Holcim Awards 2021

Posted by on Dec 4, 2021

“GREAT NEWS” from Sahara-Roots!!

During the bi-annual Holcim Awards ceremony for Sustainable Construction at the International Architecture Biennale in Venice, Italy, last weekend, the Bronze Global 2021 award & the Acknowledgement 2020 award for Middle East & Africa, was presented to our partner Aziza Chaouni architects and the other members of the Joudour Sahara project team: Thomas Duncan, Dana Salama, Halim Sbai and Wanda Hebly.

The Joudour Sahara project (https://joudoursahara.org/) is the result of 18 years of discussions and activities that has evolved into the creation of a plan for a culture center that focuses on environmental and cultural & economical sustainability through a combination of activities involving a music school, an amphitheatre, an ecolodge, a visitors center and anti-desertification testing ground in M’Hamid.
Someone once asked me: “how long do you plan to stay involved in M’hamid”? My answer was: “forever”! With this beautiful Joudour Sahara project we have dug our “roots” rock solid in the ground! Our involvement in M’hamid started in 2005 after we had met Halim Sbai (https://mhamid.guide/en/), a local advocate for a sustainable environment. We started by “planting seeds” of awareness (‘nettoyage’) in the community and gradually developed tree-planting activities as well as educational activities with local schools. In 2009 we met Aziza Chaouni, a Moroccan architect who embraced our dream: to develop a sustainable culture center for this amazing environment. During the following years Sahara-Roots continued with many educational and tree-planting activities building relationships and trust within the local community. Another key factor in this process was communication in Arabic and luckily our friend Ilham Bakal inspired us all!!

Due to lack of funds, it wasn’t until 2015 that the idea of a culture center once again rekindled during a workshop with Aziza Chaouni and representatives of the Playing for Change Foundation (PFC). (https://playingforchange.org). Thanks to PFC the Joudour Sahara music school was born, giving children access to after-school music activities, and under the guidance of Thomas Duncan (PFC) and Halim Sbai, the music school is now flourishing.

We are so grateful for all the support given by our donors who believe in our work. This support has continued for more than a decade and it has enabled us to build solid grounds on which the Joudour Sahara Culture Center project has evolved. It is so exciting to know that the first phase of the project, which is the building of the innovative water reservoir, is now well underway, thanks to the financial support of an anonymous Dutch donor and for which we are truly grateful. The “beating heart” of the project is being developed now, exciting and invigorating, and the rest of the “limbs” (phases 2 – 5) will follow, making the Joudour Sahara project a dream come true for all parties involved!

The Sahara Roots team is proud to be a part of this inspiring, innovative Holcim award winning project. Thanks to trust, friendship, perseverance, love for the environment & the local people, their culture, music and heritage, we believe that this project will continue to flourish.

I feel very privileged to have been able to travel to Venice last weekend with @azizachaouniprojects  and  @danasalama &  @duncan_thomasedward  (and @halim_sbai_ in spirit) on behalf of @joudoursahara to receive this major Holcim Prize.

The Sahara-Roots Foundation
Wanda Hebly, 19 November, 2021

Please visit: https://www.holcimfoundation.org/projects/cultural-interlude