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Moroccan nomads: the forgotten of the Sahara

Moroccan berber nomad desert sahara morocco

Forgotten in the desert sands of M'Hamid El Ghizlane, south of Zagora in southern Morocco , nomadic families survive in precarious conditions. Faced with climate change associated with frequent droughts, many of them have become semi-sedentary. Meet with those forgotten of the desert.


Nomadic woman mhamid morocco

Touda,nomadic woman of the M'hamid desert.

To reach the nomadic families of the desert region M'Hamid El Ghizlane, it takes several hours of driving on chaotic tracks. In the blazing heat of an August sun, Touda lives alone with her husband a stone's throw from a well. Here, time seems almost suspended, only punctuated by the preparation of tea that extends throughout the day. "Life is very difficult here," says the young woman between domestic chores.

 Many uncertainties

 For nearly four years, the couple settled in this corner of the Sahara. "Here it is only fatigue, we would like to have a real house but we do not have enough to build it and then it is my husband who wants to stay here, I would like to live in town", explains she shyly. A nomadic girl, Touda has been living in the desert's rhythms since childhood. "The school I never went to, neither me nor my parents. I wanted to go to school but I did not find it here, "she adds. Without access to education, the vast majority of nomadic children are thus forced to learn livestock breeding in order to "perpetuate the tradition". However, the situation of nomads in Morocco today faces many uncertainties about their future. In recent years, the closure of the border or the construction of the Ouarzazate dam has profoundly changed the lives of nomads, not to mention the periods of severe drought. Due to the lack of water and thus pastures, the farmers do not have enough to feed their herds which they lost little by little. "At the time of my parents, at the time of real nomadism, there was a lot of fatigue but they moved all the time, now we all start to settle, we move much less. We have four camels and about a hundred head of cattle, we sell some of these goats or dromedaries, it's our only means of livelihood, " adds Touda.


nomadic child mhamid morocco southern

Touda,nomadic child, wants to settle in the city

"Here, the people are poor, they have no money they have nothing, the one who owns cattle can sell, the one that has nothing left," says Said . This father of a family of six children has been sedentary for several years to a hundred meters of a well dug by a foreign NGO. On site, large cans filled with water litter the ground. For Said, in addition to the particularly harsh living conditions in this desert corner, it is the situation of his children that preoccupies him. "This desert is difficult, children do not study, including mine who do not go to school," he says. Many nomads have expressed their need for an education program for adults and children. Said nevertheless remembers the nomadic school set up by an association a few years ago. "The children were able to study a little but when this school disappeared, they were left without anything," he laments. Assou is today the only nomad of the area to provide some French lessons or maths to children. The young man who studied for four years on the benches of a nomadic school run by French and then Italians tries to take care of the children of the region. Following the closure of the nomadic school, solidarity is required for local populations. "We created our own association. Since I teach children, we revise a little, there is no state in all this, it is only us nomads. Each person gives a little money so that I can earn 1000 dirhams a month to take care of the children and give them lessons, "says the young man.


nomadic father, mhamid morocco

Said, nomadic father, surrounded by his family

A desire for integration in modern life

 Abandoned by public health, nomads also demand better access to care and medical follow-up. Since 2009, however, the arrival of the telephone network in this part of the desert has been a source of great relief. "If someone in my family gets sick, we call the ambulance that arrives after 4 hours from M'Hamid El Ghizlane," says Said. An emergency service that, however, has a cost, often too much to bear for the nomads. "It's true that it's a bit expensive, it takes between 1000 and 1250 dirhams for the ambulance to reach here, sometimes it can go up to 1500 dirhams," said the father. Only solution to survive, the sale of livestock. "At the time of my parents, there was rain and enough food for the animals, the flock was growing but today it's the opposite, there is no more rain, and with the drought the flock is dwindling, "laments Said A tragedy for these nomads who lose their only capital, their only fortune. Without prospects of a better future, the forgotten ones of the Sahara aspire to a real change of their situation and their integration to a more modern life. "We no longer want nomadism, I hope we find a solution. If we could go to town and build a house, it would be much better, "he says. "We do not benefit from nomadism, we hope God willing, we too enter civilization," says Assou.

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