Visiting Researcher Becca Farnum wrote a piece on violence against women in North Africa that featured Dar Si Hmad’s fog harvesting project. Today, we explore how Dar Si Hmad is engaging in capacity building training with Berber women in the southwest Moroccan countryside in more detail.
Rural villages in the Bled (Moroccan countryside) have not previously had access to potable water. Berber households would gather the limited rainwater in internal cisterns, but Morocco’s increasing drought conditions would require them to buy water, expensively delivered to cisterns via water trucks. Open wells around the countryside are used to water livestock. Those wells, many of them quite far from residences, are also where women would go collect water to supplement whatever little amount of rainwater they managed to collect. During the summer months, Morocco’s dry season, the water level is especially low and women have to get to the wells before sunrise if they want water. Walking often starts before 4am, and a woman may travel five kilometres to fill her buckets. Because many households rely on just a few wells, women have to take turns filling their containers. In between turns, everyone has to wait for the water table to rise again. Between the distance and the waiting at the well, this seemingly simple chore takes Berber women and children hours to complete.
|There is drought in the area, but plenty of fog floats|
over the Anti-Atlas Mountains in Aït Baamrane
|Fog harvesting uses nets to catch and collect |
tiny water droplets from fog
|An Amazigh woman turns on the tap in |
her home to receive fog water. Photo credit: AFP
Many development projects focus on water. Ensuring access to clean water helps combat rates of water-born disease, especially among children. When more water is available, food supply and cooking becomes easier. Cleanliness and sanitation improves.
Many of these programs claim a gendered approach, assuming that women’s burdens will be eased when water is supplied. But it is important to remember that, in many water-scarce regions, women have a privileged ancestral role as water guardians. Serving as resource gatekeepers is a source of power for women. It may be one of the few ways women in villages can materially exert their agency. Water supply projects that do not take these considerations into account can inadvertently create harm, disrupting traditional gender norms and women’s habits without facilitating positive alternatives.
|Dar Si Hmad surveyed families |
in the Bled (Moroccan countryside)
before the fog project
Recognising that water has been a source of power for Berber women in village households, Dar Si Hmad worked to ensure women continue to have control over their water in the new fog system. Staff, volunteers, and international researchers led ICT trainings for the Berber women. For many of the villagers, it was their first time tackling literacy. With careful attention to the challenges but faith in the women’s abilities to overcome them, the program taught women how to text with their mobiles. Today, the women monitor their water system by reporting data and any problems via SMS message.
|Berber women send texts to monitor the fog water system|
The fog harvesting project also creates a de facto equality of time between the sexes, as hours once spent walking to fill containers of water have been freed by the reliable taps. Women and children now have more hours in the day available for chores, education, and luxury. This enables more girls to stay in school into their teenage years. To ensure women are able to use the newfound time in ways of their choosing, Dar Si Hmad runs capacity building workshops in the villages.
|Dar Si Hmad runs capacity building workshops in |
recipient villages to help women consider agricultural co-ops