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, February 14, 2020

DSH Highlights of January 2020

Dar Si Hmad kicked off 2020 with the return of our Executive Director, Jamila Bargach, from the Oak Institute of Human Rights at Colby College. Energized by her return, Dar Si Hmad has already had a busy start to the new year and has laid the foundation for many exciting projects for the upcoming months.

Here are some highlights from this past month:

  • Dar Si Hmad was nominated for the « Terre De Femmes» prize from the Yves Rocher Foundation. The prize recognizes the achievements of women in promoting biodiversity efforts. This month, representatives from the Foundation came to learn about and film our work in both Agadir and Ifni. 
  • We are currently working on connecting a 16th village to the fog water system. This month we achieved several milestones with the procedural work that is necessary for extending the project and providing the Taloust Valley with fog water. 
  • With our educational programs, we ran hands-on lessons on permaculture both in Agadir high schools and in schools near our fog project in Aït Baamrane. These programs encouraged students to reflect on their own consumption habits and the environmental impact of these habits. 
  • We hosted many specialists and consultants at our pedagogical permaculture farm. These specialists helped us develop long-term plans for our farm and specifically discussed strategies for restoring the top soil. 
  • On January 13th, Dar Si Hmad participated in a celebration of the new Amazigh new year (2970), organized by students from Ibn Zohr University. As part of this event, we held an art exposition featuring paintings from our Rhizomes Arts Artistic Residency that took place last September. 
  • Finally, we are in the process of preparing for our 2020 Ethnographic Field School programs. We will be hosting a group of professors from Quinnipiac University in February, and a group from Lewis and Clark University this March. Our Executive Director and Ethnographic Field School Manager have already visited a permaculture farm with the Lewis and Clark students as part of their Marrakech-based program, and the students will soon be joining us for a full program in Ifni and Agadir!
Dar Si Hmad has kicked of 2020 with many projects, and we are excited to see what else is in store for the new year! Stay tuned for our annual report recapping all of 2019.  

Friday, January 24, 2020

DSH, an eco-friendly working space: Minimizing electricity consumption

Dar Si Hmad NGO supports its environmental mission with changes in its own working space. Among the many decisions that our organization took to contribute to the world’s big climate movement, even though in a small way, is the minimization of electricity use in the office. Thus, we have adopted three main measures in order to make our work place more eco-friendly.

To start with, Dar Si Hmad replaced the incandescent light bulbs in the office with led light bulbs. The latter aren’t only more environmental-friendly, but they also have a longer life cycle, use less energy, produce less heat and are safer as they contain no mercury. On a published article on the Energy Saver governmental website, it was cited that “Residential LEDs -- especially ENERGY STAR rated products -- use at least 75% less energy, and last 25 times longer, than incandescent lighting”. Hence, the led light bulbs in our office are both durable and energy-cost savers. And above all, we rarely have to turn the lights on in the work place since it is generally naturally illuminated.

All rooms in Dar Si Hmad contain large windows that keep them full of light during the day time, a reason why we don’t frequently run for artificial light. In fact, this wouldn’t have been possible if we didn’t supply the windows with second glass panes that protect the place from the cold and stormy weather all by  allowing the sun rays to reach the inside of the office when the outside wood panes are completely open.

The third step Dar Si Hmad follows to make its office more eco-friendly is by unplugging the appliances that are not being used. On October 2019, The New York Times pointed out statistics from the Natural Resources Defense Council that say that the cost of plugged-in but not used devices is about $165 per household, or $19 billion across the U.S. That amounts to about 44 million tons of carbon dioxide, or 4.6% of the country’s total residential electricity generation.

All in all, it appears that controlling the electricity consumption in the workplace isn’t only ecological, but  also more economical.

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

DSH, an eco-friendly working space: Replacing single-use items

For a non-governmental organization that promotes environmental justice, having an eco-friendly work space is a prerequisite. For Dar Si Hmad, going green translates to many different practices. Among these, replacing single-use items tops the list.

As Dar Si Hmad frequently hosts groups of students and researchers in its work space as part of the Ethnographic Field School (EFS) and the Language and Research Center (CELAR), our organization makes sure to equip its kitchen with reusable utensils. These reduce the amount of waste produced in the office, and also promote litter-less lunches among the staff.

Since staff know that they will always find all the necessary kitchen utensils they need during their lunch break, they do not order food from nearby restaurants or cafes, where their coffee would be served in plastic cup, for example. In addition, the organic waste from food and drink in the office becomes compost that we use to fertilize the land of the pedagogical farm Dar Si Hmad is revitalizing in Boutmezguida.

Dar Si Hmad also applies this green mentality in the office by going paper-free. Spills can only be found in the kitchen, since it is the only area where staff are allowed to eat, and Dar Si Hmad opts for micro-fiber cloths to clean, as they can be reused multiple times, a decision that is both more ecological and more affordable.

Dar Si Hmad also reduces paper waste by supplying the workplace with multiple white boards. These erasable boards minimize the use of paper during brainstorming sessions, especially since staff hold many meetings to develop project ideas and create program content. Once the work is done, the essential notes are transferred to computer software. 

Another way our office reduces paper use is our printing policy. At Dar Si Hmad, printing is only allowed for external communications, namely administrative communications. Besides this, if any activity within the organization requires hard copies, we make sure to print on both sides and even print on old, used papers that still have a blank side.

In a world where the climate is heavily impacted by every day practices, Dar Si Hmad believes that by adjusting their small habits within the organization’s office, they are contributing in a small way to the global movement.

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

The Closing of a Cycle

For these past three months, we have invited our readers and followers to meet and know of the personal experiences of the current Dar Si Hmad staff. Each person spoke of how their day is composed, what their challenges are and how they manage these challenges. As the co-founder of Dar Si Hmad and its director, I feel privileged to work with all these individuals and I especially treasure the fact we embody the spirit of civil society at its best. We believe in our mission of helping vulnerable communities learn and prosper; that is we are the bridge for the communities we service, from the villages in the Ait Baâmrane, the high-schoolers of Agadir or the University students, to gain from possibilities of growth that may not be easily accessible to them otherwise. As we prepare for our 10th anniversary in April 2020, we tally how many lives we have positively impacted and we feel proud, happy and yet humble. Humble because we have been trusted by these people who opened their lives and hearts for us. Happy and proud because the good work we have delivered has had a return. Students, volunteers, interns, community members all have given us the immense pleasure of infusing life and spirit into Dar Si Hmad mission. As we prepare for our next blog-series and for our continuing community-engagement, this is to the team of Dar Si Hmad and to everyone to have worked, learned, and supported our activities.

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

From the Logbook: Employees of DSH Tell their Stories/ Hussein Soussan and Abderahman Nassiri, Respectively: Fog-Water Manager-Assistant, Driver and Technical Maintenance

 Both Abderahman and Hussein joined the organization in 2011, when we first started the initial building of the fog-collection project. We had a conversation this past 2019 spring during our annual retreat.  This is an abridged section from this exchange: 

 Abderahman Nassiri, Driver and Technical maintenance
Abderahman:  Some of the hardest moments of the fog collection project was in the beginning in July 2011 when we had to take up the building material to the top of the mountain. It was hot, the road extremely difficult and we were still discovering how to do the work
Hussein: Yes, it is true… it was a record year of heat and the work was very physically demanding. We also needed to get the truck on top of the mountain and remember how we simply could not do that because it was simply impossible
Abderahman:  Yes, I remember and how we ended up having to take down all the long steel pillars out of the truck and try to do that by walking to soon discover we really could not do that either; extremely heavy, hot and hard… and finally we had to ask for the donkeys from the villages to let us use them but they insisted that they have to be with their own donkeys for one, and second, most of the international volunteers disliked the idea
Hussein Soussan, Fog-Water Manager-Assisstant
Hussein:  It was very hard at this time, but we did succeed after a week of non-stop work to deliver all the material to the mountain and it is only after that we started building.  That too was difficult, the rocks were too hard to break and we could not make the necessary holes for the anchors. One time, the contractor said he wanted to use dynamite and the managing team refused. We were, though, able after a lot of physical work to finish the holes. 
Abderahman:  Each one of the program that we host at Dar Si Hmad comes with its set of challenges, but what is important is that we always talk and find the solution as a team.
Hussein:  I’ve worked in many places before joining Dar Si Hmad and this is what I always like and treasure in this experience: the ability to problem-solve together, for all of us to come together and consider what the best solution to a given problem is and then work towards adopting the solution. 

Monday, November 4, 2019

First month on the job: Juggling Moving-In and Starting Work

Written by Perry Demarche

Since I joined the Dar Si Hmad team one month ago, things have been hectic! In addition to moving to a new country, I have had to adjust to a completely new job. Through all this chaos, however, everyone in the office has been incredibly welcoming and helpful in teaching me the ropes.

When I first arrived in Agadir, I had to find an apartment, move-in, unpack, learn where to buy groceries and apartment necessities, meet my new neighbours and make new friends, explore a new city, and finish all the onboarding processes for work. So many colleagues helped make this a smooth transition for me by driving me to look at apartments, helping me acclimate to the office, teaching me about Dar Si Hmad, showing me around the city, and sharing delicious food with me.

I have also hit the ground running with work. Within my first few weeks, I have learned how to use all Dar Si Hmad’s internal software, created English content for various projects and our website, made all new flyers and forms for our programs, found new language students and teachers, worked with potential researchers, reviewed program materials and academic research, met our partners, applied to conferences, taken 10 hours of Darija lessons… and so much more! Work is always busy, but I have been loving every second. 

Balancing moving to a new country and starting a new job is a challenge, but everyone at the Dar Si Hmad office has been extremely welcoming and kind. We’ve already had quite a bit of fun as well, including eating welcome couscous, celebrating a birthday for one of our language students, and enjoying some Halloween treats. I can’t wait to see what the next few months bring!

Monday, October 28, 2019

From the Logbook: Employees of DSH Tell their Stories, Mohammad Hamou-Ali, Fog-Water Project Assistant

Free interpretation based on Mohammad’s interview

In December 2018, I received a frantic phone call from Timtda village that water was leaking from a buried pipe.  I quickly made it to the house in question and, indeed, the entry to the house was getting muddier because the buried pipe seems to be leaking.  The grandfather comes out of the house in a state of panic and seemingly quite distraught saying that “my grandson was playing here and cut off the pipe”.  This seemed odd, how can a 7 year old, even playing rough reach a pipe buried at 60 cm deep?  What did he play with to cause such a damage?  This story somehow was unlikely but given the venerable age of this man, I could not ask any further and I had to fix the water leak as this affects water availability to the remaining households.

As I was digging, the grandfather went inside to make tea.  The child stayed behind and I started asking him about the game he was playing, at which he whispered how it was his grandfather who broke the pipe when trying to install bricks at the entrance of the house. The grandfather was apparently extremely worried that he would be the cause for water shortage in the entire village. It seemed much more befitting to say it was the doing of a child, that is someone with no maturity, not knowing there are consequences to actions and thus can be easily pardoned. That it was an accident did not seem to make sense to the grandfather who thought that just because he caused the leak, he was responsible and may have not only to pay extra-money for the water, but may have to face his fellow-villagers.  Understanding this, I continued working and fixed the leak, I also went in and had tea but never told the grandfather I knew. What was more important is that no water would continue to leak and that, the grandfather and I shared profoundly, no water-waste because we both know how valuable such a substance is. 
Some Playing time after a very hard day of work on the Fog-Water Project