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.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

A Summer Breeze… from the DSH Agadir Center

Our blog at Dar Si Hmad has been silent for few months now… we have been caught in the midst of adjusting to administrative changes and taking time to constructively reflect on the work we so passionately do with and for our communities.

Safe drinking water has been flowing to all the communities in the Ait Baamrane, we have now 8 more villages not to have suffered through the scorching summer-heat to go fetch meager water-amounts from distant wells. They have celebrated the holy month of Ramadan with even more happiness, celebration of water available within the households.

This past summer we have hosted high-school pupils from under-represented groups in the US and we are extremely proud to say that this first experience was an astounding success. The EFS manager and the DSH team committed all their energy and know-how to delivering a successful program. Gender, justice and race were presented, discussed, and scrutinized in different social contexts, thus unveiling how structures of power function in our multiple worlds today.

This summer we have also hosted two very promising researchers from the US, all working on Agadir as their research-site. Their work on ecological issues facing this touristic city is not only timely, but ask key questions as water scarcity and water-waste.  Some of these questions were subsequently taken up by the Climate Chance meetings to have just taken place here in Agadir from the 11th-to 13th of September.  All NGO actors coming together to continue and/or initiate the work for a better stewardship and care of our planet. DSH was an active actor during these meetings.

This summer we have hired a new office manager, Abbes Benaissa who comes with a rich experience working in NGOs in Morocco and overseas. We are learning and benefiting from his “past life” and discovering all the enriching new paths in front of us.  New ways of collaborating with other environmentally minded NGOs, with European based volunteers, and with a host of bohemians, free-spirits, folks in love with life and with all the beauty we learn from observing it.

This summer, we also hired a new RISE program officer, Soufian Aaraichi. Another cool breeze of calm and serenity. With Soufian, just like Abbes, other types of free-spirits are joining the organization and taking the environmental work to a new level of connections. All are welcoming and carry the promise of a better today.

From left to right: Soufian, Abbès from their excursion in Wim-Timdouine
This summer we were blessed by a very special visit. All fog-projects in the world place the Chilean case on a pedestal of sorts, it was the first, large-scale and most successful initiative to have endowed fog with the title of a noteworthy source of water. The Fundación un Alto en el Desierto came to visit our fog-project and see how the new CloudFishers function. The blessing of these prophets of fog from Chile to Morocco was a true inspiration to nurture our continuing determination.
From left to right: Mounir Abbar, Natalia Robert and Nicolas Schneider (director and president of Un Alto En El Desierto), Aïssa Derhem


This summer, Soufian Aaraichi, Khadija Changa and Jamila Bargach, we all travelled to the Northern part of Morocco and worked in the mountains close to the Fnideq.  This region is known by water-scarcity during the summer and by the presence of thick fog.  Our field-work concerned some 3 villages in order to evaluate the fog-potential and have the 192 households have access to water even during the dry-season.
Jamila, Khadija and Soufian enjoying the view on the stone quarry.

And finally this summer, we were offered some naked land in the mountains of Ait Baamrane in order to create a fog-fed farm employing the principles of permaculture. Greening the desert, and why not?  This small experiment in which the goal is to mitigate the encroaching Sahara in the region where we work. We are in the process of studying the project and looking into this future of possibilities.


So yes, our summer was quite busy and we are just so happy about it!

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Filming in British Towns and Gardens

Today, we present the last installment of our EYAs' adventures in England! Check out previous posts about the Conservation Optimism Summit, teaming up with the Zoological Society of London's Education Team to film biodiversity, a seminar the team gave at Oxford, and Abdelhaq's talk at the University of East Anglia. Our last post is from Abdelhaq, chronicling his adventures in Sheringham and South London.



The day after I gave a seminar at the University of East Anglia's Water Security Research Centre, we visited Sheringham. Sheringham is an English seaside town in the county of Norfolk with a population of 7,367 people. It’s small place known for its fishing heritage, beautiful coastal spots and beaches where you can sit and reflect by the North Sea, and well-served food reflecting its main economic activity: fish and chips!!

The Mo Sheringham Museum documents the history of this small but proud coastal village. It preserves lifeboats from different years and periods, talking about their use in wars and fishing activities. During my visit to the Mo, a local community member, Roger, presented various artifacts. Roger agreed to be filmed, and told stories about how fishermen in this part of the world run their equipment. I'll be transforming his interview into videos in Tachelhit, so our students from the Water School have a chance to see another part of the UK.

photo courtesy of Wikimedia


Above the heritage museum is a lookout tower and educational viewing platform created by Sheringham Shoal. Norfolk is a major area for offshore wind farms, sources of renewable energy. This part of the museum had an amazing scientific room demonstrating how the company creates electricity using giant fans moved by the wind in the middle of the sea. We could see these windmills from two telescopes installed in the room. On the upper deck - with the wind blowing! - I interviewed two researchers from the University of East Anglia. Nancy and Lauren talked about how renewable energy works and why they love the sea. Their interviews will also be translated into Tachelhit for our local communities.



photo courtesy of 'Day Out with the Kids' UK

Back on the land, I stayed for the rest of my trip with a host family in Ealing, one of London's residential boroughs (which is what they call neighborhoods). Monday was a national holiday, so my host parents didn't have to go to work. Instead, they invited me and Becca to visit the Kew Gardens.

The Kew Gardens are a botanical region in southwest London housing the "largest and most diverse botanical and mycological collections in the world". We called it a 'zoo for plants'!

Everything there was totally green and ornamented by colorful flowers of all varieties. This really caught my attention, as Morocco has very few green spaces or naturally colorful vegetation.


During our trip to the London Zoo, Mahdi talked about bees and how important they are to the planet, and our survival. This was clear at the Kew Gardens too. These very hard-working creatures have a great reputation in the fields, because we really can’t live without them. Their pollination services give us fruits, vegetables, and plants. They are the important influencers that make our food delicious! In the Gardens, a special exhibit about bees included a huge metal house that replicated the structure of a beehive. The Hive was beautifully enhanced with lanterns that glowed when the bees' buzzing increased. Oscillations replicated the bees' sounds, with the noises from inside their real hive projected through speakers. The bees were my DJ fo the day! It might the place a peaceful area to connect with these incredible creatures.


My host family had two young daughters, Alya and Eve. These sisters loved nature, and carefully explained the importance of trees and other plants to me. I filmed many of their wonderful explanations, so they will have the chance to be mini 'teachers' for the Water School.












































Most exciting was our tadpole release. The family has a small pond in their back garden, where baby frogs are currently growing. We took some of these tadpoles to a local park and put them in a bigger marsh so they will have a bigger home as they grow into adult frogs. I had never seen tadpoles before, so this was a great opportunity for me to learn and experience biology in a new way. And of course, we caught all that on camera too! I am really grateful for the chance to share memories of my host family with our fog villages in Southwest Morocco.


Sincere thanks to Nancy and Lauren from the University of East Anglia, Roger at The Mo, the team at Sheringham Shoal Offshore Wind Farm operated by Statoil, and my host family. I had an unforgettable time with you, and your willingness to share your time and experience in front of a camera will make our Water School even more dynamic!

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

A Foggy Day in Norwich

Last week, Project Coordinator Mahdi Lafram wrote about the Environmental Youth Ambassadors' trip to London for the Conservation Optimism Summit. His colleague Salma Edrif then told us about teaming up with the Zoological Society of London's Education Team to film biodiversity. She also talked about a seminar the team gave at Oxford.  

After a week exploring the UK, Mahdi and Salma had to come back to Agadir for university! But Abdelhaq stayed in the UK for another week...so here's part of what he got up to.

Moving from our talks at the Conservation Optimism Summit and at Oxford University, it was the University of East Anglia's turn to hear about Dar Si Hmad and our award-winning fog-harvesting project. Along with research partner Becca Farnum, I visited UEA's Water Security Research Centre to share our work.


With both researchers and students in attendance, our seminar presented the fog-harvesting technology - using the small model of a CloudFisher I made to demonstrate the science behind this simple but innovative project. We also talked about Dar Si Hmad's other programs, including women’s empowerment, the Water School, and reforestation. Our main objective was to share a story about technologies and models of sustainable development coming from Africa. We wanted to share creative solutions to water scarcity and community resilience to climate change.

After our talk, we had many fruitful conversations with the students to fulfil their curiosity about the links between fog, gender, society, sustainability, and climate change. I’m glad we made it to Norwich - where I got to see the University's beautiful green space and had a special encounter with one of their local bunnies!





Monday, May 8, 2017

The Environmental Youth Ambassadors at Oxford

Part 3 in our series about the EYA Conservation Optimism Trip is this report from Salma Edrif about a seminar she and her colleagues gave at the University of Oxford.


Bringing Dar Si Hmad to a wider audience, the Environmental Youth Ambassadors visited the University of Oxford as part of their recent trip to the UK. They were accompanied by our research partner Becca Farnum to give a seminar at Stanford House.

The seminar took place on Monday 24th of April and was titled “Fog, Education, and Resilience: A Case Study of Sustainable Development in Southwest Morocco”.


The 45 minutes presentation attended by students, researchers and scholars shed the light on Dar Si Hmad’s work as a local contribution to the development agenda set by the United Nations for 2020.

I spoke about sustainable development, water security, and community resilience in Morocco, moving on to highlight how Dar Si Hmad’s local interventions through fog warvesting, women's empowerment, and the Water School contribute to 11 out of the 15 Global Sustainable Development Goals.

Especially for the seminar, my colleague Abdelhaq engineered a transportable miniature of our CloudFisher net to bring the fog-harvesting to life in the classroom, an example of the technology and scientific ingenuity coming out of the Global South.



























 



Meanwhile, Mahdi Lafram introduced the Water School, RISE & THRIVE professional development programs, and Environmental Youth Ambassadors initiative, which tackle issues of equitable education and opportunity in Southwest Morocco.

Following the presentation, we facilitated a discussion with the attendees reflecting on how the local case study of Dar Si Hmad is shaped by and can inform wider narratives of development, before inviting everyone to explore fog harvesting using the model net.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Educational Filming at the ZSL London Zoo with the EYAs

Earlier this week, Project Coordinator Mahdi Lafram wrote about the Environmental Youth Ambassadors' trip to London for the Conservation Optimism Summit. Today, his colleague Salma Edrif discusses another of their UK projects: Teaming up with the Education Team at the Zoological Society of London to produce more original videos.


Most of the conservation conversation is unfortunately available only in English, limiting access to its content for non-English speakers. Our Water School project’s main goal is to introduce the children of rural Southwest Morocco to global environmental issues. The curriculum, which we've published open source in Arabic and English, is delivered by our amazing teacher Fatiha in the main language spoken by local children, Tachelhit. We believe this is critical in making local communities feel as though they have a stake in environmental issues, valorising indigenous languages and cultural diversity, and engaging children in learning.

After attending the Conservation Optimism Summit in London, Dar Si Hmad’s Environmental Youth Ambassadors visited the ZSL London Zoo on the 23rd of April to create additional visual content about conservation work. The team spent a full day interviewing zoo employees, filming various animals in their habitats, and presenting the Society's conservation efforts. These films are being edited by the EYA Team now and will be published in Tachelit and Arabic - bringing the great work of the ZSL London Zoo's conservation and education to local Moroccan communities so they can be a part of the ongoing effort.


I got the chance to interview Andy and Ana, members of the Zoo's presentation and education teams.

First, Ana walked us through a typical day of her work in the zoo. As a part of the ZSL Education Team, Ana is in charge of coordinating visits with local schools and serving as a tour guide for  children. The Zoo offers a variety of educational workshops that include nursing and feeding interactions with animals, conservation education, and animal biology. Then, Ana introduced us to her favourite animal in the zoo - the seahorse - and talked about its natural habitat and where it can be found around the world.



Next, Abdelhaq accompanied Ana to the Zoo's indoor rainforest, a recreation of the sloth's home. Anna welcome the Water School kids to the Amazon in her native language, Portuguese, and then Abdelhaq asked Anna in Tachelhit to talk about the special features of this 'lazy' animal who has evolved to sleep nearly twenty hours a day. The two sloths slept through their 'interview' with the EYAs, but one of them did wake up later that afternoon for feeding time - so we captured some of his verrryyyy sllooooowwwww movement on film. Our camera was also visited by a curious colleague of the sloth (a golden-headed lion tamarin), who wanted her turn in the spotlight!








 





















In the Zoo's Aquarium - the first ever in the world - our partner Hamad from the Kuwait Dive Team spoke with Ana about coral reefs, the bleaching of these amazing habitats caused by climate change, and how we can help protect our ocean. Our trip there made national news in Kuwait.
 

Moving across the world to Asia, we met Andy. Andy’s job at the zoo is to give live educational presentations to visitors. After I interviewed him about Asiatic lions - a close cousin to Morocco's national animal - Andy changed into his ranger clothes and pretended to be an employee of Sasan Gir, a forest in India where lions live. Using a unique animatronic model, Andy and his team gave a live simulation of rescuing a lion found injured in the park. Children visiting the Zoo to learn about lion conservation got to help perform first aid on the full-sized 'lion' and heard about how he would be cared for.



South of the Equator, we visited Penguin Beach, where Andy talked about the amazing birds that swim and don't fly. His talk gave us a lot of great ideas about how to teach adaptation and evolution to our Water School classes - and of course it was great fun to watch the penguins dive for food! At least, our youngest research partner Rafael certainly thought so.



















The Environmental Youth Ambassadors also filmed videos talking about their favorite animals. Mahdi visited the BUGS Building to pay homage to one of the world's most crucial species: bees. Mahdi talked about pollination and how important bees are to in plants' reproduction - and our own survival! Meanwhile, Hamad and I explained how the radar technology submarines and satellites use is inspired by the incredible adaptation of nocturnal bats. Just like our fog-harvesting project is inspired by an insect's clever wings, the natural world has informed so many of today's greatest innovations. Copying animal adaptations and environmental systems in engineering is called biomimicry, and it can be seen everywhere...in transportation and agriculture, swimming suits and children's games. Nature is our greatest teacher - and that's what the ZSL Education Team and Dar Si Hmad's Water School are all about.

Thanks, ZSL!

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

In Agadir and London, we are #ConservationOptimism


This post was written by Project Coordinator Mahdi Lafram, just days after returning to our Agadir office from a trip to the United Kingdom. While our new RISE Participants were celebrating Earth Day with a Field Day at the beach, three of our first Environmental Youth Ambassadors shared our Water School at the Conservation Optimism Summit.




“I am conservation optimist because my Moroccan team of youth are AMAZING”

As we were walking throughout the premises of Dulwich College in London, we saw this sentence written on a post-it and stuck to a wall. We were delighted. Salma, Abdelhaq and myself flew to the United Kingdom to take part in the inaugural Conservation Optimism Summit, invited and supported by Dar Si Hmad’s research partner, dedicated volunteer and EYA program mentor Rebecca L. Farnum - you certainly guessed who wrote the sentence above!

Organized by the University of Oxford’s Interdisciplinary Centre for Conservation Science (ICCS), the Zoological Society of London (ZSL), and Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust, the three-day event in London gathered hundreds of attendees from around the world to share success stories from the field. Both of my teammates got on an airplane for their first time to come share their environmental activism experience. We were excited to take part in this global meeting, learn about other conservation initiatives and, above all, tell the story of youth in conservation in the Middle East and North Africa.




As environmental activists, we often think that to engage people effectively in protecting the natural world, we need to make them feel guilty and aware about the consequences of their daily life activities on the environment. The Summit aimed to communicate another discourse. A discourse of optimism, positivity, and hope.


Conservation is too often seen as a crisis discipline, one in which bad news predominates. Although nature is facing huge challenges, we feel there are many positive stories out there where conservation has made a difference to people’s lives and to the status of wild nature. Progress, at the moment, tends to be overshadowed by negativity. It may well be happening, but it can be slow-burning, local and less immediately obvious than the sometimes overwhelming challenges faced.
We believe this is counter-productive.
Budding and perennial conservationists need to feel inspired and continue in the profession, not put off by pessimism. The public, businesses and government need to know that their actions can make a difference. With this summit, we aim to reframe the conservation movement by celebrating positive thinking in conservation, and putting forward a road map for change towards an optimistic and forward-thinking future. (http://conservationoptimism.org/)


That’s why we need to rethink our communications. In regards to that, we participated in a workshop titled Selling Success: Marketing a better world with Conservation Optimism. It was all about developing a positive communication campaign framework. The workshop was led by marketing and behavior change professionals from Ogilvy Change and  PHD Worldwide and took the form of an interactive ‘speed marketing challenge’. In addition to various workshops, the summit included different plenaries by conservation researchers, professionals and activists. It was compelling to see how the optimism movement has gone far into spreading a positive outlook on conservation locally and abroad. Moreover, we had the opportunity to share the Middle East’s perspective on youth-led conservation through a joint workshop with our partner organisation Kuwait Dive Team represented by Hamad Bouresli, and chaired by our research partner Becca Farnum.

At Dar Si Hmad, we believe strongly in a positive hope about Earth’s future. Our award-winning fog collection project gives people a future of prosperity, progress and optimism in Southwest Morocco, which was among the key messages we’ve disseminated at a special seminar held at Stanford House, University of Oxford as part of our research visit. We presented DSH projects and their social impact on the local communities. The team felt especially lucky to meet Dr. Michael J. Willis, the King Mohammed VI Fellow in Moroccan and Mediterranean Studies at St Antony's College, and Dr. Michael Gilmont, Research Fellow at the University of Oxford Environmental Change Institute, and get their perspectives on our work.

Many thanks to Rebecca L. Farnum and King’s College London for their generous support of our trip.

Join the #ConservationOptimism conversation on social media and tell us why you’re optimistic and how you’re making a change. Let’s celebrate our success and be positive about our Earth and its critters. After all, as our newest research partner Rafael knows: "little creatures like me are born every day!" We believe that, working together, we can make a great future - for him and for us.


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: