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.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

WASH: Water, Sanitation and Hygiene

Dar Si Hmad has been busy commemorating the 16 Days of Activism to prevent Violence Against Women. Today, we highlight another important global issues, its connection to gendered issues, and partnerships with the University of Colorado Boulder and Worcester Polytechnic Institute.

19 November was World Toilet Day, calling attention to the 2.4 billion people lacking access to improved sanitation around the globe. This year, commentators pointed to the relationship between sanitation and violence against women. Millions of women and girls around the world do not have toilets inside their homes. Leaving the house at night to defecate in the open leaves people more vulnerable to attack, unfortunately including sexual assault and rape.

Dar Si Hmad proudly works with communities where WASH-related direct violence against women is not a widespread problem. However, the long-standing impacts of poor sanitation and hygiene on women's health, community standards of living, livelihoods, economic security, and empowerment cannot be ignored and contribute to more systemic issues of violence and poverty.

A toilet is more than just a toilet. It is personal security, and freedom from disease, and dignity.

And water is an integral part of sanitation. “WASH”, water for sanitation and hygiene, is necessary for safe food production and preparation, personal cleanliness, caring for the sick, washing up, and disposing waste.

Recognizing the intricate links between water, sanitation, hygiene, women’s empowerment, and community security, Dar Si Hmad has begun exploring a program to improve WASH systems for the villages included in its flagship fog harvesting project.

Engineering students Nicholas Valcourt and Rebekah Daniel
visited the villages of Zekri to study WASH issues in
connection with Dar Si Hmad's flagship fog harvesting project
June-July 2015, Dar Si Hmad conducted a survey on water and sanitation in Aït Baamrane in conjunction with engineering students from the University of Colorado Boulder’s Mortenson Center in Engineering for Developing Communities. Nicholas Valcourt and Rebekah Daniel visited Dar Si Hmad as part of their course practicum. Using the spatial information, photographical documentation, and soil samples they collected on their visit, as well as the summer survey data, Nick wrote a report for Dar Si Hmad about the extant sanitation infrastructure system. With attention to the local culture, existing technology and knowledge, and community needs and desires, Nick has proposed an engineering framework for improving the system.

Students from the Worcester Polytechnic
Institute visit the fog harvesting project
Building from Nick’s work, undergraduate students at the Worcester Polytechnic Institute have developed three techniques for greywater recycling in the fog harvesting villages.

Dar Si Hmad’s fog harvesting project works in Agni Ihyia, Tamerout, Agadir Id Lghachi, Id Soussan, Aguejgal, Id Sator, Timtda, and Id Achour – the villages of Zekri in the Anti-Atlas Mountains of southwest Morocco. Some 300-450 people live in the villages. The population is highly variable, given regular migration to urban centers and even Europe for work.

Water for sanitation and hygiene, as well as
adequate toilet facilities, remain a challenge
in the Aït Baamrane region
Thanks to the pioneering technology of Dar Si Hmad’s fog nets, 52 of the households in the villages of Zekri now have running potable water in their homes. However, the vast majority of the homes do not have adequate systems for waste disposal and sanitation. Typical toilet facilities include a floor-level squat plate with a seat toilet or cover, a cement rather than cleaner tile floor, no water tap, and no vent.

Mr Valcourt’s report identified major goals for a sanitation system: protecting and promoting human health and protecting the environment while being simple, affordable, and culturally acceptable. He also pays explicit attention to the need for the system to work for everyone, addressing the common and specific health needs of women, men, and children.

The report highlights the need for universal coverage, such that every household in the community has accessibly hygiene. High levels of interaction between households can facilitate the easy spread of bacteria and disease. Reducing the health burden in the villages of Zekri is an important step in continuing the fog harvesting project’s work in advancing local livelihoods and building economic security. With the continued partnership of universities, Dar Si Hmad can leverage the existing community organization and relations built by the fog project to further promote empowerment in southwest Morocco.

This post is part of Dar Si Hmad’s 2015 #16Days Campaign to mark the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women.

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