Dr. Ruth Huwe, a professor at the Foster School of Business at the University of Washington, recently taught a course, Organizational Behavior: Construction Management. This course included case studies for construction management projects in Africa. The culmination of this course included a final project where they sought to find solutions that would assist with projects related to schools, women’s cooperatives and water management in rural villages near the Toubkal National Park in Morocco.
The groups each identified a clear and precise action plan, including detailed budgets and timeframes, after given a plethora of information and room to be creative. The students were encouraged to look at other case studies from the MENA region, grant descriptions, and background and cultural information provided by the High Atlas Foundation to utilize the aforementioned construction features, in addition to providing a viable solution for clean drinking water.
While all groups presented different options on water projects, the innovation and creativity of these students was showcased in the differences in building options. As noted by Dr. Huwe, this is important because when presenting these solutions, the local communities can view the various options and pick and choose the best ideas for their specific needs, budget, and timeframe.
The entire class worked on project sites in the Al Haouz province, with some groups working in the Tifnout valley, while others worked in the Tassa Ouirgane village – on the north and south sides of the High Atlas respectively. For those working in Tassa Ouirgane, the groups focused on constructing women cooperatives and water management facilities.
Students not only presented the option they believed to be the most feasible, but also gave descriptions of alternative solutions. Specifically, one group chose a VillageWater 850 UVX as the solution to water treatment, citing that it was completely self-contained, solar-powered with an integrated battery backup, quick and easy to assemble, and half the cost of a well. In addition, the group included a breakdown of the alternatives, but having considered the environment and culture of Tassa Ouirgane, the group concluded that given cost, maintenance, feasibility, and effectiveness, the 850 UVX had the highest payoff with the easiest feasibility, according to the GE Model mapping of solutions.
Some of the clean drinking water alternatives suggested by this group and others included Biosand, chlorine, Ultraviolet Disinfection, Nanoparticle filtration, Life Sack, Solar Ball, Ceramic Filtration, and even a water purifying bicycle.
As for the irrigation system, most groups presented on a gravity-fed system, consisting of irrigation pipe, water tanks, and manual pumps as opposed to electric pump systems, surface or drip irrigation, or carrying water by hand. Irrigated water would draw from the water treatment system set at the canal, then feed into the various necessary areas, such as agriculture fields and the co-op.
In addition to procuring solutions, the groups noted the barriers to sustainable development in the area. While the land is fertile, it is also rocky and elevated, with extreme temperatures. The area experiences low income, limited infrastructure such as roads and electricity, minimal healthcare, and an illiteracy rate of ninety-five percent. The infant mortality rate is twenty-six percent, and female villages spend between four and six hours carrying water from canals.
By providing resources for accessible and potable drinking water, as well as the services provided by the women’s cooperative, these barriers could be breached. General health would improve, women would be able to be more productive and present in society, and attendance at schools would increase. The co-op would offer classes in crafts, language, reading, and general education, as well as being a place of social gathering dedicated to women.
Typically, co-ops have limited room and lack lighting, but the groups identified solutions to these prevalent disadvantages. To address the issue of limited lighting, one group proposed to build the co-op with corrugated metal roofing that included skylights. In addition, the materials used would be reinforced concrete and PCV piping, ideal for longevity and the budget.
The groups working in Tifnoute focused their attention on constructing a school and nursery, and providing the relevant facilities for these projects. Similarly to the groups that worked on the Tassa project, the Tifnoute groups also varied in their analyses and choices for clean drinking water systems.
Proposing plans that would affect the Imlil village in the Tifnoute valley, groups identified the barriers facing this community. One group decided upon drip irrigation, which would consist of a pressure drip system connected to a basin, using gravity to reach the village. It included the community in its installation and implementation, and would reduce waterborne illnesses and allow for girls to attend school more frequently, who typically carry water from the previous source.
While the village did have a school, it was in poor condition and lacked living facilities for teachers and bathrooms. One solution was to construct a building that included two schoolrooms, bathroom facilities, and teacher’s housing, all which would be located within close proximity to the water supply.
For the nursery, one group noted their result of using the participatory method. Villagers mentioned efficient agriculture irrigation, erosion safeguard terraces, and organic certification as priorities when constructing the nursery.
These projects also utilized one of the High Atlas Foundation’s central imperatives: human development in the participatory approach. All projects emphasized local labor, and the importance of community input, and many also included the necessity of training for operation and maintenance of the constructed facilities.
Access to potable water is one of the most serious problems affecting communities in the High Atlas Mountains of Morocco. The infant mortality rate in this particular region is 4 times the national average, and is linked directly to unsafe drinking water. Women and girls spend many hours procuring water that is non-potable. Thus, HAF devotes energy and time to completing projects to bring safe drinking water and improved sanitation to Morocco’s most remote rural villages, and reducing high infant mortality rates in the process, illnesses among the general population, and improve the lives of women and girls.
To provide potable water to villages, HAF works with communities to establish the essential infrastructure – a gravity-flow water system that pipes pure water from distant springs to reservoirs built above villages, from which water runs through distribution systems to public taps near houses, schools and mosques. The project uses local building techniques, knowledge and resources – and trains 2 people from each village before, during and after construction, to ensure that appropriate ongoing maintenance occurs.
For the University of Washington students, the innovation and creativity shown these student presentations is inspiring. Not only are their various approaches to building options interesting, but also the inclusion of HAF’s participatory development method affirms the necessity for community involvement in sustainable development. The High Atlas Foundation thanks all of the students, and especially Dr. Ruth Howe, for their ideas and input.