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, February 28, 2018

Oasis School, Module 4

Our Oasis school team is still hard at work teaching our beneficiaries innovative  
techniques and practices to better serve the land of Ait Baamrane.

This program reached its fourth Module on Insect Hotels and Bird-Feeder,
which contained a number of interesting activities where the students learned
new skills.

During the first session on Insect Hotels the students went on a journey to the “tiny”
world of invertebrates and other odd creatures. As a result they started to investigate
all their cool features, the role they play in the ecosystem, and to understand where
they live, in order to replicate a micro-climate for the insect hotel. The
beneficiaries also went on an outdoor walk for insect-hunting and built a wooden
insect hotel -- a winter lodging for our Oasis School garden- for crawling and
flying bugs.  The hotel consisted of different suites catered to each little bug’s preferred
lodging taste. Most hotels are constructed with a strong protective frame of wooden
boards or pallets and are filled with a variety of bug-friendly materials like
straw, cork, sticks, or pinecones. Our students contributed to assembling the
hotel boxes and parts, and watched a movie to follow-up; “Guerre et paix
dans le potager - Partie II,” a humorous and original narrative documentary
about the extraordinary adventures of the creatures of the Aublanc-Fiche family garden.

During the Bird-Feeder session, the students made a bird feeder and had the
opportunity to discuss bird habitats and their needs. This session was more
of an observational session. Students learned the importance of feeding birds
especially in the winter as they lack food and intend to migrate.  

The sessions during this module were not only informative but also fun
and interesting. They helped connect our beneficiaries with the nature surrounding
them, learn new things about its components and question their role in the life cycle.

The Oasis School team as well as the beneficiaries are always grateful for this precious learning opportunity funded by the U.S department and AIEF Grant.  

Monday, February 26, 2018

Preparing for RISE Spring Semester!

By DSH Intern and UNC Global Gap Year Fellow Georgia Morgan:

A new semester of RISE is just around the corner, and we couldn’t be more excited
here at Dar Si Hmad! Previous semesters of RISE focused on employability and
professional skills, but this new semester will provide young Moroccans with a space
to openly talk about traditionally taboo topics, enhance their public speaking and
debate skills, and have a space to creatively express their ideas. The new semester
will begin 28 February and 1 March and will be led by Fulbright interns Alex Kochenburger
and Natalie Sullivan, in addition to Moroccan interns Hafida Mazoud and Ayman Taleb,
American intern Georgia Morgan, and Dar Si Hmad Staff Maisie Breit and Soufian Aaraīchi.

This semester of RISE will focus on discussing social and global issues and how they
play out in Moroccan society today. Discussion topics will include identity, freedom of choice,
migration, gender, the environment, and a student-chosen topic. The goal of this program is
to provide a safe and welcoming space for the students to engage in difficult discussions
on these topics, and to learn from one another's ideas and opinions.

Students will begin each session with a writing prompt and can expand on one of these
topics as a part of a personal final project. Final projects can be a song, performance,
dance, poem, painting, speech, story extended creative writing piece, or something a
student devises. RISE participants will also practice their public speaking skills in the
form of a personal speech and a group debate on a specific social issue.

Our applicants demonstrated passion, specific goals, and innovative ideas last week in
their interviews, and we were impressed by their enthusiasm to be a part of the RISE
program. It was exciting and inspiring to see motivated and aware young adults who
are eager to bring their energy to this group. This past week, the Dar Si Hmad team
has been working to arrange the program’s schedule and lesson plans for the upcoming
orientation. We are eager to begin the new semester of RISE and to see where the
students take each session.
Some of the RISE Team hard at work planning for the upcoming semsester!

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Oasis School -- Third Module

The Oasis School curriculum consists of a variety of theoretical and practical activities, which help the
beneficiaries apply and practice the new permaculture techniques they acquire during the planned sessions.
Module 3 introduced our beneficiaries to a whole new set of concepts and fun activities focused on Plant
Evolution. Students learned about Seed Germination and then about Seed Plantation.

During the first session, Seed Germination,  the students learned about the growth of a seed into a young
plant, or germination. Students tasted germinated lentil seeds and did an interactive lesson on the
conditions required for germination, like water, warmth, and oxygen.  At the end of the session,
students conducted a ‘Seed Germination Experiment’ to witness the evolution of seeds themselves.

In our second session, Seed Plantation, the students did an outdoor activity to  observe seed typology,
learning about different characteristics of seeds around their school and the vegetables seeds that they
planted in the Oasis School garden.

Our OS curriculum not only teaches techniques but also soft skills like leadership and teamwork.
During the sessions we noticed that our beneficiaries for the first time felt responsible for planting
seeds and taking care for the plants on a daily  basis, as well as reporting their observations and
progress to the Oasis school team at the end of their school vacation.

Our beneficiaries learned a lot of techniques and methodology this week, which will help them
articulate the needs of their land. Thanks to the continuous support of the U.S State Department
and the AIEF grant, they are able to learn and grow!

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

EFS Program with AMIDEAST!

Written by DSH Intern Georgia Morgan, a UNC Global Gap Year Fellow:

On Wednesday morning, I was greeted by new smiling faces as our guests from AMIDEAST
arrived at Dar Si Hmad. Our Moroccan speaking partners (Ayoub, Hafida, Karima, Oumhani,
Rkia and Fatiha) and I introduced ourselves to the group of American study abroad/ gap year
students. Being from a very similar background and current situation as many of these students,
I was eager to hear from them and share our experiences. Amazingly enough, there was one
girl from my current hometown and another boy from the city I grew up in for eight years!
I immediately felt a connection with this group.

Maisie gave the group a presentation about Dar Si Hmad’s history, programs and, most
importantly, the fog harvesting project. The group listened intently and shortly after we left for
Sidi Ifni. Upon arrival we had a delicious lunch, graciously made by Dar Si Hmad’s Hospitality
Manager and Cook, Hadda. I began speaking more in depth with the students about their
homes, why they decided to come to Morocco this year, and what their plans were next year
for college. I found that most of them had decided to take a gap year for some of the same
reasons I did; they wanted some distance from standard American education while continuing
to learn in a new and challenging environment.
After lunch, Fatiha Tachakourt led the group in a silly but fun ice breaker and gave us all a
wonderful lesson in Tachelhit -- the language spoken indigenously in this region of Morocco.
We then had a brief historical tour of Sidi Ifni, led by Dar Si Hmad’s executive director Jamila
Bargach, where we learned about the Spanish conquest of the land. Following the tour, we
had dinner as a group before turning in early for the big hiking day to come!

We woke up early Thursday morning to gear up for hiking Mount Boutmezguida to see the
famous fog harvesting nets that we’d all heard so much about. The idea of fog harvesting had
sounded so abstract that we were all eager to see if these nets were, well, simply nets! In
orientation the day before, Maisie and Jamila had said that these nets collect 34 tons of water
per day on average and currently supply 14 (soon to be 15) local villages with running water.
They also explained to us that traditionally, women in this area would walk 3-4 hours a day in
treacherous conditions to get water from wells for their families, but due to extreme climate
change, there was never enough water. With these statistics running through my mind, I had
high expectations for these fog nets!

We partnered up and began our long hike up to the highest mountain in the region. We had a
whole crew of about 30 students, seven Moroccan speaking partners, the Dar Si Hmad staff,
two donkeys and a pack of dogs, all led by one of the villagers. Jamila looked like a Moroccan
goddess perked up on one of the donkeys as she showed us the site of the Oasis School,
the new farm, the solar powered water pumps and the traditional school buildings. Maisie and
Jamila had warned us to pace ourselves and not worry so much about getting to the top of Mt.
Boutmezguida, but rather to enjoy our surroundings, look for signs of the project (pumps, pipes,
and reservoirs), ask questions and really get to know the people we were with. This was a great
reminder for us Americans who are so goal oriented to slow down and simply enjoy the journey.


As the day went on, we continued our long trek up the mountain, stopping for multiple water and
picture breaks. I never seemed to be able to keep up with the weather; one minute I was freezing
and the next I was being scorched by the sun. Jamila explained to us that these are the
conditions which allows fog perfect for harvesting to be created. The hot air from the Sahara
Desert mixes with the cold air from Spain and the Canary Islands to form the ideal-sized droplets
of fog for collection.

After three and a half hours of walking and scrambling, we reached the peak of Mt. Boutmezguida
where we were greeted by the rows of fog nets. Everyone was so tired and hungry at that point
that we sat down and ate Hadda’s delicious loubia for lunch right away. After everyone had had
their fill, we washed our lunch down with some of the water collected by the nets themselves.
We then ventured up to take a closer look at the nets when Julia Elliot exclaimed, “Whoa, they’re
really just nets!” taking the words right out of everyone’s mouths. It was so fascinating to see such
a simple idea that produced such an impressive yield.


With bellies full of loubia and fog water, we began our hike down the mountain, which took
considerably less time. We had many laughs as new people tried riding the donkeys, and we
were all proud of ourselves for completing such a challenging hike!


Our evening concluded at the local Madrasa for tea and Quranic chanting. As the voices of
about twenty men filled the room with their unique tones, I felt grateful and proud to be a part of
such a unique experience with my newfound friends.

Friday morning started off with a lovely yoga session on the beach in Sidi Ifni, led by one of our
Moroccan speaking partners, Rkia. There were many laughs and we all got very sandy, but Rkia
reminded us all the importance of following our breath, loving ourselves, and being content in
this time and space.

The rest of the day was spent at La Foundation where we watched a documentary about Dar Si
Hmad’s installation of the fog nets and followed up with questions for Jamila on the logistics,
challenge,s and steps in getting this project running and reflecting on yesterday’s adventure. After
couscous, we watched the movie La Source Des Femmes, a film about women in the Bled who
go on a “love strike” against their husbands because they are tired of carrying water for their
families everyday and facing serious injuries while their men sit around drinking tea. The film
was intense but also surprisingly informative and impactful. Following the film, we broke into
groups to discuss different aspects of Moroccan life seen in the film: gender roles, religion,
sex, stereotypes, how women are viewed in the eyes of men, flaws in the film, etc. Finally, we
came together as a group to share our concluding highlights and observations. As the evening
wrapped up, we got to ask our Moroccan speaking partners more specific questions about being
a young adult in Morocco. We discussed things such as education, religion, stereotypes, and
pressures they face from family and peers.

Following our final dinner, we had a reflection session in the hallways of Hotel Suerte Loca.
As the wind howled outside and rattled the walls around us, we discussed things we learned,
surprises we had, new self awareness and knowledge we had gained and will take back home
with us.  

This excursion reminded me how much I appreciate and enjoy collaborating with like-minded,
passionate and open people. I also learned that small/ local initiatives do indeed have a greater
worldly impact both directly and indirectly. I have a greater appreciation for our resources,
including food, water and shelter, that are so easily to taken for granted. Most of all, I have
discovered the importance in having specific focus in achieving a goal, and that just because
an idea seems crazy or abstract, doesn’t mean that it’s out of reach.