Library for 10,000 Moroccan Berbers

by Erickson Creative Group
Craftsmen working on the restoration.
Craftsmen working on the restoration.

After a couple of years of negotiations with locals and the local association Amezray SMNID, the Atlas Cultural Foundation has started into the next phase of the project. It was imperative for us to have written agreements about the final phase of the project as well as management of the project after construction. With over 28 families having ownership in the historic building, it has been a huge accomplishment to reach full consensus of all the owners. The final phase of the project includes the construction of the community room, library space as well as the restoration of the granaries damaged roof and a wall that was compromised structurally.

We hope to have the project completed before the first snowfall this winter. The project will be the first community space in the village of Amezray n' Oozdir, and will be the location of the elementary school tutoring program, community and association meetings, tourist presentations, local elections and more.

Here are a couple of photos of the down and dirty construction process of a 400 year old granary. Working with the local craftsmen is a real pleasure. They are all very passionate about their work as well as what this project will bring to the community and their children.


A student that will benefit from the library.
A student that will benefit from the library.

Once the winter snow melts and the weather improves enough to begin construction, estimated March, we will begin the final phase of the Library project. Over the past few years there have been a number of successes and also challenges getting this project to the final phase. We are grateful for our helpful local partners and are more than excited for the project to reach completion. 

As construction begins, we will post project updates here and are looking forward to housing our first community programs in the building later this year!

This project combines architectural preservation with community development, not an easy achievement, and after years of perseverance we and the community are proud of our efforts.

Computer training brings technical skills to community members and officials.
ACF staff member Chafiya Id Hammou works with a member of the town council.

In partnership with Association Amezray SMNID and a group of Montana State University students ACF hosted a week-long computer training from March 10 until March 18. The program was led by MSU professor Ada Giusti and a group of students funded by the MSU Undergraduate Scholars Program. The training focused on basic computer use and maintenance with a specific focus on Microsoft Office Word, Excel and PowerPoint. Program participants included ACF staff, SMNID board members, employees of the local town council, the sheikh of Zawiya Ahansal, the imam from the village of Aguddim and university students from Beni Mellal.

"This training was much more successful than we anticipated," said Youssef Oulcadi, the president of SMNID. "Many more participants showed up than expected; an obvious example of the need for this type of training in the region. We hope to make it an annual event."

The training is now an annual event and will be held again in March of 2013.

Fadma Aiit Moha and her family.
Fadma Aiit Moha and her family.

Meet Fadma Ait Mouha:

“As long as I am alive there is no power on earth that can stop my daughters from finishing their schooling.”
Fadma Ait Mouha, 31 years old, was born in Zawiya Ahansal and lives in the region’s central village of Aguddim. She married Hmad when she was 16 years old and has now been married for over 15 years. Fadma gave birth to five children; two of her babies died. Her three surviving children are Hassna (14), Nejma (10) and Driss (5). Fadma’s father died when she was young and was therefore her parents’ only child, a rare situation in rural Morocco where it is normal for families to have between five and eight children. Her mom married again and now lives in Tisalmit, a remote agricultural hamlet that lies a three-hour walk from Aguddim. Because she never went to school all of her ambitions are centered on her children’s’ future. She hopes that they will finish their education and get steady jobs. “As long as I am alive there is no power on earth that can stop my daughters from finishing their schooling.” With her husband’s support she will strive to improve her children’s lives in spite of poverty. Her daughter’s will be eligible from the support of ACF’s girls scholarship program that will launch in June 2012 in partnership with the Iqra Fund and Association SMNID.
Fadma’s family owns the Ait Sidi Mouha igherm (fortified granary and saint’s house) in Aguddim. In 2011, ACF and Montana State University architecture students documented the building for restoration. The rammed earth building is over three centuries old and holds a significant place in the history of Zawiya Ahansal acting as one of the lodges where pilgrims stay during their visit to the region’s shrine every year. She hopes that ACF and association SMNID can work with them to restore it and save a piece of their cultural identity. “I am optimistic for the future of Zawiya Ahansal,” 
said Fadma commenting on the changes in the region that she has noticed over the past half decade. “I can’t imagine any door that can't be opened with the degree of foreign investments and programs Zawiya is seeing thanks to the Atlas Cultural Foundation and its partners.”

Library Design
Library Design

The past year has been devoted to developing management and fiscal responsibility documents between the building owners and local association. Now with those documents in place, we will be able to finalize the desin of the reading and computer rooms and begin construction of the third and final phase of the project.

Here is an updated project description written by the Atlas Cultural Foundation, the nonprofit organization managing the project.

Project Description

The IQRA Library and Community Center is an education project that will serve the remote, underprivileged region of Zawiya Ahansal, Morocco. Zawiya Ahansal is considered the second poorest region in Morocco and the women and girls of Zawiya Ahansal suffer from nearly a 100% illiteracy rate. To date, no girls from the region have completed secondary school, let alone high school or university. In addition to providing the first ever library access to the regions 15,000 residents, the IQRA Library will house ACF’s early childhood, elementary tutoring, and adult literacy programs.  These programs are specifically focused on increasing literacy of the region’s women and girls and provide girls with the academic skills they need to progress successfully through secondary school, high school, and potentially university.

The library will include: government issued elementary textbooks; general subject books donated by the Moroccan National Library; computers with internet access for adults and children; regional and national magazines and newspapers; and regional historical documents, maps, and texts donated by the Moroccan Ministry of the Interior.

The IQRA Library project started in 2008 with the restoration of a 350-year-old fortified granary. The project follows ACF’s founding principle that the added time and financial resources required to incorporate historic preservation into community development projects will result in an increase in sustainable outcomes. ACF preserve’s unique and threatened historic architecture with the goal of adapting the uses of these buildings to meet modern development needs. A familiar and historical aesthetic has the ability to transition responsive members of a culture, such as women and children, in a safe, comfortable, and traditional environment; incorporating their rich history into their expanding future.

Project Phases

The project is divided into three phases. Phase One and Two are complete. Phase Three is slated for completion in 2012, which will be immediately followed by Phase Four, relocation of ACF’s education programs into the IQRA Library.

  • Phase One       Building Restoration                                      Completed Fall 2010
  • Phase Two      Management and Fiscal Documents               Completed Fall 2011
  • Phase Three    Construction of Reading /Computer Rooms  2012, Projected Completion
  • Phase Four      Program Relocation                                         2013

The Dodge Foundation monies will support the completion of Phase Three.

Project Beneficiaries

The IQRA Library project will have an intergenerational effect among students, teachers, parents, other adult members of the community, and, most importantly, the community as a whole. In study after study, girls' education emerges as the single best investment that any society can make. Educated girls become educated women - women who participate in the social, economic and political life of their nation. They are more likely to be healthy, to have smaller families and to have healthy and educated children.[1]

The core user group that will benefit from the project includes: preschool, elementary, secondary, and high school students; women; men; and researchers.

Project Programs

The following ACF education programs will be relocated to the IQRA Library:

  • Early Childhood: The first formal years of education are incredibly significant for the success and future of a child’s education past primary school. ACF supports early childhood programs that teach children aged four to six years old basic language, social, and formal learning skills to help them succeed in primary school.
  • Adult Literacy: ACF supports adult literacy programs that focus on increasing literacy among women.
  • Tutoring: ACF works with local community associations, teachers, and parents to provide tutoring programs to supplement students’ education in schools, increasing the number of students past the sixth grade.

(1) Bellamy, C. (2001, August 15). Press Centre. Retrieved February 14, 2012, from UNICEF:

Library Elevations
Library Elevations



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Organization Information

Erickson Creative Group

Location: Livingston, MT - USA
Website: http:/​/​
Erickson Creative Group
Project Leader:
Cloe Medina Erickson
Project Developer/Manager
Livingston, MT United States

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