HAF Intern, graduate student
Another pretty productive and successful day today. In the early afternoon I had a meeting with the teachers I had met yesterday at the school in the Village of Tororde in the Azzaden Valley. One of the teachers, Zahara, was kind enough to set up a meeting with people from the neighbouring Association Koutoubia pour le développement rural et la protection de l’environnement. Before I knew it I had another semi-structured group discussion going on with the two female teachers (aged 25 – 35), the president of the association (Farid, aged 32), and five male locals (aged 35 – 45).
The teachers didn’t have much to say on the situation in the village, as they were outsiders themselves, but did teach me a lot about the Educational system in rural Morocco. Apparently new teachers are completely at the state’s disposal as far as their deployment goes, including spending the entire school year living at the school in which they’re teaching. Zahara, for example, was originally from the far South of the kingdom but had spent the previous seven years stationed in the Vallée d’Azzaden. They told me this system was supposed to link the needs for teachers on a national level to the availability thereof, but both of them convincingly said it made the life of a teacher a lot harder. Based on a system of grades, marital status, seniority and others, teachers could later on in their careers have a bigger influence on their deployment, but in the beginning everyone must pay their dues. They also told me that the state provides an absolute minimum for the schoolchildren, but that often the teachers had to invest their own money in materials or ask the parents for some.
Farid Ait Said, the president of the Association Koutoubia, turned out to be really interested and motivated to start collaboration with the High Atlas Foundation. I explained him about our project in Tassa Ouirgane, the participatory meetings that led up to its implementation – building gabeons and terraces along the river and planted fruit trees and nurseries, in partnership with the UNDP. I spoke of the commitment of the community members to supply labour and run the nursery, and the fact that this project will serve to the benefit of the entire valley. He then explained to me some more about his organisation and the work they’ve been doing. Comprised out of 13 members and three years in existence, the association worked to alleviate a variety of problems. Some of the activities he named included the provision of drinking water, maintenance of the roads, collecting money to pay for electricity of the mosque, and reparations of the bridge. When I asked him if these responsibilities weren’t up to the state or a local form of government, he said:
“En théorie, oui, mais c’est mieux de l’organiser nous-mêmes et effectivement réussir des projets, qu’attendre le gouvernement qui fait rien. Concernant le pont, ça fait des mois que j’ai envoyé des courriers à la province mais ils ne vont rien, ils ne viennent pas à voir, ils ne me répondent même pas. »
« In theory, yes, but it’s better to organize it ourselves and actually have projects that succeed, than wait for the government that does nothing. Concerning the bridge, I have sent letters to the province for months but they do not go, they do not come to see, they do not even reply. «
Farid quickly turned into a key source of information about the village, being an accepted organising force in the community. He took me for a transect walk of the area, pointing out a lot of problems they are facing in the community, but also the human capital and potential in Tororde.
- BRIDGE: The bridge connecting the two halves of Tororde, and even the road further down to Aguinane, Andras and Tikhfiste, is rapidly deteriorating. The bridge was built in 2010 as a combined effort by the Jema’a (organisation of “la commune rurale”, stemming from a Tamazight institution and comprising some 30 villages), local associations and the Al Haouz province. Farid told me that the province ran out of money before it was completed and that Nadia Aalami, a famous Moroccan actress, used her personal money to have it completed. However, according to Farid and two of his friends, the architect had made a mistake in placing it, causing the river to run to closely to one of the sides and eroding its foundation.
- DRINKABLE WATER: The supply of drinkable water was identified as one of the main problems as well, on multiple occasions and probably with the biggest emphasis of Farid. Each village had to foresee in their own supply of drinkable water, stored in separate basins on the mountain slope. Tororde drew its water from a well about 4 km away from the storage, brought over to them by a system of pipes whose maintenance also fell on the shoulders of village associations. During summer the supply from the source isn’t enough, and water from a nearby well is transported into the basin via a petrol pump. This costs the village about 3500 dirham per month in gas. Furthermore, the current storage infrastructure seems to be insufficient for the town’s needs, and Farid indicated a second basin for the other half of Tororde would be necessary.
- HUMAN CAPITAL: Farid spoke about his community with a lot of heart and hopes for its future. Although there are a lot of challenges and problems, there is a motivated group of community actors looking to improve the situation of the village. According to him, about half of the young people leave to the big cities in search of a better job, half of them stay. On average the daily earnings of the families of the village was about 15 to 20 dirhams, but neighbours looked after each other by sharing food and support. The 200-odd inhabitants were comprised out of 4 to 5 groups of families, and shared their entire lives together. Furthermore, he seemed to see great potential in the mode of HAF finding funding and material, the local population supplying the labour. He said this working side-by-side for community improvement is already being done, and it’s mostly the many financial strains that impede local development.
BIO: Thanks to some very helpful teachers I meet up with community actors from Tororde, a neighbouring village, who give me an idea of the challenges facing their village and their efforts in overcoming them.