The first component involves the establishment of essential physical infrastructures providing potable water to mountain villages. Responding to the environmental and topographical conditions of the region, infrastructures will consist of gravity-flow water systems that will pipe pure water from distant mountain springs directly to reservoirs built above villages, from which water will run through distribution systems to public taps located in key spots near groups of houses. Through such a system, potable water from far away sources is made available at all times close to homes or in important public spaces such as schools, clinics, and mosques.
Construction of the gravity-flow systems, comprised of different structures and components between springs and villages, will make use of local building techniques, knowledge and resources, similar to gravity-flow systems successfully implemented in twelve Tifnoute villages (Taroudant province). Work will typically begin at springs already determined suitable in terms of water quality, adequate flow, and tenure status during projects assessments. Springs will be slightly excavated, and a small basin, known as a springbox, will be constructed to allow water to directly and freely enter from one of the sides, to exist through a lower outflow pipe on the opposite side and be piped to the village. The springboxes, built of stone masonry, are fully covered to prevent any air exposure or contamination of water. Tops of the boxes can be removed for servicing, however, and all springboxes come complete with drain and overflow pipes, as well as a valve and filter to regulate outflow. Gravity will pull water from the springboxes through a special type of high-density PVC piping buried in trenches to villages below. The piping, which comes in flexible segments of 100 meters, has a lifespan of 40 years if properly insulated in trenches (optimally 30-50 cm deep). Where piping cannot be buried due to steep or rocky terrain, it will be “buried” or insulated above ground with rocks and earth, or else galvanized (GI) iron piping will be used.
Reservoirs above villages create not only sufficient water pressure for flow to taps, but allow for the replenishment of an adequate daily supply of water as water continually arriving from springs fill them each night. The reservoirs will likely be either rectangular or circular in shape, and vary in capacity from 20-30 tons of water, and like the springboxes be built into excavated earth, out of stone masonry coated with cement. They will also include drainage, overflow, and outflow pipes, with valves outside to regulate the latter and a door located in the roof to which they can be entered for servicing. Roofs will be built using a local technique called koubba, which requires very little if any rebar, but is just as strong and significantly cuts costs. The distribution system from the reservoir will use the same high-density PVC piping, but in various sizes and diameters to equalize water pressure between branches leading to different taps. Tapstands will use durable faucets, and their concrete construction will include basins to facilitate water collection and washing, if water supply is sufficient for the latter. Drains will lead water away from tapstand areas for sanitation purposes to areas where it can be used to irrigate fields or gardens.
The utilization of local building techniques, knowledge, and resources, should make respective projects cost-effective to implement and sustainable in terms of maintenance, as was the case with the Tifnoute villages, where systems remain fully operational. Locals will not only be expected to operate and maintain systems afterwards, but will be heavily involved during their planning and construction. Mualims, or local skilled laborers with some experience in building water systems will be chosen by participating villages to direct the construction efforts in which they will work. The mualims will be compensated for their work by either village associations or jema’as, which will ensure the quality of and timeliness of work, and be responsible for mobilizing laborers and local resources such as rocks, sand and gravel on a daily basis. Local contributions, then, will comprise of all labor, the supervision and payment of skilled labor, the supply of all local materials (sand, rocks, and gravel), and provide for the transportation of outside materials from local points to villages by truck or mule. Outside material contributions will include all construction materials (cement, rebar, piping, and plumbing parts) as well as their transportation from Marrakech to the villages in the Toubkal High Atlas Mountains.
Coming of Age in Tassa Ouirgane
By Mark Apel, USAID Farmer to Farmer and HAF Volunteer
From 1985 until 1986, I was a Peace Corps Volunteer living in the Azzeden Valley working for the country’s Eaux et Forets (Water and Forests) Service to study and inventory what might’ve been some of Morocco’s last herds of wild Barbary Sheep. These wild sheep lived on a 2000 hectare mountain reserve in Toubkal National Park, just across the Azzeden river from the little village of Tassa Ouirgane. It was from this little village that my Eaux et Forets counterpart, Omar, and I would take our excursions into the reserve to document the presence and movement of these animals. Sadly today, the Barbary Sheep no longer inhabit the reserve, and according to villagers’ accounts, they moved up higher into the mountains to escape the influence of humans. But of course, the people of Tassa Ouirgane are still there and trying to eek a living out of a river bottom that was changed by a dramatic flood in 1995 and climate change. Hectares of land that were farmed for generations were washed away in the deluge.
Today, farmers along the river valley can no longer depend on the snowmelt and water that flowed out of the mountains to irrigate their fruit and nut trees. This is especially true in the months of June, July and August when barely a trickle flows down their irrigation canals. Conversely, when it rains, it pours. Any attempts to rebuild their garden terraces in the river bottom are frustrated by lower grade floods. Nonetheless, the people of Tassa Ouirgane are resilient and never fail to open their homes to strangers. There is a deep, abiding compassion in this village for the future of their people as demonstrated by a group of men known as the Tassa Ouirgane Association for the Environment and Culture. In addition, there is a women’s cooperative that was formed with the help of the High Atlas Foundation to help the young women of the village improve their income through the sale of handicrafts. The participatory approach has become the bedrock of the High Atlas Foundation to help communities decide for themselves what their priorities are. This approach was used in 2012 by the Foundation with the residents of Tassa Ouirgane to help them determine where their greatest needs lie, and improving their water infrastructure to irrigate their trees has become paramount. This year, in April of 2017, it was a happy reunion for me as a HAF and Farmer to Farmer Volunteer to return to Tassa Ouirgane and meet with the men’s association that I met with last year as a volunteer. Of course, the stories about my earlier Peace Corps days in this village back in the 80’s were always fun to recount, as I was the first American volunteer to have worked there and in the Park, with many others to follow. Somehow, 30 years later, the tales of my yellow motorcycle and other antics always seem to enter the conversations to the delight of everyone, as we sat around drinking tea and eating lunch at the house of Raiss Si Mohammed Idhna, president of the men’s association. Even though many of these men were small boys back in the mid-80’s, they laughed with the old-timers as if it was just yesterday that I had worked there.
The Raiss’s house is situated on the hill with a spectacular view of the park and the Azzeden River Valley – a view that I never grow tired of seeing. I had an auspicious reason for visiting this group again. Last year, as a HAF volunteer, I assisted with a grant proposal to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) that was awarded just this year in the amount of $48,000. This will go a long way to helping the village fulfill its vision for improved irrigation, flood and erosion control, a new well, solar pump and water storage for the dry times of the year, and lastly, the hallmark of any HAF project, a tree nursery. Tassa Ouirgane already grows a variety of fruits and nuts including olives, walnuts, peaches and plums. However, most of these trees belong to individuals. The goal of HAF is to help rural villages like this one start a community-based tree nursery where they will grow seedlings that will then be distributed to farmers in the valley who don’t have any fruit or nut trees. Through this UNDP grant, Tassa Ouirgane has the opportunity to become an example of community-based development that is truly in the hands of the community. While here, we had the chance to introduce the village to the Director of Projects for UNDP Morocco, Ms. Badia Sahmy to the association and discuss the goals and details of the project that her office is so generously funding through HAF.
It was interesting to hear the spectrum of ideas behind the grant. For the men’s association, they are finally going to have the opportunity to have the infrastructure they’ve needed to sustain their trees through the dry seasons. For the UNDP, they see this as an opportunity for the village to serve as a model for community resilience once all the pieces are in place. HAF is perfectly positioned to help make both of these views a reality. To kick-start this project, intern Jan Thibaud from Belgium will be spending two months living in Tassa Ouirgane and surveying the other villages in the valley for their potential to start HAF nurseries. Jan is the same age I was when I first arrived in Tassa Ouirgane over 33 years ago as a young man. He will be working with the same sense of commitment and dedication to such a beautiful place and wonderful people. I’m proud to be able to pass along the torch, so to speak, after all these years. There have been many positive changes since I left – electricity, girls going to school, better roads. I am heartened to know that finally Tassa Ourigane will get a much needed boost in its quest to be more resilient in the face of climate change, to grow more fruit trees and hopefully, to empower its residents.
I was born in a modest agricultural village in High Atlas Mountains on the outskirts of Marrakech. I grew up in a small family, and we depended on agriculture for ensuring food and financial security, and also to finance my siblings’ education.
My father spent all of his life working in agriculture. He still spends all of his days in the field. When I was a child, I used to accompany him only to play, and have fun, but I was very curious about his job, knowing with time that it wasn’t easy work to do, and it needed specialized technical skills. Our areas need for clean drinking water, also raised questions in my mind, and inspiration that we can achieve this goal.
My father has a parcel of land where he grows olives, figs and pomegranate trees. He also plows the land to plant it with wheat, corn and vegetables. He showed me how to plow soil, making sure it has enough sun and air, to remove weeds, to water each plant in the right quantity at the right time, to use natural fertilizers and to harvest. I was helping my father during school vacations, loving the work and finding it very interesting and important to preserve nature and grow natural products. However, during my childhood, in our region deep traditions allowed girls and women to be responsible of only the household, and not to participate the field beside men. From these early days, I didn’t care and continued to nourish my desire in the agricultural fields.
In school, I had good grades in geography, as it was a source of great enjoyment for me and involved subjects related to preserving the environment and nature. With the encouragement of my teachers and my desire to have college education, I enrolled in a geography course of study, because I wanted to get more involved in the subject. This did not stop me from continuing helping my father in the field whenever I could. I found that my college studies are not different than what I learned from my father, only more theoretical.
In parallel, I was active with environmental associations, attending scientific conferences about environmental change and preservation. Also, I participated as a researcher in “Gas Ovens’” project to benefit mud workers and the inhabitants nearby also in the Al Houaz Province and in Marrakech. The project encouraged people to use gas ovens instead of large quantities of forest woods, which actually spreads diseases and negatively affects the environment. This targeted group benefited from the non polluting gas ovens, buying them at a good price, in addition to the decreased pollution in Marrakech city and nearby places, resulting in preserving the life of inhabitants, trees and forests.
After completing my bachelor degree, I taught occupational literacy for rural women, which included awareness lessons on preserving the environment, and guidance on how to manage natural resources in a sustainable way. In addition, I participated in the Association for Socio-Economic Development for three years, guiding students and making them aware of environment issues.
As a result of my experience in the field, and attending many workshops with High Atlas Foundation (HAF) about the participatory community approach to planning development, how to create income generating projects, how to found organic rural cooperatives and their rules and regulations, and in practicing organic agriculture - all these workshops helped me to increase my theoretical and practical knowledge. Moreover, my concern and work in the field of environment, my knowledge of the Al Haouz Province, and my work for five years with environmental associations in High Atlas Mountains, all were reasons for HAF to recruit me as the manager of multiple community empowerment projects. For example, with the project in partnership with the National Endowment for Democracy, we established an organic rural cooperatives’ union, in order to reach external markets and create linkages between walnut and almond producers in Al Haouz and Taroudant provinces. Also managing Sami’s Project to plant trees in schools with the aim to invest in the sustainability of environment preservation.
Furthermore, HAF’s work in the field of environment encouraged me to get engaged with it, because it is my specialty and what I like to do. HAF works on planting trees, establishing clean water systems, giving awareness and guidance in preservation, works with all classes of society, all genders, all ages in different projects, such as making nurseries in different regions, distributing trees for schools and farmers, natural dying and encouraging women in making income generating initiatives, in addition to workshops in the field of agriculture for both women and men.
Clean Drinking Water for Nomadic and Fishing Communities
High Atlas Foundation has had many efforts between 2012-2016 in meeting community members through participatory approach to help reduce the problem of scarcity of clean drinking water in Jrifia’s commune, in Boujdour Province, which is a part of the Moroccan Sahara. Toward this end, HAF and the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development in Boujdour have created a partnership agreement to implement a clean drinking water initiative for the entire municipality. We are seeking to partner with local and international organizations to secure clean drinking water by helping building wells in 2 rural fishing villages and 6 nomadic villages in the Jrifia municipality.
According to the series of participatory community meetings with the benefiting villages, the local people suffer from health problems and poor hygiene and are in an urgent need of awareness raising and prevention education. In Aftissat and Elkraa rural fishing villages, the rarity of water and poor hygiene have led to the appearance of disease.
Every year during the hot summer season, the nomadic rural villages register many cases of death which lead to avoidable (and tragic) human and material losses. Every year, two to four people die from thirst. Each Khaima “household” loses cattle, sheep, goat, and camels. The number is higher for those who do not have transport to bring water from Boujdour city, which is between 70 to 200 km far from the rural nomadic villages. Furthermore, women, infants, and children are effected every year during the dry season, especially during their pregnancy and after giving birth.
This project will be benefiting 3,500 fishermen in the two rural fishing villages, and 7,800 Khaima “households” in Albadia rural nomadic villages of the rural commune of Jrifia, Province of Boujdour (50,500 people total). Also, the project is aiming to improve the socio-economic living conditions, conduct health and awareness workshops, capacity building of local people and improve human development in general.
Have you ever wondered what you would do if you didn’t have clean drinking water from a faucet in your home?
Well many rural households in the Atlas Mountains live in such conditions. Households are oftentimes not linked to the national water piping network, especially communities which are the hardest to reach (farther up in the mountains).
To adapt, households build on a higher-elevated part of their town or village, community-managed reservoirs to store spring or rain water. These are similar to the water towers you find in towns and villages in the United States, but built in the ground. With these reservoirs, and subsequent piping, households are able to reduce the distance needed to access water and become better equipped to ensure water year-round for household, agricultural and animal consumption.
These reservoirs are from 18-100 meters cubed and can cost a substantial amount of money; often greater than annual capacity of the community. The High Atlas Foundation works with communities, and helps support them in financing and building these reservoirs.
When we consider the importance of water and the life it provides, sustainable water management is essential for populations worldwide. This is why, together with you, we are committed to bringing clean drinking water to households throughout the Kingdom.
As we hope you are aware, the Kingdom of Morocco is hosting the 22nd session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 22) to the UNFCCC in Marrakech this November 2016. It will be an exciting time to come together and commitment to global action and cooperation towards sustainable environmental practices as laid out in the Paris Agreement.
During the COP22, the High Atlas Foundation aims to highlight its sound water resource management, in combination with the organic agriculture value chain model, as a solution to not only poverty, but peace throughout the country and region as well. The COP22 is a COP of action; a global climate action agenda to boost cooperative action among governments, cities, businesses, investors and citizens to reduce emissions and help vulnerable countries adapt to climate impacts. The first universal climate agreement was unanimously adopted at COP21, which took place in December 2015 in Paris. The agreement aims to limit the rise in global temperature "well below 2ºC". This COP22 in Morocco aims to bring all States into action through the mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions and ambitious national commitments.
As part of HAF's commitment to sustainable development and given our expertise in the agroforestry sector, we will be looking to market carbon offsetting initiatives to individuals, companies and states during the COP. Not only will this contribute to our 1 Billion Tree campaign, but also allow entities to uphold their commitments to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions. Global Giving will have a Bonus Day on September 21st, and we at the High Atlas Foundation plan to offer to our Global Giving supporters the opportunity to offset their carbon emissions.
Stay tuned here on Global Giving! You can also sign up for updates from the HAF newsletter for further information!
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