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.

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Our First Film Screening and Teacher Training Workshop

“Because they [Chikhates] blur the boundaries between ordinary and extraordinary experience, between private and public genres of expressions, they become the social representatives of transgression.” --Deborah Kapchan, Gender on the Market: Moroccan Women and the Revoicing of Tradition, 1996

This past week we conducted our very first film screening at Dar Si Hmad as part of our monthly Film Education Program. We organized the event and invited students from Ibn Zohr University and other institutions to attend. We chose a unique documentary film titled Les Blues des Chikhates directed by Ali Essafi in 2005. The film illustrates the story of three Chikhates of different generations: Ayda, Aicha and Hafida. In Moroccan society, Chikhates are popular female dancers and singers who are true artists and rebels at heart. Historically Chikhates have been marginalized figures with a heavy reputation as being immoral, having their art be pushed aside while their harsh image persists. The narrative raises questions about the Chikhates’ status and gender politics in Moroccan society, and the relationship Chikhates have with one another.

This documentary was released by the Arab Film Distribution as part of a film series called Women Pioneers Collection. Ali Essafi, the film’s director, was born in 1963 in Fes, Morocco and left to France to study Psychology. He started his cinematic career as an assistant to various filmmakers. He directed many documentaries such as Ouarzazate Movie, Wanted, and Al Jazeera, la nouvelle voix des Arabes. He worked as an adviser to one of the Moroccan public television channels for three years. Ali Essafi is one of the pioneers of documentary film making in Morocco.

After the screening we facilitated a discussion about the documentary. We discussed the Chikhates as being marginalized women in Moroccan society, due to their trespassing of the patriarchal norms. One student from the audience stated that “our society is a hypocritical one in terms of dealing with this category of women; people love Chikhates’ music yet despise them and frown upon them.” Others had completely different opinions. For instance, one of the students claimed that Chikha is the one responsible for the “bad” image people have about her because she smokes cigarettes, drinks alcohol, and goes out late at night. Another student argued that these women are rebellious figures in Moroccan history and we should be proud of them. We discussed notions such as public and private spaces and consequences that one must deal with when trespassing a society’s boundary. Another student stressed that though Chikhates are not respected, they still represent various aspects of Moroccan history and culture. Thanks to this documentary, the students reflected on such issues in their own society.

 In addition to our film screening, recently we invited local university students from the master’s program in TEFL/ICT at Ibn Zohr University to attend a one-day intensive teaching workshop at Dar Si Hmad. The aim of the workshop was to teach our trainees on how to design lesson plans, manage classrooms with multicultural and multi-level students, and how to use interactive activities and multimedia when teaching a foreign language. The trainer introduced them to teaching basics that every instructor should have and several teaching methods that the teacher can implement in his or her teaching. We also included a cultural sensitivity workshop that helped our trainees to be better equipped with the knowledge and methods needed in teaching students of different cultures and to encourage positive cross-cultural exchange. The trainees were enthusiastic and engaged in the training and presented their own lesson plans at the end of the day. Thank you to all who participated!

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Our E-learning Platform and ICT-based Education for Girls in Rural Boarding School

We are developing a project in collaboration with the delegation of the Ministry of Education in Sidi Ifni, that seeks to provide an e-learning, Information and Communication Technology (ICT)-based education platform for a girls’ boarding school in the poor, rural county of Mesti, southwest Morocco. Girls between the ages of 11 and 18  who reside at the boarding school are the first generation of Berber girls to pursue their education and live away from their traditional, conservative families and households. These girls are the few to reach high school and the first generation to continue their education; their mothers remain illiterate and innumerate. Despite this progress, the girls are poorly trained and have limited educational background to pursue higher education.  

Within this poor, remote region, there is limited access to information, lack of up-to-date scientific data, high-turnover of teaching body, and a multilingual environment where limited language proficiency compromises knowledge-transmission. The girls have no alternative to support them with their academic performance other than regular classes at school which are not sufficient. The girls live in basic dorms with no assistance that ensures they follow the curriculum properly or allows them to discover other academic interests, especially scientific ones deemed to be exclusively “boys’’ domains; girls are neither trained nor encouraged to choose scientific paths. When these young women take their final high-school exams and join post-secondary education, their performances are weak and cannot compete with their city-educated peers.  For those to make it to the university, the choice of disciplines is limited to the humanities, a field that carries little value for the job-market. Furthermore, the dropout rate among the girls remains high, thus crushing the dream of education empowering and transforming lives.

We are developing an interactive e-learning platform that is accessible and easy-to-learn, consisting of connecting the girls to certified instructors via ICT hardware. These include mobile phones, tablets, laptops and software and services such as text messaging, online learning platforms, social media and multimedia. We aim to equip the girls with skills that can improve their academic performance, enhance their motivation, increase their choices for future university studies.

This is a capacity-building project that enhances young women’s education and introduces the fields of science and technology to them by breaking the taboo that women do not belong in science. Once the girls complete the program and finish high school, they will be better trained to pursue further education in nearby cities and extend their scope of possibilities to include science and technology. As women gain prosperity, both economically and socially, families feel more assured and accepting of female education as a process of community empowerment and growth.

American students from Rollins College visit the girls at the boarding school in Mesti, May 2013

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Ethnographic School: Rollins College Visit

Dar Si Hmad hosted 14 students and 3 staff/faculty members visiting from Rollins college located in Orlando, Florida (www.rollins.edu), from May 16th until May 22nd, as a part of their field study regarding globalization in Morocco.
The students’ first visit to Morocco started in Agadir (a dynamic coastal city located in south-west Morocco), Where the students spent two days and had the opportunity to explore its beautiful beach and enjoy a wider view of the recently built city from the top of the “Agadir Oufella” mountain.

Agadir recovered from a devastating earthquake in 1960 that destroyed most of the city. Therefore, Agadir is nowadays considered one of Morocco’s modern cities, where both traditional and modern lifestyles meet.
A visit to the earthquake memorial museum was also scheduled to further acquaint the students with Agadir prior to the tragic incident, so that they can explore how the city embraced a path of modernity throughout the last five decades, while experiencing the globalization impacts on the major different aspects emblemizing the city (architecture, clothing, tourism and fishing Industries...).
On their last day in Agadir, the guests attended an “Ahwash” performance (Exclusive Berber village music and dance), in which they discovered the folkloric style of music associated with typical dance moves, that has remained unchanged for centuries.
The second stop was in Tiznit (a city in south-west Morocco), which is widely known for its rich berber history and silver production. The students visited a famous silver shopping center where they discovered both traditional and contemporary silver jewelry.
The third and final stop was in Sidi Ifni (a small coastal city in south-west Morocco), where the students learned more about the region’s culture and history, through a historical tour and Q&A sessions, that were animated by Dr. Jamila Bargach, who worked on the region of Sidi Ifni for many years. Jamila talked about Sidi Ifni during its pre and post-colonial era, showing the students the city’s historical hotspots and talking about its cé"urrent situation.

The second day in Sifi Ifni was marked by a scavenger hunt at the local weekly “Suk” (flea market), during which students had to find pieces of clothes (traditional and contemporary) that were with some unknown vendors. this activity allowed the students to socialize with locals and learn more about the Moroccan traditional and modern clothing behaviour after dressing up mannequins.
On the third day in Sidi Ifni the students visited an all-women Argan cooperative in the neighboring town of Mesti, to learn about the Argan oil making process, and about the women’s intensive manual labor that helps them generate income and be more independent. The students also had lunch at a girl’s boarding school on the same day, during which they exchanged conversations and danced before the girls headed back to school.
During the last day of the program, the students visited the countryside which is known for its calm and friendly nature, along with its hospitable and generous people. They had a traditional breakfast in a local village, then explored parts of the Dar Si Hmad’s fog collection project, which aims at providing the local villages and schools with drinking water since they spend an average of 3.5 hours per person per day for fetching water. 

In the afternoon, the students danced through Sahrawi music vibes, and discovered the traditional folkloric style “guedra”, representing the southern region of Morocco.
Thanks to this intercultural and boundary-breaking initiative, the students discovered a different culture and made new acquaintances in the North-African kingdom.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Fog-Harvesting Project : Story Update

Lack of water is a problem that profoundly affects the quotidian of the villages located in the region of Aït Baamrane, and more particularly the lives of women and young women who spend a yearly average of three and a half hours per day fetching water.
La Laguna University in the Gran Canaria and the Derhem Foundation launched a project for the hydric evaluation of fog in this region in June 2006. After four and a half years of observation and measurements, they came up with extremely convincing results.

The results which were the second best on a worldwide level (10.5 Liters/ m2/ Day) made it clear to Dar Si Hmad that setting a fog-collection system ( collecting water from fog)  in the region is indispensable.
The fog-collection project in Sidi Ifni is a unique initiative in the north african region, whose success will inspire other organizations to follow Dar Si Hmad’s lead, and endeavor to provide drinking water in other semi-arid regions.
In 2012, Dar Si Hmad ascertained that the system is being built accordingly, setting up all necessary material (gutters, connections) to cover the 600 m2 nets area, burying around 6 Km of pipeline underground to link the system with the beneficiaries, and constructing more infrastructure associated with water distribution and storage (wells, tank, cistern and a fountain). 

The project is drawing the media’s attention day after day, including national and international TV stations (Morocco: 2M, Germany: Pro7), national radio stations (Aswat, RTM) and made headline news on an international level.

As of April 2013, the system is almost in working order, and the water distribution is set for the summer season of 2013, giving hope for many women and girls, and opening many doors and opportunities for them.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Monthly Speakers Series - April 2013: Autism in Morocco

Dar Si Hmad decided to initiate a monthly speaker’s series, in the frame of its devotion to developing and spreading knowledge among communities. The session can be a presentation, workshop or a conference accompanied with Q&A sessions.

The first presentation took place on Wednesday April 10th at 3:00 PM in our office in Agadir, and we were proud to host Mr. Brendan Hart, a Ph.D candidate from Columbia University in New York.

Brendan presented on his current work on autism in Morocco, and many attendees from different backgrounds (professionals, university students, professors and staff),  were present to benefit from the valuable information Brendan have shared.
The presentation revolved around autism in general, from its discovery till the present. Brendan took us back to the time autism was discovered; how it was perceived and treated back then, and how the concept evolved from there, to include new cases all over the world and be handled differently from people’s original stance on autism.
In Morocco, Autism is becoming the point of convergence for many associations as well as the government, since people started recognizing the phenomenon and acknowledging its characteristics that can be illustrated by impaired social interaction and communication, and by restricted and repetitive behavior.
Morocco accounts for nearly 20 associations assisting families, and helping them find the right people to diagnose and train their autistic children. But still, the families bear all the costs for the recovery process.

The road is still long for Morocco to be ranked among the best nations to raise an autistic person in, as no official studies regarding the disorder have been done yet in the kingdom, and that support for families is still scarce. However, many prospective projects are still being discussed and may be implemented to further assist families and raise awareness towards Autism.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Ethnographic School: Lewis&Clark College Visit

The last week of February was an unforgettable experience for our guests visiting from Lewis & Clark college located in Portland, Oregon, USA.
The 18 american university students and their professor had the opportunity to explore a beautiful side of Morocco. More precisely, the region of Ait Baamrane and the city of Sidi Ifni, which is famous for its rich culture and deep history.

The students learned more about the region’s culture and history, through a historical tour and Q&A sessions, that were animated by Dr. Jamila Bargach, who worked on the region of Sidi Ifni for many years. Jamila talked about Sidi Ifni during its pre and post-colonial era, showing the students the city’s historical sites and talking about its current situation.

On their third day in Sidi Ifni, The students visited to the countryside, which is known for its calm and friendly nature, along with its hospitable and generous people. They had a traditional breakfast in a local village, then headed up to the peak of Mount. Boutmezguida, which is 1225 km a.s.l, to discover the fog-collection project that was initiated by Dar Si Hmad, in order to provide the local villages and schools with drinking water since they spend an average of 3.5 hours per person per day for fetching water.

The students also had the opportunity to attend a presentation regarding Modern visual arts in Morocco, during which they explored the Moroccan painting art before and after its colonization, then they participated actively in both a calligraphy and a painting workshop, during which they deployed their talent and imagination to come up with transcendent paintings .
A Goodbye dinner party was scheduled on the fourth day of the visit, and a Sahrawi band performed traditional music that made the audience dance and feel the region’s charm.
Thanks to this cultural and boundary-breaking program, we were proud to break all barriers segregating us from our american guests.