Dar Si Hmad’s work is focused on the southwestern region of Morocco where the organization was born. A territory rich with history and a number of remarkable adaptations by its inhabitants to varied climates and conditions, southwestern Morocco is a geographical area marked by the presence of mountain ranges, spacious plains and the Sahara. Notable for possessing very ancient vegetation including the unique Argan tree, it is a region full of resources and dazzling beauty.
Our initiatives are focused primarily in the rural, mountainous areas of the province of Sidi Ifni, a province with an abundance of fog. Yet the ancient villages suffer today from precarious social and economic conditions as a side effect of climate change.
We are also present in the town of Sidi Ifni, where from 1990 to 2000, children, youth and women in the city benefited from the programs and activities of Foundation Si Hmad Derhem. Today, however, our priority is the mountainous regions where infrastructure needs are the greatest.
Dar Si Hmad operates an annex in the city of Agadir. Agadir is a vibrant economic center and the capital of the Souss region; our programs are primarily educational and target young people from the Southwest territory and the Moroccan Sahara. Our educational mission is manifested in a set of diverse and rich programs, training Moroccans in techniques to empower oneself and one’s world. We also cooperate with other local and regional associations, particularly regarding our expertise in fog-collection.
With all of its projects, the roots of Dar Si Hmad nevertheless remain inextricably linked to the Ait Baâmrane region — by history and by commitment. We invite you to learn more about this region by reading below:
Human and Historical Information
The Aït Baamrane region consists of a confederation of tribes that live in the mountainous Southwestern territory bordering the Atlantic Ocean. The rural population of 65,000 inhabitants is distributed across 348 villages (2014 census) with the town of Sidi Ifni as the symbolic capital of the region. Shepherds tend to their flocks and produce grains, barley in particular. The fruit of the cactus plant, the prickly pear, is also cultivated. Bee keeping and the production of argan products are activities practiced widely across the 59,000 hectares of the region. These activities provide a source of additional income. The region depends on an agricultural way of life with its roots in subsistence farming, a lifestyle more and more difficult to maintain today. Due to its location at the gateway of the Sahara, this region has long been an obligatory point of passage on the trading route along Oued Noun. From the 19th century until the beginning of the 20th century, caravans originating from Essaouira and Marrakech would pass by here on their way to the Mauritanian Adrar and vice-versa. Other ancient towns along the route included Tamdoult U Aqa, Tagaoust, NoulLamta, Mast, Taroudant, Marrakech in the Oued Noun and Souss regions, and Azougy and Aoudaghost in Mauritania.
The Aït Baamrane coast is very steep and as such, is ill-suited to ports. An entry point of note is the mouth of the Oued Assaka river, which Western forces, such as those led by Sidi Mouhmmad Ben Ablella in Mirlift, have attempted to use as a point of access since the 15th century. Aït Baamrane was falsely identified as Nuestra Segnoria del Mar Pequeña, situated at Nayla, to the north of Tarfaya. It was occupied by the Spanish since 1473 and the Ras el Ma Agreement of 1860, offered by Morocco to the Spanish, promised that Morocco would not occupy the territory until 1934, doing so only as a result of French pressure. In a ceremony attended by Colonel Capaz in the name of the Spanish Republic and the Imgharen (Tribal Chiefs) of Aït Baamrane, the latter resigned themselves to Spanish oversight, so long as the sovereignty of their territory would not belong to the occupier. The Imgharen demanded the population’s abdication, and when they continued to refuse, the Spanish colonial power exiled the leaders to Dakhla until Morocco’s independence in 1956. Thus, until 1952, the town of Sidi Ifni and the region bore colonial status. Soon after, the town would become the capital of Spanish West Africa, consisting of the territory of Ifni, the Spanish Sahara and Cape Juby, what is currently Tarfaya, along with Equatorial Guinea with its capital Fernando Po.
The Aït Baamrane region covers an area of 1,310 km². This large region is distinguishable by its natural borders and delineations: the Atlantic Ocean and the pre-Sahara to the west and the Anti-Atlas Mountain chain, made of solid rock with peaks that run from south-west to north-east. It is a semi-arid region, with a Mediterranean climate and sunshine year-round. Aït Baamrane is characterized by irregular rainfall in the cool winter and nearly no rainfall during the hot, dry summer. Total rainfall amounts to only one-eighth of the national average. A curious bi-annual rainfall pattern oscillates intermittently from one year to the next, meaning that western-facing slopes bordering the Sahara can be inundated with rain, whilst in the summers, dry easterly (east-south) winds (Arabic: chergui) parch the entire area, with the exception of a coastal strip neighboring the Atlantic that remains relatively humid. The average annual precipitation is 170 mm. The atmospheric pressure created by the Azores anticyclone and the cold current emanating from the Canary Islands in conjunction with the mountainous relief of the zone work together to encourage a humid fog to develop, particularly from December to June. A natural forest covers 63,000 Ha of the area, of which there are 59,000 Ha of Argan and 16,000 Ha of Euphorbia. Beyond the forest, there are vast expanses of cacti, including varieties unique to the region. Aknari, the fruit of the cactus plant (prickly pear), which has recently become a valuable commodity, is cultivated during a six-month period.
The site of the town Sidi Ifni was occupied by the encampment of Amzdough douar, which housed the Imstiten tribe in pre-modern times. Three years after 1934, when the Spanish occupation began, the site was transformed into a dynamic township boasting over 600 edifices. The population grew rapidly and the burgeoning town’s infrastructure was quickly improved to include roads, town squares and numerous buildings. Three years before the Spanish occupation ended in 1966, the town began its expansion on the north bank of the river into what would become Colomina and Barrillo Agulla. During the military insurrection against the Spanish Republic in 1936, the territory fell under the control of the fascist nationalist military. Essentially, the Spanish military mobilized native soldiers amassed from the Tabores and Tiradores of Sidi Ifni into six battalions (if one includes the territory of the Sahara and Sidi Ifni).
The participation of the tribes of Aït Baamrane proved decisive to the victory of the fascist-nationalists. These nationalists overwhelmed the Baamrani tribes with intense, religiously-motivated propaganda in order to fuel the fire against their designated enemy, who was described as an enemy of God. Since Morocco gained independence from French colonization in 1956, the pressure on Spain to rescind their occupation of Moroccan territory became more intense. Serious border incidents occurred, with the Armée de Libération of Ifni and the Sahara (The Liberation Army of Ifni and the Sahara) conducting attacks in the territory between November 1957 and July 1958. Members of the Tiradores of Ifni and the territorial police were relieved of their duties and the territory was reduced to the town of Ifni – a domain which spanned just 9 km in depth inland from the coastline.
The war ended with the Accords de Cintra (Cintra Pact) in April 1958 in which Spain ceded the territory won by the Liberation Army to Morocco as well as an area of the Sahara ranging from Oued Draa to 50 km south of Tarfaya. From 1958 up until the complete reappropriation of the region by Morocco in January 1969, Ifni acquired Spanish Provincial Status, becoming the 51st Spanish Province, and was ruled by a Governor General. 1969 marked the end of a 35-year occupation.
Since the 1950s the region witnessed mass emigration of workers to the factories and mines of Europe. This resulted in an exodus from the countryside as the emigrants preferred to base their families in the urban centers of Geulmime and Sidi Ifni given the lack of infrastructure in the countryside. The sustainability projects Dar Si-Hmad implements focus primarily on this region, roughly 30 km inland, eastern bound towards and inclusive of the Anti-Atlas Mountains.
Challenges and perspectives
The town of Sidi Ifni prospers from a micro-climate considerably less harsh than the climate inland, due to the dense fog which engulfs it for long periods of the year. The proximity of the Sahara is obvious in the local flora and fauna, and is discernible in the intermittent blasts of hot desert wind. The first sea port was built in 1960 and consisted of a 1.5km cable transporting goods inland from small cargo ships. The choice of port was dictated by the problems posed by sand, which is a permanent obstacle for ports based in the Sahara, including in Ifni. The town has a fishing port which only meagerly benefits the region since the catch is dispatched for the factories of Agadir. The airport dates to the Spanish era and today represents a 1 km² derelict area where a market is held on Sundays. The Spanish presence is still visible in Place Hassan II, the old Plaza de España features a little park adorned with a fountain which no longer flows and traditional Andalous mosaic features. Nearby is a stunning Pagadora (now falling apart), the cinema Avenida, the Santa Cruz Church now transformed into a courthouse, the lighthouse and the Palacio Real – the old residence of the Spanish Governor General and used today also to house the Moroccan governor of the region.
The town has been in jeopardy since its independence, living off the money sent by emigrants and retirees from the War of Spain who were conscripted or recruited by the Spanish nationalists during the Civil War of 1936 – 1939. The obsolete Spanish character and charm lures tourists in search of a peaceful environment. The region was awarded provincial status in 2011 which has given it more resources and created real possibilities for sustained development in line with the requirements of the region.