The questionnaire allowed us to sketch the historical profile of this village. As a matter of fact, we have interviewed the inhabitants about the important historical events that had an impact on the evolution of the village and marked its community. We have listed the historical events in question on the following chronological timeline, you should note that the changes in bold are most often quoted. The first event that was brought into light dates back to thirty years; which is the construction of the first school in the village. After the establishment of the first paved road of the valley which linked it to the rest of the road network, there came numerous changes of material nature. These changes have been for the most part positive and made everyday life of the inhabitants a bit easier. We should note that the changes that do not appear in the timeline could not be listed chronologically. Nevertheless, we have decided that they are important enough to be cited. The following changes had the most impact on the better levels of the inhabitants’ comfort and the modernization of their homes.
Agriculture has undergone a significant evolution over the last twenty years: more wheat and barley are being grown for flour production. We also witness the arrival of new fruit trees and especially apple trees, and the reason behind this is the suitableness of the local climate. In addition to that, many people mentioned the appearance of a new breed of cows.
Concerning the local gastronomy, there were also many changes in this respect. On the contrary to the past where wood was used as a fire source to cook food; they primarily use, nowadays, gas for cooking. The price of gas had dropped, thanks to the paving of the road leading to our village that facilitated the supply of gas bottles. The utensils have also evolved, we find more and more aluminum-made dishes, instead of traditional pottery ones. Water taps appeared in our villager’s homes replacing plastic cans, which in turn had replaced goat skin. Food products have changed and new products such as baking powder and soft drinks (cited during the interviews) are making it to the scene. Nevertheless, the apparition of these new products is to blame for the increase of prices of all other food products. Also, an interviewee reported an increase in diseases since the introduction of these new food products.
The improvement of living conditions was brought into light on multiple occasions. These improvements can be seen in the introduction of toilets, showers and hammams, but also mattresses and blankets. Houses have become cleaner, better built and present in large numbers.
We can also spot these changes in the clothing of the locals (clothing have become less traditional, but more comfortable) which have become more varied and in higher numbers.
The inhabitants also said that it was easier now to travel, thanks to an increase in public and private transportation. They have also said that there is an ambulance in the valley available for medical emergencies.
In general, people pointed out that they had more resources than before and also a bigger array of choices of goods to buy from. There are fewer problems today in terms of the need of nourishment since food is available in larger quantities.
• The geographical location and morphology of the Valley
The Aït Bouguemez Valley is located in the central part of the Moroccan High Atlas, in the province of Azilal. This rural area stretches over almost 30km (18 miles), where we can find 27 neighboring Douars (villages) and has a total number of 14527 inhabitants.
Since it is located in the heart of the massive High Atlas Mountains, the valley is considered to be highly isolated. In fact, it is surrounded by high peaks such as Mount Azourki (3775 meters / 12385 feet) to the northeast, and Mount Ouaougalzat to the southeast (3766 meters / 12355 feet). Mount M’Goun, which is the highest peak of the Central High Atlas, culminates to 4068 meters (13346 feet) and is situated south of the valley. However, the average altitude of the valley remains at 1800 meters (5905 feet). There is an approximate distance of 260 kilometers (161 miles) between the city of Marrakech and Aït Bouguemez valley, which translates to approximately a 5 hours long drive through tricky mountainous roads. There are other cities of importance for the inhabitants of the valley such as Azilal and Beni Mellal, which are located at 75 kilometers (46 miles) and 165 kilometers (102 miles) away, which translates to approximately a 2:30 hours and 4 hours long drive from the starting point of Tabant municipality. Access to the aforementioned cities from the valley is now facilitated thanks to an asphalt road dating back to 2001. Another road exists since 1940s and connects Azilal to Ifrane at the end of the valley, however it is less frequently used.
• The climate and its hazards
As far as the climate is concerned, the rainfall distribution is irregular over the course of the year: Heavy rain in winter and spring, while summer is dry, but sometimes a few thunderstorms take place. The snow period generally extends from October to the end of April, and the snow volume has been decreasing in recent years due to global warming. Records show that the village did get covered by up to two meters (6.5 feet) of snow during the 1970s. Nowadays, snow levels are about 50 cm (19.6 inches). Temperatures range from -15 °c (5 Fahrenheit) in winter and up to 40 °c (104 Fahrenheit) in summer.
Since 1998, the valley has undergone recurring periods of drought, and the last major one was recorded in 2005. Droughts are not the only hazardous natural phenomenon dreaded by the inhabitants. There is also the problem of floods that destroy the agricultural lands which might result in the loss of entire crops. These floods cause large landslides, mud flows and overflowing numerous fields with all kinds of rocks rendering them unfarmable. Furthermore, no means have been put in place to fight against the early or late frosting of crops that can cause the loss of fruit crops.
• The physical organization of the village
The village share the same characteristics as the surrounding villages in terms of the organization of its territory:
A large valley background (which is the main characteristic of the valley of Ait Bouguemez) makes it possible to have important irrigated crops. These crops are mainly cereals such as: barley, wheat and corn as well as legumes such as alfalfa (used for fodder). Some pieces of farming land are sown twice a year which makes it possible to harvest the land twice a year for two different types of crops. Vegetables are also cultivated (potatoes, turnips, onions, and recently, carrots and tomatoes), these vegetables are destined mainly for family consumption. For some 20 years, fruit trees have been planted such as apples, almond, some peaches, apricot and figs.
The habitat in this area is built on the slopes, so as not to encroach on the farmable lands. The houses are still built in a traditional way, using adobe bricks, thanks to the local resources: The walls are built using stones, pebbles and mud. The roofs are made of Populus, Juniper, Green Oak, but also straw, Buxus, mud, water and salt. Some people use tarps to reinforce the sealing of their roofs. In earlier times, houses were large “Kasbahs” where several families were sometimes housed and were also used as fortified collective granaries.
The forests found on the mountainsides are used for the grazing of animals, and also used as a source of both firewood and wood used in construction, as well as for animal feed. We can find in the aforementioned forests three different species of Junipers, Holm Oaks, and Buxus. For the last decade, we have observed a growing rate of deforestation in the village as well as in the valley in general. However, there might be possible reforestation solutions that would limit soil erosion and violent floods.
• The Douar, an autonomous organization:
The Douar of R’bat (Douar is a Moroccan word meaning village) is managed by the Jmâa (wise men council), an assembly made up of household leaders who take the major decisions of the village. On Fridays, which is considered by Muslims a holy day, the household leaders of the village meet at the local mosque where they discuss, if need be, the problems of the village. The Jmâa establishes the rules, exercises customary justice, represents the village in discussions and meetings with the other Douars, and attempts to settle down various disputes that may arise. Therefore, Jmâa acts as a negotiation and communication channel and combines customary power and formal power. The Jmâa also appoints the Naïb who is a member of Jmâa that acts as a general manager of the local resources for an undefined period of time. The Naïb also acts as a communication channel between the council and the villagers, and supervises and sanctions the non-respect of the rules established by Jmâa. The most common conflicts that Naïbs frequently deal with are sharing of water, having access to wood in forests and resolving conflicts over land, property and their owners. In addition to that, we can find in each village an inhabitant who acts as the village chief and who is also part of the Jmâa. The chief’s role is to represent the villagers with high level local authorities.
Schooling in Morocco is mandatory for all citizens for the first eight grades. We have been able, thanks to the census we have conducted, to know the number of children and teenagers in the village who are in school. We have divided them into four age categories corresponding to the different levels of schooling (Pre-school, elementary school, junior high school and high school).
• Children from the ages of 3 to 5 years old became able, since 2007, to have access to schooling in our Children Center. A total of 56.3% of children aged between 3 to 5 years old have been registered in it.
• Children from the ages of 6 to 12 years old may be enrolled in the village school. According to the census, 90,9% of the village’s children are schooled within its walls.
• Teenagers from the ages of 13 to 16 years old may be enrolled in Tabant’s junior high school. A total of 52,9% of teenagers between the ages of 13 to 16 years old are attending school.
• Adolescents between the ages of 17 to 20 years old may be enrolled in a high school in Azilal, but some of the adolescents in this age category are still in junior high school and three of them are in apprenticeship. Furthermore, 28,8 % of these adolescents are still in school.
• In addition to that, only 5 young men between the ages of 21 to 23 years old are going to college.
The schooling rate for children between the ages of 6 to 12 years old is 90.9%, which is a very good number. However, we can observe a decrease in the rate of schooling among boys, and especially among girls between the ages of 13 to 16 years old. Many children from the village drop out from school when they reach junior high school. Among the reasons evoked are: the long trip they need to take to go to school, the lack of public transportation to Tbant’s junior high school and high school which are 5 km (3 miles) away from R’bat, and the fact they are needed by the parents to do chores at home and/or as extra manpower for their farming lands.
Professional training programs are, unfortunately, not very coveted, since only three adolescents are enrolled in a training program of some sort (two in a mechanics training program, and one in a carpentry training program).
• Restricted access to treatment:
Medical equipments are rare in the village, and all the medical facilities are mainly present at Tabant and large cities. Only one doctor and six nurses are on duty in Tabant’s medical center that was created in 1963.
In addition to that, there is a midwife working in the birthing center that was created in 1986. The latter deals with complicated deliveries (all other births are mainly home births).
There exists only one ambulance in the valley managed by an association and it is quite costly to operate. Nevertheless, when there are two medical emergencies at the same time, we borrow one of the two ambulances of Aït Boulli. The nearest hospital and specialist doctors can only be found in Azilal.
• The absence of a sewerage system and waste treatment facilities
The village suffers from the problem of sewage disposal: no sewage system has been put in place, the sewage is being evacuated directly into the underground and sometimes it gets mixed up with the drinking water because of the neglected wells.
The problem of waste treatment is rather a new one for the village, and it is a consequence of the introduction and the growing use of plastic packages in the everyday life of the villagers in the last few years. No waste collection or recycling system has been put in place and each family is responsible, in a chaotic way, for the management of their own waste (mostly by setting it on fire). Due to lack of awareness and involvement of the villagers, one may find a lot of trash scattered all over the place in R’bat and in the valley in general. Ten trash containers have been made available throughout the village, so that each family may use it to dispose of their trash. These installations are recent and it is difficult for the villagers to change their habits overnight.
• Schooling equipments and infrastructure:
There exist only two schooling infrastructure in R’bat: A center for young children and a primary school.
The latter is only an annex of Tabant’s primary school and it is attended by R’bat pupils between the ages of 6 to 12 years old (with a total number of 123 students) and also by pupils from the neighboring village of Akourbi (with a total number of 56 students). Six grades are taught by six teachers taking turns on using the three available rooms which is an enough number of rooms since three grades are taught during the morning period and the other three grades during the afternoon. The subjects taught in this primary school are Arabic, French, history and geography, mathematics, Islamic education, plastic arts, science classes and physical education.
The school built during the 1980s is in bad conditions and it is getting worse by the day. One of the four rooms (where women were being tutored) is in a terrible condition, the other three are in a better shape and each student has a table, a chair, a chalkboard, a notebook and a pen. To this day, restrooms are out of service and there is also a shortage of pedagogical tools and equipments. Some courses cannot be taught properly, such as physical education and science classes, which are subjects of little interest to students. In addition to that, teachers regret not being able to organize a pedagogical outing, due to lack of public transportation.
For young people, no structure in the village allows them to be brought together; except for a football field which is exclusively frequented by boys. These young people, already living in an isolated region, do not have access to cultural activities and have little contact with the outside world, other than through their television sets. Nevertheless, there is a cyber café and there is also a small library within the walls of the junior high school. Once they finish school, these young people find no dedicated cultural centers or whatsoever to entertain them, and most of them cut all ties with education and learning as soon as they stop going to school.
• A major agricultural activity:
Each family owns seven pieces for farming land on average. Farming in this village is mainly intended for domestic consumption, but in recent years it has evolved into a source of income. Whenever the owner has a respectable number of farming lands and the crop is bountiful, then the products become available for sale. The distribution of the crop is, in general, 1/3 for domestic consumption and 2/3 for trading. The crops that consist the majority of the products on sale are apples and potatoes, but one should take into account that this kind of trade is not economically stable since it highly depends on the climate and availability of enough water resources.
Animal husbandry represents a major economic activity for the village, since 27,8% of households own herds of cattle (sheep and goats) of more than 50 animals that they offer for sale in Tbant’s “marketplace”. These animals also represent a great source of wool used in the making of carpets. There are other families owning very few numbers of cattle and they represent for them extra-source of income when sold.
Cows are also bred and destined for selling. Milk production (which is not abundant) is not properly exploited and is mainly destined for domestic consumption. Donkeys and mules are considered by the majority of families as a “means” of locomotion and a “tool” for work. There are even some families breeding poultry and rabbits but it is not a very common activity.
• Development of tourism and nature exploring activities
The economy of tourism in the valley has been in constant increase since the 1980s. In 2011, a total number of 2465 tourists visited the valley and could be accommodated in one of the 44 group lodgings of the valley. The tourism sector provides job opportunities for seasonal workers each year (about fifteen muleteers, five cooks, one musician all of whom have other activities during the rest of the year). During the tourist season (from April to October), three guides accompany tourists for the treks organized in the valley.
The valley represents an important passage during the course of treks organized in the mountains. These tourists, often accompanied by guides, muleteers and cooks may check in one of the three lodgings or may even be offered shelter by one of inhabitants (usually for one night). Prices range between 40 and 50 DH a night and 75 and 80 DH for half board. Few services are offered for tourists in the village. They can however, on the recommendation of guides, buy carpets or honey directly from the villagers. Tourists come to R’bat to see the Tawaya water source in May, and explore the surrounding mountains and stroll along the farming lands.
• Craftsmanship and resources to be valued
Crafts and especially the making and selling of carpets can be a major asset in the development of the village’s economy. Women pass on the skill of weaving from generation to generation. The methods used evolved over time but remain traditional for the most part. Almost every household has a loom where women work there as soon as it is possible, this activity takes place especially during winter season. The vast majority of the home-made carpets are used domestically, but some are sold to passing tourists.
Some locals produce honey from hives, the latter are only sold for the purpose of harvesting beeswax from them, and the other products extracted from the hives are not properly exploited. Furthermore, we can find in the valley various medicinal plants such as thyme, sagebrush, wild mint and rosehips.
A rich Amazigh culture:
The village of R’bat is a reflection of a very special culture: The Amazigh culture. The Amazigh (meaning freemen) are natives of North Africa, nomads who have gradually settled near water sources. There are three different Amazigh tribes: Amazigh of the Rif (north of Morocco), Amazigh of Agadir (southern part of the country) and the Amazigh of the High-Atlas. The Amazigh have their own language which in its turn has many regiolects. This language is commonly known as « Tachelhit » and it was recognized as a national language at the dawn of Mohamed VI’s reign in 1999. The variety of Tachelhit spoken in R’bat is called « Tamazight ». Tachelhit has its own alphabet (widely known as Tifinagh) that makes it possible to write and transfer this language to written form.
The history of R’bat village has never been recorded in writing and it has only been orally transmitted from one generation to another. It is said that the valley, before it became inhabited, was a place of passage for nomads where they rested for a few days during the transhumance. The name of the Aït Bouguemez is inspired by two different legends. According to the first legend, a nomad who had scabies would have settled in the valley. Whenever people saw him, they would say that they saw the Bouguemez « he who has scabies ». The second legend explains the name of the valley according to its location: The valley of Aït Bouguemez is located between the eastern and western High Atlas and might mean “the people from the middle place”.
Legend has it that the origin of the settlement of the village of R’Bat would involve a shepherd. The latter would have grazed around the village and one of his goats would have strayed several times from the herd always returning with a wet mouth, and it is thanks to this goat that he would find the water source.
Following this discovery, he settled there and there was born the village of R’bat. This story dates back to the 1800s. Initially, only twelve families lived in the village in large houses (Kasbahs).
The Amazigh culture is now found everywhere in the village and it represents its core identity. The hospitality, generosity and sincerity of the villagers are visible qualities that are highly appreciated. We see the importance given to Mother Nature and to the different resources that it offers. The Amazigh, before being Muslims, were Jews, Christians, pagans and worshipped nature, the sun, the stars and the water sources for which they made blood sacrifices. The seasonal water source of Tawaya is still the source of joyful reactions when it finally springs. Gastronomy is a pretext for exchange and conviviality. Who, while visiting the village, was not invited to share a cup of tea, a tajine or a couscous? This value of conviviality is found at numerous festive events such as weddings or even the Eid al-Adha (Festival of Sacrifice) during Dhū al-Ḥijjah (the 12th month of the Islamic calendar), when most of the villagers are in R’bat. Music is a way to share and express the different emotions of musicians by combining the melodies of flutes, tambourines, Amazigh songs and dances. This music is commonplace during holidays and when the villagers move away from their families and start feeling home-sick, and also during the transhumances and treks. In fact, some of the villagers of R’bat are even part of the folk music group of the valley.
des femmes, des hommes et des enfants vivent mieux parce que d’autres femmes et d’autres hommes le veulent.. tifawine a besoin de fonds propres afin d’obtenir l’aide que constituent les cofinancements. toute somme, même modeste, est bienvenue.. nous sommes vraiment convaincus de la richesse incomparable des rencontres humaines et souhaiterions que des étrangers se rendent chez leurs frères les berbères afin de mieux entrer en relation avec eux par la connaissance de leurs conditions de vie, de leurs coutumes, de leur pensée. nous savons par expérience que de tels échanges conduisent à des satisfactions réciproques…