In rural Morocco, where water is an increasingly scarce in the wake of climate change and shifting populations, one coastal region has been using a system of fog nets to fill this gap. The Sidi Ifni region lies at the northern edge of the Sahara desert, and is predictably arid, with annual rainfall of less than 130mm. However, its position in a coastal microclimate perched between the Atlantic coast and the Anti-Atlas mountains offers moisture from another source. When humid air from the ocean reaches the mountains, it turns into thick god – particularly between December and June.
When Jamila Bargach heard of similar fog harvesting projects in other parts of the world, and observed that their climate yielded 143 days of fog a year, him and others in Sidi Ifni began to look into implementing such a project there. Bargach is now the director of Dar Si Hmad, a non-profit.
“Everyone was leaving the village where I grew up, and it was all because of water,” said Bargach. “We began to read about ‘fog harvesting’ projects around the world, and we wondered if we could repeat it here.”
The struggling community had long considered the fog a problem, preventing rainfall, creating mud, and making people sick.
“Lots of people were reluctant – and even negative – at the beginning of the project. Some even thought that cloud water would not be safe to drink. We weren’t sure if it was going to deliver and we didn’t want to disappoint people. But slowly people began to be convinced, and now the local women call the nets their ‘wells’.”
Dar Si Hmad has, over the past ten years, constructed large mesh nets on the slopes of Mount Boutmezguida, at an elevation of 1,225 meters. It has become the world’s largest fog-harvesting project. 600 square meters of nets capture water particles, which then condense, dripping into trays below. The project currently yields about 6,300 liters of water daily, which are filtered and mixed with underground water. Pipelines distribute the water to roughly 400 people in five villages.
According to Zeyna Hamou Ali, a coordinator for Dar Si Hmad:
“We used to spend at least four or five hours going to collect water every day from wells in neighboring villages, or collecting the rain in tanks during the rainy season. This made it very difficult for us to go to school because it’s just accepted by everyone that it’s a woman’s job to go and get water.”
Regions of southwest Morocco such as Sidi Ifni are populated primarily by Berber women. Illiteracy rates there rise above 40 percent, with women accounting for much of that total. Dar Si Hmad also provides training and education for women from these villages.