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, July 19, 2019

Learning Across Continents: Reflections on a moroccan summer

Written by the EFS Student Kenia Hale
 Kenia Hale is an American student from Yale University who participated in WEGI’s 3 week intensive on race, gender an environmental studies. Kenia is receiving assistance on her academic research from DSH staff and has been taking daily intensive Darija lessons in the organization.

When I arrived in Morocco 5 weeks ago, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I knew Morocco was on the African continent, and had taken 1.5 years of modern standard Arabic, but I knew nothing about the culture or history of the place. In my time with Dar Si Hmad and the Women’s Global Empowerment Initiative (WEGI) I’ve learned so much more about the world, and have learned more about myself in the process.

In my first three weeks here, I participated in an intensive program where we learned about race, gender, social justice, and environmental justice in Morocco directed by Dar Si Hmad. Each day comprised of a Darija (Moroccan Arabic) lesson, a class on a specific subject, and daily excursions that provided context for the issues we discussed in the classroom. We learned about Amazigh history, Sub-Saharan Migration in Morocco, Gnawa culture, and much more! In just three weeks I found myself rethinking my perceptions of race, gender, and culture in my daily life.
As a dark skinned Black woman, my race and gender color defined my experiences at home and abroad. Morocco is, as described by our program coordinator, an incredibly “plural” place, and we are constantly surrounded by people of every color. My friends and I were told that any of us could pass as Moroccan, which I understand to be true when looking around the market, the beach, etc. This being the case though, it was often our lighter-skinned group members that are told that they “look Moroccan” by shop owners and others we interact with. I’ve been asked if I’m from Jamaica, Cameroon, Côte d'Ivoire, and many other sub-Saharan countries, and have been told that I “look too black to be American.” These experiences have complicated my understandings of “Blackness” at home and abroad, and challenged many of my preconceptions of who can be considered “African.”
Kenia and her fellows taking the lessons directed by Dar Si Hmad
Morocco is so beautiful, and I’ve experienced so many different parts of it in my time here. In Marrakesh, I got to visit the bustling medina, shop in the huge souks, and visit popular landmarks like Jemaa el-fnaa, Jardin Marjorelle, and Bahia Palace. In Sidi Ifni, we relaxed in our town house and got to visit Dar Si Hmad’s fog project, which is definitely a sight to see. That day in particular it was really cloudy and misty, and it was really cool to see the fog nets in action! We traveled to Aourir where I saw the biggest waves and bluest ocean I’d ever seen in my life. We visited a women-led Argan Collective, where we learned about the argan business and tried cracking Argan nuts. I’ve spent most of my time in lovely Agadir, a city on the South coast of the country, where I’ve been living with my incredibly kind and welcoming host family. They’ve provided me a home away from home, and my host mom makes the best avocado smoothies I’ve ever had!
In Dar Si Hmad's fog proect Site

I’ll be here for a total of 8-weeks, and have been doing my own independent research on development and technology with the help of Dr.Bargach and the DHS staff, alongside a PhD candidate working on research for her dissertation. I’ve also been continuing my daily intensive Darija lessons, and I can feel myself learning so much every day. I can now successfully hail a taxi, ask about prices in the Souk, order food at a restaurant or ask my host mom to take us to the beach. I know colors, numbers, how to tell time and ask directions, and much more. The constant immersion in the language is helping me pick up the language so much more quickly than I did at school!
This experience has both helped me realize how much I already know and how much I have left to learn about the world and myself. I’ve met lifelong friends and can feel myself growing into a more worldly person every day. I’m incredibly inspired by the people I meet and the work that DHS is doing in the community, and I’m so glad I took this leap and traveled this summer!

Friday, July 12, 2019

Learning Across Continents: Learning across one continent


Written by DSH intern Walid Zarrad:

Walid Zarrad is a Tunisian intern in Dar Si Hmad who has demonstrated strong organizational skills in managing the organization's inventory, both in Agadir and in Sidi Ifni, during his stay in Morocco.


While traveling to a new culture, you learn something new every second. It might sound cliché but from the moment you arrive, lessons start flooding in; and these lessons include everything from culture studies to linguistics.
As a Tunisian, I thought traveling to a country as close as Morocco would mean avoiding the culture school. I quickly understood that instead of learning new things, I would be learning new things and comparing them to what I’m familiar with. In other words, the subtle yet omnipresent differences turned my trip into a game of “let’s find out how, why, and to what extend this is different!” And I loved it.
During my month in Agadir, I learned to turn into a sponge whenever I entered a drugstore or café. Hell, even walking down the street I wanted to grasp as much information as possible. What I used to believe was extra mental labor turned into a hobby.
And what better place to practice this hobby than Dar Si Hmad? I walk in and see hard-working, friendly, and diverse staff members mixing their different backgrounds to come up with outstanding projects. I walk in and meet student researches who are happy to teach me and learn from me. I walk in and learn how to use the anthropology that fascinates me to help communities in need.


This trip confirmed to me that every culture is an iceberg with a small part the world sees and a huge part you have to dive in the waters to find out about. And nothing is more fun and challenging than diving in head first. If you’re lucky enough, the swim will turn into a thousand questions. I was constantly thinking about all the factors that could have influenced a specific difference between Moroccans and Tunisians: is it the different decolonization processes? Is it the different approaches to arabization and westernization? Or is it just different geographies?


























I am writing this from the top of Mount Boutmezguida, next to Dar Si Hmad’s Cloudfishers. Although I‘m 1225 culture meters high, I can see that higher mountains are ahead of me. I can’t wait.

Saturday, July 6, 2019

Summer Tech Camp 2019: Another Succesful Edition

Written by DSH intern, Ms. Salwa El Haouti
Additional to the multiple events Dar Si Hmad embraced during June of this year, the last week of the month has also witnessed the completion of the second edition of the Summer Tech Camp with satisfactory results. This educational program, which aimed at initiating underprivileged teenage girls to the digital world, also served girls with average prior knowledge on the use of the internet.
Although the main focus of this instructional program was the teaching of technology as its name indicates, the syllabi developed for the teenage beneficiaries comprised a number of other concerns all of which would certainly serve them on both the short term, as high school students, and the long term as active members in the job market and the society.
The first day of the camp was an opportunity for the beneficiaries to know one another and for the instructors to present an overall of the schedule of the week before inciting the girls to create their own classroom constitution. That session was also marked with the introduction to the technical jargon in relation to the computer, starting from the components of the hardware to the essential terminology that pertains to its software. The girls were also taught some ABC’s on surfing the web and were assigned some Web quests as a practice. Watching a Ted talk beforehand on the merits of being an IT girl and discussing it also contributed to maximizing the attention and interest of the Summer Tech Camp’s beneficiaries.

Day 2 was a continuation of the previous day’s lesson. This time, the girls were initiated to the web extensions and were offered examples on the ones they will most benefit from as young web browsers. Since all the girls are about to enter high school, it was necessary to show them how to use Google Docs and Google Slides. Above all, they were further instructed on how to detect real news and information from fake ones using internet tools, as they will be assigned to do divers researches from high school onward, all by giving the credit to the publisher of any content in order not to commit any plagiarism.
The third day of the summer tech camp started outdoors by visiting the local Amazighi museum of Agadir. This visit was an opportunity for the girls to learn and rectify many fallacious and erroneous ideas they once had on the Amazighi culture and history. The tour they had was intentionally planned to stimulate the girls’ curiosity on what one can learn in the museums and thus feel eager to visit more of them. Back in Dar Si Hmad, we guided them to websites where they could have a virtual 3D visit to internationally known museums such as the Louvre Museum in Paris. Having access to such content would definitely reinforce their overall historical and cultural knowledge, which will indeed benefit them throughout their lives. The afternoon of that session covered the right techniques of taking pictures and shooting a video, and also guided the girls to some editing platforms where they could modify and improve the quality of their pictures or make a short video film.
On the fourth day of the program, the girls demonstrated great interest and engagement with the course content. That day was consecrated to coding and Artificial Intelligence and had included many tasks for practice. The learners were then directed to some beginners’ coding websites, where they could learn and also practice the coding as they did inside the classroom. Each young girl by the end of the session has created an HTML web page, which comprised a head and a body where pictures and videos were also attached. In the last quarter of the day’s program, the focus was mainly put on the AI where the girls expressed clear astonishment at the level the technological field has reached.
The morning of day five was spent in the beach of Agadir. The girls had a blast playing competitive games with one another. They clearly needed a pause from the serious subjects they have tackled in class the previous days. The afternoon was also spared for them to make their own DIY projects where they gave vent to their creativity.

Similarly to the fourth day, the sixth one also evoked the engagement of the girls, but this time in deep discussion about themselves, how much do they know about their strengths and weaknesses and to what extent do they exploit their potential. The girls complained about the poor orientation they get in their schools about the educational prospects ahead of them, the organizing team of the camp also held a session of orientation where the girls’ questions and ambiguities were finally clarified. Moreover, scholarships’ opportunities for both high school and university students were also presented to the beneficiaries of the program, as they were also provided with tips on how to maximize their chances of getting one.
Day 7 was the last day of the camp and it was a chance for the girls to demonstrate what they had acquired throughout the week. The participants did a power point presentation on one of the various matters, which were treated during the program. The presentations were pretty inventive and originative as they tackled what they have learned from different perspectives.
Since this day marked the end of the camp, it, of course, included a number of fun activities before the participation certificates were given to the young beneficiaries. By all accounts, the week’s program described above is indeed a strong evidence on how successful the Summer Tech Camp of the year 2019 has been.