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The First Community Forum with Members of the Nomadic Community

byCheikh Akmach
onApril 26, 2023

On February 20, 2023, the High Atlas Foundation’s (HAF) Dakhla-Oued Ed-Dahab regional team organized its first community forum with a group of local nomadic people. The HAF team met with their community members in the village of Bir Gandouz, a location where people of this region purchase supplies before returning to the desert.

Nomadic communities are an essential part of Moroccan history and culture. For the last millennia, the nomadic way of life has been normative for people in this region. Nomadic people have proven to be in tune with nature, revering the vast desert, constantly searching for land that contained water and pastures for their herds. This manner of life has been passed down throughout generations, making it an important, irreplaceable part of Moroccan society that is deeply cherished and protected.

Nomad community forum. Photo by Hajiba Boumasmar.

However, in recent years, the prevalence of nomadic life has been declining due to several challenges. Waves of urbanization are not conducive to nomadic living patterns, pressuring them to move into cities and adopt a sedentary lifestyle. The nomadic population is also grappling with the early signs of climate change, as consecutive years of drought have led to the death of their herds. Additionally, large private firms have appeared in the region, polluting the environment and emptying groundwater reserves that supply various wells in the region. Understanding the importance of this history, culture, and challenges was crucial in allowing HAF programs to run effectively with the nomadic people.

Nomads work in groups to write down their project proposals. Photo by Hajiba Boumasmar.

The community forum is a program with the Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI) for participatory planning and the implementation of community initiatives in the Dakhla-Oued Ed-Dahab Region. The program aims to train 150 individuals from three municipalities in essential skills such as entrepreneurship, civil engagement, digital marketing, and advocacy. Additionally, the program will finance three local initiatives that address current challenges identified by the people of Dakhla, Bir Anzarane, and Bir Gandouz.

Twenty-eight women and two men participated in the community forum facilitated by Hana Ezaoui and Hajiba Boumasmar from the HAF team. The HAF trainers split the participants into groups where they generated project proposals that could help the nomadic community members. The project proposals varied in their aims, objectives, and methods, including from the Nzoul Lbarka Cooperative, the Oum Roghwa Cooperative, and the Organizing Traditional Celebrations Association.

A participant presents her cooperative’s proposal. Photo by Hajiba Boumasmar.

The Nzoul Lbarka Cooperative aims to plant vegetables and fruit trees near Bir Gandus, dedicating one hectare of land near a well to this project. The project is expected to employ three men and two women between the ages of 18 and 40 and requires an estimated budget of 30,000 Dh. The project is estimated to be completed within four months.

Another proposal put forward by the Oum Roghwa Cooperative seeks to expand its sheep farming project. The cooperative plans to build a sheep barn with a capacity of 30 heads and aims to employ three men and two women. The budget for this project is around 60,000 Dh, and the completion time is estimated between one and six months.

The Organizing Traditional Celebrations Association proposed a cultural project that focuses on organizing traditional celebrations and weddings following the Hassani traditions. The project includes tents, clothing, and cooking, and aims to benefit men, women, and people with disabilities. The association estimates that the budget needed for the project is around 30,000 Dh and that the completion should take no longer than four months.

Lastly, the Oualid for Cosmetics Association, founded in 2021, aims to put traditional crafts to use through its new project. This project collects traditional medicinal herbs, purifies and packages them, and sells them in the region as a special local product. The project aims to economically empower vulnerable populations such as widowed and divorced women, lower unemployment, and encourage cultural, social, and political development for the Bir Gandus Commune. The project targets women between the ages of 18-45. The estimated budget for this project is 85,000 Dh and the timeline for the completion of the project will be determined once the budget is allocated.

In total, 11 proposals were presented at this community forum. Participants presented their proposals to the audience with the help of Hana who asked pertinent questions about various aspects of their projects and goals. The HAF team recorded the forum to share with the MEPI partners as they continue to find future collaborative opportunities in the Dakhla-Oued Ed-Dahab Region.

The proposed ideas presented at the forum showcase the potential of young people to develop innovative solutions and address the challenges nomads face in Morocco. The event was a great opportunity to exchange ideas and perspectives, and the HAF team hopes to set up more forums in the future to optimize proposals and find solutions that will be implemented for the benefit of the nomads.

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