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, April 22, 2016

Trees for the Earth: Earth Day 2016

April 22nd is a very special day in Southwest Morocco for Dar Si Hmad. Happy Earth Day! International Mother Earth Day has been celebrated by the Earth Day Network since 1970. In 2009, the Day was made official by the United Nations. April 22nd is a commemoration of our planet that aims to “build a healthy, sustainable environment, address climate change and protect the Earth for future generations.” This year’s theme is “Trees for the Earth”, encouraging people all over the world to plant a total of 7.5 billion trees over the next five years.

Earth Day has a special meaning for us at Dar Si Hmad. So much of our programming is centrally focused on sustainability and requires a healthy environment. Our flagship fog-harvesting project is possible thanks only to the ecological conditions that roll dense fog into the Aït Baamrane Mountains. The Water School, a direct spin-off from the fog-harvesting system, revolves around environmental learning. Partner universities from around the world visit our Ethnographic Field School because of the uniqueness of our fog system. And everything else - from our vocational training programs in urban Agadir to our participation in international conferences - is possible thanks only to the planet that sustains human life.

Our 2016 Water School is directly addressing this year’s “Trees for the Earth” theme. The Water School is a two-month program for the young children of the beneficiary families of the Fog Harvesting Project. It provides them with fun and interactive lessons on environmental conservation, protection and sustainability. Since the children live in landlocked rural communities in the mountains of Aït Baamrane, they will soon inherit the unfavorable conditions that make accessing basic resources like water a challenge. As the next generation of inhabitants in this region, it is important to teach them how they can make the most of their surrounding communities by teaching them environmental science. 

A few weeks ago, the students of the Water School created a community garden at their school. With the help of their infectiously enthusiastic teacher, Fatiha, Water School students found their 'green thumbs' and planted trees as a part of their lesson on the environment. They rolled up their sleeves and were not afraid to get their hands a little muddy to create a green space for all of their community to enjoy. During the following week, the Water School student built up on their original community garden idea by beautifying the space to make it more appealing for garden goers. As a part of a lesson on recycling and sustainability, students painted old tires which would be used to adorn the base of trees planted in the previous week. Through the physical act of planting trees in a garden and then making that garden colorful and beautiful through artistic tires, these young students were able to develop a connection with their surroundings and the Earth. From a young age, they are actively creating environmentally sustainable places that engage the community and the planet. Their work has created homes for plants and animals as well as a beautiful space for the neighborhood.

Exactly a month ago on March 22nd, the international community celebrated World Water Day. That day and today, we celebrate the success of our fog-harvesting project. The innovative technology was recently featured in New Yorker magazine.

Dar Si Hmad's Director Jamila Bargach speaks at the
Inauguration of our Fog-Harvesting Project. We recently
celebrated the one-year anniversary of providing potable
water to homes in Southwest Morocco!
The fog project is a cornerstone of Dar Si Hmad’s programming and represents the organization's creativity in working with the natural environment to benefit surrounding communities. Having reached it first year of water supply, the Fog Harvesting Project has significantly improved the livelihoods of the people in the landlocked mountainous area of Aït Baamrane by collecting potable water in nets from passing fog clouds. Women in particular have saved time that would otherwise be used gathering water from distant wells, and have used that time to build their communities and themselves. This project has been a way for us to provide a vital natural resource to individuals in a way that does not come at the expense of the environment.

Dar Si Hmad's Ethnographic Field School program hosts visiting international researchers and student groups to discover the culture, history and environment of Morocco. Visitors from around the world travel to Southwest Morocco to see for themselves the incredibly biodiversity and natural beauty of the region. Studying and working alongside local communities, Ethnographic Field School participants learn how sustainable livelihoods and environmentally led empowerment are central to holistic development.

An EFS participant from Georgetown University’s Center 
for Contemporary Arab Studies samples some 
of the cold freshwater streaming from the 
High Altas Mountains at Paradise Valley.
Last May, some EFS participants trekked to the Paradise Valley (located twenty kilometres northwest of Agadir) to take in the views of the stunning oasis of freshwater streams coming from the High Atlas Mountains. Moroccans and foreigners alike travel to Paradise Valley each day to marvel at how an otherwise barren and arid area flourishes into a sea of green forest filled with a variety of flora and fauna. Valley goers can take a dip in the many gorges that form along the stream of water. More adventurous souls will brave a 30 jump off a cliff into a deep pool of water. Whatever you choose to do in Paradise Valley, it is a reminder of the great ecology and biodiversity that the Souss-Massa region has to offer.

The trees in Paradise Valley and those planted by our young students in the Water School Community Garden are a critical part of our planet's health...and our own. "Trees for the Earth" are also trees for us. Dar Si Hmad is currently exploring a new forest in Southwest Morocco, fed by fogwater. Wherever in the world you are, we encourage you to plant a tree today and support reforestation efforts. When it comes to the environment, we are all equally responsible - and equally at risk. We all have a stake in working to preserve our planet for human and non-human life, for ourselves and generations to come. In a time when we are increasingly reminded of finite resources being used by seemingly infinite greed, we must be more conscious consumers of the environment and mindful about the way in which we interact with our natural surroundings. On this International Mother Earth Day, we encourage our readers to take a moment today - and every day - to do something good for our planet. Whatever you do, big or small, can make a difference. From Southwest Morocco, a very happy International Mother Earth Day to everyone.

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