- Takes note that Algeria has nominated Knowledge and skills of the water measurers of the foggaras or water bailiffs of Touat and Tidikelt (No. 01274) for inscription on the List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding:
The element concerns the knowledge and skills of the water measurers of the foggaras (system of channels), or water bailiffs, of the ksour (village) communities of Touat and Tidikelt. The water measurers are involved in various operations, from calculating water shares to repairing distribution combs and conducting water in the channel. Every foggara connects several categories of social agents and knowledge bearers, including owners, manual workers, accountants and water measurers, but it is the water measurers’ knowledge that appears to be under threat. The water measurers are a key figure in the life of the Saharan ksour because they manage a domain vital to the survival of all. They play both an intellectual and a manual role and can be called upon continuously by the community. However, there is currently a lack of communication between young people and their elders, and several factors have disrupted the proper functioning of the foggara, including changes by the central government to relations of ownership, the effects of urbanization and modernisation, and a lack of consideration as to what steps need to be taken to ensure knowledge is transmitted. The loss of activity for water measurers is directly reflected in their advanced age, which demonstrates a lack of new practitioners entering the business.
- Decides that, from the information included in the file, the nomination satisfies the following criteria for inscription on the List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding:
U.1: The element is closely related to the way of life, economy and survival of the desert area of Algeria. The water measurers enjoy great respect and, despite radical changes seriously endangering the element, their activity remains integral to the culture of the foggaras. Apart from their role in water distribution, they also help maintain social balance, justice, morale and peace.
U.2: The knowledge and skills of the water measurers are closely connected to the historical local land law system, which has been affected by state interventions in oasis agriculture and introduction of technologically advanced underground water extraction methods. Along with the transfer of responsibility from individual owners to the state administration, such changes have entailed a loss of knowledge about traditional water distribution. With the increasing influence of modern agrotechnology, the water measurers’ services are in decreasing demand, and the transmission of the element, never recorded in writing, is critically endangered.
U.4: Elected community representatives, members of an association for the protection of the foggaras, students, knowledge bearers and practitioners, in collaboration with researchers from the National Centre for Prehistoric, Anthropological and Historical Research and the institutions of the culture section of the Adrar prefecture all actively participated in preparing the nomination.
U.5: The element has been included in the National Intangible Cultural Heritage Data Bank since 2015, which is managed by the National Centre for Prehistoric, Anthropological and Historical Research. Several other institutions were also involved in identifying the element. The related information is updated through interviews, audiovisual documentation on transmission and reports on the current state of the element.
- Further decides that based on the information provided by the State Party to the Committee at its present session concerning the safeguarding plan, the following criterion for inscription on the List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding is satisfied:
U.3: Previous safeguarding measures, implemented primarily by public authorities, centered on developing infrastructure and rehabilitating the foggaras with a strong focus on the physical aspects of the element, which makes a new plan focused on safeguarding the intangible knowledge and know-how related to the physical nature of foggaras all the more relevant. The two parts of the safeguarding plan proposed, namely to document the practice and to train a new generation of water measurers, could ensure the viability of the element. Although water measurers do not form a community as such, they nonetheless represent a homogeneous group with a strong sense of belonging to their community for which they continue to provide their services. The involvement of the community in safeguarding the element as an expression of a living heritage is reflected in the continued use of the services of water measurers in co-existence with the most modern means.
- Inscribes Knowledge and skills of the water measurers of the foggaras or water bailiffs of Touat and Tidikelt on the List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding;
- Commends the State Party for recognizing the vital role of traditional knowledge related to water distribution in difficult climatic conditions and further invites it to consider, when planning the safeguarding measures, the full complexity of the knowledge and skills related to the system of the foggaras and the implications of the general changes in water and land resource management in the areas concerned;
- Reminds the State Party that updating is an important part of the inventorying process and also invites it to include detailed information in its next periodic report on the implementation of the Convention at the national level on how the National Intangible Cultural Heritage Data Bank has been drawn up and regularly updated with the active participation of the communities, groups and non-governmental organizations concerned, in accordance with Article 11(b) of the Convention.