Aït Iktel, Abadou, Morocco
Association Aït Iktel de Développement
Completed in 1995 and ongoing
Like many of Morocco's thirty thousand villages, Aït Iktel existed in relative seclusion until recent years. Located in the remote High Atlas Mountains, the village had no electricity, and widespread drought forced women to spend many hours each day fetching water from faraway sources. Most of the village's two thousand inhabitants are members of the Ghoujdama Berber tribe, who have traditionally depended on agriculture, mostly grain crops, for their livelihood. At least one member of each family works in a city in Morocco or abroad, providing the means for subsistence to relatives in Aït Iktel.
One such emigrant, Ali Amahan, formed the Association Socio-culturelle des Ghoujdama in 1992, bringing together members of the tribe who had moved to Casablanca and Rabat. Out of this group emerged the Association Aït Iktel de Développement (AID), founded in 1995.
The objectives of AID were to provide basic social services and infrastructure and to organize economic activity. All projects were undertaken with the full participation of the villagers. Leaders of AID worked closely with the jemaâ, the traditional assembly of heads of families, with each member's opinion considered until consensus was reached. AID also represented the community in securing government endorsement for their projects and in raising funds.
Today, electricity runs four hours a day in Aït Iktel, and streets are lit during the evenings. The entire population has access to water through a network that supplies traditional street fountains. A new school, with a schedule that permits children to help their families in daily chores, holds classes in Arabic and French and teaches the traditional Berber dialect. Liberated from the heavy labour of carrying water, girls and women have access to education and the weaving workshop; around 85 per cent of girls between the ages of four and nineteen are now in school. A new library has been created, and the existing dispensary has been repaired and upgraded into a health centre and provided with an ambulance.
These facilities and services have been incorporated either into new structures built in local stone or into the existing architecture of the village, characterized by inlaid stonework in a variety of patterns. All work has been based on traditional techniques or on the construction experience of the village's returned emigrants. Of the new structures, perhaps the most visible and symbolic is the 2.5-kilometre seguia, or water canal, which has increased the area of land that can be irrigated. The canal crosses the valley over a bridge constructed in local stone, which has become a landmark in the area. Another important achievement has been the construction of two semi-underground reservoirs, which are sensitively integrated into the landscape.
AID's accomplishments have set a model for the surrounding villages, most of which have now created similar community organizations. By closing the distance between decision-makers and beneficiaries and circumventing the public sector's shortcomings, Aït Iktel demonstrates how, through architecture, a village can mobilize itself to improve its present and safeguard its future.
This project has received an Award because it exemplifies a new approach to development, environmental conservation and the improvement of living conditions for rural populations. The success of the project was based on mobilizing the experience of emigrant villagers who brought back expertise after living in modern urban contexts, joining hands with those who remained in order to take charge of their own destiny. As a result, old buildings are now cared for and new installations have been added to provide basic services such as a water-supply network, electricity and education facilities. The cooperation between the villagers has enhanced daily life while preserving the traditions of this isolated and poor population. The success of the project makes it an example for the entire region, bringing hope to rural communities throughout the Islamic world and reinforcing their determination to improve their own lives.
Project Conception: Ali Amahan.
Client Association: Aït Iktel de Développement - Mohamed Amahan, President.
Documentation: Ministère de l'Aménagement du Territoire, de l'Urbanisme, de l'Habitat et l'Environnement - Direction de l'Architecture, Saïd Mouline, Director.
Site area: Approximately 150 hectares
Population: 1,849 inhabitants in 122 households
Cost: MAD 2,240,000 (USD 224,000)
1994 First well and manual pump installed
1995 Creation of Association Aït Iktel de Développement
1995 First water-supply project
1996 Repair and fitting-out of village dispensary
1996 Electrification project commenced
1997 Library installed
1998 Restoration of a house for educational facilities
1999 Irrigation canal built
2000 Second water-supply project
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