2019 Fall Oak Fellow: Jamila Bargach

Jamila Bargach

“I am extremely happy and excited to have worked in the Oak Institute where Human Rights are the guiding principle of engagement,” Bargach said. “I feel really humbled to be partaking in the footsteps of all those who have made the unique experience of the Oak Institute.”

Theme: Water & Human Rights

Jamila Bargach is an activist and scholar who has dedicated her life to serving under-resourced communities in Southwest Morocco, creating sustainable initiatives through education and scientific innovation. She is the co-founder of Dar Si Hmad, which operates as the largest functioning fog collection project in the world.

Today, the organization brings fog-harvested, potable water to fifteen Morrocan villages in Aït Baâmrane, a Berber region where women used to spend hours transporting water to their households. Now, they can reallocate that time to do other things, such as to produce Argan oil, fostering independence for these Berber women. “We’ve just gotten funds to expand the projects and add in twelve more villages,” Bargach said.

Bargach, an anthropologist by training with a PhD from Rice University, has taught at the National School of Architecture, Rabat. She spent decades as a human rights activist helping organize residents in slums and informal communities in Morocco. In 2006, Bargach co-founded a shelter for women in Casablanca under the aegis of La Ligue Démocratique des Droits des Femmes, which she directed until 2009. Bargach has published several articles on adoption practices, unwed mothers, gender and development, as well as the book Orphans of Islam: Family, Abandonment, and Secret Adoption in Morocco (2002).

Her training as an anthropologist allows her to work seamlessly with entrenched Berber communities and gives her the tools to understand the social fabric and aid in alleviating root causes of poverty. A primary goal for her is to increase global awareness about water-rights and accessibility in a world increasingly anxious about its water-future.

Bargach was awarded the Vera Campbell Fellowship for Women Scholar-Practitioners from Developing Nations at the School for Advanced Research, Santa Fe, which allowed her to lay the foundation for the fog-harvesting project with Dar Si Hmad in 2011. She has been a research fellow at the Ford Foundation, at the American Institute for Maghrebi Studies, and at the Transregional Institute, Princeton University. She is currently working on enhancing the very first environmental and ethnographic field school in Morocco, setting up an environmental education program for underserved school children from the fog collection villages.

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