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, May 2, 2017

In Agadir and London, we are #ConservationOptimism


This post was written by Project Coordinator Mahdi Lafram, just days after returning to our Agadir office from a trip to the United Kingdom. While our new RISE Participants were celebrating Earth Day with a Field Day at the beach, three of our first Environmental Youth Ambassadors shared our Water School at the Conservation Optimism Summit.




“I am conservation optimist because my Moroccan team of youth are AMAZING”

As we were walking throughout the premises of Dulwich College in London, we saw this sentence written on a post-it and stuck to a wall. We were delighted. Salma, Abdelhaq and myself flew to the United Kingdom to take part in the inaugural Conservation Optimism Summit, invited and supported by Dar Si Hmad’s research partner, dedicated volunteer and EYA program mentor Rebecca L. Farnum - you certainly guessed who wrote the sentence above!

Organized by the University of Oxford’s Interdisciplinary Centre for Conservation Science (ICCS), the Zoological Society of London (ZSL), and Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust, the three-day event in London gathered hundreds of attendees from around the world to share success stories from the field. Both of my teammates got on an airplane for their first time to come share their environmental activism experience. We were excited to take part in this global meeting, learn about other conservation initiatives and, above all, tell the story of youth in conservation in the Middle East and North Africa.




As environmental activists, we often think that to engage people effectively in protecting the natural world, we need to make them feel guilty and aware about the consequences of their daily life activities on the environment. The Summit aimed to communicate another discourse. A discourse of optimism, positivity, and hope.


Conservation is too often seen as a crisis discipline, one in which bad news predominates. Although nature is facing huge challenges, we feel there are many positive stories out there where conservation has made a difference to people’s lives and to the status of wild nature. Progress, at the moment, tends to be overshadowed by negativity. It may well be happening, but it can be slow-burning, local and less immediately obvious than the sometimes overwhelming challenges faced.
We believe this is counter-productive.
Budding and perennial conservationists need to feel inspired and continue in the profession, not put off by pessimism. The public, businesses and government need to know that their actions can make a difference. With this summit, we aim to reframe the conservation movement by celebrating positive thinking in conservation, and putting forward a road map for change towards an optimistic and forward-thinking future. (http://conservationoptimism.org/)


That’s why we need to rethink our communications. In regards to that, we participated in a workshop titled Selling Success: Marketing a better world with Conservation Optimism. It was all about developing a positive communication campaign framework. The workshop was led by marketing and behavior change professionals from Ogilvy Change and  PHD Worldwide and took the form of an interactive ‘speed marketing challenge’. In addition to various workshops, the summit included different plenaries by conservation researchers, professionals and activists. It was compelling to see how the optimism movement has gone far into spreading a positive outlook on conservation locally and abroad. Moreover, we had the opportunity to share the Middle East’s perspective on youth-led conservation through a joint workshop with our partner organisation Kuwait Dive Team represented by Hamad Bouresli, and chaired by our research partner Becca Farnum.

At Dar Si Hmad, we believe strongly in a positive hope about Earth’s future. Our award-winning fog collection project gives people a future of prosperity, progress and optimism in Southwest Morocco, which was among the key messages we’ve disseminated at a special seminar held at Stanford House, University of Oxford as part of our research visit. We presented DSH projects and their social impact on the local communities. The team felt especially lucky to meet Dr. Michael J. Willis, the King Mohammed VI Fellow in Moroccan and Mediterranean Studies at St Antony's College, and Dr. Michael Gilmont, Research Fellow at the University of Oxford Environmental Change Institute, and get their perspectives on our work.

Many thanks to Rebecca L. Farnum and King’s College London for their generous support of our trip.

Join the #ConservationOptimism conversation on social media and tell us why you’re optimistic and how you’re making a change. Let’s celebrate our success and be positive about our Earth and its critters. After all, as our newest research partner Rafael knows: "little creatures like me are born every day!" We believe that, working together, we can make a great future - for him and for us.