Knowledge and skills of the water measurers of the foggaras or water bailiffs of Touat and Tidikelt
Inscribed in 2018 (13.COM) 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.