Ait Iktel, 1995 and ongoing
Association Ait Iktel de Developpement
Project Conception: Ali Amahan
Like many of Morocco's 3000 villages, Ait 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 2000 inhabitants are members
of the Ghoujdama Berber tribe, who are traditionally depended on
agriculture, mostly grain crops, for their livelihood. At least one
number of each family works in a city in Morocco or abroad,
providing the means for subsistence to relatives in Ait Iktel.
One such emigrant, Ali Amahan, formed the Association Socio-culturelle
des Ghoujdama in 1992, bringing together members of the tribe, who
have moved to Casablanca and Rabat. Out of this group emerged the
Association Ait Iktel de Developpement (AID), formed 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 jemaa, the traditional assembly of head
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 4 hours a day in Ait Iktel, and streets are
lit during the evening. 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, hold classes in Arabic and French and teaches the
traditional Berber dialect. Liberated from the heavy labor of
carrying water, girls and women have access to education and the
weaving workshop; about %85 of girls, between the ages of 4 and 19,
are now in school. A new library has been created and the existing
dispensary has been repaired and upgraded into a health center 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
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 km
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 shortcoming, Ait Iktel
demonstrates how, through architecture, a village can mobilize
itself to improve its present and safeguard its future.