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The Matfias, a traditional tool for rural water harvesting & storage in Morocco
Abda region as case study

The Matfias have emerged as a form of adaptation to the vagaries of climate. It is a device developed by human ingenuity for the prevention against droughts in water scarce areas. The rural population of Abda region has developed an expertise in constructing the Matfias that require physical effort and craft skills. Beyond their economic and environmental aspects Matfias acquire an important cultural dimension, thus they represent a part of the local and national heritage. According to tradition, once the Matfia is built and filled, people inaugurate the season for marriages and festivities.

In this regard, the relationship between women and the Matfia as a symbol of the water source, is quite evident in the Abda region. Domestic activity requires that women spend quite some time of the day by the Matfia to get their water supply but also to clean the sheaves of wool, used for clothing as well as wheat and barley used for human and animal consumption. 

Traditionally the visit of the women to Matfias is often accompanied by beautiful songs and attractive melodies. This attracts the attention of young singles seeking a partner for the future. The Matfia becomes a theatre or a space to forge and deepen human relationships, especially during festivities and cultural / art meetings (e.g. Moussems de Fantasia).  

On the roads and narrow alleys women often carry the water in containers made of clay, leather or brass. They carry the jars on their shoulders or sometimes on donkeys and mules.

The water use of a collective Matfia can sometimes create conflict between the members of the rural community and the poor distribution of water among the local population, especially in draught years, may cause a serious threat to safety. In this case, the wise men of Douar are the ones called for to end the water conflicts.

Disputes and conflicts over water and land were often a source of inspiration for film productions and art creation, such as the Moroccan series entitled ”The source and the Matfia” (العين والمطفية'') that deals with the conflicts over water resources in the rural areas of Morocco.