Tuesday , December 4, 2012 to Thursday, December 6, 2012: Second session of the INDH training
I enjoyed being with civil society members from Boujdour Province for six days during two training sessions each session with a certain different group. This allowed me to network with members of different associations and coops. In Boujdour, most associations have been established over the past 1 to 5 years, and some of them are newly founded. Associations work in fields relating to preserving Hassanian cultural heritage, local development, environmental and agricultural development, education and fishing.
I chose to join the second of the two groups of INDH trainings. The second training session I participated in was entitled “Techniques of Building Partnerships,” led by Mr Abdellah El Hairch. It was a good opportunity to see methods for networking and promoting groups’ projects.
During this session, considerable time was given to explaining the participatory approach, which in Arabic is called “Al Muqaarabat Tashaarukia” and partnership “Al Sharaaka”. I noticed that participants had a difficult time understanding the notion of “participatory approach,” as they confused it with the term for partnership, which is very similar in Arabic. Working in smaller groups made the subject of the training more apparent and created a positive atmosphere for learning. Everyone had the chance to participate in many activities and workshops about building partnerships and applying for project proposals. The training concluded with the distribution of certifications for the beneficiaries. Everyone was happy to receive that paper.
I took the opportunity to invite civil society operators to attend the HAF’s first community meeting at the Associative Space in Boujdour. They proposed to meet in the afternoon from 3:00pmto 6:00pm instead of meeting in the morning.
Saturday, December 8, 2012: First Community Meeting in Boujdour
It was 2:30 pm when I went to the Associative Space to meet the members of civil society for participatory training. I found no one, the door gate of the Space was locked. I called Mr Khalid Khalil, the manager of Associative Space; who finally came at 3:00pm. After a while, an ample woman wearing melahfa came in. Her name was Hanna Ezzawi, and she was the first one who came on time agreed. I admired her punctuality, which is not the norm here. I asked her about that; and she said that when she was a pupil at the elementary school, she always arrived 5 minutes before school time, and their teacher always told them that arriving 5 minutes before time is better than arriving 5 minutes after. We kept waiting for the others to come for around an hour and a half. We started the meeting at 4:30 pm.
There were around 20 people, 7 women and 13 men. First we talked about participatory approach and its importance as a method for achieving local development and how it helps to integrate different kinds of people literate and illiterate, women or men, youth or children to take part in developing their communities in different domains of life. At the end, we managed together to remove the ambiguity and confusion the civil society members feel about the notion of “Participatory Approach”. After that, the 20 people were divided into smaller groups to apply some techniques of participatory planning.
There were three groups. The three groups were divided according to Boujdour Province’s Communes (Boujdour Municipality, Elmassid Rural Commune, Jrifia Rural Commune and Galtat Zammour Rural Commune) There are four communes, however the groups were only three as Galtat Zammour was not represented by any group. The group’s discussion concluded that all the population of Boujdour province lives in the city of Boujdour, therefore all facilities are in the city center. For Elmassid Cap 5 and Jrifia Cap 7, there are only fishermen working in these Coastal Caps and some buildings constructed by the Moroccan state to be offered for these people, and in the core of the Sahara of Jrifia and Galtat Zammour, there are Sahrawi nomads traveling along looking for “Grarat” in Hassania green pastures for herds. Most of the social agents attended had visited Jrifia, Elmassid, but had never been to Galtat Zammour; they don’t know any details about it.
I was very pleased that the attendees reacted quite positively to the training activities; each group made a considerable number of remarks about the other groups’ findings, in addition to interesting discussions either between members of groups or among the whole audience.
In the evening, I got a call from a social agent who attended the meeting. It was Hanna Ezzaoui inviting me to visit her house. I gladly accepted her invitation.
Monday, December 10,2012 : Visiting Hanna Ezzaoui’s, a social agent
Hanna Ezzaoui lives in Al Ouda district, a construction site on the road to Dakhla, a10 minute drive in a small taxi from my apartment to arrive to her house. Hanna is a Sharaouia woman from Ait Al Hssan tribe in Laayounne. She is married to Sidi Mohamed Boumahdi from Elaaroussiin tribe in Boujdour. This couple represents a modern Saharawi family living in the city. They serve “zrig” in glasses instead of the big bowl. They keep saying “merhba.” Hanna brought a bottle of perfume and sprayed it on my hands and clothes. Materials needing for making tea are always set in the middle of sitting room. We sipped tea together “tyiina” and discussed many different cultural issues, including languages and customs.
Sidi Mohammed’s friend who drives a big taxi that travels outside of the city limits had been to Galtat Zammour many times. It is a very far place from Boujdour City, in the direction of the bottom of the desert. He often gives a ride to the soldiers when traveling back and forth to that region. It is called “Galtat Zammour” because there is a “galtat” in it (a very deep pond) in which water moves as though it is a small lack. It is forbidden to swim in the “Galtat” as it is very deep and dangerous and taking pictures is not allowed either. The taxi driver said that no civilians go there. One can find only soldiers and nomadic shepherds there.
Hanna was preparing “maro” (rice with meat) for dinner. Her husband keeps making and pouring tea in small glasses for the guests. After dinner, Sidi Mohammed prepared the tea table again for Si Baderi, a neighbor of Hanna’s family, to make “kandra” (a drink made of tea, milk and some herbs like Cumin Al Sufi). It is the first time I had an experience with such a flavorful drink. Kandra is made in a small tea or coffee pot.
Hanna is fond of having picnics at the “Al badia” rural Saharawi places at the bottom of the desert. On weekends, most of Sahrawi families take their children to “Al badia” to have picnics there and visit their relatives who look after the herds. Many Sahrawi family has a Land Rover car which can travel through rough and Saharawi lands.
It was very interesting for me to visit the rural areas of Sahara, especially rural communes of Boujdour Province. I liked to see how people live there, and I hope to better understand their need assessments. With this in mind, we decided to go on trip to Jrifia rural commune