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, September 26, 2018

Learning Across Continents: My first travel abroad experience

Written by DSH intern Ambar Khawaja:

Ambar Khawaja is an American intern on a gap year of service through UNC’s Global Gap Year Fellowship. She is working with us on an upcoming project that we will reveal more information about in the future on our blog. 

Traveling means a different thing to each person who experiences it. When I was preparing to come to Morocco, I had no idea what it would mean to me. I listened to stories of other people’s travels overseas with wide eyes, peppering them with questions with the intent to satisfy what I believed I had not yet experienced. 
I spent hours scrolling through my social media, seeing beautiful, vibrant images of adventures and locations in different countries. These images fed into the preconceived notion I had of traveling and living abroad, which I have now learned is highly misrepresentative of one’s true experience. Life here is not constantly the “picture perfect” snapshot you imagine when moving to a foreign country; Instead, it resembles life in general, with its ups and downs, but with tremendous space to grow.
There are many facets of my identity that have helped me blend into Agadir. As an 18-year-old, Muslim, Pakistani-American woman, I physically do not stand out in the crowd. Basic words, like “salam”, “shukrun”, and “inshallah” come easily to me because of my second language: Urdu. At a glance, I am just like everyone else around me, but ask me a question in Darija and you will be met with a blank stare. 
The first thing I learned how to say when I arrived was “ana Pakistaniya” so that I could communicate to the confused Moroccans around me that I myself was not Moroccan. This physical similarity with those surrounding me has given me some privileges, like not being overcharged by a taxi or not being stared at like a tourist while walking down the street. Conversely, it has made my experience traveling as an American much more complex than I expected. Because of this situation, however, I have learned an absurd amount about myself and my skills, or lack thereof in some cases.
On the surface, I fit in, but the nagging knowledge that I don’t speak the language or know the culture as well lends itself to a lot of cognitive dissonance. I definitely feel embarrassed when the person I am out with has to explain that I speak English, however, I wonder if this sense of self-consciousness is because my looks don’t match up with my language. I ask myself “how different would I feel if I matched the stereotypical image of a white American”, and “how would the privilege of looking like what my nationality is ‘supposed’ to look like change my interactions with people”. 
This photo was taken by Ambar

I have observed that it is more likely for local people to change the way they approach a conversation with this stereotypical image of an American because they feel the need to adapt to them, rather than the foreigner to adapt to the culture they are in. This is the privilege of speaking English. However, I appreciate my physical appearance making it more difficult for Moroccans to pinpoint where I am from, because I am then placed into more situations where I must adapt to this new language environment. Sometimes I must resort to speaking in English, but this is because I understand the limits I have when trying to communicate in French or Darija.
The language barrier has been the single most difficult experience for me thus far. When I first arrived, I found myself speaking a mix of English, Urdu, and Spanish, since these languages lead to conversations in my world. Pointing, hand gestures, and shaking my head “no” have proved to be an effective way of communication for me when my interlocutor doesn’t understand English. While humorous on many levels, it has also provided me with the opportunity to learn non-verbal communication skills and living with a host family has given me the chance to sharpen them. 
My host mom, in particular, speaks very little English, yet we have formed a beautiful bond in the short amount of time I have spent here. Helping out in the kitchen, watching the sunset together in awe and admiration, having the same faith, and sharing photos of each others’ lives has created a relationship between us that couldn’t have been created by words, since words sometimes get in the way of moments. This is not to say that language is not beneficial since our relationship is finding new joys in language exchange, with me starting to learn Darija and teaching my host mom words in English. Learning the language of the place I am living in will also remove the barriers I have in trying to interact with locals and will prevent my overarching privilege of speaking English from interfering in conversations. Lucky for me though, I do not face these problems in my workplace.

Our intern Ambar working at the office
  I have found a lot of purpose in my work here as an intern. Being the youngest person in the office has helped me fine-tune some of my skills since I am constantly surrounded with more experienced coworkers offering me constructive criticism to help improve and add to what I already know. It’s an interesting experience to learn more about my capabilities by doing things I have not done before, like tutoring English and planning programs for high schoolers. 
Being in the presence of these amazing people has helped me adjust much faster to living here than I would have if I had to figure out everything alone. Because I have people to show me their favorite places in the city and teach me how to order food or buy something at the “hanout”, the transition has been much smoother. I have been given a solid foundation on which to venture out alone on.
A picture of the souk "taken by Ambar"
Traveling solo for the first time has enforced the concept that I am accountable for myself. There is no external reason that I can’t go out and try something new, face a fear, or take a risk. All of my choices are in my own hands, and that is a very liberating feeling to have because it opens up my life to a lot of personal growth. Now is the perfect time for me absorb everything around me.

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Opération café (Operation coffee)

Written by DSH Intern: Ayman Taleb

Dar Si Hmad (DSH) officially started “l’opération café” in August 2018. This operation is about a partnership with restaurants and coffee shops in order to collect their organic waste. The main objective of DSH is to create a compost for its project of Agdal farm. This operation is raising awareness to the need to sort out waste.

The farm situated in Ait Baamrane was put at the disposal of the Association by the beneficiaries of the famous fog project on the mount Boutmezguida. In the region of Sidi Ifni, this farm will become a didactic nursery presenting the implementation of sustainable agricultural practices, the valuation of the old farming practices of the Al Andalus, and the capitalization of the knowledge and the local customs.

Moreover, the creation of worthy economic opportunities (processed and raw products with high added value) makes it possible to mitigate the rural migration. Finally, training in irrigation techniques will be an opportunity to raise awareness about the low-cost use of water.

The first challenge of this farm project is the regeneration of soils. Indeed, the desertification due to the aridity of the region gets worse year after year with the decrease of organic matter rates. Opération café (operation coffee) is a direct answer to the effects of soil degradation. By collecting mainly coffee waste, sugar canes, and other fruits wastes, it will be possible to compost the organic matter to give life and revive the soil.

The preparatory phase of the operation consisted of creating a new dedicated logo (label). In this way, any other individual or legal entity who needs to collect organic matter for its soil regeneration project can become a distributor of this logo. Several agroecological project holders already collect organic waste from their partners.

The logo above is directly part of raising awareness of waste management that is considered as an important pillar of the Green Morocco Plan (Plan Maroc Vert). As a partner in this project, the restaurant and coffee shop owner declares to be aware and conscious of the evolution 99-12 law, where there’s the national charter of the environment and sustainable development. The restaurant owner is proactive in preparing her / his staff for the need of sorting out waste and seeks to reduce its volume.

The second phase began in the middle of August with the distribution of the bins that are dedicated to collect coffee grounds. These bins relate information and contain the logo of the coffee operation.

The third phase will consist of the regular production of compost in Agdal farm which we will continue writing about in future posts.

Lack of information, the resistance to the change or the management of space are the first walls to be broken by restaurants and coffee managers. Here we greet the first five restaurants that have agreed to be part of this Challenge.

If you want to encourage this campaign and be a changemaker just by drinking coffee, you can visit our first partners which are:

- Pizzatino: located in Avenue Al Mouqawama

Pizzatino Staff with our intern Ayman Taleb (manager of operation cafe)

- Rituels: Located In front of Lobnan mosque, Agadir.

Moulay Youssef, the barista is very enthusiastic about the operation café
Manager of La Fontaine with Ayman
Our intern Ayman at Orange Cafe

Our director Jamila Bargach and Intern ayman
at Restaurant Cafe La Cossa Vanille
The coffee operation is a win-win project aimed at inspiring each actor to become aware of the environmental crisis. This publication is a call to the restaurants and coffee shop owners of Agadir to join this pilot project.

We are very optimistic about the rest of this project and we will keep you updated on our future partnership and progress.