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.

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.

                                       

Friday, January 19, 2018

Oasis School -- Second Module

Module 2: Seed Evolution & Fungus


The Oasis School team is continuing to deliver innovative permaculture lessons to our youth
beneficiaries in Ait Baamrane. This session, our beneficiaries were introduced to the second
module: Seed Evolution and Fungi. The module was both informative and fun, including movie
projections, student presentations, and arts and crafts.




The module was divided into two sessions, the first one entitled “Waste Management,” introduced
different types of waste and explored recycling options for plastic and paper through presentations
and a video on the importance of waste management. Students also participated in an art project,
where they compared a natural world to a polluted world. Moreover, they learned about how to
reuse waste materials found at the river nearby, improving the environment by making a regular
change to their daily life.





In the second session, “Seed Germination,” the students learned how a seed grows into a young
plant, called germination. They also tasted germinated lentil seeds and had a comprehension lesson
on what makes the best germination conditions (water, warmth, and oxygen). At the end of the
session, the beneficiaries conducted a ‘Seed Germination Experiment’ where they witnessed the
evolution of seeds and had the chance to use microscopes.




The Oasis School curriculum gives beneficiaries the chance to learn core permaculture techniques
that will help them in the future, and for generations to come, as well as protecting and preserving
the natural resources in the region of Ait Baamrane.

As always, thank you to the U.S. State Department for their generous grant which allowed us to
fund this program.




Friday, January 12, 2018

RISE Closing Ceremony

By DSH Intern Katie Huge
The RISE program came to a bittersweet conclusion last Saturday morning. We were sad to let our
wonderful students go, but we are very proud of how far they have come and how engaged they
have been throughout the past few weeks. Amidst the chaos and stress of final exam time, the
RISErs remained committed to the program and consistently showed up, bringing focus and enthusiasm
to class. They were eager to accept their certificates of completion as they assembled in
the Dar Si Hmad classroom for the last time.

   
To begin the ceremony, Jamila Bargach, the director of Dar Si Hmad, spoke to the students expressing
her pride in their accomplishments and her hope that they continue working to develop their potential
and improve their communities. Then we heard from the RISE trainers Alex, Natalie, and
Nourredine, and from Program Coordinator Soufian Aaraichi. Following the speeches, the
RISErs had their own work to share. Three students - Hasna Lachhab, Brahim Ichou, and
Yassin Fouad - presented the websites they had been working hard on during web design class.
The student with the most impressive website will have their website hosted by Dar Si Hmad for one year.

Trainer Natalie helping out a participant

After the presentations, we had a little surprise for the RISErs. During the program students
had to dance in front of the class when they were late. In order to make things a bit more fair,
trainers Natalie, Alex, Maisie, and Katie embarrassed themselves by giving
the RISErs a small gift to remember their experience at Dar Si Hmad.

Working hard at the last Thurs session

They rewrote a popular Spice Girls song to be about the RISE program and performed it for the group.
The students were all very entertained and it was a fun way to begin the ceremony.

Saying Goodbye at the last Tues Session
The students were then invited into the kitchen to chat with their peers while snacking on tea
and cookies before going back for a final activity. When they returned, Maisie assembled them
into a large circle, and with one ball of yarn, everyone in the classroom formed a web in which each
and every student was connected to two other people. Each person wrapped the yarn around
their wrist to make a bracelet before throwing the ball of yarn to someone they appreciated or shared
a good memory with. While our office cat, Dandara, played and jumped around in a heaven of yarn,
the web slowly started to form and grow wider in every direction. As the game came to a close,
the students passed a pair of scissors around in a circle to cut themselves away from the web.
They keptthe yarn on their wrists and tied them into bracelets to remember that, although
the RISE program had come to an end, everyone was still connected and the memories
of past few weeks would live on.

Trainer Alex helping out a student at the last Thurs session


With that the ceremony finally came to an end. We reminded the students to remain in touch
with us and to stay alert for future events, programs, or opportunities that may be open to them.
They will always remain a part of the Dar Si Hmad family and we couldn’t have been
happier and prouder to lead them.


Friday, January 5, 2018

Oasis School First Module

Oasis School: Soil life Module

The Oasis school is ready to blast off with a new version of the engaging lessons and fun activities we've
used in our previous water school. In the last 4 weeks, beneficiaries of both schools Ihamchouine and
Id achour, were introduced to the first Module “Soil Life.”



The module focused on positive environmental practices. It started with our Oasis school teacher,
Fatiha, teaching the soil types, and what types existed on the land. Afterwards, they moved on to
the soil ingredients, or the "environmental Lasagna." The lasagna is a gardening name which refers
to the method of building the garden soil. The students essentially added layers of organic materials
(remains of tree branches, dead leaves, and cardboard) that will “cook down” over time, resulting in
rich soil that will help the plants to thrive.




At last, they played a scavenger hunt game where they had
to look for a number of insects, organic parts and seeds which compose the soil, in order for them
to understand what the environmental lasagna demonstrates and how it supports the lives of so many
natural living components.

Along with teaching environmental practices, this unit focused as well on the importance of working
and communicating in groups, working together on activities and artistic projects, as well as developing
critical thinking and active listening skills.


Every time the Oasis School team comes to the schools, the beneficiaries show joy and excitement to
learn and practice more. Thanks to the Alumni Engagement Innovation Fund Grant that we won through

Dar Si Hmad is able to introduce these practices to the Ait Baamrane community, who we hope will
take care of and live off the land for generations to come.




Stay tuned on our social media to get more about the Oasis school and the adventures of our
beneficiaries.