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, March 23, 2016

Dar Si Hmad celebrates World Meteorological Day

A pupil explains precipitation at Dar Si Hmad's Water School
Thilj!” the children shrieked the word for “snow” in Moroccan Arabic in response to a picture of snow-capped mountains of the High Atlas. Fatiha, the teacher of the Dar Si Hmad’s Water School, nodded approvingly and directed their eyes to the white powder held in their outstretched hands. She poured water over the powder, and the children’s eyes widened as they watched it expand into cool, fluffy “snow”. They began throwing the flakes in the air and sprinkling it over their heads, filling the classroom-turned-snowglobe with laughter and white powder. In the first lesson of Dar Si Hmad’s Water School, children learned about different types of precipitation and weather. Fake snow provided a simulation of the appearance and texture of one of water’s frozen forms. Many of the children have never left their villages in the arid region of Aït Baamrane so this was the first time playing with the fun white powder and identifying where snow can be found around Morocco.

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/2/2e/Atlas_Mountains_snow_cover.jpgMorocco may not be the first place one thinks of when it comes to snow, let alone skiing. Yet contrary to popular belief, Morocco does receive a significant amount of annual snowfall along certain stretches of the Atlas mountains. The High Atlas is the largest mountain range in North Africa, with Mount Toubkal towering as the tallest peak at 4,165 meters above sea level. That range is capped with snow year-round. Perched within at 2,600 meters above sea level is Oukaimeden, a small village 80 kilometers from Marrakech and Morocco’s premier skiing resort. The Middle Atlas to the north also experiences snowfall in the winter months. The small town of Ifrane positioned at 1,665 meters serves as the prime ski spot in the region.

Dar Si Hmad's President Aissa Derhem at our Fog Site
The villages of Aït Baamrane, where Dar Si Hmad’s Fog-Harvesting Project and the Water School take place, are nestled in the Anti-Atlas Mountains of Southwest Morocco. This mountainous desert region serves as a distinct contrast from its Middle and High Atlas counterparts. The stratocumulus clouds floating above the Atlantic coast, locally known as tagut, behave like fog once they reach the Anti-Atlas. This dense fog makes it possible to collect water with the fog nets, which Dar Si Hmad then pipes directly into the homes of five rural villages of Aït Baamrane. As announced on Monday’s International Day of Forests, Dar Si Hmad is currently in the process of beginning a reforestation project to be supplied with fog water to restore the region’s forests. Using fog water to rehabilitate forests depleted by agriculture and human development will create positive cycles preserving local ecosystems and contributing to the social and ecological vitality of the region’s plants, animals, and humans for generations.

Since 1950, World Meteorological Day has been celebrated annually on March 23 and is sponsored by the World Meteorological Organization, a specialized UN agency for meteorology, operational hydrology, and geophysical sciences. This day also recognizes the improvement of weather forecasting, early-warning systems, and disaster preparedness, saving thousands of lives around the world. 2015 witnessed a slew of unsettling climatic conditions: skyrocketing temperatures, devastating droughts, abnormally high amounts of rainfall, and unusual cyclone activity in the tropics. These record-setting trends are projected to persist for years to come, foreshadowing a “Hotter, Drier, and Wetter Future”. The 2016 theme of World Meteorological Day highlights these climate change challenges and the road to more climate-resilient societies. “The future is happening now,” says World Meteorological Organization Secretary-General, Petteri Taalas. “The alarming rate of change we are now witnessing in our climate as a result of greenhouse gas emissions is unprecedented in modern records.” 

Morocco’s geographical and meteorological diversity make it the perfect place to celebrate World Meteorological Day. Morocco has recently taken a stand and voiced its obligations in alleviating and adapting to climate change, with King Mohammed VI announcing at the opening of COP21 that “the objective of securing 42% of the country’s energy mix from renewable resources by 2020 has recently increased to 52% by 2030.” The 2015 COP21 climate conference was a defining moment in climate change history, with the world unanimously adopting Paris Agreement. This agreement served as the first universal, legally-binding global climate deal that is scheduled to be officially implemented in 2020. With 195 countries agreeing to proactively address the present threat of climate change, each country is expected to undertake steps to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Morocco will be hosting the annual COP22 Conference in Marrakech on 7-8 November 2016. In June, Morocco’s National Center for Studies and Research on Water and Energy (CNEREE) of Cadi Ayyad University is organizing an international conference on Water, Energy and Climate Change. WECC 2016 and COP22 will bring together policymakers, activists, researchers, engineers, practitioners, and community members to develop innovative solutions, share best practices, and commit to climate action. Dar Si Hmad will be attending both as part of its ongoing commitment to sustainable livelihoods and community resilience in Southwest Morocco and around the world.

From the weather station monitoring our fog project in the Anti-Atlas Mountains to our library in Sidi Ifni boasting historical monographs on climate science, from our research offices in Agadir to the classrooms of our Water School...happy World Meteorology Day from Dar Si Hmad! Join us to explore creative, sustainable solutions to our future. It will be hotter, drier, and wetter. But with the growing expertise of Moroccan youth and innovations like our fog harvesting project, the future is also full of potential and hope!

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