plan is organized into a half-day session, and although each topic is introduced separately, learning is intended to build on itself. With water as the basis for each lesson, beneficiaries learn about worldwide ecosystems, communities, and sustainability. You can learn more about our lessons - and get ideas for teaching environmental stewardship in your community - by downloading a free copy of our Water School Curriculum: darsihmad.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/water-school-sc.pdf

Dar Si Hmad's partnership with local villages has led to very successful environmental education and engagement in the Ait Baamrane region. Our Water School is part of Dar Si Hmad's commitment to accessible environmental education for each and every child. In the wise words of Salma, "when the core of society receives such ecologically aware and sustainability driven mindset training from an early age, it becomes part of their own personal culture, their families, then their communities, through transmission." We hope you will join us and check back to see our Water Heroes in action!


Friday, February 3, 2017

Meet the Team

Dar Si Hmad is proud to announce that several of our Environmental Youth Ambassadors have formally joined the Team as part-time staff. We continue to be impressed by these young people's professional skills as well as their dedication to cross-cultural exchange, sustainable development, and community empowerment.

Mahdi Lafram joined us last fall to help us prepare for the twenty-second session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP22) held in Marrakech. Mahdi grew up in Oulad Teima, a small town outside of Agadir. He did extensive volunteer work as a teenager where he learned a lot and was inspired to continue his work in NGOs. He received a scholarship as a Youth Leader from the US Middle East Partnership and was able to visit the US for an intensive training. In 2015 Mahdi was a RISE program participant and impressed the staff of Dar Si Hmad so much with his dedication and drive that he was hired soon after. He is currently pursuing a Master’s degree at ENCG.

 

After winning the UNFCCC Momentum for Change Award, the organization is currently undertaking various new projects and taking its operations to the next level, especially with the award-winning fog harvesting project. We are upgrading our fog nets to CloudFishers, next generation fog-collection technology designed by our German partner WasserStiftung. The increased productivity from these nets will allow us to connect 8 more villages to the grid.

To face the new objectives and challenges, we recently hired Salma Edrif and Abdelhaq Ait Boulhous. Formerly part of the Environmental Youth Ambassadors (EYA) program, Abdelhaq and Salma participated in the 2015-2016 RISE professional development program before doing a summer internship with the organization. Those internships led to ambassadorial work at COP22 and their current positions in the Agadir office.


Salma is currently studying for a Master’s degree at the Ecole Nationale de Commerce et de Gestion in Agadir, majoring in Finance and Accounting. She was born in Safi but lived in 7 different regions all over Morocco. During university, Salma cofounded the Hanmate Korean Culture Association and was an active member in various social projects in Southwest Morocco. Salma will be working as an Assistant to Executive Director. She will be hunting for funding opportunities for Dar Si Hmad’s future ambitious projects.

 

Abdelhaq is a recent graduate with a Bachelor’s degree in Management from Université Ibn Zohr. He has strong interests in information technology, photography, and videography. Abdelhaq is the new Information Technology Coordinator and will be controlling and maintaining DSH’s IT material and media. He will be covering DSH’s events, managing and organizing the library, and reporting as an assistant during the new RISE program sessions.

Welcome, Salma and Abdelhaq! We look forward to strengthening our projects and extending our impact with you.

Friday, January 27, 2017

34 new Agadir youth RISE

Last year, Dar Si Hmad brought professional development training to two hundred young people in urban Agadir, thanks to a partnership with US-MEPI. The university students, young professionals, and vocational school trainees graduated from our RISE & THRIVE programs in June after building their civic engagement, entrepreneurship and employability skills. They have been wowing us with inspiring projects and career journeys since.

The 2017 edition of the RISE program will focus on environment and sustainability themes through a project-based learning approach. On 20 December 2016, 34 students kicked off their journey with an initial activity bringing them together from around the city to get to know each other, celebrate their acceptance into the highly competitive program, and learn more about the skills they will gain over the next months. 

 

Honored by the United Nations at COP22 last November, Dar Si Hmad and its world-class fog harvesting system is an inspiring example of environmentally-sound leading initiatives in Morocco and around the world. Thus, Dar Si Hmad seeks to transfer its passion for the environment to the new cohort of RISErs. Through this year’s program, they will learn about project planning and management, finance, marketing, human resources and leadership applied to the environment sector. Their training will include four course themes:
  • Module 1: Project Ideas, Ideas evaluation and Pitching
  • Module 2: Strategic Planning
  • Module 3: Organization: Practical tools
  • Module 4: Basic Organizational & Managerial Principles
Participants will also be developing their own projects and taking part in various extracurricular activities facilitated by Dar Si Hmad staff members and volunteers.

Over five hundred young people in Agadir applied to RISE, a testament to the need for these kinds of programs in Morocco and to the commitment of young people to furthering their potential and building their communities. 


At the December Integration Day, the students got the chance to meet each other, learn about the exciting program coming up and hear more about the Dar Si Hmad “Way”. As the tradition goes, Executive Director Jamila Bargach gave a short speech and welcomed the new participants. Following that, the RISE team led by Project Coordinator Salah Eddine Ait Lakdoume walked them through the modules they’ll be experiencing, introduced them to our organizational values and invited them to set rules for themselves. The event included also a music performance by the inspiring Nastya Soller from Russia.


Congratulations to the new RISErs. An unforgettable journey is waiting for you at Dar Si Hmad!

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Souad writes for AAUW on Empowering Moroccan Women

Our own Souad Kadi, a Project Manager in our Agadir office, recently spent a month with the American Association of University Women in Washington, D.C. as part of a Fellowship program. Dar Si Hmad is proud to support personal and professional growth for our staff - and proud of Souad for being such a strong advocate and role model for young women in Morocco!

Check out the original post at http://www.aauw.org/2016/12/20/empowering-moroccan-women/



Souad Kadi

“I look forward to using what I have learned during my fellowship in the United States and my time at AAUW to … continue the work of bridging the gender gap for young Moroccan girls and women.” — Souad Kadi

AAUW hosted Souad Kadi for a month this fall as part of the Professional Fellows Program, implemented by Hands Along the Nile and funded by the U.S. Department of State. As part of her fellowship program, Kadi spent time learning about AAUW’s fundraising, programs, and advocacy. During her fellowship she received leadership and grant writing training, connected with area nonprofits working on women’s and girls’ empowerment in her home country of Morocco, met AAUW members, and visited the United Nations. 
Here’s what Kadi had to say about her time at AAUW.

Women face numerous challenges in Moroccan society. The issue of gender inequality is still acute — Morocco ranked 139th out of 145 countries included in the 2015 Global Gender Gap Report published by the World Economic Forum — and lack of educational access for girls is one of the biggest obstacles in the way of bridging Morocco’s gender gap.

Souad Kadi holds an AAUW banner at the United Nations
Souad visited the United Nations during her time with AAUW.

 I am one of the very few young women from my home village to complete a university degree; many older women from my village are uneducated, and the vast majority of my female peers dropped out of school before starting higher education. The ratio of young educated females to males remains low in Morocco, and the number of women participating in the formal labor force is also below average compared to other countries. Additionally, there are still laws with provisions that work against progress toward gender equality and blatantly give men the upper hand in familial, social, political, and economic matters.

Souad Kadi at the International Youth Foundation during her fellowship time at AAUW
Souad also visited the International Youth Foundation with AAUW staff and supporters during her fellowship

However, some progress for women’s empowerment is being made. More Moroccan civil society leaders are working closely with communities to address issues of gender inequality. The nonprofit organization I work for, Dar Si Hmad (DSH), is committed to enhancing quality educational opportunities and sustainable livelihoods for vulnerable populations, especially women and girls in Morocco. DSH helps women and girls in rural areas through their fogwater harvesting project, capacity-building trainings, and Water School.

Souad Kadi (right) on her last day at AAUW with Program Associate Theon Gruber Ford
Souad on her last day at AAUW with Program Associate Theon Gruber Ford

The fogwater harvesting system pioneers technology to harvest water from fog and deliver it to marginalized rural communities in Aït Baamrane in southwest Morocco. The system has been successful, reaching approximately 400 individuals, 300 of whom are women. In the past, women from these rural communities would spend approximately four hours each day collecting and transporting water to their homes. Now, thanks to the fogwater harvesting system, women have more free time to dedicate to pursuing education and meaningful employment. These same women also participate in DSH’s new weekly trainings, which teach functional literacy and educate women about income-generating projects.

DSH also implements an annual Water School to expose both girls and boys from rural communities to science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields. By including girls in the curriculum and exposing them to STEM fields (as recommended in AAUW research), DSH’s Water School is actively taking steps to dismantle persistent sexist stereotypes that devalue Moroccan girls by deeming them less intellectually capable than boys. Approximately 120 girls have participated in the Water School project over the last three years.

I am proud of the impact I have been able to make on women’s empowerment work in Morocco through DSH and I look forward to using what I have learned during my fellowship in the United States and my time at AAUW to strengthen future DSH projects and continue the work of bridging the gender equality gap for young Moroccan girls and women.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Spreading the Word: the EYAs in Marrakech

Last week, we shared one of the posts from our Environmental Youth Ambassadors about their involvement at COP22. Today, we're happy to share their experiences with other youth groups in Marrakesh. Check out their blog for more tales from their time networking with other climate activists, speaking to the media, and sharing our UNFCCC award-winning fog-harvesting technology with visitors to our booth!

On November 8th, 2016, Mahdi Lafram and Salma Edrif along with program mentor Jade Lansing led a short presentation and discussion about Dar Si Hmad with Amideast-hosted National Security Language Initiative for Youth (NSLI-Y) students in Marrakech. They talked about DSH innovative projects and their social impact in Southwest Morocco. The students were very curious and the team had an interesting conversation with this outstanding group of American youth. 

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In the same week, Friday, November 8th precisely, our own Abdelhaq Ait Boulhous and Oumhani Benhima along with program mentors Jade Lansing and Becca Farnum were invited to the American Language Center in Marrakech for a lively discussion, with nearly 15 young people, about climate change and climate action at COP22.    

During this session, the team presented Dar Si Hmad projects, including the award-winning fog harvesting project as well as the Water School, and the Environmental Youth Ambassadors program, in addition to watching various self-produced videos.

The session was opportunity to ask participants on what does climate change means to them and facilitate a group activity which aimed to define climate change and find solutions to solve this problem, while sharing their different perspective and ideas with the team.

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